Men, beware: There is some TMI in this post.
When I first heard about reusable feminine hygiene products, I was majorly grossed out. Even after I started using the Diva Cup, I was still horrified by the idea of reusable pads (which makes no sense, since the Diva Cup isn’t for the squeamish). But I’m here to tell you why it’s not as bad as it sounds and why you should definitely switch to reusable.
First off, lets talk trash. Think about it. How many tampons and pads do you use a cycle? How much product and plastic packaging stinks up your garbage each month? And think about all the resources and energy that go into producing those tampons. I’m sure you’ve heard the statistics about how many times the tampons we use can stretch around the world. Why not reduce that? I got my period at 12 and my mom’s family is still getting their periods in their late 40’s and early 50’s. I think the 7 years (that’s about 84 cycles!) I used tampons sounds like a lot, but 40 years? In that time, each woman will throw away 125-150 kg (275-330 lbs) of disposable menstrual products. No thanks, says Mother Earth.
Then there’s your health. Many disposables have chemicals or are bleached. Tampons dry out your natural, healthy, balancing secretions (sorry, that’s a gross word). I remember that by the end of my period, I couldn’t insert tampons because I was so dry. I don’t even need to talk about TSS. And pads can be rough and irritate your skin. And not only are these chemicals harmful to your health, but they are also harmful to the environment. Reusables eliminate these effects. They also decrease odor by not allowing contact with oxygen (cups) or letting you breathe down there (pads). What’s really crazy is that there are women who claim that reusables actually reduce their cramps! I don’t know why this would be, but why not give it a try and see if it’s true?
Another factor is convenience. If you’re like me, before you travel anywhere you have to figure out if you’ll be on your period, then calculate how many pads and tampons you might need. No more with reusable! You already have all you need. No counting or running to the store necessary. And there’s even more for my friend, the Diva Cup.
Diva Cup: This lovely device is made of silicone, so it is safe for your body and the environment. It also offers so much convenience! You can wear it for up to 12 hours, so you can wear it throughout the day and even at night without worrying about getting away to the bathroom. No more panicked wondering how long you’ve had your tampon in compared to how heavy your period is. And as long as it’s inserted properly (very easy to do), you’re safe from leaks. This was a big thing for me. I am very heavy my first day. I start Monday night, leak, my Tuesday morning super tampon is filled in 3 hours, I’m generally fine the rest of the day, then I leak that night. I have none of these problems with the Diva Cup. It is worn internally, so there’s no worry of leakage due to a bad angle like with pads. And since it creates a seal and can hold an ounce of liquid, you won’t see leakage like from a tampon. Plus, there’s no odor or the irritating dryness of tampons. And you can use it while working out! One thing to be aware of it sometimes I have a little residual blood below the Diva Cup and I do need a pantyliner while this drains. But I usually need that with a tampon anyway. Love, love, LOVE my Diva Cup! You may think it’s gross, but you don’t see people cheering for their tampons unless it’s on a Tampax commercial.
One concern I had was insertion, placement, and removal of the Diva Cup. I am, well, quite small in that area. Like, I was it a ton of pain the first time I used a regular tampon small. If I can use a Diva Cup, so can you. Insertion is fairly easy if you follow the instructions. I was worried that I would be able to feel it since it sits low enough for you to grab the tip, but I don’t! And the main trick to removal is learning what muscles to use to push low enough to get a grip on and break the suction. There is a learning curve, but I promise, it only takes a time or two to learn and it’s totally worth it!
As far as cleaning goes, I use the Diva Wash each time before replacing it. I’ve never had to replace it in public and you would be surprised how frequently I’m the only person in my dorm bathroom, so don’t let the fear of cleaning it in a public bathroom deter you! It is also okay to just rinse it with water. I also boil it for about 5 minutes at the end of each cycle. As for how long they last, it is recommended to replace your Diva Cup about every year, but this will depend on your usage and cleaning habits.
I could go on and on telling you about the Diva Cup, but why don’t you check it out yourself! They have great FAQ pages.
Cloth Menstrual Pads: Here’s the option for the woman that doesn’t want to use an internal device or who would like some back up for their Diva Cup. And sometimes I just don’t feel like putting the Diva Cup back in, so reusable pads are a good alternative. I currently have only used the Mini Pantyliner from Lunapads. I find it very comfortable. I can’t feel it at all and it’s much softer than a regular pad. And there’s no adhesive for hair to get stuck to. I haven’t truly tested its blood capacity, since it is only catching small amounts of leakage, but it handles that fine. This Mini Pantyliner was a free sample for new customers (you have to pay shipping, but they give you a coupon as reimbursement). I also have a Teeny Pantyliner and, as a petite woman, that is also quite comfortable. I haven’t tested the Maxi Pad I got yet for absorbancy, but I have worn it and find it very comfortable. It is a little bulky, but I don’t think it’s anymore than normal pads. I don’t notice it, as it just feels like the fabric of my underwear. All these pads stay in place for me perfectly fine. Lunapads also sells the Diva Cup, accessories, kits, and have a lot of information available on their website. Although I love Lunapads, you can look around for your own options. A search for “cloth menstrual pads” will yield many results, including homemade pads from Etsy and even patterns to make your own!
Cloth pads are very effective and aren’t any thicker than a normal pad. Plus, they are less irritating since they are made from cotton and/or flannel and have not been treated with harsh chemicals. To wash them, you just rinse them with cold water (some people have a bucket that they let them soak in until laundry day, but make sure you are changing the water every day), then wash them with your regular laundry, preferably in warm-hot water. Surely you’ve had to get period stains out of underwear before, this is the same things, except they are supposed to have blood on them! You can get them in fun patterns, too (or you can get organic, undyed cotton if you don’t mind seeing the staining). The pads come with inserts that are held in place on top of the pads, so these can be replaced without replacing the whole pad (which is nice, since the inserts are a lot cheaper than a whole pad), although you’ll still want to change out the whole pad at least every day or so as you would underwear. And the best news: with proper care, cloth pads can be used for 5 years or more!
There are countless women out there who say that using the Diva Cup and cloth pads have helped them grow to love their period and embrace it as a wonderful, cleansing part of being a woman. Me? It’s still my period, but it’s so much less hassle, I don’t dread it like I used to.
I hope I’ve at least got you considering the world of reusable feminine hygiene products. You save the planet, your health and some money, too. The initial cost might deter you, but it will more than make up for what you would be spending on disposables every month. If you are worried about being discrete, The Diva Cup comes with a pouch to put it in and since you can leave it in for 12 hours, you may be able to completely avoid public bathrooms. Even as a college student, I can usually wash my Diva Cup without anyone around. And Lunapads are able to fold snap up pretty small, or you could buy one of their bags to carry them in (these are really cool: two compartments, one for new, one for used, and one side has a PVC-free waterproof lining).
Finally, think about it: women were using cloth pads for centuries before the disposable age. This isn’t new, and it isn’t hard to do.
For more information about your health, the environment, and how awesome these two options are, check out this blog post.