In contrast to the many Toxic Shock Syndrome stories on You ARE Loved‘s site, mine is not one of illness, loss or pain. I am a lucky one!

Toxic Shock Syndrome AwarenessGetting Started with Tampons
I started my menstrual journey at 15 the way most girls do: using pads.  I never got along with them, and hated the “diapery” feeling and the odor.

My mom solely used tampons, so I was naturally curious about them. After only a few cycles of using pads I snuck some of my mom’s tampons (and never looked back.) After “borrowing” a large quantity from her, I feared she would begin to notice.

Somehow I worked up the courage (for some reason I thought she might not approve) to approach her and let her know I wanted start using tampons. She understood my dislike of pads and was ok with me making the switch. A lot like the menstruation/puberty talks we had, this talk was also very brief. I only recall her mentioning a quick caution to not leave them in too long because of something rare called TSS that could make me sick. That conversation did not concern me enough to read the warning on the box (or leaflet inside).

Finding You ARE Loved
I learned of You ARE Loved through an email I received from Natracare, which included the story of a young woman, Amy Elifritz, who had recently passed away from Toxic Shock Syndrome. Her story moved me, and was the first case of TSS that I had ever heard. When visiting their organization’s site I learned TSS was not nearly as rare as I thought: The odds are 1 out of 700 women! These are odds that I could not dismiss, especially as a mother of a young daughter. I learned that the symptoms vary, and often are confused for flu symptoms. These facts were and are scary!

I wanted to do more to help spread the word that TSS is a very real danger (not something of the past), especially for tween and teen girls. As I began working with You ARE Loved I was introduced to more and more cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome. As I read these stories it really set in how lucky I am. I relied almost exclusively on tampons my whole menstrual life and was not always careful about the length of use. I realized how easily “I” could have been one of these cases.

Making the Change
My quest to live a healthier and green life was already underway. But this new information really opened my eyes and mind to trying alternative products. I simply cannot conceive of ever using a traditional tampon (tampons that contain viscose rayon) again. The risk is just not worth it.

As the owner of a feminine hygiene business, I have access to many different products. Last year I began my quest to really experiment with trying many of them. Surprisingly, I found myself trying out pads…again. Shockingly, “they were WAY better than I had remembered!” Much improvement has been made since my last experience (I won’t say how many years ago). The “ultra-thins” didn’t feel much thicker than some panty liners and I didn’t experience the odor issue I remember having as a teen. I have also included menstrual cups in my experimenting. So far I’ve tried the Instead Softcup and the DivaCup. While every product certainly has pros, cons and a learning curve, I really love the flexibility that comes with cups. For the first time in my life I actually find myself saying, “I wish I had more periods so I could try all of the many products sooner!”

As women, I think it is easy for us to get stuck using a product that we feel “works,” simply for the reason it works “better” than the few other products we’ve tried. That said, how many of us still hate or dread that “time of the month?” If more women found products that worked well and that helped make their monthly cycles more pleasant the perspectives on menstruation would become more positive.

Whatever product(s) I end up settling on, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about and try many new products. I am grateful there are so many healthier alternatives today. I am grateful for all that I have learned about my body and menstrual cycle through this process. But I am most grateful for the work You ARE Loved is doing to raise awareness about TSS. I can honestly say that You ARE Loved has changed my life and how I view the safety of menstrual products.

Ready to Learn More?
I would like to invite you to join me (Be Prepared Period) and You ARE Loved for an online event this Friday, January 10th at 11am PST/2 pm ET. We’ll be talking more about the dangers of TSS as well as answering questions. Check out our Tweet Chat Page for details.

In addition to raising awareness of TSS we have also partnered with You ARE Loved to help educate women and parents with daughters about their feminine hygiene options. So many women are not aware of the alternatives. I’m here to tell you, “We have more options today than ever!” Now is a great time to try something new!

By Tara Bruley, founder of Be Prepared. Period.


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