Reusable Period Products & Endometriosis: Can They Help?
As with a lot of our articles, this post was inspired by you, our customers and visitors on social media.
Firstly, comments on social media. We get SO many women who have really heavy periods and are doubtful that reusable period products will work for them when disposables can barely cope. Here's a couple of examples:
The flip side of this of course is that we talk to women all day long about their very heavy periods. And we KNOW that switching to reusable period products can really help with symptoms of endometriosis and period pain. That's because you tell us in your reviews:
‘Great pads for seriously bloody days and nights! Nothing else keeps my super heavy endometriosis bleed under control. Soft, comfortable, absorbent and wash well. Help keep moisture injury, odour and cramping all to a minimum. Total life savers. Highly recommend.'
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb is growing outside of the uterus. There is no cure for endometriosis. It can cause long term chronic pain which is hugely debilitating.
One of the main challenges with endometriosis is dealing with painful and heavy periods, which can lead those affected to struggle to find reliable period protection.
For example, tampons, which can often contain harmful chemicals - can aggravate an already sensitive area. Or like the women above, disposable menstrual products just aren't up to the job.
Who helped write this article?
To research this article, we asked our Cheeky Community for help.
34 women with endometriosis or very heavy periods came forward to share their stories and how switching to reusable period pants and cloth sanitary pads has helped them.
There was a lot to squeeze into one post, so we've split it into three separate posts:
- How long did it take to realise that heavy periods weren't 'normal' and how long diagnosis can take
- Why did they decide to try reusable period products & what difference has it made?
- Which period pants and pads are recommended & how often do they need changing?
We hope these articles help you too.
How long does it take to be diagnosed with endometriosis?
This question showed just how many people have to keep going back to their GP to have their heavy periods taken seriously. Painful periods and pelvic pain are dismissed again and again. Often infertility treatment is a trigger for diagnosis of endometriosis.
On average it takes 12 years to receive a diagnosis which is absolutely shocking. We really hope that these articles raise awareness of this issue.
"I was 34 and only received the diagnosis after surgery. One of my ovaries was disintegrating and under the powerful lenses the surgeon made that discovery. I had a laparoscopy before that where they did not see the immense damage that endometriosis has caused."
"I complained off painful periods as long as I can remember but wasn’t until I was going through fertility treatment that they decided to investigate."
"I was only diagnosed as part of investigations for secondary infertility, but probably had been experiencing symptoms for at least 14 years."
"10 years it took to be diagnosed via scan as small amount was found but didn't have my first laparoscopy until nearly 10 years after being found on a scan."
"Many years!! I have always felt really let down by the healthcare system because despite many, many trips to the GP as a teenager, the response I got was always, ‘’of course periods hurt’, and ‘of course periods are messy’.
I feel that I was always made to normalise what I was experiencing although I realise now as an adult that that amount of pain and that amount of blood are not what most people have. I think my GPs always thought I was just exaggerating the amount of pain and blood and was told that they would eventually ‘settle down’.
I was in my 20s before anyone said the word endometriosis to me, and even then, there was no advice on how to manage it, let alone treat it. Of course, they never did ‘settle down’, in fact they just got worse and worse.
By the time I was in my thirties they were regularly stopping me from doing normal things, I sometimes had to stay off work because of the pain. I had to plan around them because I knew I was not going to be able to function on days when I had my heaviest flow.
It was not until someone finally listened to me and I had surgery in my mid thirties that it got a little bit better, but…by then there was a lot of damage done, the scarring was really bad, and I was a bit of a mess inside with it affecting my bladder, ovaries and uterus.
It is sad really, I always knew there was something wrong, but could never get any one to listen, My advice to young women would be to persist in asking for help. If you think there is something wrong with your body then trust yourself, don’t take no for an answer until you have been looked at properly."
When did you realise that not everyone had periods as heavy as yours?
We don't chat periods that often with friends. If bleeding heavily is your norm, you just assume that everyone else has the same. You don't compare used pads!
But often there's a crunch point. Something that makes you realise that your periods are much worse than other peoples. And that's not 'normal'. Here our contributors share that crunch point for them.
"Speaking with friends who would say ‘mine aren’t that bad I’m usually fine, I just take some paracetamol’ ‘oh I go swimming on my period, just put a tampon in!’ - I soon realised that it wasn’t normal for me to be in debilitating pain, bleeding through pads, pants, shorts and leggings, having to re-schedule plans around my period."
"When I had a conversation with a friend about how many pads I would need to wear at the start of my period. Every month I would flood at night time and wrecked countless bed sheets."
"From starting my periods at the age of 14, had to miss school, was in the bathroom for the first 24/48 hours due to needing toilet constantly and being very heavy. Went to the doctors every few months due to the pain and the amount of blood being lost every month."
"To be honest I always knew that my periods were not like other peoples’. When we had talks at school or I read about them in magazines, I knew that that was not what it was like for me. But people just don’t talk about it enough, I had nothing to compare my experience with. I was told that everyone’s periods are different and just assumed that I was unlucky that mine were on the heavy side. I had no idea that it was because of a medical condition.
I had heavy clotting and flooding from my second ever period. I was shocked that everyone said you lose ‘an egg cup full’ of blood each month…I remember thinking, ‘What, per towel??’.
It used to be really anxiety provoking: one time I flooded so badly it was running down my leg and my disposable towel just couldn’t cope with it! From them on I was always worried I would leak or strike through my clothing. The plastic disposable towels you could buy in the shops just didn’t work for me, I always ended up in difficulty.
Noone ever talked about an alternative, it was disposable towels or tampons, that was it. I wish I could go back and tell young me that things like reusable pads and menstrual cups existed, it would have been literally life changing. My periods stopped me doing so many normal things as a young teenager, I feel like I missed out on a lot because I didn’t have the right sanitary protection."
"I was nearly 40 and a new friend mentioned how little they were changing their low absorbency pads while I was changing my soaked bed sheets more often :-/"
"When I was young and I needed to use the super orange tampax and a pad for extra security."
"When people made jokes at the size of tampons I used"
In the next part of this article, 'Reusable Period Protection and Endometriosis: The Benefits', we look at why women decided to make the switch and try reusables. Plus what benefit they have found from making that switch.
Recommended Products For VERY Heavy Flow
If you have any questions about this article, please do contact us. The team are only too happy to help. Or complete our reusable period protection questionnaire, where you'll get personal tailored advice.
About the Author: Helen Rankin founded Cheeky Wipes, the original reusable wipes kit back in 2008 after disposable wipes caused her eczema to flare up. 4 kids later, internal period protection such as tampons or menstrual cups were no longer an option for her and she went on to develop their range of 'Simple Reusables' to include period pants, reusable panty liners and reusable sanitary pads.
The Cheeky customer services team pride themselves on providing honest, friendly advice and just LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods all day long, helping people make the switch to reusables! The Company was recognised for their hard work in developing environmentally friendly products with the Queens Award in Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2021.