Five things every 'menstruation toolkit' should have

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Clementine Ford

'Menstruation packs' for adolescent women are a great idea. But what would one for seasoned bleeders look like?

'Menstruation packs' for adolescent women are a great idea. But what would one for seasoned bleeders look like?

Browsing in the supermarket the other day, I came across a 'menstruation pack' for adolescents broaching shark week for the first time. It occurred to me how convenient it would be to have a menstruation pack for seasoned bleeders so I decided to cobble one together.

(Sidebar: Not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are women but all people who menstruate have probably fashioned a pad from toilet paper at one time or another.)

1. Moon cup

When it comes to periods, my basic approach has always been to make them as convenient as possible. Pads are too cumbersome and tampons are just too unpredictable. I mean, why is it so difficult for tampon manufacturers to sell a pack of mixed sizes? If you've ever tried to stem the flow of a geyser with a delicate mini slim, you'll know what I'm talking about. And don't even get me started on being forced through sheer absence of options to use a super on the final day. Ouchie.

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So discovering the wonders of a moon cup really revolutionised my whole menstrual experience. Moon cups are typically associated with the smell of patchouli and drum circles, but not everyone who embraces their magic sleeps beneath a dreamcatcher. (Note: if you dig patchoulis and drum circles, more power to you. Personally, the latter makes me want to stab myself in the brain but that's just me. Different strokes, different folks.)

The beauty of the moon cup is that you can just change it in the shower, set it and then forget it. No leakage, no fuss. And as a bonus, no GST! Your first few attempts to use it might be a little frustrating but hey, tampons were tricky in the beginning too. I use a Swedish brand called Intimina, but other people swear by Diva cups or the JuJu. I kind of wish there was a brand out there called the Shark Tank, but all in good time.

2. ModiBodi knickers

When I first read about period pants with built-in absorbency, I was skeptical. Frankly, the whole thing sounded a bit too Inner Goddess for me. I might be an angry, man-hating, feminasty boner killer, but the thought of waddling around all day while free-bleeding into my shorts was not particularly appealing.

And then I was sent a couple of complimentary pairs of undies from ModiBodi and my world LITERALLY CHANGED IN AN INSTANT. I thought it would feel a bit like wearing a giant nappy, but that wasn't the case at all. ModiBodi knickers (available in sizes 6 to 26) are made in Australia from a blend of cotton and merino wool with an absorbent strip sewn into the gusset, and they are every bit as comfortable as wearing your everyday underpants. I found they were also perfect for wearing on that aforementioned final day when there's not enough fluid to really qualify as a period but still enough to cause undesirable stains. (They also alleviate a lot of mid-period anxiety about leakage - I specificaly tested this out and found that the absorbent gusset took care of it without any causing any discomfort to me at all.)

Best of all, the pants can be worn at any point in your cycle. The blend of cotton and merino wool wicks away any scent, the fear of which can cause huge vaginal anxiety. If you're prone to releasing a teensy bit of wee when you laugh too hard, these are the pants for you.

3. Magnesium supplements

I've always experienced fluctuating anxiety levels but recent years have seen it grow exponentially worse as my period approaches. The day immediately preceding my period has typically been very hard. In addition to a general feeling of unrest, I find myself beset by terrifying flashes of dread and despair. They only last for a moment, but they're unsettling and quite frightening.

But then I read an article about magnesium deficiency and its connection to anxiety, particularly with PMS. For the past month, I've been taking a supplement combination of magnesium, B6 and Sensoril. I've found that my anxiety levels generally are a lot lower, but my period in particular passed without much fuss. Others have reported similar results in regard to decreased PMS symptoms. As a bonus, I'm also having fewer migraines - the increase of which are supposedly a symptom of magnesium deficiency.

(It goes without saying that I'm not a doctor, so please don't consider this official advice and any concerns should be addressed with your medical service provider.)

4. Moth podcasts

New York based storytelling show The Moth recently came to Australia for the Melbourne Writer's Festival and Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The show brings together people who perform without notes in front of a live audience in a glorious revival of the lost art of storytelling. Often hilarious, frequently moving and always compelling, the stories told at The Moth will have you crying and laughing in quick succession.

What does this have to do with menstruation? Trust me. If you're prone to blubbing at Kleenex ads or photos of puppies in the lead up to your period (or, like me, during life in general) then you'll love the podcast produced by the team behind The Moth. I cried twice last week listening to it, and they were the good kind of tears - the kind that releases something lodged deep in your throat and brings with it a cathartic relief. So if you're on the rag and feeling weepy, line up a few tracks and let it all drain out of you. Literally and figuratively.

5. Milk chocolate

Duh.