All women get their period, that's just a fact of life. When you first got your period, chances are your mam gave you a box of tampons or pads. And at such a young age you probably had no idea of the detrimental effect these products would have not only on the environment but your body. But what can we do about it? You've most likely heard of menstrual cups like Moon Cup, but did you know there are also reusable feminine hygiene products like sanitary pads and specially-made period panties? We're gonna explore some of those today, but first, let's look at some facts about sanitary products:
- An average woman will use around 11,000 tampons in her lifetime
- Around 8.2 million sanitary products are used in Ireland every year
- Tampons and pads are full of harmful chemicals that can irritate your vagina
- The average woman menstruates for 38 years - producing 28,310 kilos of garbage from tampons and/or pads in her lifetime
Let's discuss the options to help you decide what's best for you:
Menstrual cups are silicone (or rubber) devices which are inserted into the vagina like a tampon and act as a collector for uterine lining aka your period. They suction onto the opening of your cervix and most women report that it takes a few goes to get it right.
There are a number of menstrual cups available in all shapes and sizes. But how do you select one that's right for you?
- If you haven't had children and are under 30, go with the smallest size on offer
- If you have had children, wear a larger size
Some companies offer mini products and extra large ones too.
This website has an excellent guide to choosing a size.
You might think you have a heavy flow but in reality you probably have a moderate flow. Here's a chart to see what flow you have based on how many pads or tampons you use a day:
The larger the cup, the more firm the cup will be. So if you have a light flow, your cup will probably be softer.
You might think it is gross to reuse menstrual pads, but why? Below are some pretty good reasons to use them:
- They don't smell: the chemicals in plastic sanitary pads causes your period to smell, whereas cotton CSPs (cloth sanitary pads) don't. They're really breathable.
- They're safer: you won't be exposing your vagina and body to toxins found in regular pads
- They won't stain: most CSPs are made with stain-resistant fabric and will wash up completely fine
- They're more comfortable: many women complain that pads cause irritation and are often uncomfortable. CSPs are super soft and have snap clasps so they will stay in place
- Save money: you will save a huge amount of money over your lifetime if you make the switch.
- They won't leak: many cloth pads have a waterproof lining sewn inside
- One pad lasts 5 years if properly cared for
This calculator by Party In My Pants is awesome for figuring out how much you'll save by switching to cloth sanitary pads.
And washing your CSP is really easy: most sellers recommend soaking them overnight in water (you can add hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil to sanitize further) and then wash in hot water as normal.
When buying a CSP, consider...
Like normal plastic pads, there are a number of different sizes and brand of CSPs. Generally, there are four sizes:
- Pantyliners - for backup with a menstrual cup or tampon, light flow or everyday protection
- Regular - moderate flow
- Super - heavy flow
- Night pads - heavy nighttime flow, women who've just given birth
There are fabrics for every woman from subtle florals to unicorns! It's really up to you what you like. There are different materials used but generally, a CSP is made from cotton fleece or PUL (polyurethane laminate).
Some CSPs have one clasp or two, or even four to fit around different underwear. Some are longer than others so do your research to find what other ladies say.
Try to answer these questions: Will this fabric leak? Do they absorb as much as a disposable pad? Read some reviews to make your decision.
Here is a helpful review site which might help you decide which pad to try.
Period panties are a hybrid of underwear and sanitary products and are a convenient option for girls who want something no fuss and lightweight.
These are some reasons you might consider buying period panties (menstrual underwear):
- They are made from anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, absorbent and leak resistant material
- You can wear them all day long
- They don't feel like a nappy or like you're sitting in your own blood
- They can hold up to 2 regular tampons worth of blood
- They come in all different styles like high-waisted, sports and thong
- It's a great free-bleeding option which means it's very comfortable and natural
With that said, most people in the reviews I've read have said the panties aren't a great substitute for tampons, so you might need them just as a back-up on heavy days.
This is a great resource for finding the best period panties for you.
If you've never thought about reusable menstrual products, maybe now is the time! Go forth, m'ladies and find something that works for you 'cause let's face it: tampons and pads are nasty for the environment and your body.