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Infertility Awareness Week – Princess Pads

I’ve mentioned them before here – they’re the thing that no woman wants to think about and no man wants to hear about. If you don’t even like to be subjected to tampon commercials, look away now. “Princess Pads” are what I’ve coined my own design of feminine pads. Ever since I started in fertility treatments two and a half years ago (has it really been that long???), I’ve found them to be both a comfort and a necessity, as well as a huge cost saver while feeling pretty darn good about my ecological footprint.

They’ve evolved from where I started – just a couple pieces of flannel with something waterproof in there – to a fine-tuned range of sizes, shapes, and materials to fit the need of the moment.

The Hell-raiser

This pad is the reason I started making my own. Before starting fertility treatments I had what I not-so-lovingly referred to as “8 days of hell”. Since the doctors have screwed with my hormones for years now, that’s changed, but my 8 days of hell was nothing compared to the 5 weeks I endured last year after a cancelled cycle left me with an imbalance that had me in such pain and such horrible bleeding that I was put on 4x normal dosage of estrogen/progesterone and iron supplements in an effort to stop the bleeding and make sure I stayed healthy while we waited for it to stop.

It's a beast, but at least it's on your side!

It’s a beast, but at least it’s on your side!

This pad was the only thing that saved me, and even then some days it was insufficient. I think the biggest one I have is 4 layers of flannel, 3 layers of batting, and a layer of vinyl. It’s about 6 inches inches wide at the widest point, almost a foot long, and with an 8 inch wingspan, the wings are big enough to allow this beast to be completely self contained after use. Not only is there no commercial pad on the market that I’ve found that comes close to the coverage of this monster, it just feels so gosh-darn good against the skin. I’ve recently started experimenting with cotton velvets which are just SO SOFT!

The Normie

This is the normal every-day sort of pad solution. I have about 20 of these, they’re 2-3 layers of flannel, a layer or two of batting, and a vinyl barrier. I like the fact that the vinyl goes right from wing-tip to wing-tip because it prevents leaks that occurred in some of my first tries. I like to try to pick flannels that feel very soft, the not-so-fluffy ones don’t seem to be as absorbent. When you’re washing the flannel (and I pre-shrink all of mine so I don’t have any surprises later), don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets – it severely inhibits the absorbancy of the flannel.

At least it's something to look forward to!

At least it’s something to look forward to!

My favorite memory of these pads was when I was in the hospital last year. I went in for a laparoscopy/hysteroscopy where my dr surgically inspected the insides and outsides of all of my reproductive organs. This is done under a general anesthetic and they recommend you bring pads of your own if you don’t want to be stuck with icky hospital pads. Nothing felt better when I was coherent enough to get up, go pee, and get dressed than my pretty, comfy, familiar Princess Pad – I even remember the one I had with me was a dark blue with stars and cows jumping over moons.

The Spotter

Like I said, I’m REALLY screwed up from the last few years of hormones. I don’t know if I prefer my former “8 days of hell” or my current status of “cramp and spot for a week or two at a time for no apparent reason or purpose”. This pad is basically more than a liner but less than a pad. After a week with regular commercial pads I used to get a horrible rash… if I have a several week bout of this spotting garbage I would have been in severe pain. Because these still have wings, there’s still coverage to go on about your normal activities like hot yoga or rollerblading that would normally have destroyed a liner with the sweat and movement.

They're completely contained when you're finished.

They’re completely contained when you’re finished.

Perhaps my favorite thing about all of these snap-wing designed pads is that they’re not sticky on the back, meaning you can move them around as you need to, but because they’re flannel on the back, they don’t slide unless you want them to.

The Progesteroner

This is really a specialty pad for fertility treatments. During injectable cycles (IUI or IVF) your hormones are strictly controlled by medication and so progesterone will be replaced during the second half of your cycle. This involves a suppository 3x a day which makes a sticky mess – like you didn’t already have enough fun stabbing yourself several times a day for 2 weeks, now this?

They're "fun sized"

They’re “fun sized”

Normal pads are best covered by majority in a dark color, just because of the natural tendency to stain over time. Progesteroners are the opposite – they’ll take all the color out of your pretty little flannel, so I’ve opted now to use light colors. They’re also designed a little bit differently because unlike all of the former designs that account for “leakage”, this isn’t really an issue with Progesterone because it has more of a paste-like consistency.

So there you have it, everything from the Hell-raiser to the specialty designs, a pad for all occasions. So are they really worth it? Well I did some calculations last summer when I was sure I was going to bleed to death – I was on day 33.

“Almost all the materials that i’ve used have been from the remnant bins including flannel outers, flannel inners, and batting, but also leftover pieces from my own stash. The smallest piece I’ve used was about 6 or 8 inches (and full width) which allows a front center and a back center, and then i used a solid remnant for the sides (left overs from my sewing buddy project). Remnants from fabricland are usually 50% off (or more depending on if there’s any damage or staining) PLUS when you buy one you get another one free – and it used to be that you would get two free. I’ve also bought most of my snaps on significant clearance because I don’t care what color or really what size they are, so I just grab them for literally pennies. So I just bought some flannel with the express purpose of making pads, and it was on sale for between 4 and 5 dollars a yard. It takes less than 1/2 a yard to make 1 pad total, so even not getting the material for free, it costs about 2$ to make a pad (snaps and thread are negligible as they each cost pennies, even PUL was pretty cheap, I’ve bought it once ever). Considering the pads I purchased from the store were about 50 cents each and STILL SUCKED and I was going through up to 10 of my non-sucky pads a day in the worst part of the month, but at least 3 a day in the slowest parts, so lets say an average of 6.5 a day.

Prospective cost: 6.5 pads/day x .50 $/pad x 33 days = $107.25 but likely more because 10 pads a day couldn’t handle the flow I was having with the clots.

Actual cost: 20 pads x 2 $/pad = $40 but likely less because probably about 3/4 of the materials were free or remnant, some of them were pre-existing from before this month, and most can still be used later (a couple didn’t make it as my construction techniques were still evolving and they were in heavy rotation being washed 2-3 times a week).”

That was last June and I haven’t purchased commercial pads at all since then. I like to keep a couple around in my desk and in my overnight-bag, just in case but I still have most of that package left. Also remember, it’s Earth Day today! that’s $107.25 of plastic pads that didn’t go into the garbage, and a year more since then.

I just want to mention now that it’s Infertility Awareness Week this week. You can find out more about the disease of infertility, infertility etiquette, and what you can do to help at RESOLVE, or the Canadian support site IAAC (even though Canadian Infertility Awareness Week isn’t until May!)


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