Let’s get this out of the way: I’m going to say “vagina” a lot in this post. Also “cervix” and “menstrual cycle” and “period.” Prepare yourselves!
In a natural healing group on Facebook, the question was posed: What’s a crunchy thing you do that gets the strongest reaction from people? I thought about a lot of things… I barely go to the doctor, I don’t wear a bra, I don’t shave my legs, I don’t use shampoo… AHA! I’ve got it!
I don’t use tampons. Or disposable maxi pads.
- are expensive (~$3,000 over your lifetime, more if you buy organic)
- are bad for the environment (lots of waste and lots of pollution from manufacturing)
- are produced with harsh chemicals
- can cause yeast/bacterial infections
- (tampons) deplete the vagina’s natural fluids and bacteria
- (tampons) can contain mold (link)
Overall, disposable menstrual products are a drag. In my experience, tampons are uncomfortable and make everything dry. Pads feel like you’re wearing a diaper, and sometimes they flip around and you’ve got adhesive and plastic sticking to places you’d rather it not be sticking. Plus, the ones that are more plastic just make you all sweaty and gross.
What can you use instead?
I use these for many reasons…
- Less waste (one cup will last years, and when you’re ready to discard you can simply burn it without producing any harmful chemicals or gases; pads are made from biodegradable cloth)
- Better periods (sounds crazy but it’s true; I don’t get menstrual cramps anymore since switching, and my periods are over quicker)
- Less money (after an initial investment, I have no monthly costs associated with my period – I’m paid up for at least FIVE YEARS)
- Safer (no drying out of the vaginal fluids, no chemicals in sensitive areas, no stupid fragrances)
- Easier (I really believe this is easier than fussing with packaging, wrapping, discreetly tossing, etc.)
- Less space (cup in the medicine cabinet, five pads in my underwear drawer, TA DAAAAAAAAA)
WTF is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a silicone cup that you insert into the vagina, which catches the blood. You can wear it for extended periods of time, I usually change mine twice per day on average days and maybe three on heavy days. No risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome from leaving it in for 12 hours (a risk from tampons). There are a variety of ways you can fold and insert, and there are YouTube videos and diagrams all over the internet about it. To remove, simply pinch the bottom, pull it out, dump, rinse (or wipe with tissue if in a public restroom), and reinsert. One of the biggest complaints I see about people who don’t want to try this is that they wouldn’t be able to change it in a public restroom. I swear, you can change it in the morning and when you’re home in the evening and never need to worry about it in the middle of the day (unless you have a very heavy flow, in which case you can wipe with a tissue until you can get to rinse it again).
It’s not as gross as it sounds, I swear.
People also worry that it would be a crazy mess to deal with. Not true. There’s a learning curve and your first couple cycles might be a little messy while you figure out your particular groove for insertion and removal, but once you’ve got it, you’ll never look back. I have never had a nasty spill while changing it, ever.
(Update, 2019: One SINGLE time I dropped it in a toilet. I threw it away and got a new one because it was ill fitting anyway — still less waste than tampons).
One thing I need to warn you about is that your cervix (the little opening at the bottom of your uterus that opens up when you have a baby, and through which your menstrual blood travels) MOVES AROUND. A LOT. So you’ll need to get familiar with your anatomy to make sure the cup is positioned correctly in relation to the cervix. It does no good to put the cup up high when the cervix is being sneaky down low. There is a whole world to discover in there.
Yup, reusable pads. I own five organic cotton liners from Party in my Pants.
The things I hear about when people are questioning washable pads is usually around the gross-factor of throwing something with blood on it into the laundry. Do you wash them in a special load? No. Do you pre-soak them? You can, but I don’t. Are they smelly? No. I promise.
The way I look at it is: If you get blood on your underwear, do you throw them away or do you wash them? Wash ’em. I seriously throw my pads in with the rest of the laundry and that’s the end of it. Granted, I don’t usually have a lot going on with them since they are just there as a backup for the cup, but even if I had a heavy flow on the pads I would just wash them with everything else. They even fold up for easy carrying! You could do an initial soak with vinegar water to pre-wash them but it’s not necessary. You can learn more on the PIMP page linked above!
I am by no means an expert on reusable menstrual gear but I would be happy to answer your questions or help you find the answers you seek!