What to Do When Your Special Needs Daughter Gets Her Period
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
"My daughter has down syndrome, these swimwear bottoms are a lifesaver"
A Mother's Plea
"I have a 14 year old daughter that has autism and just got her period last week. She is non-verbal and she loves to swim. No way can she ever use an option such as a tampon or menstrual cup, her body just won't allow it - she can only use the basics for now, sanitary pads."
This message and many others are received everyday from mothers of girls with special needs, it illustrates an important issue that's rarely talked about in women's circles: the menstrual needs of special needs women and girls. All types of differences and disabilities affect a woman's or caregiver's abilities to manage their periods. That time of the month is difficult for the mentally typical and able-bodied; it can become an unimaginable challenge to those who aren't.
The situation in the above message is not an uncommon one, and yet there are so few resources available to help mothers of special needs daughters. This portion of the population has been consistently ignored by mainstream feminine hygiene product manufacturers.
Caring for a mentally or physically disabled child is a difficult task. But caregivers of disabled teens and adults have an additional set of concerns when it comes to caring for females. Setting aside the difficulty of explaining a menstrual cycle to a non-verbal or mentally handicapped teen, there's simply the issue of keeping clean. Though a mentally disabled woman may be 20, 30, or even 40 years old in body, she's only a toddler in terms of mental capacity. This means that she has to be changed just like a baby. Besides the additional work on the part of the caretaker, someone with a child's mentality won't be able to avoid the problems that come with having a period.
While most average women have the option of wearing a tampon or menstrual cup when a pad is inconvenient, disabled women rarely do. Because of physical or mental limitations, many cannot insert a tampon on their own, and having a feminine hygiene product inserted can be very traumatic. The only alternative is to use sanitary pads, which can be often be ineffective on their own.
Therefore, leaks, stains, and discomfort are regular occurrences that the adult child and her caregiver deal with every month. This is burdensome to the caregiver, and often very uncomfortable for the woman. Is it any wonder that some caregivers feel pressure to find ways to prevent their child from having a period? In these situations, Depo shots and other forms of period-suppressing birth control are used. And in some cases, caregivers feel they have no other option but to have a hysterectomy performed.
So, while the debate over disposable feminine hygiene products versus the more eco-friendly menstrual cup continues, for some it isn't even an option. This is part of the reason that reliable sanitary pads and period panties are so important, and why we feel called to provide them. Since we've unveiled the Ruby Love line of teen period underwear, many mothers of special needs children have contacted us, sharing stories about how our products have helped them and their daughters. It's our intention to shine a light on this issue and provide help.
This is why Ruby Love is more than just a business. It is a way of life and we are happy to to be able to provide a option that includes everyone.