As March marks Endometriosis Awareness Month, our Digital Editor Madeline Reid explores the world of cannabinoids, chronic pain and sustainable sanitary products.
BRICKS digital editor Madeline Reid discusses her experience of painful periods and speaks to London-based start-up, Daye,a company producing CBD ‘cramp-relieving’ tampons.
It goes without saying that periods suck. From incessant throbbing, stabbing or searing pains and heavy bleeding to bloating, nausea, lack of appetite and exhaustion – and that’s not even mentioning hormonal breakouts or mood swings – there’s no end to the list of symptoms womxn can suffer during their menstrual cycle. And while the degree of these symptoms can vary widely from person or by period, nine out of ten women experience some level of cramps, with more than half admitting their pain affects their ability to work.
I can’t remember my own periods not hurting. I remember at aged 12 getting up out of my chair during a science class to see I’d been sitting in a pool of blood, and frantically running to the school nurse and complaining of a stabbing sensation in my stomach. She picked up the phone to call my mum, and I distinctively remember her rolling her eyes as she said, “It’s probably just period pain.”
What appeared initially as ‘just’ period pain became a seven-year blind search that spanned two surgeries, three consultants, six hospitals, and more than fifty various appointments. I was misdiagnosed with IBS, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, adenomyosis and cervical cancer, all of which were eventually debunked. As it stands, I live with no diagnosis, nor am I able to access available benefits for those living with chronic pain as those cannot be accessed without a diagnosis.
I am one of the thousands of womxn who have fallen victim to the overwhelming gender biases in medical research. While my consultant hopes one day that I may receive a diagnosis, for now, I and all of the womxn like me have to survey the limited options available to treat our symptoms, apply for what government benefits we can and just suck it up.
So when I stumbled across the Instagram account of Daye, a London-based start-up producing CBD ‘cramp-relieving’ tampons, I was elated. Now, full disclosure: I am already a CBD-convert and have had great experiences using the cannabinoid as a pain and stress reliever in various forms (bath salts, vape liquid, body cream… you name it), but I’d never even considered an infused tampon product.
Daye exist to raise the standards of women’s health by creating products and services that bridge the gap in medical research and innovation. Purchasing from Daye not only allows you to manage your period with their personalised subscription service, but it also means you’re reinvesting in medical research and development that focuses on women.
“I’ve had painful periods since I was 9 years old,” says Daye founder Valentina Milanova. “No one had ever sat me down to explain what the menstrual cycle was, so all my knowledge about periods and the female reproductive system is self-taught. I would spend my free time reading medical journals on PCOS and endometriosis, and one day I came across industrial hemp, which was used in tincture form to help with Queen Victoria’s painful periods. Looking into the plant, I also learned that its fibres are more absorbent than cotton and its flower has confirmed analgesic properties… that was my Eureka moment. I thought, “Why has no one made a pain-relieving hemp tampon before?”
While the science of CBD may pass over most of our heads, it’s clear that there’s been centuries of examples of the Cannabis sativa compound providing pain relieving results. So why is this the first cramp-relieving tampon we’ve heard of?
There’s a massive gender gap in healthcare, and female pain has historically been dismissed—women are often told their pain is all in their heads, or that it’s just a byproduct of having ovaries, being something we just have to get on with.
Valentina Milanova, founder of Daye
“There’s a massive gender gap in healthcare, and female pain has historically been dismissed—women are often told their pain is all in their heads, or that it’s just a byproduct of having ovaries, being something we just have to get on with. Interestingly, one of the big FMCG tampon brands tried to make a pain-relieving tampon 20 years ago, but gave up on the idea because they thought period pain wasn’t a big enough market, and one not worth investing in,” explains Milanova.
And while many of us would not dare leave the house during our period without some Ibuprofen in our purse, most painkillers on the market today have never been tested on the female physiology. In fact, until 1993 researchers excluded women from clinical trials because they believed hormonal fluctuations (which men also experience on a daily basis, FYI) would pollute data.
CBD’s bioavailabilitygreatly depends on how it’s administered, and if you’re looking for the most effective way to take CBD for menstrual discomfort, look no further than your vagina. The vaginal mucosa is extremely absorbent and contains the highest number of cannabinoid receptors (with the exception of the brain). So not only will your vagina absorb more CBD than if you took it as a pill, it will also absorb it faster. After all, when applied vaginally the compound completely bypasses your digestive system, so it doesn’t have to be metabolised.
I received my set of tampons in the post using Daye’s personalised subscription service – which has been a lifesaver during the Covoid-19 pandemic and chaotic stockpiling that has swept the nation – and included a mixture of CBD and ‘naked’ tampons. Each box is individually tailored to meet every customers’ individual needs, including how many tampons, which size (choose from regular or super) and how frequently your box will arrive to match your cycle, and even comes with a reusable case.
For those who may not need a CBD boost, Daye’s naked tampons are the treat you never knew you needed during your period – 100% biodegradable, toxin-free, made from organic cotton fibre and specially designed to reduce fibre loss. Even more notably, Daye’s tampons are fully sanitised, which I was disgusted to find out is not always the case.
In fact, Daye’s packaging is also 100% biodegradable, from the box it’s posted in, to every piece of packaging, applicator and even the case. For those of us concerned with the climate crisis, these tampons are a no-brainer.
Having used these tampons during my last period, I am completely converted. Personally, I felt my pain relieve and become more manageable around 30 minutes after inserting, and changed tampons every four or so hours. While CBD results will vary per user, this female-focused, sustainable start-up has revolutionised my period experience and I’ve already sent excited texts to my mum, sister and all my female friends. So what are you waiting for?