Wednesday, August 5, 2009

dealing with periods, eco style

This is a post I've been meaning to make for ages, a follow-up to my post about cloth menstrual pads, which included an interview with the owner of Naturally Hip, a handmade cloth pad seller. If you don't know much about cloth pads I recommend you give the post a read because going cloth has both environmental and health benefits. (Disclaimer: If you are a boy, and/or squirmish about such things, this may be the point where you should click away.)

I bought pads from the lovely Lindsay of Naturally Hip several months ago. These are my thoughts:
  • I was quite flawed by how much they absorb. They're like Mary Poppins' bag. I have no fears of leakage overnight, or any other time.
  • They're made from a really soft flannel on the outside. Regular pads aren't uncomfortable, but you can generally feel them being all plasticky down there. These cloth pads are much nicer to wear.
  • They're easy to wash. I'm a bit crap at getting housework done, and if I can manage, so can you. I mostly only use them when I'm at home, so I rinse them well as soon as I change them, then either put them straight into the wash (with other laundry), or put them in a bucket filled with some water until I put the next load on. There's also wet bags you can buy for storing used ones that have been changed while you're out.
  • The only problem I had was that the liners without wings ended up where they shouldn't be. They don't have a sticky section like store bought ones and the listing says that they should stay in place with snug-fitting undies. A lot of my undies were one or two sizes too big (in terms of dress size), so I actually went out and bought more of my size undies, and the wingless liners still moved around as I walked. I'm not sure if it's because I'm small or something else, but I recommend you get the liners with wings. Trying to figure out how best to sew in wings so the ones I have don't go to waste.
Overall, totally star quality from Naturally Hip. Lindsay is easily contactable and more than happy to answer questions or make custom ones. Plus she's passionate about being eco-friendly - a total plus in my book.

After I made the initial blog post about cloth pads, I started a thread on the Etsy forums about it which got a lot more attention than I was expecting. Lots of responses were about the Diva Cup, an alternative to tampons and a new idea to me. At first I thought it was a gross idea: basically it's a reusable little cup that 'catches' your blood, and then you empty it periodically. As I read on further, I realised it's not much more gross than tampons and, really, that perspective was just because I wasn't used to the idea yet. If everybody was doing it I wouldn't give it a second thought.

Here are the benefits:
  • You can leave it in for up 12 hours, so you can change it twice a day and not have to think about your period the rest of the time, because if it's in properly you can't feel it.
  • It's reusable so you don't need to send tampons to landfill all the time.
  • None of this toxic shock syndrome stuff to worry about.
  • It makes activities like hiking, swimming, yoga or whatever else easy while you're perioding.
So I bought one. I've tried to use it a few times. More often than not, unsuccessfully. It's apparently something you need to get the hang of doing, and also, some people find certain brands don't work for them - everybody's shape is a bit different. I'm not sure what the others are called, but the Diva is the original, I believe. I know it does work for some, because of all the raving testimonials on the Etsy forum. I suppose I will keep trying, because if it works it would be an ideal option for me, combined with cloth liners and overnight pads.


Anonymous said...

Yay - thanks for posting about this. Cloth menstrual pads are the best. I'll never go back to disposables - my #1 reason is that I never fear for leaks b/c they are so absorbent & reliable. My fav. etsy seller uses bamboo which I prefer to cotton. And you never run out, you just do laundry. I tried the cup. Hated it.

Kerry said...

I have a Diva Cup... I had a major scare with it the first time I used it (first of all, it took me AGES to get it in, but once it was in, it was REALLY comfortable, but then I couldn't get it out cos of the suction! Very scary!) and I haven't had the guts to use it since. I've considered using cloth pads, but the cleaning factor kind of grosses me out. I'm still keeping a look out for any other eco-friendly options....

Thanks for the informative post!

R. said...

I bought some of Lindsay's pads after you posted about them, and I was so happy with how absorbent they were. Highly recommended! The only thing I disliked about them were the straight sides - I usually buy contoured pads. But I've currently got a second order on its way to me, with a contoured cloth pad, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it works...

I must admit the concept of the Diva Cup freaks me out, so I don't see myself trying it anytime soon!


Vicki of RaVena Relics said...

A quick note re: stains...
A nice, non-toxic and inexpensive way to get the blood out is to pour some hydrogen peroxide on it straight out of the bottle, wait 5 minutes and rinse. I have saved many a pair of undies that way, and I'm sure it would work on the fabric pads...

Rebecca said...

Those cloth pads are almost too cute to use!! I am a huge fan of sea sponges, the eco-friendly version of a tampon. You can wear them for extended periods (pardon the pun!), even on super light days without any discomfort or painful, dry removal.. I feel like I am much more in touch with my cycle now from cleaning them after use. Tampons don't really allow you to "connect" with your period in the same way. I've turned a few friends into fans - you should try them!!

nikkishell said...

I use a Diva cup and cloth pads (i made my own). I found there's a particular way to insert the cup, it needs to be over the cervix and a bit of trial and error and i pretty much have it every time now. A cloth pad at the same time saves your undies from unexpected leaks.
I love that i only flush the contents of the cup and make no other waste. It's also cost effective to use a cup and cloth pads, i no longer have to spend a fortune on disposable, uncomfortable tampons and pads. BONUS!

nikkishell said...

Oh and Kerry, if you slightly squeeze the cup when you pull it out it should come out easily :)

Heidi and Seek said...

Melinda - Of course!
It's funny how the eco-friendly options are often the more convinient, cheaper, etc.

Kerry - That sounds a bit scary, but I'm sure once you get used to it it'll be easier. Was having a discussion with someone about how it's just a societal norm that we think some things are gross and taboo (eg cloth pads), and other's aren't (eg sex) but really who knows what's gross and what's not. Anyway..

R. - I'm glad you went with them, they're great right? I never really thought about contoured vs not contoured.. that's a good point.

Vicki - Thanks for the tip!

Rebecca - That's really interesting, I hadn't heard of the sponges. Thanks for the tip.

Nikki - Yep, I'm going to look forward to not having those libra boxes everywhere..
I've been using the Diva since I posted this and I think I've got it a bit better, so it's Diva and cloth for me, too.

Anonymous said...

Good post! In the UK we have Mooncups of which I am a HUGE fan. I no longer buy anything else, from the first moment I think my period is coming I use it and it is fabulous.
I also had a scary first time with them tho - the mooncup comes with a kind of 'tail' that when you're happy with how to use it you cut shorter or off completely. Me being me I decided I didn't need a namby pamby tail so cut it off straight away... Oops! My advice - If you are having problems with the removal aspect, engage the muscles that allow a 'number 2' (please tell me you guys across the pond know what that means?!?!) and it pushes it down.
Yay to no more tampons!

esrasez said...

I was excited to read this post as I've been using the diva cup exclusively for the last two years and am really happy with it. I was lucky that I got it to work pretty much straight away but I've heard that for others it can take a few cycles to get it perfect. Hang in there, it will work eventually. And there are heaps of other cup brands (lunette, keeper, mooncup etc.) so you might find that another brand will work better for you.

For heaps of menstrual cup reviews, information and support you can go here:

Heidi and Seek said...

Janie - Even after getting the hang of the Diva I'm still scared to cut the tail off! It's not that noticeable though so I think I'll leave it.. Glad you enjoyed the post!

Esra - Thanks for the link, I will check that out. I tried the Diva some more and think I have the hang of it. In any case I know I can leave tampons and store bought pads behind, which I'm very glad about.

jenni said...

I found your blog googlin' about ditching shampoo. Great stuff! Just wanted to put my two cents in about the Diva Cup post...I use The Keeper ( I LOVE it. I've used it since before I had my two children (over 8 years now...). Here are some tips: unless you're allergic, get the rubber one. It's softer and easier to fold and, well, use. Also, cut the stem off completely. It's less irritating that way. I just grab the thing by the bottom of the cup to remove. The only down side to the cup I've found is if you need to dump it in a public restroom, but since you can wear it so long, this has only been a problem once for me (but a problem it WAS). As far as the suction problem one commenter had, all you have to do is tip it a little when you're pulling it out. I recommend it to anyone I have a "products" conversation with. Sometimes I get weird looks, but I only have to deal with my period twice a day and haven't had to buy a product in years, so ha!

*frances said...

I looooooooove the Diva Cup.
I have only used it for one cycle but I got it in and out pretty easily and without any (major anyways) leakage. I think I still need to get the total hang of it but I'm super impressed. You have to like "push" it out to get it out, which is a little weird but it's not too bad at all.
Hope that wasn't too much information lol

owlrigh said...

Regarding keeping wingless pads in place; if you put a very small safety pin at the very top of your pad, just the one, with the pin on the outside, it keeps in there all right and doesn't shift around (or fall into the toilet when you need to go). I haven't had it come undone and stick me as yet!