Yea, so there’s no delicate way to approach this, so I’m going to attempt to just jump right in. I consider myself modest, but I think this is important not only for the environment, but for your health. Here goes!
There are a couple of eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads. For a tampon alternative there are menstrual cups and sponges. For pads, cloth pads.
I’ll have to be honest and say that I have no experience with the latter, but that’s okay I’ll do my best 🙂
Let’s start with menstrual cups.
There are several brands, each a bit different and if one doesn’t work for you, another might, so don’t give up!
Here are just a few!
Better for the environment! – They are reusable. No cotton to be grown, no bleaching of the fibers, no processing and manufacturing, driving to the store, on and on and on. You get the picture 🙂
Better for your budget – Menstrual cups can last for as long as 10 years (I’ve read.) Many brands recommend replacing yearly, but even then it’s a savings. I think I picked my Diva Cup up for around $20.
Better for your health – No dryness. No reported link to toxic shock syndrome. Again, no bleaching, so less chemical exposure.
Comfortable & Convenient – Change less often and for many women it’s not even felt during wear.
How often do you empty it?/How long can you wear it?
They *can* be worn for up to 12 hours. Most recommend that you empty them at least 2-3 times a day. However, if you have a heavier flow, you will want to do this more often. This is determined by you and your body. It can be worn overnight.
What about when you’re out and about?
Since it can be worn for so long, chances are you won’t need to change it. If you do and can’t get to a sink, wipe off the rim and reinsert. When you get home, or to a more private place, give it a wash as usual.
Is it comfortable?
Yes, most women can’t even feel it. I do know that a lot of women cut the stem off of their cup because it can sometimes be felt. I experienced this, cut mine off and now I can’t even tell that it’s in. If your cup is uncomfortable, make sure that it’s in right, and if that doesn’t work, perhaps try a different brand. Some brands are more slender (the Mooncup is one I believe).
Is it sanitary?
Yes, most of these cups are made from medical grade silicone. Just be sure to wash your hands and the cup when you empty it. I think most of these companies recommend washing the cup at least twice a day. After your cycle, be sure to clean it thoroughly. Some can be boiled or sanitized with alcohol.
Do they leak?
Not usually. You mainly need to make sure that your cup fits you and that you have it in properly. Most of these brands offer multiple sizes and guidelines for what to choose. There also seems to be a bit of a learning curve to getting it in and sitting properly. If you’re unsure, try using a liner until you get the hang of it.
Is this good for an active lifestyle?
Yes! Swim, run, dance, etc. The only limitation is sex. I would imagine it would be quite uncomfortable for both you and your partner.
What do I think?
I love mine. No dryness, no running out of tampons and running to the store. No constant changes and worrying about leaks. I was fortunate and got the hang of it right away and I’ve been so pleased. I wish I had known about these long ago.
Cups not for you? How about cloth pads?
As I said before, I don’t have any experience with these, but I’ll do my best with the help of some friends 🙂
They are also customizable to you, your body and your needs.
How do you wash these? And where do you keep your dirty ones?
A wet bag (waterproof bag) or wet pail is often used to store them in. Most places I’ve seen recommend doing a cold soak with detergent before washing if you don’t use a wet pail. I would imagine a wet bag and cold soak in the washing machine would be an easy route. Some people even throw them right in with their regular wash.
Cold water is great at getting blood out of fabrics. From what I’ve read, hot washes are not a good idea, as they can set stains. If all else fails, a day in the sun should help 🙂
As for detergent. Most seem to recommend a minimal amount of detergent be used as not to cause build up. I would probably use a cloth diaper safe detergent, just to be on the safe side, and because I’d want less chemicals on my sensitive areas 🙂
What about when you’re out and about?
I would recommend a small wet bag that fits in your purse or bag.
How many do you need?
I’ve read that anywhere from 6-12 pads is a good number. This is going to depend on your flow and how often you need/want to wash them. I would suggest using how many disposables you go through as a rough guide. Because of the expense, I would start low and then buy more if need be.
Can they be used with a heavy flow?
Yes, from what I’ve seen you can find these in any absorbency from a liner to postpartum heavy flow.
The pads I’ve seen are made with absorbent materials like cotton, bamboo or hemp. Most pads use wool, microfleece or PUL as a protective and waterproofing layer.
PUL is polyurethane laminated fabric. It is typically used as backing on pads (just like the shell of modern day cloth diapers) as a waterproof layer. It’s fantastic, but likely not as breathable as fleece or wool. I think this is one of those things that you need to find what works for you.
What about smell? Are these sanitary?
Because these are natural fibers and *breathable!* There is far less odor than with disposables. That’s good news!
What if you want to make your own?
Grab some material and go for it! There are lots of patterns out there.If you want cotton & fleece, you can find that locally. I think flannel is a popular choice. If you want PUL and bamboo or hemp, try something online like Celtic Cloths Wholesale or Kids in the Garden.
Here are a few patterns you might try.
Well, I don’t have one, but if you use them, I would love yours! If you would like to contribute to this post please contact me. I would love user opinions on these.
Still stuck on tampons? How about a natural option?
Try a sea sponge! A sea sponge works just like a tampon. It is worn in the same fashion and absorbs – but without all of the nasty chemicals and waste. A two pack can run you $8-$14 and last for at least 6 months.
Still have questions? Email me or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it 🙂