Moonpads, Lunapads, Gladrags, DivaCup and many other companies have started a trend of reusable female hygiene products. These products are increasing in popularity amongst women for environmental, cost, and health reasons.
According to the Diva Cup website, women, on average, experience a lifetime menstruation span of 41 years (11-52). From use of disposable feminine hygiene, an estimated 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons are dumped into the North American environment each year (1998). More than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999. If a woman is using about 20 pads and/or tampons per cycle, that one woman is throwing away over 10,000 pads/tampons in her lifetime. Switching to re-usable products is a BIG change, and can have a massive positive effect on our environment.
Add to that the fact that most women in the US spend an average of $200 on disposable feminine hygiene products a year, for a total of about $8,200 in a lifetime (before inflation!), and you have some pretty head turning statistics. A menstrual cup and some cloth pads will cost a little more at the outset (I started with a Diva cup, two LunaPads, and a wash/storage bags for each for just under $60.00), but then you won’t have to spend another cent on this stuff for years. And as far as the pads go, many women make them themselves. Here are some basic patterns.
If the money and the environment aren’t enough to convince you, there’s also your own health to take into account. The DivaCup is made from healthcare grade silicone free of BPA and other harmful chemicals that may leach into your body. Tampons and pads often contain a laundry list of undesirable chemicals such as chlorine and dioxin that can be absorbed into your body and disrupt your endocrine system and hormones (not to mention the environment when you throw them away!). High quality menstrual cups are extremely safe to use, do not in any way disrupt your body’s natural balances, and present a significantly lower risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome than typical disposable products.
Menstrual cups are easy to clean and disinfect since they do not absorb anything, and they can be left in for up to 12 hours! There are always a few caveats and warnings, for which you should check with the distributor, but the most common concern is for IUD users. There are warnings against the possibility of dislodging the IUD. I have an IUD (which I also LOVE), and have used a DivaCup the whole time I’ve had an IUD with no problems. I’m careful to break any seal that may have been created before removing the cup, as per the detailed directions it came with. I have had two IUDs, one before I chose to have my son and another inserted after. I’ve had the same DivaCup for both with no complaints or concerns. Every situation is different, so check with your doctor, but that’s my story.
The Ick Factor
Ultimately, I think most people who have issues or concerns about re-usable menstrual products are focused on one thing: the ick factor.
First, let me tell you that I understand. I had the same concern. I mean, changing pads and tampons is gross. The thought of having actual contact with them and having to wash them – and washing pads with my laundry? I wasn’t thrilled with the idea either. Honestly, though, as soon as I made the switch I was surprised by just how little ick there was to it, especially with the cloth pads. Most of them come with their own little bag to put them in so they don’t come into contact with the other laundry in your hamper (or washer/dryer since you can wash them in the bag), so there’s really not much more to changing them than a regular pad – and, trust me on this, they look MUCH LESS GROSS than a saturated white cotton pad. You can even carry the little bag in your purse to change pad on the go.
Now, I’ll be honest, the cup takes a little more getting used to in this department – in the same way that tampons take more getting used to than pads. There is a technique to inserting a cup (as shown in drawings here) that is a little more complicated than using a tampon applicator, and you will have to wash your hands afterward, but it’s really, really not a big deal.
I know some women who gave up on their menstrual cups after just one cycle because they couldn’t get the hang of insertion. It wasn’t any sort of ick factor, it was just figuring out the best method for them. It took me a while, but one day it just clicked, and I’m very glad I didn’t give up.
If you’re a woman with cycles, I really, really encourage you to check these products out. They are a great decision for both yourself and the world around you. Plus, you can help out self-employed women by purchasing mama cloth from Etsy. If you’re not ready to try reusable products, you should try to buy organic cotton hygiene products which also lower your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and risk of toxic shock syndrome. Or check out Softcups, a disposable menstrual cup product.
Have you ever tried any of these? What were your experiences like?
About the author: Amanda Gregory is a military attorney aspiring to be a sustainable homesteader. With help from her husband, the Green MacGyver, adorable kids, Punky and Flintstone, rescue dogs, cat, backyard chickens, and three gardens they take one step closer to their “Green Dream” everyday. Amanda and her husband strive to eat ethically and live sustainably and teach their children to do the same. You can follow her amble haphazard journey toward that wild green yonder at From the Firm to the Farm.
This article was originally published on April 26, 2012 at From the Firm to the Farm.