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Sunday, Bloody Sunday: Cloth Pad Basics

Sunday, Bloody Sunday: Cloth Pad Basics


Bear with me ladies, but Lunapads have changed my menstrual life. Madeleine Shaw is the excellent, sassy, and knowledgeable co-founder of Lunapads and we had the excellent opportunity to pick her brain one fine Wednesday eve. Her history? Madeleine was a fashion designer who realized she needed something to solve her own health concerns. She got crafting, and Lunapads was born. After opening a store and small production facility, Lunapads were available in health food stores across Canada almost immediately. Read on and keep an open gine (oops, we meant mind):


GIRLIEGIRL ARMY: Why Lunapads? Give us the 411 on your story:

Madeleine Shaw: I started making washable pads when I was 25 after realizing that tampons were to blame for chronic bladder infections. I was also coming off 10 years of being on the pill, and was stunned to realize that, between the tampon use and the pills, I hadn’t really been in touch with my body as much as I had thought. Having real periods again and using washable pads were a revelation to me: for the first time in my life I felt like having my period was exciting, powerful and amazing – it was very moving, and as you know, literally changed my life, work included! I was pursuing a career in the fashion industry at the time, and so moving into mass-producing and selling the pads was relatively easy for me and I was excited by the idea of building a business around helping women to feel better about this crucial aspect of their lives. I had a store for 3 years and meanwhile built Lunapads sales across Canada, then in 1999 decided that I wanted to work on Lunapads full time. I met my business partner Suzanne not long after and we decided to work together to grow the business internationally. The internet was just emerging as a viable sales channel and after a few false starts, we decided to go the e-commerce route. We’ve been on a slow, gentle roll ever since, and now own our own office and have 5 employees.

GGA: What do you think the most common misconceptions are about our “little friend” Menses?

MS: That our blood is dirty and needs to be “thrown away”, that engaging with it by using reusable products is gross or a hassle, and that disposable products don’t have a substantial health or environmental impact.

GGA: I started to get solidly annoying PMS after I hit my mid twenties, and I now constantly seek out PMS cures. Do people always ask you Doctor-like questions? Here are some of the things I’ve heard are cures for PMS; to avoid animal products, drinks tons of water, get allergy tested for food, to place warm Castor oil packs on the lower abdominal region, get acupuncture, avoid caffeine, take supplements and herbs, do yoga, etc etc etc! To your knowledge, do any of these cures work, and what are you favorite PMS and cramp cures?

MS: Customer questions tend to be more experience-based, like “what was it like for you when you switched to the DivaCup? How do you wash Lunapads? What do you use on heavy days?” We hear a ton of stories from customers about how their experiences of their cycles and periods changed after they switched from disposables, which are almost always positive. Other common themes include changes that occur once women start to actively chart their cycles, or how they feel after they discontinue using hormonal birth control methods. We have quite a few products that may help with difficult moods or cramps, including bath salts, herbal heat packs, aromatherapy products and chocolate, but obviously there is no “miracle” cure. I think that the best thing that women who suffer from these kinds of things can do is to keep experimenting, stick with whatever works for them, and switch to natural menstrual products if they haven’t already!

GGA: What are you likely to be seen doing when you have your period? Are you busting ass at the gym or laying in bed watching “House” re-runs?

MS: The time where I find that I actually need the most self-care are about a week before I start bleeding, as I can get very fragile emotionally. Being mindful of that, I will let others around me know where I’m at, and seek out a receptive shoulder if necessary, in addition to just being aware that it’s “one of those days”. On the first day of my period, I tend to just pop in my DivaCup and “carry on” with business as usual. The following days I try to take a little more time for myself and do some gentle activities like gardening, walking or having a nice soak in the tub. I experience my period as just one part of the larger process, other parts of which can actually be a much bigger deal for me personally.

GGA: Tell us the eco bonuses of breaking the tampon habit?

MS: Well, for starters, fewer tampons in landfills (estimates as to how many vary, but according to the National Women’s Health Network, at least 7 Billion as of 2002, and that doesn’t include applicators or packaging!), where they can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, polluting groundwater in the process. By extension, you’re looking at reduced consumption of all the plastics, chemicals, tree pulp and other resources going into the tampons in the first place. The same is true of pads. Long story short: disposable menstrual products are an eco-nightmare.

GGA: What are the health benefits to choosing a Lunapad or DivaCup?

MS: The major health benefit when it comes to the DivaCup as an internal product is that it doesn’t dry you out the way tampons do. Maintaining normal vaginal moisture isn’t just about having fun when you’re in the mood – its balance is essential to avoiding infections. Mainstream disposable pads and tampons are both treated with a host of chemical bleaching agents and surfactants (absorbency-enhancing chemicals), plastics and, often, perfumes or “deodorants”, all of which can interfere with vaginal Ph levels. In addition to being free of these concerns, Lunapads are incredibly soft, which I find comforting at that time of the month, sort of like your favorite flannel PJ’s.

GGA: You: Lunapad, DivaCup, or both?

MS: Both. I switched from tampons-only to washable pads (sounds radical I know, but I just couldn’t face using disposable pads) when I was 25 and have never looked back. I tried the Keeper a few times before I became pregnant with my daughter 4 years ago and had trouble inserting it. Following a 3 year break from menstruating (i.e. pregnancy and nursing), I didn’t think that I’d like the DivaCup, but have found it to be way easier than the Keeper and now use it on the first (for me, heaviest) day of my period, if I have a tennis game or am going swimming. Otherwise I use Lunapads or Lunapanties (Lunapanty thongs are a personal favorite), some of which are still going strong after close to 10 years!

GGA: In case anyone is interested, I am totally in love with the Lunapanty thong too. It’s so comfy and so much easier than a DivaCup on low flow days. And I can love you even more now that you have cupcake-print Lunapads! I love my menstrual products being so colorful and alive! On a less flouncy note; The book “Cunt” by Inga Muscio really is what made me stop buying mainstream “female” products, and what turned me on to Lunapads. I think it should be on some sort of compulsory reading list for ALL women over the age of 13. Have you read this book, and did it influence your work?

See Also

MS: It would be a challenge to overstate the importance of “Cunt” from either a personal or business perspective. Like so many women, when it first came my way I couldn’t put it down and I proceeded to distribute it to practically everyone I knew – I even gave my Dad a copy for Father’s Day! Full disclosure: Inga is a friend, although we didn’t meet until just after she had written the book. LunaPads were already well underway at that point, and her highlighting of the menstrual product issue was a wonderful validation for us, not to mention that our inclusion in the “Cunt Loving Guide to the Universe” helped to bring us new customers. Inga also very generously contributed to our new booklet for teens and girls.

Madeleine and Inga Muscio
Madeleine and Inga Muscio

GGA: Do you feel the mainstreaming of green, and the eco-movement has made a positive impact on your business? If so, how.

MS: Definitely. It’s helped to make people think harder about their consumer choices and to feel a greater sense of both personal responsibility and power. Overall, the shift in perspective over the years has been amazing! As a personal example, I started making Lunapads in 1993, and back then a lot of people thought the idea of washing your own menstrual pads or cup was gross or ridiculous – I don’t get that so much anymore, which is nice.

GGA: Where can people buy LunaPads, and what other fun items can our hot ladies find on the site?

MS: There are a ton of websites internationally that sell Lunapads, and they are also available at health food stores across Canada. I can’t resist a plug for our beloved, where you can also find unique combination kits and of course the freshest fabric selection. We’ve just released some great new products, including matchy-matchy pad and cup pouches, and the booklet “Happier periods, naturally!” and “The Lunapads guide to natural cycles for girls and teens,” that we’re really excited about. Lunapanties are all-in- one padded underwear that are super-popular, and we also have a comfort section where you can buy items like bath salts, herbal heat packs, and even herbally-infused chocolate just for that time of the month!

The perfect comfort for a crampy belly or lower back, a herbal heat pack in a cupcake print!
The perfect comfort for a crampy belly or lower back, a herbal heat pack in a cupcake print!

GGA: Anything else you’d like to share? Spill it, sister.

MS: Ditching disposable pads and tampons can be an incredibly empowering act on a personal, as well an environmental level. We love talking to customers, so if anyone out there is on the fence or has a question about trying Lunapads or the DivaCup, just write [email protected] or call 888-590-2299. For those of you ready to take the plunge, here’s a promo code for 10% off orders over $35: GGA08. Oh, and have a great month! Use this link to start shopping now.