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If you have considered using a menstrual cup or reusable pads because you want a more eco-friendly period, I hope you find this post useful.
Talking about periods shouldn’t be taboo and luckily things are changing so I think it’s time more women spoke more openly about their experiences. Especially since there are quite huge environmental factors to consider when choosing which menstrual products to use.
For me, even though I’ve had periods for the past 25 years (oh my, a whole quarter of a century!!), it was only three years ago when I considered using a menstrual cup.
I’d heard of menstrual cups before (first time in 2006 or 2007, I think) but didn’t think much of them at the time. In fact, when a work colleague mentioned using one, I thought to myself: “She’s such a hippy!”. I meant it in the most positive way but didn’t think menstrual cups were something for me. It’s quite funny to realise that now I might be considered a ‘hippy’ to someone reading this or whoever I’ve spoken about menstrual cups or cloth pads.
If I’m honest, I feel a bit ashamed it’s taken this long for me to realise how much negative impact my periods have had on the environment for the past 20-odd years. But I am glad the realisation has finally hit home. It’s no exaggeration that it took a heart-breaking miscarriage for me to become more conscious of what we put on our bodies (it was mostly skincare at first), into our bodies and the wider implications for the environment. (You can read more about that in my bio)
My first encounter with eco-friendly menstrual products
When I was pregnant with my little boy Maxi back in 2016, I made a decision that once my periods were back, I’d give a menstrual cup and reusable (aka cloth) pads a go. So nearly three years after, I’m finally bringing you this post where I share my views on using eco-friendly alternatives to conventional sanitary products.
I was never a fan of tampons (just generally didn’t like the idea of using them and getting the Toxic Shock Syndrome didn’t help!) so the thought of using a menstrual cup was making me feel quite uncomfortable.
Saving money and the planet! Win-win situation!
But learning that I could save nearly 264 sanitary towels ending up in landfill EVERY SINGLE YEAR for another 20-25 years or so (that’s approx. 8,000 sanitary towels over my ‘period lifetime’) was an eye opener! The financial incentive of saving hundreds of pounds by investing £20-25 in one cup that would last up to 10 years was very appealing too!
The financial incentive of saving hundreds of pounds by investing £20-25 in one cup that would last up to 10 years was very appealing too!
However, I chickened out even at the thought of post-partum pads (i.e. reusable pads, larger than usual, to use after your baby is born).
To be honest, I don’t know what was stopping me. Well, I do – the miscarriage caused major anxiety during the next pregnancy and absolutely wreaked havoc inside me. I was a walking ball of nerves and I was just so focused on bringing a healthy (and alive!) baby into this world. Thinking about eco-friendly sanitary products wasn’t my priority at that time, I guess.
But I was quite disappointed with myself, to be honest. It took my periods about seven months to come back and I finally started researching menstrual cups.
Menstrual cups – pros and cons
My first menstrual cup was from OrganiCup which I got from Ethical Superstore, one of my favourite ethical online shops. It took a couple of periods for me to get used to it. Inserting it to make sure it wasn’t going to leak was quite stressful, to be honest. I found the silicone very soft and on a few occasions it didn’t open up properly (because of its softness). Luckily, I could feel it and was able to adjust it.
Most menstrual cups come in two sizes: one which is suitable for younger girls only just starting their periods as well as women who didn’t give birth vaginally and another one for those who have given birth vaginally. I imagined that the cup made for women who gave birth would be somehow different and easier to apply but it wasn’t like that at all. At some point I thought I was going to give up but with every period I got better at inserting it.
The life changing moment came when we were going on a beach holiday in the summer of 2017 and I knew I was going to be on my period. The cup literally made my holiday bearable! In the past I had dreaded wearing dresses in the summer, going to the pool or the beach while on my period (as someone who didn’t find tampons that comfortable). This was a game changer. I could swim without any worrying, I could sunbathe, in fact I didn’t actually feel like I was on my period.
They cost between £18-£21 and can last up to 10 years so you’ll be saving yourself a fortune.
You can find out more about how to use the menstrual cup on OrganiCup’s website or watch this video:
Since then, I have also tried the Lunette cup which I got from BabiPur, an online ethical shop for parents. The Lunette cup is made from stiffer silicone and I personally find it works better for me as it opens up more ‘securely’, there’s never any doubt that it hasn’t. However, the stiffness felt quite uncomfortable at times (more at the beginning of using it, less so now). Also, folding it into the ‘C-fold’ has sometimes been tricky as the cup can open a bit earlier than you want to.
Overall though, I’ve found both cups to be leak-free and very comfortable when inserted properly. For someone who used to hate the thought of a tampon expanding inside me into this giant blob, I’m actually enjoying wearing my menstrual cup.
Honestly, periods are no longer a dreaded time of the month for me!
With both of the cups, I’ve been able to last a whole day without having to empty the cup which has been a huge convenience. On a few occasions (on heavier flow days), when I was at work I did have to check the cup wasn’t full and it’s not the most hygienic of things to do in a public toilet but once you get over that, it’s not such a big deal. This page from Lunette has some very helpful articles on using a menstrual cup, including on how to do it in a public toilet.
Reusable (cloth pads) – pros and cons
When it comes to reusable (cloth) pads, I’ll be honest – I’m not too keen about them as I am about menstrual cups.
I absolutely love the concept of plastic-free pads but for me, they’re way too thick and move too much inside your underwear. Perhaps I haven’t tried enough brands but the ones I have, have all been the same. Bloom and Nora (from the fab folks at Tots Bots who make reusable nappies) are probably the ones I like the most. They do shrink in the wash though so do check various sizes before you buy them. Their bamboo fleece material is soft and comfortable and I also like their dark pink colour which means there’s no signs of stains. However, they are quite thick and move around in your knickers so there’s no way I could go out using them while wearing a skirt or a dress on a hot summery day.
Earthwise cloth pads are ok and slightly thinner but they do slide a lot too. The white colour of the materials means there’s some minor staining. They’re made from fleece which is very soft and comfortable. I do like that they’ve got a ‘first period’ starter pack though so if you’ve got young daughters, it’s such a great idea to encourage them to use alternative sanitary products.
The Cheeky Wipes cloth pads that I’ve been using have had the worst staining (it’s my fault though as I’ve washed them at 40-60 degrees and you shouldn’t do that). They also move the most meaning they’re very unreliable. They’re quite thick as well and they’re my least favourite cloth pads out of all three brands. There are now more types on the Cheeky Wipes website so I can’t comment on all of them but I’m not impressed with these pads. Like Earthwise, they also have a period starter pack for young girls expecting their first period which is great.
Overall, I use my cloth pads only at night while during the day I stick to using a menstrual cup. I can’t fault all three brands of pads in terms of their absorbency because they have not leaked but because they move around, they can’t really be relied on on heavier flow days.
Period pants – pros and cons
My latest revelation are period pants. You may have heard about THINX period pants as they’re probably the most famous brand of them. I’d love to try them but mine are from Cheeky Wipes. I got myself a pack of three and I plan to buy another pack as they are absolutely genius!
I’ve only tried them while using a menstrual cup in case of any leaks and on lighter flow days. So I still have to test them on heavier flow days to see how absorbent they are. Changing them while at work would be a bit too much faffing for me so I think I’ll just stick to using a menstrual cup when out and about and test their absorbency when I’m at home. However, they are a perfect invention and I couldn’t be happier with them!
Have you tried any reusable menstrual products? Which type and brand is your favourite?
Disclaimer: I purchased all of the items mentioned in this post myself. As always, all views are my own and honest. This post contains some affiliate links but this doesn’t affect the price you pay.