Last year I wrote a post on why we should talk about tampons: what we’re using, what’s in it and how this can affect our health. It’s an important topic, as most of us will use tampons and/or pads every month that we menstruate, for decades of our life.

Now, however, I’d like to chat about what we use during and after pregnancy. Because that’s just as important.

During pregnancy, up until your baby’s born, sanitary products are rarely necessary. However, after the birth you’ll need pads once more, albeit differently to before. Maternity pads are much thicker than normal menstrual pads as they are used for postpartum bleeding – which can be very heavy, particularly at the beginning – for up to 6 weeks after birth. You’ll also need breast pads, to slip inside your bra or shirt, that absorb leaking breast milk for months to follow.

So many of us health-conscious women pay attention to what we eat and drink; the types of creams, soaps and cosmetics we use. We do this because we know they have an effect on our health.

An idyllic image of breastfeedingSanitary products – including those for maternity use – are no different. The vagina is a mucous membrane: it is far more sensitive than external skin and also more absorbent. The nipples and the skin around them (areola) are also much more sensitive during pregnancy and after birth. And if you’re breastfeeding your baby, he or she will ingest any residues from products placed on or against your breast for an extended period of time.

So, it’s important to consider what we use on these parts of our body.

Most disposable maternity pads, of those that are readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies, contain bleached, non-organic cotton and synthetics such as rayon, viscose and plastics.

Pesticides used in non-organic cotton farming have been linked to a number of serious health conditions; and the bleaching process itself results in chemical by-products linked to immune and hormone disruption. Other chemicals, such as deodorisers and fragrances, may also be added to the final product. As a result, using these products exposes you to a number of potentially unsafe ingredients. And although some argue that the amount of harmful chemicals found in an individual pad is not significant, the burden of exposure over time certainly can be.

This is why it’s important to talk about how we use these products and understand what options are available to suit our needs. Choosing products that don’t contain many, or any, potentially harmful chemicals will help to reduce your exposure. This minimises health risks for you and, more importantly, your baby.

There are several good quality brands – using unbleached, certified organic cotton – that you can find in many supermarkets and health food stores, including TOM Organic (I featured their new maternity pads in last month’s giveaway), Natracare and Organyc. There is also an increasing range of reusable options, particularly with breast pads, that you can find in shops and online. I’d encourage you to have a look into these options, do some reading, ask questions and consider what’s best for you.


Pregnant? Breastfeeding? Is this a topic you’ve looked into? What’s worked best for you?