I can’t remember the last time I was excited about getting my period. Probably not since getting it for the first time, and perhaps a few other times when I had a pregnancy “scare”. I got my first period at 13 and in the beginning I used pads exclusively. It wasn’t until many years later that I dared to use tampons. I remember hearing a lot of negative things about tampon users. If you used a tampon that meant you’d had sex! It was the only way one of those would fit up there. Another myth was that using a tampon would “break” your hymen and thus you’d be losing your virginity to a cotton cylinder.
Periods always felt a little taboo and being on your period was a closely guarded secret. I remember keeping a pad in my skirt pocket for easy and discreet trips to the bathroom. Opening the crinkly suckers stealthily was almost impossible and I remember opening the packaging painstakingly slow in order to reduce the sound. It sounds so silly now as an adult but that was my experience as a teen. We need only look at advertising to know that we have a very warped view of periods. I am sure most of us remember ads depicting blue liquid being poured over a pad. Blue.
The first time I heard about a menstrual cup I was intrigued. The Diva cup seemed like such an amazing product to me but I was not ready to try it. For one thing the sizing guide made no sense to me and I wasn’t sure that being so hands on with my period was palatable. I continued using disposable pads and tampons with no ill effects. The one thing that weighed on my mind was all of the trash generated by these products.
Last year I had a baby and I nursed him for 14 months. I did not have a period for most of that time. I had my first post-partum period this past April. I used the same pads I had been using before getting pregnant but this time I developed some irritation on my vulva. It sort of burned off and on. As soon as I stopped using the pads the irritation ceased. The following month I had a very light 3 day period and I had the same experience when using pads. I was annoyed at this and started looking into cups again.
I found Bryony of Precious Star Pads on YouTube and I fell down a rabbit hole of videos. Her channel has a lot of information about cloth pads and cups, how to care for them, how to make your own pads and where to buy them. She has her own online shop where you can order pads, cups, and a variety of other period products. Her channel also features period vlogs which I think are wonderful showcases of her life while on her period. She’s a great advocate of period positivity and is not shy about showing real blood on the products she demonstrates. I have learned a lot from watching her channel.
Another great resource if you’re thinking about making the switch to menstrual cups is Put A Cup in It. I watched a lot of videos about inserting a cup, removing a cup, and what cup is best for who. After extensive research I decided on the Lena Cup. I ordered from Amazon for about $25. I also ordered some cloth pads for about $16 for a set of 6. Admittedly these are not the best choice as they are not topped with cotton but they do the job and have allowed me to try out and fall in love with cloth pads. I don’t see myself going back to disposables but I will keep some on hand as I live in Florida and we are currently in hurricane season. Disposable period products definitely have their place in the world and I am thankful they exist!
During the past week I have been talking to people about making the switch and one of the most common questions I get is what do you do with soiled pads. I keep mine in a wet bag and so far I have laundered them once mid cycle and will do so again tomorrow on what should be my last day. Because I have mostly used the cup I haven’t used a pad all the time so I was able to stretch out the 6 pads I have. When I’m ready to wash them I empty the bag into the washing machine and toss it in as well, add some oxygen bleach and unscented detergent and run the cycle. Once done I do an additional spin cycle before setting them out on a drying rack. So far I don’t have any stains on them. Oh, and the pads don’t really smell while in the bag. I’m sure if I put my nose to one I’d smell blood but they don’t have the odor that disposables develop.
The cup is probably the hardest sell for a lot of people because it requires you to reach inside your vagina. Some people can’t do this and that’s okay! If you’re comfortable with your body and aren’t squeamish about blood a cup might be for you. For me it was fascinating to see how much I bleed. Since the cup collects blood rather than absorbing it like a tampon you get to see the volume. I was surprised to learn that I did not bleed as much as I thought I did.
There is of course so much more to say about reusable menstrual products and I will write more about the Lena Cup in a separate post. For now I wanted to share my good tidings after my initial foray into the world of menstrual cups and cloth pads.
Wishing you good menstrual health and a happy period.