Always pads aren’t always the culprit

I had a patient fall into my arms and sob recently because she was so relieved at the news I had given her.

Contrary to what it sounds like I hadn’t given her a reprieve from a fatal illness, or good news on her breast cancer screening. It was when I told her that the weeks of genital itching, swelling and pain she had been suffering from was likely caused by using Always brand sanitary pads.

I hate to point fingers but I have to put the brand name out there.

I’ve known for years that Always pads can cause painful chafing and irritation to the point of blisters in “that area.” Besides my personal experience I’ve read recommendations from other women and from midwifery groups warning women about the risk of burning, painful vulvas from using Always pads.

I am not making this up. There is even one small research study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that showed women with vulva pain had less pain when they stopped using Always pads.

The woman I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post had recently given birth so had been wearing pads for several weeks. She sought medical attention for what everyone thought was a yeast infection but the medication didn’t make her vulva any less itchy and painful. She was treated for bacterial vaginosis the next time she went in. That didn’t help either.

What finally gave her some relief was using diaper rash ointment and switching to cloth pads. At this point she still wasn’t blaming the Always pads, she was just looking for something really soft and gentle that wouldn’t hurt her sore bottom.

Before I went to see this woman for the first time my nurse filled me in on enough of her history to make me suspect that she was using Always pads.

“I think I may know what’s been going on with you,” I said as I entered the exam room. “Are you using Always pads?”

That’s all it took for her to break down and sob. She told me she felt like everyone thought she was crazy since she kept returning for the same problem and nothing was making it any better.

My patient asked me to tell her story. I agreed it’s a message women need to know. And since then I’ve seen several other women with similar experiences who turned out to be using Always pads.

To be fair not all women are bothered by these pads. And it’s easy to see why women love them – they’re the thinnest pads on the market.

Please don’t ask me what they’re made of because I would probably make up some  inflammatory, smart alec answer that would get the Proctor and Gamble lawyers really excited. I really have no idea what it is about these pads that are hurting women.

Proctor and Gamble, the manufacturer of Always, claims premarket research showed their product was not to blame for the vulvar irritation found in menstruating women but that women are always a little irritated in the nether regions (that may not be the exact wording that they used).

As a midwife I recommend postpartum women use some other brand of feminine hygiene pads since these women can have bleeding up to six weeks or longer. A big fat Kotex like the ones your mother used as a girl might be just what the midwife ordered. Cloth pads are a great alternative if you don’t mind that they’re not disposable. Instructions for making cloth pads are all over Pinterest. Let me know how you like them.

There are multiple causes of genital itching. Women should see a health care professional if they are having abnormal vaginal itching, discharge, pain or odor. Always pads aren’t always the culprit.


A Midwife’s Horse Teaches a Lesson

We need to appreciate and love people for themselves.

I love reading about the pioneer midwives of the early West. The courage they displayed in spite of limited training and challenging circumstances inspire me to be a better midwife.

I came across this account written by the son of one of those early midwives, Julina Lambson Smith, where he shares a lesson about the need to appreciate and love people for themselves. I especially loved his boyish question about why so many babies are born at night and in the winter (what midwife can’t relate???).

When I was a boy, we had a horse named Junie. She was one of the most intelligent animals I ever saw. She seemed almost human in her ability. I couldn’t keep her locked in the barn because she would continually undo the strap on the door of her stall. I used to put the strap connected to the half-door of the stall over the top of the post, but she would simply lift it off with her nose and teeth. Then she would go out in the yard.

There was a water tap in the yard used for filling the water trough for our animals. Junie would turn this on with her teeth and then leave the water running. My father would get after me because I couldn’t keep that horse in the barn. She never ran away; she just turned on the water and then walked around the yard or over the lawn or through the garden. In the middle of the night, I would hear the water running and then I would have to get up and shut it off and lock Junie up again.

My father suggested that the horse seemed smarter than I was. One day he decided that he would lock her in so that she couldn’t get out. He took the strap that usually looped over the top of the post and buckled it around the post and under a crossbar, and then he said, “Young lady, let’s see you get out of there now!” My father and I left the barn and started to walk back to the house; and before we reached it, Junie was at our side. She then went over and turned the water on again.

I suggested that now, perhaps, she was about as smart as either one of us. We just couldn’t keep Junie from getting out of her stall. But that doesn’t mean she was bad, because she wasn’t. Father wasn’t about to sell or trade her, because she had so many other good qualities that made up for this one little fault.

The horse was as reliable and dependable at pulling our buggy as she was adept at getting out of the stall. And this was important, because Mother was a licensed midwife. When she would get called to a confinement somewhere in the valley, usually in the middle of the night, I would have to get up, take a lantern out to the barn, and hitch Junie up to the buggy.

I was only about ten or eleven years old at the time; and that horse had to be gentle and yet strong enough to take me and Mother all over the valley, in all kinds of weather. One thing I never could understand, however, was why most of the babies had to be born at night and so many of them in winter.

Often I would wait in the buggy for Mother, and then it was nice to have the company of gentle old Junie. This experience with this horse was very good for me, because early in life I had to learn to love and appreciate her for herself. She was a wonderful horse with only a couple of bad habits. People are a lot the same way. None of us is perfect; yet each of us is trying to become perfect, even as our Father in heaven. We need to appreciate and love people for themselves.

This lesson has always stayed with me—to see the good in people even though we are trying to help them overcome one or two bad habits. …

I learned early in life to love and not to judge others, trying always to overcome my own faults.

                                        Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972)