As in my period. Of all the questions I get via email, the ones about my period are the ones that surprise me most. Not that they should. Most of the people who read this blog are women of menstruating age. Those are just the facts. For better or for worse, here’s my approach to managing my period in a way that feels good for the planet, and mostly, good for me.
When I entered middle school, my mom sent me off to school with a zipped cloth pouch full of period supplies for just in case. Unbeknowst to me, it would be years before this late-bloomer could put any of it to use, but I kept the pouch on the top shelf of my locker for years anyway. It was filled with panty liners and disposable pads, a plastic bag, and a clean pair of underwear. I also seem to remember an illicit dose of ibuprofen and quarters for calling my mom from the payphone.
Luckily for me, on the day my period first arrived, I was at home. My older sister, Cait, heroically tried to save me from the tyranny of the inch-thick disposable pad by sitting with me and a mirror on my bedroom floor, teaching me how to use a tampon. An hour later, when my cramps began to kick in, I figured the pain in my abdomen was a sign of Toxic Shock Syndrome and that I would soon perish. I swore off tampon use for the next year.
Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about managing my period.
Here are a few ideas for approaching feminine hygiene with a nod toward the environment.
I admit that I haven’t embraced going totally tampon-free, but I have committed to using applicator-free tampons. At the risk of getting graphic: It’s really not that hard to push a tampon a bit deeper in there, you know? (On the other hand: dealing with the cleaning et cetera of a product like a Diva Cup or Luna Cup while working out of the house feels like a little bit harder.) When I buy tampons, I look for organic brands that use 100% cotton instead of the chemical-filled cotton/rayon blend that traditional tampons often include. I’ve most easily been able to find NatraCare in local pharmacies, but Honest Company, Seventh Generation, and Organyc are other available options. (I’m waiting on Lola to introduce an applicator-free option to their product line. Fingers crossed!) Best part about applicator-free tampons? They take up 1/3 of the space in the cabinet!
I’m a new convert (and huge fan) of the period underwear companies that have been cropping up lately, like Thinx and Dear Kate. When I first mentioned them on this site, I received a few quips from folks who said that their version of period underwear were black cotton ones that had gone slightly raggedy. I get it. At first pass, it might sound like another company trying to sell women something to fix a problem that doesn’t need fixing. But in the case of these, I don’t think that’s the case. I’m an honest-to-goodness devotee. Since giving birth, my period flow has become a little more unpredictable than it was before. Where I’d never needed them before, I suddenly began to feel like I needed panty liners, just in case. And then—TMI, alert—I started soaking those too. I felt like a pubescent teenager, unsure of how to handle my new “friend,” which you’ll agree is the very worst euphemism for your period there is. Enter the period underwear. They never leak and they never make me feel like I’m sitting in my own blood. In fact, they’re entirely cute. (I bought this pair for starters. And then bought three more of these.) I wear them without a tampon at the beginning and end of my period and with one in the middle. They’ve hugely cut back on my tampon use and virtually eliminated accidental leaks. In serious love.
I’m not above taking a pill to help alleviate pain associated with menstrual cramping, but I also rely on two basic methods to manage my pain.
The heating pad: I have a rice-filled pad that was a godsend during the last months of my pregnancy and my biggest comfort when I have my period. (Hint: as long as it doesn’t have a metal zipper, you can fill any cotton bag with rice and microwave it to make your own. Thick, arborio rice (or a similar chubby rice) works best, I’ve found. If you don’t have a microwave, and if you’re prudent, you can put the bag on a pie plate and put it in a warm (and carefully watched) oven.
Walking: I used to be convinced the only way to feeling better when I was suffering from bad cramps was to fall asleep with a heating pad. But while I still swear by a heating pad, I usually use it while sitting upright working. Instead of putting myself to bed when I have cramps, I make myself get up. A walk—even a short one—does more to help me feel better than just about anything else.
What about you guys? Tried and true tips? Strong opinions? Disposable-free eco-champs out there?
I just can’t rave enough about the diva cup. I’ve now had 4 waste-free periods on it. I don’t even need a liner and I don’t have to wear period underwear. I can go a good 12 hours without remembering that I’m on my period. As far as the public bathroom piece goes, I haven’t had much of an issue there, I just dump it out, wipe off with a square of tp, and reinsert. At least for me, it works even better than advertised.
So encouraging to hear! I’ve heard mostly rave reviews to be honest!
I agree with Teresa, I’ve been using the Dica cup for 10 years and I just shower twice a day using it and clean it out then. You rarely have to empty it during the day (only on heavy flow days). Overall the best improvements from using it have been stronger Kegels and a deeper understanding of what happens to my body on heavy or light flow days, the latter which has opened up a wealth of information and related questions for my gyno. I’ve converted all my girlfriends and cousins to using it 🙂
I also agree with the above. Unless it’s my heaviest flow day, I can go 12 hours without emptying my Diva cup. No panty liners, no leaks, no period smell – nothing. If I do need to dump it while at work, do as Teresa commented above.
I so agree with all of these Diva cup comments. I’ve been happily using one for nearly a decade now–no leaks or waste and lots more information. It’s especially good for traveling (where tampons are hard and/or expensive to come by) and outdoor activities (like backpacking, where you’d normally have to pack out used tampons).
Also, the description of the just-in-case bag your mom made for you touched me and made me look forward to this time with my own daughter. (She’s 7 months old…so I’m getting a little ahead of myself).
Thanks Erin for writing this post, it’s such an important topic! Women and girls all over the world are suffering unnecessarily from inadequate access to protection, and the waste of cotton and other materials for this purpose is crazy. I’ve also used a Diva/Luna cup for 10 years and I’ll certainly never go back, there are so many benefits:
– you never run out of protection and have to run to the store, the cup stays sanitary for years (I’ve had two over 10 years)
– the cost saving!
– I’ve never emptied my cup in a public bathroom, there is no need, it lasts 12 hours or more on my heaviest flow days without leaking.
– No need for liners as I never have a leak. This is maybe my favourite benefit of the cup, such a relief.
– No need to worry about infections if I forget to empty it on time, as is the risk with tampons. Once I forgot it in for two days at the end of my period. No consequences.
– I’ve even used it while camping (away from any campsites) for two nights. I made sure my hands were clean, took the cup out, disposed of the blood, rinsed it using a water bottle and a little liquid soap, put it back in, used some toilet paper and then washed my hands. No biggie.
Terrific! You make it sound so easy!
It really IS easy, and oh so good: confortable, easy to use, no need for panty liners, cheap, convenient, NO SMELL… Really, it’s fantastic. I’ve been using my cup for 5 years now, and converted all of my girlfriends ever since. And every single one of them swear by their cups. No more pads, no more tampons.
Thanks for this post !
I m also using a cup ( the moon cup ) since a short time And i would not change for anything else now !
Also using work bottle for the cramps, And yes, walking And getting fresh air is the perfect solution
And also eating chocolate of course
And i really prefer not working on the first day , so tired…!
I have to agree with Teresa – the Diva cup has been nothing short of a miracle! I only wish I had known about it right from the start! Best thing ever!
I would also like to give a vote of encouragement to the Diva Cup! I have been using it for 3 years and have converted numerous friends to this incredible product. I also only empty it once in the morning and once at night and for a full 12 hours don’t even have to think about having my period! There is a bit of a learning curve at first but I really can’t recommend it enough!
I’ve wanted to try the diva cup for years but when I asked my gyn about it, she did NOT recommend it for a variety of reasons. Have you heard differently? I’d love to switch to it, but am hesitant to go against doctors orders!
I’ve used my DIVA for 6 years now, mentioned this to my gyn but didn’t really get any response, positive or negative. I’m so curious, what cautions did your doctor give? I suppose just about any method comes with certain risks. ..
And I can’t wait to give these souped up undies a try. I won’t pass up a little extra piece of mind!
My doctor fully supports it. It’s safer than a tampon. My mom (a labor and delivery nurse) and I have been using one for more than a decade now. Here’s a study if you are interested http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114692/ and another article http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/02/tired-of-tampons-here-are-pros-and-cons-of-menstrual-cups/
Unless you have some particular circumstances that make it an issue for you, you are probably fine. My gyn had reservations about it because I use an IUD as birth control, and she was concerned about it pulling the string and causing problems. I was unwilling to give it up, and have been using it for 4 years now with the IUD with no problems (and no surprise babies!) Like everyone else has been saying, it’s the best.
I so agree, Teresa! I’ve been using it for over a year now and I love it, love it, love it. As someone who historically has had a heavy period, it has eliminated all potential period-related embarrassing incidents, including leaking during the day or while sleeping. It’s completely comfortable, and putting it in a day or two before your cycle safeguards you against being caught out in the world sans supplies. I hear your concern about changing it out of home, but I’ve never needed to change it more than once a day (sometimes even that’s unnecessary), so taking care of it in the morning or evening in the privacy of your own home should do the trick. Boiling it once your cycle is over cleans it quickly, and you’re good to go. There’s something about it that makes me feel even more connected to my cycle and body, which I appreciate as well. What a great post. Thank you for sharing!
I have to say, my Moon Cup does not last 12 hours (on really bad days I’m happy if they last threee or four), so I have to empty the cup on the go. A bottle of hand sanitizer and a square of TP is all I need when on the go (the hand sanitizer since I have not yet mastered the art of washing hands and then getting into and locking a cubicle door without contaminating my hands, when I use tampons I can do it one handed if I have to). Sit on the toilet, sanitize hands, empty cup in toilet, insert it again (no drying off!), dry off wit TP, flush and wash hands. I have even managed to do it on moving trains.
A word of advice though, if your flow, like min, is heavy enough to warrant you to empty the cup mid day, set an alarm! You can’t feel when the cup is full and cup accidents are really messy and embarrassing. That’s also the reason I double up with pads the first days, just in case.
Another word of advice: Always double up when flying! The air pressure changes may cause the cup to leak.
That all said, I’m really intrigued by the panties, unfortunately I haven’t seen them in the EU.
SAME. I use the post-childbirth size and have for years and years. LOVE IT. I use a liner the first 2 days just in case, but the rest of the week I have to remind myself to empty it because I forget I even have my period. DO TRY THE DIVA CUP! Highly recommend.
I agree with all the DivaCup comments. I’ve been a devotee since high school, more than a decade ago. It never leaks, and I can leave it in for hours. It’s just so easy and low-fuss, even when I’m out of the house. Like Teresa, if I’m in a public bathroom, I just empty the cup into the toilet, wipe it off with toilet paper, and reinsert it. I know a lot of women are weirded out by cups, but I highly recommend giving it a try. Once you do, you’ll probably never go back to tampons or pads.
I love the idea of the Diva Cup, but I can’t get past the “learning curve” everyone talks about. I bought the one for women who haven’t had a child yet, and I’ve tried to use it twice. At the risk of TMI…I couldn’t get it in and properly functioning either time. It was so frustrating! I don’t know if it was my fold technique or what; maybe I need a junior size, ha? Any tips on this from other ladies?
Jenna–you might have already done some googling, but there are plenty of youtube videos out there with different fold techniques. Not all folds/insertion techniques work for all bodies. The way the instructions for my cup told me to fold it–just once in half/c-fold–didn’t work for me at all. I prefer the punch-down or origami fold–a much smaller entry-point, if you will. Another thing you might try is cutting the rubber “stem.” I’m not sure what kind of cup you have, but mine came with a pretty long plastic stem at the base–longer than I needed and too long for the cup to sit comfortably once inserted. Trimming down the stem prevented the cup from poking out too far and making the cup uncomfortable. Finally, different brands make different sizes–there’s a great chart on live journal (sorry, wasn’t sure if I could share links or not and didn’t want to make moderating difficult for Erin) with the different stats of all of the different brands. Sorry if any of this is a repeat for you, but just wanted to try and give you some options–hope it helps! Good luck, and stick with it–it took me about 3 cycles to really feel like I got the hang of it.
I’m a huge diva cup fan and have been using mine for years, but was initially scared off by not being able to insert it correctly…I’ve found that the key is to relax and squat down or put a leg up on the bathtub or something similar. Also, depending on the way your cervix is positioned, different brands will work better for you, such as the luna cup.
Just two more cents on this, that may seem weird/completely unrelated… relax your mouth. Leave your jaw unclenched when putting this (or anything in). It will make a difference!
I use the Lunette cup, which is basically the same thing as the Diva cup, but I’ve found this one fits my more petite size better. I’ll never go back to tampons again! No extra supplies needed and super comfortable all the time.
Hi Alix! I love my Lunette cup! I read soooo many reviews and thought this one would work best! And I am never going back!
I’m considering getting one. I was just wondering if it’s something you can wear a day or two before and after the period just in case. Or do you have to use a panty liner on those maybe days?
I’d say pantyliner 🙂 If you’re dry, the diva cup is quite uncomfortable. Overall it’s a lovely option, though.
I wish I could say I don’t need a liner, but sometimes it just doesn’t go in correctly, though I try to pair it with my thinx underwear. But, and maybe this is just me, does anybody else get an odor from their thinx? Maybe it’s the detergent I use or something, but they seem to catch odors badly! Have always wondered if this is an issue for others who use these.
I’ve been thinking about buying Thinx for a little bit and this was just the push I needed to place an order. Thanks for sharing.
After my son was born, I really never wanted to use a pad or tampon again. So I turned to the Diva Cup. And lemme tell you. This is a game changer. Upfront it’s more than a box of pads or tampons, but this sucker is made out of medical grade silicone and reusable. You only have to empty it ~2x/day (and wash obviously). And it rarely leaks. There are a lot of other brands of menstrual cups out there. I just went with the one my friend recommended to me.
Two years ago I went from applicator free tampons to soft cups. They’re disposable and so much more comfortable! Only one for all day. I’m working my way to a reusable cup, but I also feel like cleaning it will be too much.
If you haven’t, you should really give menstrual cups a try! They last for 12 hours and I’ve rarely had to deal with cleaning one outside of the home. If you need to, let it go a few more hours than that if you’re work day is 12+ hours, it’s not a big deal – I’ve never come close to filling up the cup between cleanings, even when I’ve gone past the recommended 12 hours. I’ve been using a menstrual cup since 2007 and I’m so glad that I made the switch. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you have it, it’s amazing.
I also use reusable menstrual pads…I’ve sewed my own, but there are plenty of places to buy them online.
Applicator or not, 100% cotton or not – tampons still sit in landfills…things do not biodegrade in there…
Since we are talking about it here, I will say… I want to use a cup! I have one but I just can’t get it to… er… work. UGH!
You have to spin it around once it’s in until you feel the suction activate– I know that sounds crazy, but that was my problem when I first started!
Look up “alternate folds.” I couldn’t with the image on the box, and someone showed me an alternate fold and I was able to get it in there. Someone also recommended a little lube, but with the alternate fold (folding one edge down, hard to explain), that worked like a charm.
I had a friend for whom the Diva Cup didn’t work (it didn’t stay put). She ended up settling on, and loving the Lunette cup. It might be worth it to research a bit and try a different brand.
Yes, I could never get the Diva cup to sit right, but the Lunette cup did the trick! I actually didn’t even trim the “stem” on the cup because I’m paranoid about it going too far up, but it’s still super comfortable even with the longer stem. Highly recommend Lunette!
I also struggled with it in the beginning. I ended up cutting the tip off and it helped a lot. I don’t even know it’s in there anymore. I have a feeling that if I bought a new one now, I wouldn’t have to cut the tip off but, for me, it needed to be done during my learning curve. Don’t give up on it! If you persevere for a few days, you will get the hang of it and it will become like second nature.
I cut the tip off as well! I think many people do.
So glad you’ve had success! (But I would say there are degrees of evil when it comes to filling landfills. Ever forward!)
I’m curious what you mean by this comment…
I mean that some things are worse than others. Surely anyone would agree that adding a plastic applicator to a landfill is more harmful than not adding one at all.
Ahhh, gotcha! I admit I didn’t finish reading the entirety of that initial comment way up there.
I’ll use tampons when I have to (swimming and such) but for the most part I avoid them like the plague. I just find them extremely uncomfortable – same for the reusable cups. So, I stick with pads – which isn’t a popular choice but it works for me. Over a year ago I switched to cloth pads (reusable, washable pads) and never looked back. They’re soft, absorbent, you can find them in many pretty, happy patterns that make lady week just a tad more fun. 🙂 I love how eco-friendly they are too. Just rinse/soak them, treat any stains, and pop in the washing machine along with towels/sheets/cloth diapers. I have cloth pantyliners too which are lovely! They don’t crumple up like disposable ones often do and are soft/feel exactly like your underwear would. As for cramps – exercise definitely helps (yoga too or dancing around to a favorite song), cuddling with a hot water bottle, and drinking raspberry leaf tea.
I love cloth pads, too. I’ve never liked tampons so I’m dubious about how comfortable I’d find a cup, though I do know people who swear by them. But the cloth pads are more comfortable than disposable ones, and they seem far less likely to leak. I tend to have light, short periods, so I only have half a dozen cloth pads. As long as I remember to toss one or two of them in the washing machine during my period so I have an extra one or two clean ones just in case, I’m good.
I’m also tampon- averse, I’ll do it for swimming if it’s absolutely necessary but I just hate them, Cloth pads sound like a great idea, do you have specific brands to recommend?
Lola brand are the BEST!!
Betty: tampon-averse – love that! Cloth pads are fantastic. Lots of blog posts and youtube videos out there with reviews and info on types of fabric and how to clean them, etc. As far as brands go: If you google “cloth pads” you’ll run across the big players: Party In My Pants, Luna Pads, Glad Rags, etc. Party In My Pants & LunaPads let first time buyers get a pantyliner for free – you just pay shipping.
Otherwise, there are tons of other options. Dominos is another good brand. Lots and lots of amazing sellers on Etsy. Sadly, some of my favorite pad sellers are gone (due to FDA changes saying cloth pads are medical device and forcing them to pay huge fees in order to sell their handmade products).
There are still some good ones around that I buy from:
My favorite — https://www.etsy.com/shop/DingandKennie (she also does custom orders thru her facebook page I think?) and sells cute liners too. I love all her stuff actually, absorbent, well made, and cute prints. 🙂
https://www.etsy.com/shop/TrojacekFarms <think you have to buy at least $60 from them though before they ship to US
Thanks for all the info, Meg (also Anna and Kelly). I hate tampons, but would love to stop using disposable pads. You’ve given me information and inspiration to make the change! I appreciate it.
P.S. And maybe I won’t have to feel so guilty for using conventional pads as I have for many years. This topic is an important one, and I appreciate the forum for sharing info and experiences, but it easy to make someone feel shame for making choices that work and feel comfortable for them. I’m sure that’s not the intention, but nevertheless it can happen.
Thank you for this! I also hate tampons and didn’t know there was such a thing as cloth pads! I’m buying some! Thanks to Erin for this post, you and the other lovely ladies for their cloth pads input!
Great post. However, I cannot see paying $32 for a pair of panties I only wear a couple days a month. I guess I’m lucky in that I spot one day, medium to heavy the next, spot the third day and then I’m done.
I hear this a lot about Thinx. It’s true, you have to own them a while for before they pay for themselves (by reducing/replacing pads or liners). But using them once a month and caring for them properly means they can last for years worth of periods. I’m more worried about being a different weight a year or two from now and not being able to fit in them!
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. I hate tampons and often get skin irritation from pads so they’re a good option.
Ah, but that’s just it. Since you only wear them a few days a month, all the longer they’ll last. Of course it’s a question of preference and budget and as you’ve outlined, flow, but for me they’ve been such a welcome addition to my life!
I have a couple of pairs of Dear Kate underwear, and they’re a similar price point, but comfortable enough that I wear them regularly, not just on my period. TMI and all, but they’re also good for those of us who are post-baby and have that lovely pee-sneezing thing going on every once in a while.
I love the Keeper/Diva Cup! I’ve been using it for over a decade now (not the same one but they do last forever) and can’t rave enough about it. You can leave it in for 12-13hrs so using it when out and about (at work or play) is really easy and honestly changing it is no more complicated than the applicator-less tampons in terms of washing hands and cleanliness. At the beginning it might take a few tries to get it inserted right but once you’ve got the hang of it you don’t feel it at all, it never feels dry like tampons and you only have to change it twice a day unless you have a heavy flow. I definitely recommend it! Also can’t stand disposable pads. I used them after my two births and it’s like sitting in a damp sticky diaper. Ugh…. thinking about trying the Thinx for those days when you’re anticipating it but it hasn’t arrived.
I did applicator free tampons for a while but last year switched to the Diva Cup. There’s a learning curve but I love it now! So long as you can find a private bathroom, cleaning while working out of the house is not a problem. Sometimes you have to hop into the nearest Starbucks or wherever but it’s usually not an issue. I also bought a few cloth pads on etsy that I wear during the night for the first three days of my period in conjunction with the Diva Cup to help with any leaks that might happen. They are not the most comfy – I wouldn’t wear them if I was working or being active – but overnight, they work great. Bonus is that I haven’t spent money on tampons or pads in a year.
An epsom salt bath is my favourite thing for cramps. I’ve read it works because our bodies absorb magnesium through our skin, it feels like magic!
Also raspberry leaf tea, brings on your period and sweet relief from pms.
I switched to a cup about 4 years ago and has never looked back. I will never go back to pads of tampons. Yes, it is a bit more of a hassle to clean then ditching a disposable item, but it’s a matter of a habit. I work outside, I fly, I go to the gym, I even pole dance and sometimes find myself in places with not so perfectly clean publich bathrooms, but even then it’s doable. I absolutely love the no smell and no leak nature of my cup.
Special underwear is a novelty for me and it’s not available in where I live otherwise I’d have concidered it.
So for a bunch of different reasons, last year I got the IUD (Mirena coil) which has actually stopped my periods. No more periods! No more birth control worries! It is the best, I have had such a positive experience and only regret that I didn’t do it sooner. For anyone who has been considering it, I would certainly recommend it. Mine was covered by my health insurance so it was free, too.
Yeah, on paper they sound wonderful, but for some people they don’t work too well. I have twice tried one, and both times have ended up in such intense pain that I’ve been taken to hospital. The shape of my anatomy just seems to push them out even when properly inserted, and I’ve had all manner of internal tearing as they came out! Gutted because it was my last contraception option besides condoms too 🙁
I did also have a Mirena expulsion after 2 months of pain and non-stop heavy bleeding after insertion. Huge bummer. Also, you can’t use menstrual cups while on any IUD (Mirena or otherwise), and I think the non-hormonal IUDs can sometimes make your periods stronger, so, definitely discuss thoroughly with your doc!
Hi Jen–you can definitely use menstrual cups with IUDs, including the Mirena! The Paragard IUD, aka the copper IUD, can increase bleeding and cramping for some women, but not all, and it can be an excellent, reliable option for contraception.
Anna, I’m not your doctor, but if you can’t tried it already, be sure to discuss the nexplanon implant with your doctor, since if you haven’t tried it already, it could be a good option.
You can find info about how the use of menstrual cups does not increase the risk of IUD expulsion here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22464406.
Here to tout the game-changing properties of the menstrual cup. I got the LENA cup a few months ago and will never look back. Like others have mentioned, there’s a little bit of a learning curve, but it is one of those face-palm “Why haven’t I been doing this all along?!” deals after a couple of days. Perhaps not for everyone, but awesome for me as I try to save money and lessen my eviro impact a bit.
Yes! The Lena cup is great. I struggled with leaks with the divacup and have had much better luck with lena. It’s firmer than the diva and has a different shape, more like a bell. I’d recommend it for those with a firmer pelvic floor or who had issues with diva. It’s also less expensive, around $20 if you can find a coupon code!
oh i love thinx underwear! it’s so useful! a new line of organic cotton tampons just launched with biodegradable applicators called Cora, and i can’t recommend them enough. plus they give back, which is huge! i think you’ll like them a lot! http://cora.life/
I also use a menstrual cup (and just ordered a few pairs of Thinx last week)! I have a heavy flow day or two, but have adapted to out-of-the-house use PRN. If you practice good hand hygiene before emptying the cup, I don’t think you necessarily have to rinse it before reinserting (if you don’t have access to a private bathroom + sink). I boil the cup in water with a bit of vinegar once or twice during (and then after) each cycle and don’t use any special cleaning solution (water or water+Castile soap). Menstrual cups are the more comfortable option, I agree!
I’d like to amend my comment to conclude that “I’ve also found menstrual cups to be more comfortable than tampons.” I don’t, of course, know what’s more comfortable for anyone else! No doubt, on more than one occasion, while dealing with my period and silicone cup (especially in fluorescent-lit and less-than-spotless public bathrooms) I’ve felt an odd combination of amazed, alien, and nauseated.
I really enjoy your blog, Erin, because you find gentle ways to open up space and consideration around the objects and activities I might otherwise glide mindlessly through or around day to day. To me, that’s what feels important: the considering. I’m not sure what it is that drives women to nit-pick each other’s choices, or to want to have chosen “the best” approach to something or another, but I know I’ve fallen prey to the impulse myself.
Because we still struggle for the legal right to make our own choices when it comes to our uteruses, ovaries, and vaginas, I hope we can learn to be more generous with each other in the meantime.
Thanks for your thoughtful post, which is a good example of generosity.
Another good tip for cleaning the cup is to soak it in a small jar of food grade (3%) hydrogen peroxide. It sterilizes it plus removes all the staining and pretty much looks brand new, so I do this once a month or so after my period.
I agree, I never wipe the cup when I empty it in public bathrooms: remove, empty,insert, wipe, done (add flushing at the end and hand washing before and after).
I have also never used anything than water to clean my cup, rinse twice a day during my period, boil for 50 minutes afterwards and store in a clean cotton bag in between.
Jumping on to praise the diva cup– it definitely took a cycle or two to get comfortable, and I always use panty liners as backup, but washing is actually not a problem– I am rarely in a private restroom so I just toilet paper wipe it during the day, then wash thoroughly before bed! It’s so comfortable and feels cleaner to me than tampons and pads. Maybe I’ll switch to a few pairs of the underwear to get rid of panty liners 🙂
Just ordered a pair of Thinx! I used tampons up to college when I discovered the sea sponge and finally transitioned to making my own cloth pads. I weep to think of how much I used to spend on a box of tampons when I spend virtually nothing at all each month, minus the wine!
Great post! Thank you for bravely touching on a subject that can sometimes make people feel squeamish when it really shouldn’t. Since having my son early last year I got an IUD (Mirena) put in, and after about 30 days of spotting (though no discomfort) I haven’t had a period since. I’d be interested to know what your and your communities of readers’ thoughts are on how environmentally friendly this option is. But no periods is. the. best. When I want to get pregnant again and have to get it removed, I will definitely be coming back to this post for period management ideas!
I use a Diva cup as well as cloth pads for back up. I bought the cloth pads on Etsy and they are soft flannel and very comfortable to wear. I still use an occasional tampon if I’m out and about, but a small box will last me about a year.
I am waiting for my order of Thinx to come! Timely post. As for cramps, two more tricks I have picked up is to keep your feet very warm and bladder empty. Stretching out the abdomen also helps as opposed to curling up in a ball like you want to do.
I also definitely recommend the DivaCup! I just started using mine a few months ago, and I will say that at least for me, it took several months worth of periods to really get the hang of it, but it makes me never want to use a tampon again! I love that I’m not creating more waste for the environment and knowing that I don’t have random chemicals sitting inside me from tampons. I work outside the home, but can always run home on my lunch break to change it if I needed to, but I’ve also been able to go all day with it in, changing when I get home in the evenings.
Menstrual cups had been on my ‘I really ought to’ list ever since making more of an effort to cut back on disposables, but I too had been put off for a long time by the awkwardness and idea of cleaning. Six months in and I wish I’d made the change years ago! It’s by far the easiest eco swap I’ve made, but the biggest surprise was how much cleaner and more comfortable than tampons the cup feels. And the cleaning really is a cinch.
Thanks for the post! In the last few months I have made it a point to really pay attention to my period, and I feel like I have discovered some really helpful information. I will preface what I am about to say by letting you know that I have always had really heavy, long, and periods so crampy that I nearly passed out at work/the grocery store/friends’ houses from how painful they were. I recently started using a Diva Cup and I. LOVE. IT. Couldn’t be happier. Also, I learned that tampons can actually increase how painful your period is (It’s called a flow for a reason). The cause for more cramping is due to you uterus trying to “clean house”, so to speak, and you have stuck something and tried to block the way so it only tries harder (not the most elegant explanations, apologies for that). I do still wear tampons, but only when necessary which is when I exercise or am backpacking while on my period (which I somehow find myself doing more often than not) or am rock climbing with my boyfriend and would rather have cramps than have him see my Diva Cup exit my body some how and hit him in the forehead- not so diva anymore….. Also, one of my midwife friends told me that your uterus is cramping because your liver is backed up and trying to filter toxins, so keep your liver in good shape ALL MONTH LONG, not just during the week of your period. I do this by keeping my diet clean and drinking teas that promote liver detoxification. I highly recommend purchasing teas from Mountain Rose Herbs. They are the bomb and you can order from them from anywhere in the world (I do not work or have any affiliation with Mountain Rose Herbs other than being a customer). They have women’s blends and liver detox blends so that would work. As far as the week or 10 days or however long your period some things….your uterus is muscle contracting when you are one your period (just like birth to a far less intensive degree). I eliminate all spasmodics aka the good stuff aka coffee and alcohol because they promote muscle tightness. Tracking my cycle using an app has really helped me when knowing when things are happening or about to happen. I try to take note of what my body is doing but I’m human and I work and so on so that part has been a bit more difficult. I will increase the cups of tea I drink and I will take magnesium. Pretty much any supplement will work. This has seemed to be really effective (I have zero issues taking a pain pill if my cramps get to be too much) but if I take enough magnesium before hand and continue during my period, I have not needed to take any pain meds. You can purchase this at any local grocery store. Finally, using cramp bark tincture while on my period has been another period BFF. Willow bark can work too- Aspirin is made from Willow Bark, why not go straight to the source? When I talk to my friends about this concoction, at first it can feel like a lot of things going on. But when I break it down- to a cup of tea in the morning (instead of coffee, which is totally the hardest for me) or evening, magnesium pills in my purse or in the bathroom to take during the day or before bed/when I wake up, tincture in my purse or in the bathroom to take- it has become a bit more manageable. I have appreciated the intention of all of this and taking a few extra seconds a day when I’m on my period to pay attention to my body. Plus having more pleasant periods is way worth it in my book. I couldn’t agree with you more that walking and heating pads are heavenly! Hope this helps!
Has anyone tried cramp bark? It’s a bark tea concentrate and you just add it to water. I swear it works for my cramps.
I have and I agree! I also take it in tincture form and it rocks!
my mom makes cramp bark tincture and I usually keep it in my purse to put in tea throughout the day, especially taken in raspberry tea makes my day cramp-free!
As someone who’s always been concerned about TSS, and adverse to the unnecessarily disposable, I have used both the Keeper and Diva Cup in the past, but found that it was difficult for me to put it in and painful to take it out (I have bad cramps). My favorite internal product is natural sea sponges (two for heavy days) with a small cloth pad or menstrual panties to catch any leaks (makes sneezing or coughing less hazardous). Sponges are soft and squishy so they don’t contribute to my cramps like tampons and other firm products do. The cool thing about special menstrual panties is that they have a plasticy bit in the fabric to make leaks nearly impossible. Amazing!
Re: cramps, heating pads are great, and cramp bark tincture is life-changing. I find it as effective as advil. I make my own with cramp bark (for cramps/pain), skullcap (calming), motherwort (to feel comforted) and maple syrup (b/c cramp bark and motherwort are both very bitter), but many small and larger herb companies sell cramp bark tinctures and mixes.
Thanks for this post!
Did you see this NYMag article about Miki Agrawal, the founder of Thinx? Much to consider…
Yes, interesting. Always fascinated to see how women in business are portrayed.
I have the contraceptive implant as my form of birth control and thankfully I now very rarely get periods. When I do, I am still a pad user. When I was younger and prior to taking contraceptive I did use tampons and pads at the same time as my flow was so heavy. If I start having periods again, I am going to look into reusable pads and/or the diva cup as I do feel bad about how much I have possibly filled a landfill over the years with my products. It is so good to hear so many positive reviews about the cup here!
I love the concept of Thinx but I do wish they made them in a hipster style with full back coverage. Then I would totally be on board! I recently stopped using disposable pads (I never did like the feeling of tampons) and converted to reusable cloth pads. I love them so! They are soft and so, so easy to clean. You basically just rinse in cold water and squeeze, then throw them in the wash. Or I’ll toss them in a little bucket with a lid filled with water and baking soda and just let them soak in there until I have a wash ready to do.
Thanks Erin…..I was SO hoping you’d cover this topic!! 🙂
I actually just let mine dry and wash them with oxyclean with the rest of my whites. If one get’s stained (happens rarely) I use some gall soap and put them in the next white load.
The Diva cup was a great choice for me for several years – lots of traveling, backpacking (when it’s great to have less trash to carry out!), and not having to worry about bringing tampons along. However, I switched back to tampons when I got an IUD because of the experience of a friend. The suction of removing her Diva cup dislocated her IUD and ended up puncturing her uterus and giving her an infection. She is fine, there is only a very low chance of this happening, and I don’t share this story to scare people. Just to point out that it’s really important to break the suction of the Diva cup (or any cup) before removing it! For now, I’m happy with Honest brand tampons and am thinking about some Thinx.
Complete Diva cup convert here. I work outside the home but have no problems if I need to empty it at work — like the first commenter, I just wipe it off with a little TP and reinsert it. At home, I can rinse it out between uses, but that’s not necessary every time. I have an IUD and haven’t had any complications — I’m just extra careful to break the suction before taking out the cup. The only thing I’ve noticed recently is that I’m leaking on my Diva cup, and I wonder if I might need to switch to the larger size. I’m 28 and have been using it for about four years with no issues. Anybody have a similar experience?
I have one pair of Thinx and love them, and I just ordered reusable pantyliners from Etsy — they were my last non-disposable holdout, and I’m so excited to be going totally waste-free!
Another vote of confidence for a menstrual cup. I use a Mooncup (UK) and it’s changed my life (exaggeration alert), I used to get really painful cramps and would dose myself up on ibrupofen for a week. For some magical reason, the cup makes my cramps less painful and my periods lighter and shorter! Off to see if I can get those amazing pants in the UK at a reasonable price…!
Carol Smillie has a project called DiaryDoll (together with Annabel Croft) that is period pants in the UK…
Thanks for sharing, Erin. To echo the masses, I’ve got to say I really have been pleased with my Lunette, that I switched to from applicator-free tampons. After the slight learning curve, I I haven’t looked back. Although I’ve never tried them, I’ve also seen reusable pads and liners in health food stores.
Just one more person singing (but really shouting) the praises of the menstrual cup. I switched over a year ago and cannot believe the difference its made. I’m actually angry that I only learned about it in my 20s–it’s really a shame that it is not only left out of public education health classes, but also your run of the mill drug stores (at least in my area). I only saw one and thus started to research it while browsing through my local co-op/health food store. Before using the cup, I always had to set an alarm and wake up early on my heaviest days to switch out the tampon and pad I inevitably soaked through overnight. For the first time EVER, I can sleep in while I’m on my period without worrying about my sheets. It’s a miracle worker, the cup.
I will also say I have zero problems using it in a public restroom–I too just wipe it out with some toilet paper and pop it right back in. It’s a bit trickier, yes, but entirely manageable and SO WORTH IT.
I’ve long been a menstrual cup devotee. I tried Diva Cup for a couple of years but was thrilled to find other brands. I now encourage my friends to research which cup would be best for them. Every body is different and I’m convinced many people may need a different style cup. There are many blogs which rate different cups. I found the Diva too bulky and deep. I prefer to use the Finnish brand Lunette. I find it shallower and more comfortable, a few of my friends made the switch and agree!
I too use a diva cup and reusable “mama cloth” pads that I made up using some of my sons old prefold diapers, a small piece of PUL fabric and some old flannel pillow cases and receiving blankets. I LOVE THEM. so much more comfortable than disposable stuff, and I just wash them with my sons cloth diaper loads. I’ve only ever leaked if I’ve had a particularly heavy flow at night, which is not often.
I’ll add another rave review for the diva cup! Been using it for a year and I love it! Never had a leak, and “dealing with all that cleaning” that you speak of in your post is kind of an overstatement. Do you consider washing your hands a chore? That’s how easy the cleaning is. If you are going to work, you empty it, wash it with soap and water, reinsert, IN YOUR OWN home before you leave, and 12 hours later when you get home you repeat. Maybe your negative opinion of them is just a lack of knowledge?
A little harsh here, Rachael. No shame needed.
My thoughts exactly… I’m a diva cup devotee and it did take a bit to get used to. I love it now but I could see your points Erin.
Check out the Sckoon cup! It’s made in the US! It was my selection after doing a bunch of research post baby. I’ve been using it for 14 months now and it is truly a game changer. Mine came in a pretty little cotton bag that actually makes me smile when I see it sitting in the cupboard. It is so wonderful that I tell people about it any chance I get. I never do that with anything! It is the closest my period has ever gotten to being like any other day of the month . I sometimes forget I’m even on it, and not having to shop for product each month is a relief!
I used the diva cup for about a year and then learned about the sea sponge! They are incredible! Cheap, reusable, biodegradable, ph balancing and I’ve never had a leaking problem! I use them with Luna cloth pads and could not be happier. My period is EASY these days and let me tell you, it was not always that way! As far as pain I find that eating really healthy around my period keeps my body cramp free and a lot more energetic. Raspberry leaf tea is a great pms tea too. I find that if I concentrate on eating lots of fresh fruit and veggies and skip the junk food, my period causes me almost no pain and discomfort. Seriously!
Excited your post is on this subject lol! I’ve recently given up ALL animal meat and cannot begin to tell how awesome that is for my period. All my pain is GONE! I’m also into trying the diva cup and possibly, those period panties (which sound hilarious btw). Great post! <3
I’m also going to chime in on Menstrual cup love. I’m going on a year of using them (one!) now and it’s SO AWESOME. For me, my heaviest days must be 5x worse than most people’s because I do have to empty it every couple hours, and I do use the “winx” underwear on those days, but honestly, compared to pads and tampons that is totally fine with me! I’ve had to dump it in a few public locations, but it’s not really been a problem. At 38 years old, I wish I’d had a cup 24 years ago!
I have to empty mine that often, too! Thanks for chiming in, I was starting to feel like a heavy bleeding freak! 🙂
Seriously! I had a uterine polyp that caused *crazy* bleeding, and I was emptying the cup every hour or two during the worst of it. I swear by my lunette. 🙂
Thank you Catherine, I was starting to feel like a bleeding freak with everyone claiming to be heavy bleeders and only having to empty the cup every 12 hours. That’s me on my lightes days, not my heaviest, then I have to empty every couple of hors and double up with pads. I’m definitely going to look into period panties.
so interesting to hear everyone talking about menstrual cups. i’ve been having trouble finding the right size though, where it neither leaks nor causes discomfort. i know there are tables out there about age/childbirth an stuff, but those haven’t helped so far.
so interesting to hear about changing diets. i’m vegetarian, don’t have have iron or magnesium deficiency, tried no wheat, not sugar no anything ‘bad’ to reduce pain…nothing works.
This is so timely as I actually just started using a Diva Cup last week!!
I’ve always done a mix of pads/tampons, but I’m leaving to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in a month and knew I didn’t want the burden of carrying all of those supplies in with me + carry out all the waste they generate. I gave the Diva Cup a trial run last week and while it took a day to get used to, it was so incredibly easy to use once I did get used to it. For anyone who’s not sure about it, I’d say give it a go. I really wish I did sooner.
moon pads instead of heavy maxi pads at night. any co-op or some whole foods sale these. completely washable and re-wearable. also, although i don’t really use these very often, sea sponge tampons. rinse and reuse. repeat. eco-friendly to the max.
i have to echo emma’s comment just a bit above. i tried to use the keeper for 4 or 5 solid cycles and it constantly leaked and caused pain while inserting/removing. i tried the different folds, none of which helped much. the appeal of the keeper was that it was (at least then) the only reusable cup on the market made from rubber. the other cups all seem to be made from silicone, which i was diagnosed as being allergic to years ago. the few months when i tried (so hard!) to switch to the cup were also very psychologically trying — i honestly felt like i had returned to middle school, desperately trying to manage the period which had suddenly become unmanageable again. i’ve since gone back to tampons, though i’m interested in trying out sea sponges, also mentioned above. we’ll see how it goes!
Little plug for the Canadian company Lunapads, here! I don’t know if this is just a Canadian thing, but special ‘period panties’ are definitely not new- Lunapads (from Vancouver) put out Lunapanties… in 2005? Maybe even earlier. I’ve been using them since early 2006, so this is also a ‘hey- period panties rock!!’ comment based on a whole decade worth of experience and love.
I personally use Lunapanties (which I fell in love with because their liners go on top, not in, so there’s no weird wet feeling… ever) and the DivaCup, but I, like another commenter above also cut the ‘tail’ off the DivaCup for comfort.
And Erin– public washrooms suck sometimes, even with a cup. Yes, it’s do-able to dump it out, wipe it off, and put it back in all in the unhappy confines of a public stall, but I’m still weird about all that. So… it’s Lunapanties and carried liners for me on my heavy-and-have-to-be-in-public days.
Also– thanks for posting on this. We women do ourselves a huge favour being even a little less secretive about how we handle our periods! It’s awesome to see you tackle this without shaming, judging, or hopping on any kind of eco-high-horse. Goals and life habit shifts are all awesome- and so is celebrating ourselves and where we’re at right now. Really appreciate the very positive blog space you’ve got going here.
Thank you Danielle! So glad for your encouragement and understanding!
Organic cotton tampos are also “chemical filled” for example they contain the chemical h20…. Seriously, how about posting what exactly does others contain that you object to and why and actually educate people instead of vague fear mongering?
Lena, I’m having a hard time with this comment. It feels uncharitable in the extreme. But I’m also sorry that you think I was fear mongering and perhaps a deeper dive into the actual components of conventional tampons might be in order.
Erin, I really enjoy seeing your responses to some of the more negative comments on your blog. You always have a considerate and eloquent response, but don’t refrain some speaking your mind. Love it!
Back in the day I researched this before switching to the organic tampons. Playtex, tampax and many other brands
bleach their tampons, use synthetic fillers such as polypropelene, and some also use perfumes. The vulva is one of the most
sensitive areas of a woman’s body, and is easily irritated by both polypropelene and perfume. At the time I researched this,
additional bleeding from that irritation was cited as one reason to switch. There are many accounts of women going to their MD because of irritation and being prescribed creams to get rid of the irritation, and, of course, the creams don’t work because the root of the problem wasn’t addressed, which is the tampon itself. In addition, the vagina is highly absorbent and I didn’t want to put any more stuff of a dubious nature into it than I had to. I’m not interested in fear mongering and I don’t think Erin is doing that. At the same time, when you do your research on tampons, food, medications – you name it you’ll see how much moneyed interests drive products in the US and not the safety for consumers. Our daughter did some research for the FDA – I am well aware of how it political it is.
Wow, 80 comments in such a short time!
I got the feeling that I’m not the only one here but I say yes to the Mooncup and reusable liners (even if they are more for my psychological well-being than really necessary, better safe than sorry is my motto). I switched two years ago, the beginnings were not always that simple but just a few periods as a transition, and you’ll never look back!
I just wash my hands before and after going to the toilet (at home or in a public bathroom). When it is a public bathroom, I’ll wipe it out quickly with TP and if I’m not confident, I’ll just empty it and put it back. Most of the time, it isn’t even necessary. As it was said before, you’ll just need to empty it twice a day.
It really gives some peace of mind. It doesn’t take much place (it can fit in a purse, is really practical when going away / on holiday). You always have it with you. You don’t have to worry if you’ll have enough or if you have to pan an emergency trip to the store. It lasts for years, it is safe when you take good care of it.
And I agree with the fact that you’ll learn a bit about your own body.
If you don’t want to try now, you don’t have too. Maybe you’ll switch later, maybe you’ll never switch. If you’re happy with the solutions you’ve found, I’d say it is the most important!
See, your comment is not fear mongering but educational because you name specific things instead of saying “chemicals” which unfortunately is often used as a kind of code word for things people don’t like but don’t want to specify although actually one of the most common chemicals is pure water…. Continuing this trend of misusing the word “chemicals” and not giving proper scientific explanations and reasons helps perpetuate ignorance of why something actually is environmentally friendly or unfriendly or healthy or unhealthy. One problem is path at when some people read ingredients and see the chemical names they think it has to be something bad because chemicals= bad though it might be something completely natural and harmless.
Lena, I’m sure that folks realize that H2O is a harmless chemical compound. Precise language is important, as is education, but I think it doesn’t serve us well to get bogged down in semantics. As you can see from the comments in this space, the readership is thoughtful and educated. I don’t think a disservice has been done here.
Cleaning while you’re out (i.e. in a public restroom with multiple stalls) isn’t ideal, but I’ve found a quick wipedown with TP works well enough until I get home. If you do make the switch (or for anyone interested) make sure to clean your cup with something like Spectrojel to ensure the cup doesn’t break down; between a daily clean and boiling once per month, the cup can last 5 years! FIVE! The cup also won’t strip away other PH-balancing goodness along with menstrual blood, and is definitely a money saver. All of this being said, I’m kind of troubled by some of the negativity surrounding this post. Women make different choices based on comfort, cost, and personal beliefs. We should be supportive of all the ways women have their periods; just because someone doesn’t do it your way doesn’t necessarily make it bad or wrong. I have a friend who uses a DC but buys tampons to have in her purse in case other non-users ask for an emergency one! Also, strategically speaking, no one’s ever been convinced through shaming. I get that periods are personal; I think we should all strive to keep that in mind when assessing other peoples’ choices.
Hey Andrea! I really appreciate this note and totally agree. Hope you didn’t find my tone to be negative. Shame was certainly not my intent here.
No no! I meant the negativity coming from other posts. I should have been clearer. I think you struck a balance between stating your own preferences and offering up other options (for others and maybe yourself in the future). How difficult it is to speak electronically sometimes.
Oh phew! And, indeed on the electronic speak, bit! So tricky sometimes! Thanks for your support!
I feel like I probably don’t need to add my two cents, as all of the comments already here are along the same vein. However, here I go! I will also shout the praise of the DivaCup. I have been using one for almost six years, and using the same one (my first one) for five of those years. As far as reducing waste goes, you can’t do much better period-wise.
The cleaning shouldn’t scare people unless they feel fundamentally uncomfortable touching their bodies or touching blood. The DivaCup does require that you get comfy with your insides and with your period blood. And I totally understand that some people are not into that at. all. There have been few times when I truly had to change my cup during the day in a public or semi-public restroom; they are surprisingly leak-free and capable of holding a lot. 12 hours is their quoted time frame, but I often shower in the morning, take it out, rinse, re-insert and then leave it in until the next morning when I shower again (obviously, your mileage may vary depending on your flow) There is also certainly a learning curve, but if you can commit to it for a few cycles then it normally becomes super easy. I also have an IUD and have had no problem, and my gyn also said that it was totally fine to use the cup with the IUD.
The other period product that I have tried in the last year or so and loved was reusable cloth pads. You can buy them online, they are generally rather inexpensive, and they are amazing. More absorbant, comfortable, and less wasteful than disposable pads. I can’t recommend them enough. For light days or over night, they are simply wonderful. They don’t feel at all like you are wearing a diaper! ha! And you just throw them in the wash with your darks to clean them.
I have read so many mixed reviews about the period panties. It is good to hear about your (good) experience. I have stayed away from them because they are so expensive. So, for now, my DivaCup (which is roughly the same cost as one pair of the period panties), the reusable pad, and my older more ragged undies make an appearance during my period.
Anyway, bottom line, I would encourage you (erin) and any woman who is on the fence to try the DivaCup!! If you don’t like it then no harm. But, I am also firmly on board with women doing what works best for them in every aspect of life, and especially with their period so no judgement from me if a woman never tries a menstrual cup or period panties or organic tampons or anything else!
Love to you! Thanks for the encouragement!
Thinx are a life changer. I was unsure about them at first, but not having any more leaks (and not having to worry about having leaks) was worth the (somewhat) high price!! Great post!
I bought some cloth pads in various sizes on etsy and love them. I mean, LOVE love them. They are soft cotton with button snaps on the underside to hold them in. I think the store was called Lohan Store. I’m already washing cloth diapers daily, so the ick factor of rinsing out a few used pads isn’t too bad considering that I’m already elbow deep in baby poo. As others have said, I’ve heard rave reviews about the Diva cup and other cups, but I’m not a big tampon user, so I’ll stick to my pads for now.
My daughter, Lucy, and I were truly delighted to meet you at your book signing in Madison (your hometown is really charming!) last month. You (and your mom) were just as delightful as I knew you would be, and it was such a treat for us to meet Faye, too. Although I have read your blog for years, I have never commented before, and I wish I had. Thank you for sharing what you do! I find the minutes each day that I read your blog to be time very well spent. Sometimes, I nod in agreement as I read, sometimes I am encouraged to question my old ways and consider new ways (always a good thing!), and, more often than not, I am inspired to keep making my way (slowly, but surely) down a path that I started many years ago after my first daughter was born. Certainly a better path for me, my family, and, I believe, our dear world. Thank you for being such a good friend to all of us who read your blog! It is brave to share one’s thoughts when the audience is, surprisingly, not always kind. Years ago, I read a quote that I have kept close, “The greatest success is to live life in your own way”. You do this so well, and I thank you for all the bits you have shared that have helped me in my effort to do the same! Of course, it is no surprise that your new book is such a gem. Congratulations on a job very well done!
Thanks for writing about this! I love a good heating pad and exercise for cramps, though sometimes life doesn’t allow for either of those options. I definitely want to try out period underwear, but haven’t had the chance yet.
In terms of bleeding, for those who would like long-acting reversible contraception *and* a reduction in the length and heaviness of their period, I highly recommend the Mirena IUD. After 6 months, about 1/3 of women with one experience no bleeding, 1/3 of women have a regular periods that are a lot lighter and shorter than before, and the final 1/3 of women have slightly unpredictable light bleeding. If you want more evidence, about 85% of reproductive age OB/GYNs say they use a Mirena.
With all due respect, when I researched Mirena after having a brochure pushed at me by the ob/gyn, I found a lot of troubling comments concerning depression and weight gain. I was surprised that my ob/gyn was recommending this IUD to me, as I am prone to depression and overweight. She was surprised and had no idea about user feedback when I mentioned my concerns. She overrode me and persuaded me to try it to help with extremely heavy periods and to bridge the expected short time until menopause (I was 48 at the time), with hysterectomy being the alternative (in her view).
It lasted all of 2 months and was not a success for me, slipping out when I had a severe cough, despite having been correctly placed. Also, women with heavy periods should not expect that their periods will stop, they may or may not diminish. Mine hardly altered.
I came to the conclusion that my ob/gyn, who is not too far from retiring age, is no longer up-to-date and is pushing the Mirena because it has been “sold” to her and she hasn’t bothered to enquire into IRL experiences that are well-documented if you look.
In the end I had endometrial ablation, which helped to make periods manageable though irregular but also didn’t stop them. Fingers crossed that is all now in the past (at 51)!!
I will say that one of my daughters has used Mirena with no problems.
Definitely, I will be recommending the menstrual cups to my daughters before they waste a lifetime of money on other products, and we shall see how they do!
Thanks to Erin and all the commenters about being open on this topic. I have suffered much embarrassment over the years, as if I were the only one to have such heavy periods and it took a long time for me to realise this is not true. I do hope others are helped.
Joyed – sorry to hear you had such a negative experience with Mirena, but especially with your doctor! So hard when they don’t listen.
Joyed – you’ve inspired me to do some more research. My ob/gyn also strongly pushed the Mirena as the best form of contraception 6 weeks after I gave birth (nearly a year ago now). It is so interesting that you speak to it causing depression. For me it has been such a positive experience – for the exact opposite reason. From birth to the point of insertion I had been experiencing debilitating postpartum depression. And while I continued to struggle for months afterwards, from the moment it was inserted I felt like a darkness lifted and I was able to deal with life again. I don’t know if caused weight gain – after giving birth I was definitely heavier and have still not lost the “baby weight,” though perhaps it would be easier to do so without the Mirena in place. I’ve been singing its praises to all of my friends ever since, but I am definitely going to take a step back and try to fully understand the effects, and reconsider my own, because obviously there is something more there than just pregnancy prevention! Thank you for your post!
Bon company do really good organic tampons and ship worldwide… http://www.bontampons.co.nz/
I have to admit I’m totally biased because I love the cardbox box they come in…
I share the same sort of struggles with this topic. My relief has been found in doing some deep breathing, a few hip opening yoga poses, and rubbing lavender oil on my lower belly–this one I discovered in a desperate attempt for relief when cramps kept me from sleep. I also chug water like no other time when I’m on my period.
Thanks for braving these topics, Erin!
Thank you, Erin, for taking on this personal issue without the embarrassed, tee-hee tone! What a relief that you treat your readers (I’m a faithful one!) like intelligent adults. Thank you for the thoughtful, authentic content. Brava, keep up the good work!
probably the 100th person on here to talk about the diva cup, but seriously. i’ve been using it for 6 years…and i’m 22…so, many more years of waste free periods to come! (except for empty wine bottles and chocolate wrappers. 🙂 i found it about as difficult to get used to as a tampon — it takes you a couple tries to insert it in comfortably. once i figured out how to properly insert and wear it, it made me often forget i was on my period — so comfortable, never a worry about toxic shock or other health negatives of bleached tampons, and never that awful feeling of being an adult woman wearing a diaper of a pad. horrible. also it is extremely comfortable if you are athletic, works wonderfully for when you want to swim, never releases any odor whatsoever like a pad would, and is C-H-E-A-P. (6 years – one $35 diva cup including shipping – $5.83 a year! the company suggests replacing them every 3 years but mine has had no difference in effectiveness – just a little discoloration, but whatever.) erin, give it a try – it will change your life! also, i have been a lurking reader for years – since before faye – have never commented for some reason, so this is a sign of how fully i support the diva cup and its wonders!
So interesting! Gosh I’m currently breastfeeding and had nearly forgotten about having a period! I think I will give the cup a try. For cramps, nothing beats a hot water bottle…. I’ll accept the BPA risk 😉
I am a recent reader of your blog (my mom turned me onto it!), and I just wanted to say how lovely it is to see someone talking about something like this in a “public” space. I’ve never thought very hard about tampon use beyond the environmental part, and I’ve heard of the Diva Cup. I’m not sure that I’m there yet – still pretty queasy about the whole idea – but I’m so amazed by the number of women who have converted to it. Helps build my confidence in the idea – still have a bit to go. Also, a friend of mine just mentioned a company she read about called Cora. I hadn’t looked it up but your post prompted me to – it’s not applicator free, but it does some interesting things. Definitely something I’m going to look into more – I had no idea about so much of this. Thanks for the honest post!
It takes some guts to post on things such as this. I’m so thrilled you posted great tips and details!!! Thanks!
Silk sea sponge, organic cotton cloth liner, and a small wet bag that holds everything. I love the ritual of it and really love the zero waste!
Great post…love the discussion here!
A couple of years ago I shifted a lot of my personal products to less chemically-laden ones, namely my deodorant, sunscreen, face lotion, shave cream, and alternate menstruation options. I have the Diva cup as well, both the smaller and larger cup for different times in my cycle, and for sleeping I have the FemmyCycle cup. They all took some getting used to, and I agree with the other ladies — I learned a lot about my body by using them! My problem is leaking when it suddenly goes from light to heavy, so on work days I resigned to my old habits. After reading this and checking out Thinx and Desr Kate, I’ve just bought a pair of hipster Thinx panties. Maybe a game changer as far as being able to go back to cups more regularly!
Erin, thanks so much for making space for discussions like this! I switched to a Lunette after doing some research on which brands might work best for my body (there are some great posts out there comparing measurements, shapes, etc. that I found really helpful). The first month or two was an adjustment, but I’m now 6+ months in and I love it for the comfort, cost savings, and waste reduction! I’ve gotten comfortable with and learned so much about my cycle and body – which perhaps is just as much related to me paying attention as it is to my product choices. I have disposable pads/liners for the days I feel more comfortable with a little backup, but I’m now feeling inspired to give the reusable versions and/or Thinx/Dear Kate a shot!
Also, I’m thankful my cramps have never really been debilitating, but since I switched to the Lunette (from tampons), my cramps seem to be a little less intense and don’t last quite as long. But for the cramps and aches I do have, I totally agree on the hot rice bag!
In case no one’s mentioned it yet, the only thing that beats cramps for me (besides working the core diligently the rest of the month, haha) is drinking raspberry leaf tea! I mean, we’re talking drink it and 10 min later, miraculous vanishing of cramps! And I cramp heavily. I haven’t done better than switching to cardboard applicators yet, bc heavy flow and (tmi) clots (sorry) but I’m wondering now if a cup would handle those issues better than tampons do! (which is to say, handle not well at all, heh…) Anyways yeah, raspberry leaf tea! You can get it at Whole Foods I know, and probably other places as well.
I have the Lunette cup and love it! On my heavy days I usually have to empty once at work but i just empty it, wipe it with toilet paper and reinsert. I do have very heavy periods and generally wear a liner, so I’m not totally waste-free. After this post I’m going to check out the period undies though, I’d love to eliminate the majority of my liner use. Thanks!
love this piece! thank you for talking in your usual simple and dignified tone about periods.
ever since living in rural India I’ve sworn by a Diva Cup. once a lady gets used to washing it, this is an excellent option for athletes and people traveling to remote locations. never a leak, even with the heavy days, and the most cost-effective solution I can imagine. yay!
I too have been using menstrual cups for managing my period for the past decade and LOVE IT!
And for managing cramping, I don’t think anyone else has talked about this yet but acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can do A LOT for all sorts of menstrual issues. I used to have debilitating painful cramping and no longer have to deal with that. The worst days now I can just take one dose of ibuprofen and call it for my whole period where as before I had to take the maximum dosage daily and use constant heating pads just to keep myself from throwing up from the pain. 🙁 I only wish I had known about it sooner.
I’ve always had really bad cramps, and normally as a teen I would just take ibuprofen, like any other girl I knew who had cramps. “Pills” did no difference. But my stomach started to hurt kinda, so I switched to different painkillers, which are not as strong and less aggressive (also for kids). Mom never had these problems, so she couldn’t give me any advice. Lately (thanks to internet) I also started drinking lady’s mantel tea (Alchemilla) before the start and during the first days of my period, which helps to lower the amount of painkillers I have to take to fuction. However I looked it up on wiki and I see that it grows only in Europe – so for european readers: you can even pick it yourselves in summer.
Lady’s mantle is very accessible in the US as well! It grows here and can be found dried in all sorts of forms! Thanks for the reminder!
I would love an accompanying post about your thoughts on various birth control measures! The conversation around this gets heated in the blog world and I have yet to hear much that sounds both thoughtful and backed by evidence/science and I’d be interest in your thoughts and experiences on this.
After reading these comments, I feel like the only person on earth who did not love her Diva cup. I gave it numerous tries and it was never comfortable to me. Over time, I’ve changed to just using old black underwear, which works for my periods these days. It’s comfortable and easy and I wish I hadn’t spent so many years grossed out by my cycle so I could’ve done this sooner.
I bought a stack of dark red washcloths and use them, folded into thirds, during my period. On heavy days I might double up. It’s bulky but I wear loose skirts those days. I don’t mind, in fact I celebrate that time and the gift of fertility (although I do use the heated rice packs for discomfort!). We are lucky enough to have a washer so I can do laundry every day when I use the pads. It was a very economical way to switch over, since the reusable options are more expensive upfront.
Thanks for a great post and comment section!
I just finished your book and really enjoyed it. My favorite part, actually, was the last section (more than white tiled walls). So true!
I’m all about the sea sponge! So comfortable and easy! I make a tincture of cramp bark, valarian root, ginger, and pennyroyal that works great for menstrual cramps, as well as focusing on nutrition and hormone balancing.
Clearly you’ve had a ton of weigh-in on this topic already, but I thought’d I’d add my two cents and recommendation: the MeLuna cup. (Different brand than Luna). I have been using one since the fall, and though there was a bit of a learning curve, it’s a game changer!
Wow, I had to google what an “applicator” looks like, because in Germany I’ve never ever seen or heard from this. It looks so scary! 😀 But thanks, your article made me reconsider & research my use of tampons and look for alternatives.
I use a fleur cup now (the diva cup leaked for me, I think it wasn’t quite the right shape for my body) and it’s pretty great.
but DANG I am so jealous of you ladies who can always go 12 hours without changing it. On my heavy flow days, I MUST empty the cup after about 2.5 hours or I will definitely overflow. So there’s always about 2 days where I have to wear a liner or something (b/c I’m a teacher and always have more than 2.5 hours between when I can go to the bathroom!) and sometimes changing an overfull cup can result in a CSI-level spillage all over the place (I’ve even gotten it on my clothes in quite bizarre places).
But on the non-heavy days, I agree with what everyone else has said–12 hours w/o changing is pretty miraculous after having used tampons. And there’s no odor, no dried grossness, it’s just blood.
I read this post when it was originally published in February. I must say, I have never heard of reusable cloth pads until I read this. I saw the Diva Cup when I was in Whole Foods once, but immediately put it back on the shelf, labeling it as “gross.”
TMI alert below.
Fast forward to April of 2016. I called my gynecologist because I was having horrible bladder infections each month during my period. She asked me if I used tampons, to which I replied “yes.” The doctor then said if the tampon is not changed each time I use the restroom, bacteria from the tampon string can sometimes sneak its way into the urethra, causing infections. She suggested I switch to pads, and I said I hated them. Too hot, too sticky, too uncomfortable. And then my gynecologist suggested cloth pads. This is twice now that I heard about reusable menstrual pads. I went home and promptly did research. I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to try them.
I can now say I have fully switched to cloth menstrual pads, and would suggest anyone who is considering them to try them out. It took a few months to build my stash. There are lots of styles and fabric options. It can be overwhelming. I bought different styles from several sellers on Etsy and have been pleased with the results. Happy to say I’ve had two infection-free periods.
Erin, I also want to echo the thanks mentioned here. This is a positive post and opened the doors to an entire world I did not know to exist. I wish I had known about cloth pads as a kid, because I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and pain. With the use of disposables, society tells women that our menstrual blood is dirty and meant to be disposed of, along with unwanted junk mail and trash. This sounds corny, but I feel much more accepting of my body now that I switched to reusables. It’s amazing what our bodies are capable of. If I have a daughter someday, I will absolutely get her cloth pads. Thanks again for smart, engaging writing. xo.
Thanks so much for sharing your story! (And for all of the kinds words directed at me!)
I love this post!! Just discovered your blog Erin, and I’m hooked.
Here’s a very different perspective. I’m 43, perimenopausal, and for the last many years my period was quite literally making me miserable. My 19 yo daughter, who is a genius, said “mom, why don’t you go on birth control sends stop having periods?” Whaaaat? So I investigated, talked with my dr, and we all agreed to give it a shot. I take birth control pills every day, and don’t take the placebo week, so no period. I’ve suppressed periods for a year. It’s been 100% awesome for me. No worries about vacations or back packing trips, no more anemia or pain, no depression, anxiety and general horrible bitchiness. I am a much happier and healthier person. I’ve had zero negative side effects.
I know hormonal birth control period suppression is not the answer for everyone, but honestly I’m shocked more women don’t try it. It’s incredibly liberating.
One more thing, I loved my diva cup for many years too, until I started over flowing it. But I love NOT having periods way more.
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