Daily life as a woman includes a few aspects that men don’t have to worry themselves with. For example, remembering to stock up on menstrual cycle products every month. Or nursing and pumping milk. Or warding off and treating yeast infections. These aspects of being a woman don’t simply disappear amidst a crisis or emergency situation, but it can be easy to forget to prepare to easily manage them in advance.
Below, I’m going to cover aspects of disaster preparedness for women, such as how to manage your period, breastfeed, ward off infection, and other aspects of feminine health. First up, let’s discuss what to do if and when disaster strikes during your time of the month…
Managing Your Period
For most premenopausal women, a monthly period can be a hassle. From handling menstrual cramp pain to stocking up on an adequate supply of tampons and pads, there’s a lot to deal with...and an emergency situation can only add another level of difficulty to the mix.
The average woman uses about 4 tampons per day, for an average of 5 days during her period. That’s 240 tampons a year! The cost, storage space, and disposal of tampons and pads can become an issue, especially for those navigating a disaster scenario.
That’s why reusable products such as a silicone menstrual cup, period-proof underwear, or reusable pads are terrific solutions. As long as you follow product guidelines to keep them clean and sanitary, you’ll be set. For example…
- Menstrual cups can be worn for 10-12 hours at a time and emptied at regular intervals. After use, disinfect them by boiling them in water and/or hand-washing them. Be sure to wash your hands before and after insertion and removal to keep things hygienic.
- For period-proof underwear and cloth pads, hand-wash them after use. Buy several pairs to use over the course of your cycle.
Additionally, make sure your first aid kit is stocked with painkillers such as Midol or Ibuprofen to manage menstrual cramp pain. Painful cramping is the last thing you want to deal with when sheltering in place or evacuating during a disaster.
Breastfeeding and Pumping Milk
Infants and babies are some of the most vulnerable members of the population when it comes to surviving a disaster scenario. Therefore, it’s extremely important to make sure you’re able to keep them fed and nourished. However, emergency situations can make breastfeeding and pumping and storing milk a challenge. Here are a few ways to navigate these situations…
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is going to be the best option over formula in a disaster. Assuming your breast milk hasn’t dried up, even if your baby is typically bottle fed, they can learn to take the breast if necessary. It’s possible you’ll run out of formula or won’t have the ability to access clean water or sanitize bottles. If you do have running water but are unsure about the quality of the water, a water filtration system such as the Alexapure Pro is a great option for ensuring it’s bacteria-free and safe to use and ingest.
- Pumping and storing milk: If you’re a mom who needs to pump and uses an electric pump, a power outage can greatly affect things. For example, when the Bay Area in California experienced the planned PG&E blackouts in 2019, women had to get creative and use their car adapters for their electric pumps. You can also consider getting a hand pump to use as a backup. When it comes to keeping stored frozen milk cold, buy a backup portable generator and a supply of extra gas to operate your freezer during a blackout. According to KellyMom, “If there are still ice crystals in the milk, then it is still considered frozen--it is safe to either use the milk or return it to a working freezer.”
That’s right--just because times are hectic and stressful doesn’t mean that people will resist the urge to “get it on.” However, becoming pregnant when the future is unsure isn’t an ideal scenario for a multitude of reasons. That’s why practicing safe sex is even more important in the midst of uncertainty and chaos.
If you haven’t already selected a consistent birth control method, now’s the time. From the pill and IUD to condoms and diaphragms, there’s something for everyone. Speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine what will work best for you and your needs. Some methods require a daily commitment and regular access to a pharmacy (such as the pill) whereas the IUD can be inserted now by a medical professional, and you won’t have to remember to do anything else. That said, given that the IUD and pill aren’t completely 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, it’s always helpful to have a second layer of protection, such as condoms, when engaging in intercourse.
UTIs & Yeast Infections
According to Web MD it’s estimated that 75% of all women will have at least one yeast infection in her lifetime, and 40%-45% will have multiple cases. And as One Medical reports, about 50-60% of adult women have had at least one urinary tract infection. If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection or yeast infection, you know the agony of pain and itchiness that you’ll want to avoid at all costs--especially when things are already uncomfortable. That’s why you’ll want to make sure your first aid kit contains additional medication and supplies such as…
- Urinary tract infection pain relief medicine like AZO.
- Monistat or other yeast infection treatment or creams.
- Feminine wipes or towelettes.
You can also ward off these kinds of infections by…
- Changing out of wet clothing. If you’re dealing with extreme weather and flooding and your clothes get wet, this is a perfect breeding ground for yeast infections.
- Wearing breathable cotton underwear.
- Changing your tampons or pads often enough (another reason why investing in a menstrual cup is a smart idea).
- Emptying your bladder after intercourse.
- Drinking plenty of liquids, especially water. Make sure you have a backup storage of clean drinking water in case your access to running and purified water is inhibited.
Safety as a Woman
Feminine health and hygiene aside, women are also at higher risk for violence, and the risks escalate during an emergency situation, particularly for women living alone. To stay safe, consider the following tips and practices…
- Up your home security systems: install high-quality locks, and consider getting a dog.
- Take a self-defense class: There are specific classes that teach women key moves to fend off an attacker. Research to find one offered in your area or nearby. Additionally, buy pepper spray or a taser to have at home and in your evacuation bag. Knowing how to use a firearm and taking gun safety classes will be beneficial as well.
- Be careful what you say and be inconspicuous: Even before disaster strikes, don’t let too many people (such as your neighbors and strangers) know that you live alone, or you’ll become a more obvious target. Additionally, don’t draw attention to your home and what valuable items may be inside.
As women, we may have additional factors that complicate our lives, particularly during emergency situations. At the end of the day, understanding how to manage these factors ahead of time will keep you and your family members safer and healthier.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply