My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”
This is a continuation of my previous post, and the previous warning still stands:
Men, beware! You don’t want to read this!
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a year.
And I’ve been actively threatening to write it for a few months now.
It’s time to write this post.
So the first week I started this blog was significant to me for more than just becoming a blogger. I also gave birth to my first menstrual cup that week. And thus the idea for this particular blog post was born. (“born,” haha. Get it?)
Ok, sorry. That was bad, I know. I just couldn’t resist.
I never even thought much about alternative menstrual products until I was in my late teens or early twenties. I just always used regular disposable pads. I knew tampons existed, but the very idea of sticking something “up there” was enough to not only scare me off, but also to make me wonder why anyone would use tampons.
It wasn’t until I got caught up in the “prepping” fad for a while that I even thought about the idea that reusable products actually existed. I did some research and ended up ordering some cloth pads from a company called “Gladrags.”
I hate to admit it, but those pads sat unused for over a year. I was too scared to try them. And I don’t remember what finally did inspire me to try them, but eventually I got around to it and began using them.
Many reusable menstrual pads have a waterproof layer on the bottom, then padding and/or cloth sewn on top, with flaps that wrap around and snap together underneath and hold it in place. So it looks like a normal pad, only made of cloth, and functions in the same way – absorbent, but with a waterproof layer that prevents soaking through.
Gladrags makes their pads a little differently. It’s more like a pouch with multiple cloth liners so you can adjust the thickness of your pad by inserting or removing liners in the little cloth “pouch.”
I loved this adjustable pad thickness, but the setup did not include a waterproof layer. Some cycles it didn’t seem to make much difference, but other cycles I ruined multiple pairs of panties even with 2 or 3 layers of liners in my pad. (Fortunately this was still in my granny panties days, so it wasn’t a huge deal. 😛 )
Other than that, the cloth pads were great. So much more comfortable than disposables, and washing them wasn’t really a big deal. I’d toss the dirty ones into a small pail with water and some vinegar, then after my cycle dump the whole pail’s worth into the wash. And for “out and about” I carried a pouch in my purse with a few clean pads, and a waterproof bag (a ziplock would work) for used pads to store until I got home and dumped the used into my bucket.
Verdict: As far as comfort goes, cloth pads are way better than disposables. Downsides are having to rinse before washing, plan ahead a bit when out of the house or at work, and possible leak throughs that can easily be remedied by making sure to buy or make pads that have a waterproof layer.
A year or more into using cloth pads, I was in AL visiting relatives and the cousin asked me (she’s got hippie tendencies too, as you may already know) what products I use for “that” time of the month.
After listening patiently to my hippie rant about cloth pads, she asked if I’d ever heard of or tried a menstrual cup.
I told her I had heard of them and been curious, but had not gotten up the nerve yet to buy and try one.
“Oh, you should totally try one. They’re awesome!”
That was enough of a recommendation for me. I had been curious about them, but not sure I could… uh… you know. Use one. If you remember, the idea of tampons freaked me out. Cups are bigger than tampons!!
But I was curious, and I figured if my cousin could figure it out and liked it, then I could at least give it a try.
I bought a Diva cup.
Ok, confession: I was terrified at the very thought of anything going “up there.” Oh, of course I’d read all the health books and I knew how sex worked and that women push babies out of that hole. But knowing something because you’ve read it or had it explained to you is not quite the same thing as trying to shove this squashed piece of silicone that keeps trying to pop open up into a spot where you’re pretty sure it doesn’t want to go and even more sure that your body doesn’t want it to go in.
I won’t lie. There was a rather steep learning curve associated with the menstrual cup for me. I practiced just trying to put it in during the month leading up to my period. I almost got it a few times. Almost being the key word.
Finally, when my next period started I decided that I was gonna succeed getting this cup in if it killed me. So I locked myself into the bathroom, coconut oiled that thing up (the cup, silly), folded it as small as I could, and wrestled/rammed it up in there.
My sister, who was well aware of what I was attempting to do that cycle (and was definitely horrified at the very idea), gasped and grossed out a little when I marched triumphantly out of the bathroom, held up the little carry pouch for my Diva cup, and clapped it together between my hands to show that it was empty.
Of course, as soon as I got the thing in, the next question presented itself in my mind – how was I gonna get it back out??
Thankfully I didn’t have to think about that for several hours yet. And while it was in, the cup functioned great.
But eventually the time came when it had to come out, and I spent another 30 minutes in the bathroom panting puffing and struggling, all the while wondering:
“How on earth do women have babies!?”
Seriously!! It took me a full half hour to get that little (smaller than my fist) cup out! Moms, how on earth do y’all push a baby out of there!? I’m impressed!
But I got it out, and reported to my sister that I had officially birthed my first menstrual cup.
The rest is history! I am a huge fan of menstrual cups now. After my initial struggles with insertion and removal, I am happy to report that it now takes me seconds, not minutes, to insert and remove. I also no longer get blood up to my elbows when removing it. At first I would end up spilling blood all over my hand when I went to empty it, now it’s rare that I get any on myself.
Menstrual cups have a whole range of stiffness, some very soft, some very stiff.
Here’s how it works: softer makes it easier to get in and out. Stiffer makes it easier to pop open once it’s in. I think the Diva cup is a good starter cup, as it’s a nice medium stiffness. It worked great for me for a while, but after several months I started having problems with it not popping open once I inserted it, so a few months ago I upgraded to the Lena cup, a relatively new one on the market.
The Lena popped open nicely, the stem is much more comfortable than the Diva cup’s stem (I’m still not quite confident enough to snip the stem off altogether like many women do). However, I have had a few more little leaks with the Lena than the Diva. Both are good cups, I’m finding I prefer the Lena right now, because it consistently pops open, where as I was really having difficulties getting the Diva cup to pop open successfully every time.
Of course, everyone wants to know how to manage your cup in a public restroom. Well… usually you don’t have to! I empty my cup in the morning, and before bed. Sometimes once during the day if I’m bleeding heavily. So it’s rare that I have to empty it in a public restroom.
But I have done it before! My second month using a menstrual cup I was camping during my cycle. So all there were were public restrooms, and it really wasn’t a big deal. I’d pull it out, empty it, and just wipe it out with TP instead of rinsing it before I reinserted. Although I did once get this mental image of spilling a cup full of blood all over the floor… But nothing close to that ever happened in real life!
Verdict: Menstrual cups are awesome! Very little mess, you don’t even feel it when they’re in (I’ve gone on 3+ mile bike rides with it in and not even noticed it was there). You only need one and it will last for years. The only downsides I can think of are that there is a learning curve associated with insertion and removal, and it does require you getting a little “down and dirty” with your period. Just like any other menstrual product, there is always the possibility that it can malfunction and leak, but just pull it out and reinsert to fix that problem. Oh, and did I mention that there is absolutely no period “smell” when using a cup?
Ok, last but not least. Period panties. I’d seen these advertised online (Facebook knows the kind of stuff I’m into…), and had been curious about them for a while. They’re panties built with multiple layers to absorb blood.
Again, it was my cousin who was the brave one first and ordered a few pairs (they are kinda expensive… $20 to $30 a pair). She loved them and even let me borrow a pair on my cycle (is that weird? Cuz it didn’t faze either of us. They were clean. And I rinsed and washed them before I returned them). They’re not at all diaper like, although they are slightly thicker than normal panties. They look and feel nice, definitely prettier than granny panties. And they work! I bought myself a few pairs, and bought some for my two sisters, since neither of them will give a menstrual cup a try… *sigh.*
Verdict: I love ’em. They are even more comfortable than cloth pads, and work just as well. It’s awesome being able to wear sexy feeling panties – with no bulky pad – during my period! Downsides are the price – 1 pair isn’t a big deal, but if you wanted to use them exclusively, you’d probably end up needing a pair for each day and night of your cycle, and that could get expensive! Also, just like pads (and unlike cup) they’ll get “period smell.” You do need to rinse them first, but you can machine wash them. And, they only come in black or nude. No pretty colors or prints (yet. I’m hoping that’s something the Thinx company remedies soon!)
So, my current period management? While I still like reusable pads and think they’re a great, affordable start for getting into reusable menstrual products, I have happily retired mine. I now use a menstrual cup, and wear Thinx panties as a backup for the rare case of a cup leak (and because the period panties just feel so nice that it’s fun to have an opportunity to wear them 🙂 ). I’m not kidding when I tell you that there are literally times I completely forget I’m on my period until I go to the bathroom and remember because I’m wearing my Thinx!
One last, slightly related thing in parting – for those of you who don’t know, there are period tracking apps for your phone! I use Clue, and it’s great. You know how every time you go to the doctor’s they want to know when your last period was? Well, the last time that happened to me I said “Hang on, let me check, it’s on my phone…” and the Doctor was like “Wow, I’ve never had someone check their phone for that information before!” Well worth the few minutes it takes to download the app and log in your information!
Moral of the story: RUMPS are awesome. You should use them. If you have any questions, I will happily try to help you in any way I can.
P.S. I can’t vouch for this personally, as I’ve only rarely struggled with very severe cramps, but I’ve heard that many women don’t get as bad cramps after they switch to a menstrual cup or other RUMPS! Yet one more reason to switch!