The embarrassment. The discomfort. The leaking. The cramps. The fear that everyone would know. When I was a teenager, my period meant a stress-filled seven days. Did I have enough pads? Were they the right absorbency? What if I leaked on my pants? Did I smell? Could I get out of PE this week? Are there portable heating pads?
My period was nothing like those commercials with happy women in white.
My mom had four daughters and did the best she could to normalize menstruation. But stigmas around periods made the subject taboo anywhere except in small circles of women sharing their woes. The mere mention of the word “period” caused boys to cringe. Your period was a private matter to be endured – even if cramps, diarrhea, headaches, and mood swings made you want to hide under the covers for a week.
These enduring stigmas continue today, making it difficult to change women’s periods – even for the better. When I mention reusable menstrual cups to women friends, the reactions vary from disgusted to curious. They want to know more, but they’re shocked that we are talking periods – Periods! – and feel a bit giggly and uncomfortable.
You might not have a friend who is willing to cut through the noise at a restaurant and talk menstruation, so let’s talk about it here. Because innovations are making it possible for me, you, and women across the globe to have better periods. Learning about them might require setting aside some preconceived notions and opening yourself up to new habits. But I promise it’s worth it.
Just take a minute to consider the expense of disposable tampons each month. Do you need to buy three different absorbencies to make it through the week? Do you stand in front of the menstrual solutions aisle every month trying to decide if you should buy what’s on sale, go generic, or try the newest innovation? Have you ever ran to the store last minute late at night or, better yet, sent your partner?
Now, consider the menstrual cup. You can purchase a soft, comfortable, reusable menstrual cup for $30 to $40 and it will last you up to 10 years. You read that right. An alternative to tampons at a cost of $3 to $4 per year.
But isn’t it gross, messy, unhygienic? Let’s be honest, no product is going to change the fact that you have to deal with your period. That being said, the cup can stay in comfortably for 8 to 10 hours without leaking or changing. This means that I’ve rarely ever changed a cup in public. It can be worn overnight, while playing sports, and more. Plus, I experienced less cramping and lighter periods with the cup! You can read more details in my Common Questions About Reusable Menstrual Cups Answered.
I waited until my 20s to try tampons. I waited until 35 to try a reusable menstrual cup. I don’t want my daughter to do the same out of fear or discomfort. She might not choose a menstrual cup in the beginning, but I don’t want her to be intimidated by it as an option. Maman Loup’s Den does a wonderful job of talking about how to introduce girls to greening their period and the menstrual cup here.
So, I swore I would never use these. Periods are gross enough. Then I’m going to bleed onto a fabric pad, store it in a PUL lined mini wet bag, and wash it? Just like I quickly realized that all diapers have an ick fabric, so do all menstrual products.
I still don’t use cloth pads regularly because I am not a fan of pads when I could use a cup. That being said, I had a very positive experience with The Pink Lemonade Shope Post Partum Pads. They were softer, more comfortable, and thinner than their disposable counterparts. The pads didn’t chafe or fill my trash can with waste. I definitely preferred them to the diaper style pads sent home from the hospital.
Cloth menstrual pads come in sizes and absorbency to meet any need; from pantyliners, to heavy days, to post partum. They come in a variety of fun prints and luxurious fabrics, like velour and minky. You keep clean pads in one pocket of a PUL lined mini wet/dry bag and soiled ones in another pocket. Many of these wet bags look like little make-up purses and will likely go unnoticed. Reusable pads are actually much more discreet in a way then disposable pads because there’s no tell-tale wrappers to carry, open, or dispose of. They are also chemical free and better for the environment.
Keep another wet bag at home for storing rinsed pads until wash day and simply toss them in with the wash. Yes, you still have to deal with blood and it won’t suddenly be fun, but it could be more comfortable and cost-effective.
Have you heard of Thinkx? I haven’t had a chance to try these out, but they sound genius! These panties certainly fly in the face of cost savings initially if you want to use them without a cup or liner. You will definitely see cost savings down the road, though, and they will definitely cut down on the use of disposable products. This clever underwear seems like it could be a game changer!
These period panties boast:
- Moisture Wicking.
- Leak Resistant.
- Plus, when you buy Thinkx, they send part of the profits to help women sew reusable cloth pads in Uganda, helping girls stay in school during their periods.
The Bottom Line
Changing our periods begins with changing the way women and girls think and talk about our bodies. A menstrual cup is much less intimidating if you are familiar with how your body works. Reusable pads and underwear will be less easily dismissed when we can comfortably talk about menstrual blood. We don’t have to talk about our periods in every conversation, but we can make it less taboo. Let’s face it – periods are part of the human experience. While we probably can’t make the experience more enjoyable, we can certainly make it more comfortable, affordable, eco-friendly, and normalized.
Ready to Make a Change?
Dirty Diaper Laundry has a Turning Red to Green – Reusable Menstrual Products Resource Guide with links to blog posts and videos full of all the information you need to know and answers to those sensitive questions like “How do I choose a menstrual cup?” or “How do I insert it?”.
Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post.
Photo Credit: Photo of Menstrual Pads Courtesy of Mommy’s Favorite Things.