From my teens up until my late 20s, my period was always a less than pleasant experience. This was because, like many women, my flow was kinda like the scene from The Shining where blood comes pouring out of the elevator and flooding down the hallway—disturbingly copious. I dreaded the five or six days every month when I’d be plagued by cramps, fatigue, and an unending possibility for accidental leakage. I was always uncomfortable, especially in social situations on my heaviest days, as I was never quite sure that I was prepared for unprecedented mishaps. Thankfully, that has changed significantly in the last few years and can be credited to my discovery of innovative period products.
If you haven’t yet, this year say goodbye to tampons and pads, and embrace one of the newer forms of menstrual technology that have become a lot more popular amongst people who menstruate in the last eight years or thereabout. Spending $100+ on menstrual products every year is so 2020, and it’s time to make things easier on your body and your pocket. These innovative period product alternatives are better not only from the perspective of health and budget but are also eco-friendly since most are reusable instead of being single-use. Sound appealing yet? Alright then, let’s talk a bit about the options available to the average uterus owner.
Spending $100+ on menstrual products every year is so 2020. These innovative period product alternatives are better for your health, budget, and the earth.
Put a Cup in It
I’ll tell anyone who will listen about menstrual cups, because they’ve absolutely changed my life since I discovered them. I cannot in good conscience let another menstruating person suffer like I did for a second longer if I can help it. These marvelous menstrual doohickeys are made of medical-grade silicone and are designed to sit right under the cervix, collecting the blood and uterine lining that is shed for up to 12 hours at a time.
Menstrual cups can hold anywhere between 20 to 50ml depending on the sizes that individual manufacturers provide, and also range in pliability from soft to rigid. This flexibility is referred to as the shore rating and is an important aspect of cup shopping. Firmer cups, for instance, are more suited to physically active persons, as they don’t collapse under the strength of internal muscles like softer ones can. Also important to look out for is, of course, capacity, cup shape, height (to fit a variety of cervix positions), and brand trustworthiness. Cups are reusable for up to 10 years depending on the brand, which translates to beaucoup savings. I’ve tried a few in my quest to find the perfect one, and the Lunette, LuvUrBody, and Merula cups are amongst my favorites.
A Not-So-Weird Flex
Menstrual discs are the distant cousins of menstrual cups. These innovative period products are only good for one-time use unlike silicone cups, but are biodegradable and therefore a better option than tampons or pads, generating 60 percent less waste than those options. It’s purportedly as comfortable as a cup, with the same amount of wear time. Unlike cups or tampons, it doesn’t sit in the vaginal canal, instead covering the cervix snugly and preventing menstrual discharge from entering the vagina.
I haven’t tried these yet because they are reminiscent of the diaphragm, and I’m not confident that I’d be able to place it properly. They also seem like they’d be a bit messier to remove and empty. And although they generate less waste than tampons and pads, I prefer a zero waste product like the cup. Definitely explore though—bodies are so different and what works for one person might not perform as well for another. You might find in your journey towards better periods that flex discs are a better fit for you than cups.
Cloth liners and pads are better than their single-use counterparts for a few reasons—they’re sustainable, cost less, and free of harmful chemicals, all while providing leakage protection. They might cost more upfront, but the expense is well worth it in the long run as they last up to five years. Here’s a cost comparison: The average person spends between $3,000 and $6,000 on single-use period products during a 35-year time span of menstruation, but with cloth pads, expenses add up to about $1,400 total if the pads are replaced every five years, and $700 if replaced every 10 years.
Cloth pads are a lot more comfortable than the synthetic materials that pads are made from, and are easily cleaned in the washing machine or by hand. I’ve been doing my research on these, and plan to make the transition to a zero-waste period soon by pairing cloth liners with my menstrual cup.
A Whole New Meaning For “Period Panties”
If, like me, you consider menstrual cups to be the easiest and most efficient way to menstruate, you’re in for a bit of a shock because it turns out that there’s a product that makes it even more effortless. Using period underwear is as easy as slipping on your most comfy pair of briefs or boyshorts and going on your merry way. They can hold up to five tampons worth of menses without feeling wet, leaking, or releasing odor.
These innovative period products come in a number of different styles and absorbencies, so it’s easy to pick which one works for you. Yes, they’re a bit pricey, but like cloth pads and liners, you wind up saving money in the long run. While they’re designed to completely replace pads and tampons, these might be better suited to light days and providing backup for tampons and cups. To clean, just pop them in the machine on the cold cycle, then hang them to dry.
After a lifetime of Tampax and Always, making the switch to reusable period products might take a bit of courage. It requires an increased level of comfort with your body and its reproductive function, and not everyone is comfortable being in such close contact with Aunt Flo. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth it for potentially lighter periods, lessened worry about toxic shock syndrome, savings, and a lighter menstrual carbon footprint.