Period. No, literally, periods are creating a damn mess of our planet. Well, not “the bleed”, but rather those plastic-filled tampons and pads we use every month.
According to the Women’s Environmental Network, “Tampons, pads and panty liners generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year, and they all contain plastic – in fact, pads are around 90 percent plastic – which ends up in landfill or, even worse, in seas and rivers.”
That’s about the weight of 140 VW Beetles. Can you imagine that? The act of inserting disposable cotton and plastic into your woohoo, dozens of times a week, for multiple weeks a year, is making that much waste.
Not only are these sanitary pads and tampons made of plastic, they’re also often made from cotton that’s been sprayed with chemical pesticides. Nothing about this is good for the planet or your health.
Menstruating is not easy. It’s bloody annoying, but reusable sanitary products are actually really easy. Easier than you think. And my gosh, it’s even easier on your budget.
At about 20 tampons per cycle (full disclosure I was using way more than that due to my flow), the average woman is throwing away (literally) about $13 a month. That’s about $160+ a year. That’s not calculating overnight pads, liners or ruined panties. That’s 240 tampons a year and something insane like 8000 tampons in a lifetime if you (unluckily) got your period at 13-ish and ended menopause at 45 (ya, okay!).
Visualize that! 8000 tampons, per woman, in a heap in a landfill!
What if for $30-$45 you could own a reusable, washable menstrual cup that could last up to ten years by simply washing it after each cycle? I have had my DivaCup* for 4 years.
I also wear, overnight, my reusable, washable organic cotton and wool mix pad with wings. That sucker sucks! My pad is handmade by a local seamstress. To wash it, I just rinse the majority of the liquid in the tub or sink and toss it in the wash with my son’s cloth diapers or my body towels. Those are the only loads I wash in hot or warm water, respectively, and both with a cold rinse.
[A “how to” later added, by request, from a reader. September 7, 2019.]
How do I actually use the menstrual cup? Before I explain how, remember, when you go to do it for the first time, make sure to give yourself some time to spare. Like anything new, it might take you a few tries. Here are the steps:
- When your period comes, insert the clean cup by folding it into a U-shape (that’s the method I use). You’re going to have to get reeeeeal comfortable with yourself down there, but if you’ve used tampons before, this will be pretty much the same thing. Now hold the fold in between your thumb and fore finger.
- I like to sit on my toilet and spread eagle, but some people prefer to raise their leg with a foot lifted onto a tub’s edge or toilet seat.
- With your body relaxed, use your spare hand to spread ’em, you know, your labia, and slowly insert the cup. It’ll feel weird at first. It’ll feel like you’re doing it wrong (and maybe you are). That’s ok. If the fold pops open, just start again! Once you’ve got it, put that sucker back in. But don’t push the cup too high. Really, just put it in so that the stem is in about 1/2″ inside the vagina. You’ll know the right feeling. You’ll get it in no time. Remember the first time you ever looked at a pad? That was crazy, and it felt awful! Remember the time you put in a mini, teeny, tiny tampon? That was terrible! Remember the time you pushed out a baby? Haha! This is nothing!
- Once it’s in, hold the base, but not the stem, and rotate it fully, as in 360 degrees and it’ll sorta pop. Not popping? When I first started (because I was kind of paranoid) I would rim the inside of my vag with my first finger to make sure there were no crevices, but rather, that the silicone was fully opened and sealed. That’ll make it pop! TMI? Ya, well, we’re talking periods, so! Sometimes, in the beginning, I found pulling it in an outwards/downwards motion just a little got it to suction the right way. You’ll know it’s right when you try to pull it out and it just sorta stays put and when it rotates around and around super smoothly and freely.
- To remove, pull gently on the stem of the cup until you can reach the base of the cup. Pinch the base to break the suction and just pull it out. This was the part my sister had a hard time with. I told her to visualize herself peeing hard, or pushing a baby out/poop out. Don’t Kegel; that’s the wrong motion. Push out, not squeeze in! Once it’s out, you guessed it, you just dump the contents in the toilet.
- When I am at home, I give it a good rinse in the sink next to me before putting it back in (which now takes me 10 seconds). When I am using a public toilet, I do all steps 1-4, but just use a little toilet paper to wipe it up before I put it back in. Truthfully, you’ll get some blood on your fingers. It is what it is. I just wipe my fingers, pull my pants up, and exit the stall and wash up.
You can wear menstrual cups for up to 12 hours! And, for me, I find no cramping, unlike before. I also found after having kids, it just collects and sits better than even the heaviest flow tampon. Plus I have to switch those out every hour. (I know that’s a heavy flow).
All cycle long, I give it a good rinse with warm water before putting it back in. At the end of the cycle, I boil it for 5 minutes. For the boil/sanitize process, all I did was buy a thrift store mini sauce pot (which I washed very well in the dishwasher and disinfected with vinegar) and I use that as my menstrual cup bathtub. In it goes, at the end of each cycle to sanitize, and then back into the baggie to store for the next month.
Need a visual? Maybe a little more detailed step-by-step? Here is DivaCup’s “how to” instructions and video that’ll really put a spotlight on your lady bits.
Aunt Flo might be a pain in your rag, but I promise that a menstrual cup is the easiest thing you’ve ever switched to, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it before.
*I only link to products I use or love. I do not receive any compensation.