How switching to reusable menstrual products forever altered my relationship with my body. [Originally published on my old site; photo borrowed from Party in my Pants Pads’ homepage]
So, earlier this year, I made the switch from my old standard Kotex and U by Kotex period control products to a more eco-friendly option: reusable cloth pads.
I know, I know, it sounds kind of gross, but it’s actually so much easier to deal with for me. Like, yeah, I have to carry around a little bag in which I can store my wet pads when I’m out and about, and yes, I have to rinse and wash them between periods, but I have saved so much money and also reduced my monthly period waste to nothing.
I was never into tampons (like why would you choose to shove a cotton stick up in your vagina? especially if that cotton stick is, like, bleached and has weird chemicals and stuff in it?) I mean, this is a very sensitive area which absorbs stuff through its mucous membranes and that goes straight to the bloodstream.
Since I first got my period at age 14, I’ve always been a pad kinda gal. Tampons were a necessary evil for things like lifeguarding at summer camp and, well, nothing else. Just for lifeguarding.
But even most pads on the market contain chemicals that are no bueno for your vaginas, ladies.
Plus, cloth pads last for, like, years before they need to be replaced, so you save money on 12 periods a year x 4-6 years = 48-72 periods. That’s like, a box of tampons ($5-$10) or pads ($4-$12) for each period that you don’t have to buy (I used Target’s prices for these ranges bc who doesn’t love Target?). It adds up (specifically, it adds up to $192-$864).
Getting into cloth pads for the first time:
For my first endeavor into eco-friendly periods, I did a google search for “reusable cloth pads” or something of that ilk, and the first few results included:
So, naturally, I got a few of each. Gladrags does this great thing where the first time you go to their website, you can get a free “pantiliner plus,” which is my favorite of their pads and I now own like 8 of this particular cut. Lunapads are a bit pricier, but with good reason: they offer pads with changeable inserts so you can freshen it up throughout the day. Party in my Pants offers pads in fun patterns (it truly is a party in your pants, y’all) that are virtually leak-proof in my experience.
My first orders were:
From gladrags: the free pantyliner plus and a moon cup in size B (the smaller size–more on this later)
From lunapads: 1 mini pad with insert
From Party in my Pants: 2 medium pads
Obviously, this is not enough for a full period, but it gave me a chance to get to know each brand and figure out what I like and don’t like.
After the first period with these pads, I had a strong preference for the lunapads and gladrags (these are softer), but since I’ve shifted to really liking the Party in my Pants ones because they’re thinner and don’t run the risk of leaking if you forget about your period (which is totally possible with these because they don’t feel like pads).
My current favorite reusable pads are the gladrags pantyliner plus and the Party in my Pants medium pads. Lunapads are nice, but if you’re using the inserts, they are a bit thick which can get uncomfortable.
About the menstrual cup:
So, as I mentioned above, in my first order, I purchased a Moon cup menstrual cup from gladrags. These are great for many people. I am not one of those people. In fact, I don’t know what possessed me to even get one as someone who did not use tampons before because they always felt too big inside me. When I got it and opened it, my first thought was actually something along the lines of “there is no way that is going to fit in my vagina,” which turned out to be extremely true. Luckily, customer service at gladrags is top notch and while they couldn’t take it back once I had even attempted to use it (for obvious reasons), they were able to refund me with credit to get more pads.
But don’t take this as a reason not to get one. Lots and lots of people love their menstrual cups and they’re really practical for things like travel and work and life in general because it’s something you can use all day and you just have to wash it out when it gets full and put it back in so no carrying extra stuff around.
Period Underwear, y’all:
So after a few months with cloth pads, I heard about THINX underwear, which is underwear designed specifically for people with periods to wear during menstruation. And, 6 months after ordering my first cloth pads, I placed an order for a bunch of these underwear (which my mom kindly paid for as a birthday present to me–happy periods for a happy birthday).
And let me tell you, these babies are FABULOUS.
They’re super comfortable. They absorb your menstrual blood quickly, easily, and without feeling wet. And you can wear them for up to 12 hours. AND you can pair them with internal period catching means (tampons or menstrual cups) if you have a heavier flow OR wear them with nothing else if you have a lighter flow.
They come in different styles, with different absorption capacities (ranging from the thong at 1/2 tampon’s worth to the hiphugger at 2 tampons’ worth). I selected 8 pairs for this first order:
3 pairs of hiphuggers, 2 in black, 1 in beige (think the color that everyone refers to as “nude” when talking about underwear despite that probably no one has that as their actual skin color)
2 pairs of “sport” underwear in black
1 pair of high-waisted underwear in black
1 pair of “cheeky” cut underwear in black
1 pair of boyshort underwear in black
The only color options currently available are black and beige, but that’s okay because they’re super cute in black and acceptably cute in beige.
So…how did this change my life?
Right, so I started this post to discuss how these products have completely changed my relationship with my body (and thus my life).
To start with, I now kind of look forward to my period each month. I know that sounds completely bonkers, but using these pads and underwear is like a treat to look forward to every 5 or 6 weeks (yeah, I have a long cycle).
On top of that, I used to be kinda embarrassed about my period, but now I’m just like “yo guess who’s on her period this week! That’s right, it’s me!” And I snapchat pictures whenever I order new pads because they’re super cute! Which makes me feel cute when I’m on my period, which makes me excited about my period!
Plus, the companies I’ve mentioned above each have like regular newsletters about their products and about outreach they do and stuff like that, so it has been an educational experience as well. Like, I get weekly emails from THINX (which I signed up for) about feminism in pop culture and about organizations doing good for people with periods and stuff. The whole eco-friendly period community is such a great thing, and it’s a great way to feel good about your reproductive system and period and hear from others who love their cuteruses too.
In conclusion (tl; dr)
Reusable menstrual products are great! I would say that everyone should get them, but I am aware that there are some people out there for various health reasons (very sensitive skin, prone to infections, etc. might make it difficult to go reusable). But if everyone who could switched to reusable products, imagine how much waste cut-down that would be!! I once heard that the average period-having person will use about a tractor-trailer’s worth of pads and tampons in their lifetime, and that’s completely ridiculous and super wasteful (not to mention v. expensive). Whether or not that’s accurate (I mean, I fully trust the person who told me, but I didn’t do research about it myself) wouldn’t we all benefit from saving a little money on tampons/pads in the present, and won’t our children/nieces and nephews/other people in future generations benefit from us not throwing away tons of disposable products? I think so.
The Fierce Feminist