Periods, menstruation, Aunt Flo, moon time, that-time-of-the-month…No matter what you call it, periods can be quite the hassle. They come when they want, and overstay their welcome, bringing with them moodiness, cramps, headaches, sore breasts, aching back, and everything in between. If the post title didn’t give it away, this post will discuss periods and vaginas, so trigger warning if that’s an unwelcome topic for you!
So let’s rewind to about 5.5 years ago when I got my first postpartum period. Pre-kids, my periods were pretty regular and nothing to write home about. Easy-peasy. That first postpartum period, however, was a whole other level. It felt like Aunt Flo had just realized I kept her away for almost 2 years of pregnancy and breastfeeding, and decided to release her fury in one fell swoop. I was changing tampons at least every hour, and dealing with awful cramps like I had never experienced before. When my sister-in-law suggested I ditch the tampons and try a menstrual cup, I went right out and bought one, and I have never looked back.
Now I have fallen down quite the rabbit-hole of sustainable period products. I love knowing that I’m not contributing tons of non-recyclable plastic bits from tampon applicators into landfills, not to mention all the plastic packaging on disposable pads. I also love that the products I use now are investments, and not something I have to pay for every single month. Let me be your wizened sustainable period guide, and check out these 5 products every period-haver should try!
1. A Menstrual Cup
If I haven’t already waxed poetic about the glory of menstrual cups enough, allow me a few more moments to explain their benefits. There are all different shapes and sizes of menstrual cups, just like there are all different shapes and sizes of vaginas. To use a menstrual cup, you will need to get a little familiar with your anatomy, including the location and height of your cervix during different points of your period. The Put A Cup In It site is a wealth of knowledge about different brands and styles of cups, but I find their quiz to be a really approachable place to start!
Once you find the right fit and learn to insert it correctly (there is a bit of a learning curve, but you’ve got this), you shouldn’t feel your menstrual cup at all. They’re amazingly comfortable! They also tend to help with cramping symptoms, and have a much lower risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which means they can be left in your body for up to 12 hours. I tend to empty mine every 3 hours at the beginning of my cycle, but can leave it in up to 12 hours at the end of my cycle. Every person and every period is different though.
I could go on and on about just menstrual cups, but here is a helpful video about how to insert and remove a menstrual cup.
2. Disposable or Reusable Menstrual Discs
Okay, okay, okay, I know this is only number 2 and I’m already telling you about a really not-sustainable option. Hear me out though, sometimes you go places where a period cup is not the most convenient. Like camping, for instance. With a menstrual disc, you can empty it without taking it all the way out of your vagina, and you can also leave it in for up to 12 hours. If you aren’t somewhere where you can easily wash a reusable cup or disc before reinserting, having a disposable option is super helpful! Disposable discs can be purchased at most grocery stores among the regular period products, so they’re easily accessible. There are also reusable disc options as well, so if you decide discs are for you, you can choose a more sustainable option!
3. Cloth Pads
If you typically love using pads during your period, cloth pads are a really easy swap! There are many different styles and absorbency levels, and they are machine washable. Even better, you can use them over and over and don’t have to buy more every month (or contribute to landfills). I sometimes like to use cloth pads as a backup for my cup on heavy flow days just in case of leaks. Cloth pads are also a great option for pre-teens/teens, if they aren’t comfortable with using tampons or cups.
For going out and about with cloth pads, I recommend bringing a wet bag, which is a bag that has a washable waterproof lining inside. Then you can put the soiled pads inside that bag and take them out for washing as soon as you get home.
4. Menstrual Underwear
Menstrual underwear are reusable cloth underwear with an absorbent layer that catches your flow, and a waterproof layer that keeps it from leaking onto your clothes. These really do a great job of trapping the blood, without feeling sticky and damp. They also come in different styles and absorbency levels. They are definitely the most costly of the options, and if used on their own, you’d need multiple pairs per day on most days of your period. They are machine washable, and definitely becoming much more popular! They are also great for pre-teens/teens, and some companies have even branched out into swimwear and athletic wear. I like to wear these as a backup for my cup, or at night all on their own.
5. HoneyPot Cleansing Wipes
And last but not least, I have to tell you about HoneyPot cleansing wipes. These are non-toxic, plant-based, gentle, and the perfect size to keep in your bathroom or your purse for a quick refresh throughout the day! Trust me, these are a game-changer. Plus the woman behind the company, and the story of how she built it from the ground up, are amazing! Another huge plus: when you buy from HoneyPot, they provide menstrual care products for folks who are experiencing homelessness, low-income, or living in poverty. You can purchase HoneyPot products at Target!
Welp, now that I’ve talked about my period on the Internet, hopefully you have a good starting point for your own sustainable period journey. It’s great to have options! Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I’d love to help as best I can!