Going organic in the bedroom


Samantha Conrad

Going organic in the bedroom

By Samantha Conrad

Women around the globe use products such as tampons, pads, lube and condoms to protect and take charge of their bodies. But are these products doing more harm than good.

Cotton is considered the world’s dirtiest crop because its heavy use of pesticides, according to the Rodale Institute, an organic farming research and outreach nonprofit.

Major condom brands like Magnum and Trojan use carcinogenic chemicals including nitrosamines. Nonoxynol-9, the active ingredient in most spermicides, can have side effects such as nausea, muscle pain and vaginal irritation, according to the University of Maryland Health Center. 

This means each time a woman uses tampons, pads and condoms, they are placing pesticides and chemicals into their vaginas, which then get absorbed. 

There are areas in the body where things are absorbed more easily, said Tasneem Bhatia, a physician specializing in integrative health and founder of CentreSpring MD, a holistic medical center. “Chemicals are lying directly next to the tissue, and it will absorb anything that it may touch,” she added.

“We’re putting products in places where we’re very vulnerable [and] our skin is permeable,” said Bhatia. “The mucous membranes [are] permeable and we’re not super conscious either individually or as an industry to what the impact of those chemicals are on us.” 

Safer options without harmful chemicals or cotton are available. WUKA Wear, a period underwear company, uses a fabric derived from sustainable sources of beech trees. Lovability Inc. manufactures organic and vegan condoms, and Diva Cup produces a silicone menstrual cup.

Chemicals and pesticides used in conventional period and sex products can upset vaginal pH, said Tiffany Gaines, president and founder of Lovability. When the vaginal pH is thrown out of balance, women are more prone to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and other disorders, she noted. 

It is estimated that women will use approximately 20 tampons per cycle, according to Diva Cup’s website. This is 20 times per month that many women insert harmful surfactants, adhesives and additives, such as known carcinogens and dioxins into their bodies. 

Furthermore, regulation of tampons as medical devices is minimal. While the FDA recommends disclosure of additives and ingredients in pads and tampons to customers, it doesn’t require the industry to do so.

“If you look at a lot of the ingredients [in tampons], they are essentially endocrine disruptors and different types of toxins that are slowly being linked to different diseases—cancer, reproductive health and a lot of other issues that women have to deal with today,” Bhatia said.

If a woman still wants to use tampons,  Bhatia recommends looking for organic products because those are typically free of harmful chemicals.  

Another option is to use a menstrual period cup. Sophie Zizku, communications manager for menstrual cup company Diva International, said the Diva Cup—which is made from a dye-free version of health-care grade silicone—helps to maintain the natural environment of the vaginal canal and is ideal for every stage of the cycle. Diva Cup recommends sterilizing cups with hot water after each use.

Zizku encourages women to do their own research to find which safe, non-toxic products work for them. 

“Learning more about your body and educating yourself about your anatomy can go a long way,” she added. 

Gaines is a proponent of women taking control of their sexual health and providing condoms to their partners, which she said equalizes risk while being empowering. She thinks it’s up to both men and women to be responsible and take control of the products entering their bodies.

“We want women to feel accountable to each other and society at large so that they feel proud of being powerful in the bedroom, in the boardroom and beyond,” Gaines said.