The irony that I am writing about periods on the eve of the inauguration for a President whose party is actively working to deny women access to reproductive healthcare does not escape me.
I got my first period when I was 16, way later than all of my friends. I was very self-conscious about this fact, and as a result I never talked about periods, or any of the uncomfortable stuff that comes with them, with anyone. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I felt comfortable talking about my body and all of the stuff that comes with menstruation.
So part of me can’t believe I’m talking about my period on this blog. But if 16-year-old me would have read a blog post like this, I would have avoided years of discomfort. And so, I write.
When I first got my period I started with tampons immediately because that’s what my friends were using and it’s what my mom bought me. But I always hated tampons. They were uncomfortable, I hated having to hide one up my sleeve when I went to the bathroom or remember to change them every four hours. Pads weren’t any better. They felt bulky and gross. But those were the only options I knew about so I kept using them.
Until I learned about better alternatives, that is.
So, I started researching alternatives that would solve those problems. And that lead me to my favorite plastic-free, healthy and affordable feminine hygiene products.
I’ve been using a menstrual cup for about three years now. Menstrual cups are small flexible cups made of medical grade silicone that catches menstrual blood instead of absorbing it. You fold it and insert it into your vagina and it reopens to its natural shape. Your vaginal muscles hold it in place along with very small holes at the top that help create a suction as it rests against your vaginal walls.
It has to be inserted properly to feel right and prevent leaks. I had to practice a few times when I first got mine and I did have some leakage at first, but after a while you get the hang of it and it’s not difficult at all. I don’t even feel it anymore. If your flow is relatively light like mine, you can leave it in for up to 12 hours at a time. Then, all you have to do is wash it and reinsert it.
There are many different brands of menstrual cups. I use a DivaCup for women who have not given birth. There is a larger size for post-childbirth. If you are interested in a menstrual cup but aren’t sure what brands are best, or have questions you don’t want to ask me, there is this great website that has everything you’d ever want to know about menstrual cups, including reviews of different brands.
If I will be sticking close to home and don’t feel like using my DivaCup, I use cloth pads. They are bulky but the cloth is much more comfortable than a store-bought disposable pads and as you can see from the photo below, they come in fun patterns. I like the brand GladRags but again, there are a lot of different brands you can try. Just do a search for “reusable menstrual pads” online and you’ll find a lot of different options. I would like to switch to a less bulky option but I use them so rarely that I haven’t been motivated to look.
I discovered the Thinx brand of “period underwear” in the fall and wow – what a great invention! My periods are pretty consistent and start off very light, so this underwear is perfect for me. I wear a pair when I think I might start my period, and then switch to my DivaCup when my flow gets heavier. Before, I would have to carry my DivaCup with me or a cloth pad and hope that I would make it to the bathroom before my underwear got ruined. Now I get to wear cute underwear that won’t get ruined – hooray!
I bought three black pairs as part of their “cycle set” – one for light, medium and heavy days. I wear the light and medium pairs on days when I think I might start my period, and then switch to my DivaCup once it gets heavier. I usually wear the heavy pair at night when I don’t want to wear my DivaCup.
They are easy to take care of – I just rinse them in cold water and toss them in the empty washing machine to dry and then add them to my next load of laundry. Despite my initial worry, nothing has happened to the rest of the clothes in the wash, and I just hang dry them (recommended by the company). I would like to buy a few more pairs so I don’t have to wash them as much but they are around $30 a pair so I’ll slowly accumulate them as I can afford it.
Bonus! If you buy a pair using this link, you can get $10 off your first order. I’ll also get $10 my next order so it’s a win-win-win*!
Coming Soon…a Bidet!
We just installed a bidet attachment on our toilet and I’m really excited to use it. I think it will help keep me feeling fresh and clean throughout my cycle. It’s also supposed to help prevent urinary tract infections and yeast infections, so hopefully we like it! I sprayed water all over the bathroom on my second time using it so we’ll see how it goes.
But…What if I Want to Use Tampons?
I completely understand that you may want to continue using tampons. If that is the case, remember that not all tampons are created equal. Try to stick to buying organic cotton tampons with a cardboard applicator or look into this reusable tampon applicator made by the company that makes Thinx and the bidet attachment we bought*. These are becoming more and more popular so you should be able to find a good option in most stores.
I would love to know what you think about using menstrual cups, cloth pads and period underwear – have you tried them and if so, what do you like/dislike about them?
*No, I don’t work for SheThinx and they aren’t paying me to say this (other than the $10 I get for every purchase someone makes using the affiliate links in this post), I just like their products.