I found out about Hannah Pads after writing up a short article on reusable sanitary towels that were being produced by a small NGO in Tanzania. I was browsing around other makers of similar products and came up with the Hannah Pad website and Instagram feed.
I made contact with Martinette who founded Hannah Pad five years ago and asked if we could do an interview for the blog about her knowledge around menstruation.
Below is a conversation with Martinette and in-between are photographs of her brilliant, reusable, non-toxic and organic products:
You spoke a lot about your own experiences and those of others with endometriosis, hormonal issues, PCOS and fertility. How do you think menstruation plays into these things?
Our menstruation is our monthly health report card, and sadly one that we do not get taught to pay attention to. It has recently been classified as the fifth vital sign for females, and that is how important it is. When we educate ourselves about what is deemed as normal, in terms of flow, colour, and associated symptoms ( i.e. pain, bloatedness, cravings, mood swings etc.), we can find the reasons why we are experiencing these symptoms. When we know WHY, we can do something about it, rather than just either accepting it as our lot as women, or by treating the symptom. There are fabulous women to follow on blogs and social media, who bring such amazing information and research to the table. I will mention a few names that have meant a lot to me: Lara Briden ( The Period repair Manual); Lisa Hendrickson-Jack ( The Fifth Vital Sign); Anna Cabecca ( The Hormone Fix); Lucy Pearce ( Moon Time) and our local mom and Daughter duo… Hormonal Harmony teaching women to practice FAM ( Fertility Awareness Method).
Menstruation can be a lonely walk for women: monthly pain, mood changes and other physical symptoms. What are your thoughts on menstrual wellbeing? How can we make it better?
By creating an awareness of what is deemed as normal, we also flag something as a problem when it does occur. And by more and more women seeking for answers, more and more women will start telling their friends and family members. We do not have to accept pain and heavy bleeding as our lot in life. There are ways to cure the causes.
What, in your experience dealing with menstruation through your business, have you learned about women’s experiences with menstruation?
We are all so different. Some bleed very light, some very heavy, some only 3 days, some 7 days. For some bleeding is a relief every month, for others, it’s yet another month where they did not conceive. I share their pain, I know that pain… I was there. That is what inspires me to keep on going, as we need more and more people to know that there are solutions when we find the real cause.
The above image shows the beautiful and discreet packaging that your set of Hannah Pads comes in for your convenient storage.
I was super interested in what you said about retrograde bleeding, can you tell me more?
I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2004. At that stage there was little information available online in terms of the causes of the condition, and apart from surgery, the treatment for it as well. One cause that has still not been proven was Retrograde Bleeding.
In retrograde menstruation, menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. These endometrial cells stick to the pelvic walls and surfaces of pelvic organs, where they grow and continue to thicken and bleed over the course of each menstrual cycle. This is what convinced me not to use the menstrual cup when sleeping at night, even though this has not been a proven fact yet.
You spoke about enabling women, enabling your own daughters. What would you pass on to others as a means of support. I love how through generations support can be passed down.
Yes, that is my passion, to share what I have learned, sometimes the hard way. My daughters ( ages 13, 9 and 7) are involved in my business Hannahpad. They help fold pads, I of course pay them. But as we fold, we talk about female matters. I have put together a moon kit for my oldest daughter, to bless her when her first cycle starts, and welcome her into womanhood. She has read the book by Lucy Pearce “Reaching for the Moon” written for teens to understand the changes in their bodies and moods, and to work with their flow.
Vaginal steaming is an ancient practice which enables women to clean out every month, to ensure that you are properly clean after your cycle, as there often is blood that remains entrapped, and can cause chronic female problems. So yes, I want to learn this practice, and teach it to my daughters, and whoever else would like to learn. This is also a treatment modality that is used with great success for painful and heavy periods, even for PCOS and endometriosis, and you can do this in the privacy of your home every month. Another aspect that I want to teach my daughters is FAM… Fertility Awareness Method. This does not only teach you when you are fertile (so as a contraceptive method, or a method to conceive), but it teaches you about your body, about what YOUR normal is.
Find out more about vaginal steaming / Yoni steaming here.
What have you learned about the tie between synthetic and natural menstruation products?
When I was diagnosed in 2004 with endometriosis, I started doing research into the causes. One that I found was retrograde bleeding, and the other was the chemicals in the commercial disposable sanitary products on our markets worldwide. These include chlorine ( bleach), plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS, Phthalates, crude oil plastics, fragrances, odour neutralisers etc, I go into great depth into this on my website, see here.
According to a draft report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dioxin (Chlorine) is a serious public health threat that has no “safe” level of exposure! The FDA’s official stance regarding trace amounts of dioxins is that there are no expected health risks associated with trace amounts of dioxins in tampons… Naturally Savvy notes that 10 years ago, House Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation that would have required research into the potential health risks of any ingredient used in feminine hygiene products, including endometriosis, cervical, ovary and breast cancers. Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass, and it does not appear that any such research has been done.
You spoke about Toxic Shock Syndrome and how it is still actually affecting women. What have you heard?
Have you read the story of the model Lauren Wasser who lost both her legs due to TSS ( Toxic Shock Syndrome)? She now dedicates her life to educate and prevent this terrible disease. Read her story here.
According to Dr Mercola it’s important to remember that tampons can create a favourable environment for bacteria growth. Micro tears in the vaginal wall from tampons allow bacteria to enter and accumulate. One recognized risk from tampon use is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which may be caused by poisonous toxins from either Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria. TSS can be a life-threatening condition, so it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. Should any of the following symptoms arise while using tampons during your period, make sure you seek medical help:
- Sudden high fever
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle aches
- Redness of your eyes, mouth and/or throat
- Rash on palms or soles of feet