I have 5 daughters. Five! Cinco! Cinq! The potential for emotional drama is off the charts. Nail polish, hair brushes, and shoes are found in plenty in our house. I can do ballet buns in record time.
Inevitably everyone’s minds eventually go to one particular thought: 6 female cycles, synced, in one house. And then the sympathy starts pouring in for my one son and my husband. People start asking what outside hobbies they will pick up. We make jokes about buying stock in feminine product companies. (By the way, thanks for thinking of me folks. It’s not like I get to escape the tears and questions and drama. 😛 ) Anyways…. All of this prompted me to research alternative methods for living with the female cycle.
Let’s get real with each other. Let’s talk like we are good friends. Periods. Blood. Fifty percent of the entire population of all of history has or will have to deal with this subject. Society has made amazing innovations over the course of time in the ways we manage it. In ancient times it’s believed women used sticks covered in lint to absorb the flow. In medieval times women often used rags or, gasp, nothing at all. Saw dust was even a common solution at one time. There has always been a misunderstanding and a stigma surrounding periods, and unfortunately, today is not that much different. We have all kinds of ways to control the situation but we don’t really feel comfortable to talk about it. I get that it’s not pleasant, but it is natural. So let’s talk.
I’ve spent the last few years looking for responsible, sustainable, and/or reusable products. I’ve found a lot that I don’t like and a few that I love.
The first, and my most favorite, is the menstrual cup. There are many different brands and styles but the one that I use is the Diva Cup. It’s easy to obtain (they even sell them at Target) and for a fair price. Ladies! They really work! And way better than tampons. They are a medical grade silicone cup that is inserted like a tampon and can be used over and over again. I’ve had the same one for almost 2 years. Some say they can go 12 hours without emptying them but it really depends on your flow. On bad days I probably empty mine every 6-8 hours. It takes some practice to get comfortable with using it but it’s not bad.
Final verdict: Do it! It will change your life. Period. (See what I did there….)
Period underwear are a recent fad. Having an all-in-one product gives the illusion of ease. I disagree. I bought a Thinx and gave it a fair shake. It did what it said it would do. It absorbed. But if you pay attention to their claims they clearly say it can only absorb, at best, 2 tampons worth. So, once you’ve filled it up, you then have to change the entire pair of underwear. Not a big deal if you are at home. But imagine being out, say at work, and having to take off your shoes and pants, changing your underwear, and then having this blood-soaked pair to deal with. Not a pretty sight. There are home sewn options as well (I’ve tried those too) and they hold up about the same.
Final verdict: They are good for back-up and light days, but you still need something to do the bulk of the work.
Cloth pads are nothing new. Like I said before, women in times past used rags to absorb the flow. But the cloth pads of today are not your ancestors rags. They have snaps or velcro to keep them in place. They use fibers like wool, cotton, hemp, bamboo, and pul (plastic-coated fabric). They are fairly thin and yet amazingly absorbant. There are little plastic-coated wet bags to store them in if you need to change one while you are out. The thing you have to get over, which is no different than period underwear, is hand washing them. I was really grossed out by this at first but you’d be surprised just how quick you get used to it. Just like you get used to spraying out poopy cloth diapers.
This is another favorite of mine. I’ve tried the variation that snaps around the panties with wings but my personal favorite is the kind that snap right into the panties. I make them myself and if you know how to sew it’s pretty easy. Unfortunately I have not found these for sale online but the winged version is a good alternative. You can find tons of options on Etsy.
Final Verdict: These are a small and more manageable option to period underwear.
(If you sew and are looking for a good cause to get behind, Little Dresses for Africa sends home sewn cloth pads to poor countries to give girls what they need to stay in school. Girls in countries without access to feminine care items have to miss school once a month, leaving huge gaps in their education. The drop out rate for girls in these areas is high. I have made many pads for this charity. It’s a quick and easy project that has a huge impact. Go check them out here!)
Last is the reusable menstrual disc. I’ve only found one reusable version available online so far and its the Ziggy Cup by Intimina. It works just like the disposable discs, Flex and Softcup. I’ve only used the disposable kind and this was my least favorite of all. I have a tilted, posterior cervix, meaning it’s far back and and tilted towards my back instead of forward like most people. The discs are supposed to fit behind your cervix to avoid leaking. After multiple attempts I just couldn’t get it to work. I could see how it could be a great product though. Once in, you don’t feel it at all and they are supposed to last 12 hours.
Final verdict: It didn’t work for me but is totally worth a try and has the potential to be an amazing option.
I hope this is helpful to you. Don’t be afraid to go give some of these products a try. There are even more options out there than the ones I mentioned, but again, I am going for reusable, responsible, and sustainable. One product that I didn’t try that fits all of my criteria is the sponge. Yes, a literal sponge. I’ve read that they are a lot of work to maintain and, to be honest, I’m not interested in sticking something that was once alive in my hoohah. But if you are brave, go for it! If you are still building up the courage but just aren’t there yet, cotton, applicator-free tampons are a good option. They are made of natural materials and don’t leave landfills full of plastic-coated cardboard applicators. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Drop me a line and let’s chat.