Going Green: Sustainable Feminine Hygiene Products
FORWARD: This post is personal to my monthly cycle and the products I currently use/have used in the past. You may think it is TMI, so don’t read it if you don’t want the TMI details.
Shortly after I began my zero waste journey, I started to wonder about the feminine hygiene products I was using. I was using Tampax tampons pretty exclusively. Each tampon is wrapped in a plastic wrapper and has a plastic applicator. I used these for several years and it worked really well for me! They come in a multi-pack of different sizes to meet the needs of my cycle (some days are very light and some are heavy). I thought about switching to a tampon with a cardboard applicator, but I started to wonder if the cotton in the tampon was bad too. I learned that they bleach the cotton and that cotton is often GMO. I could set aside the GMO thing. It’s not a super big deal to me at this time, but bleach? That just doesn’t seem healthy for a product that goes inside of me. I discovered that organic tampons exist (the cotton is organic), they’re just more expensive and still have a plastic applicator which left me at square one.
Personally, I’ve never really liked using pads. They are too bulky and uncomfortable for me. I knew that diapers literally never degrade, so then I started to think...do pads degrade? They’ve got to be pretty similar to diapers since they absorb liquid, right? Even if they do degrade, they’re wrapped in plastic, which is what I’m trying to avoid.
So tampons and pads are both bad in my opinion, so what other options are out there? Is there something reusable? Cloth pads are an option but I already hate wearing bulky pads so that wasn’t something I wanted to do. At the time, I was a dance teacher and I wore leggings to work, so bulk is not something I wanted to deal with.
Thankfully there’s a better option! The menstrual cup. It is an amazing invention and one of the best switches I’ve made in my sustainable living journey. It’s a silicone cup that you insert into your vagina and it collects the blood and everything else your uterus is discarding throughout your cycle! To get it in, you simply fold it to insert and once it’s inside, it will unfold and suction to your body. There are tiny holes on the top that help with the suction, which is important so it won’t leak. If your cup is leaking, it may not be suctioned to your body all the way. There are various folding techniques you can use but I just fold it in half. Your menstrual cup should come with instructions that will show you how to fold it. It also has a little handle on the bottom so you can easily pull it out.
When I empty my cup, I simply dump it into the toilet and then wash it out in the sink before reinserting it. The cup holds 1 ounce and if you have a normal cycle, you shouldn’t need to dump it very often each day. On my heavy days, I probably dump it 3 or 4 times. On the average and light days, I usually dump it out only once or twice. I often wash it with soap and water at the end of the day while I’m showering. Once my cycle ends, I boil the cup in water to sterilize it. Then I store it in the bag it came in.
The menstrual cup has made my life so much easier. I can’t feel it at all while I’m wearing it, so it’s very comfortable. Definitely better than tampons or pads, both of which become uncomfortable after a while.
As far as I understand, there is still a risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome) with menstrual cups. TSS is caused by a bacterial infection, so if you’re washing and sterilizing your cup regularly, I think you will be fine. TSS is very rare regardless, so just be hygienic with whatever product you decide to use.
Here are a few other pros to the cup:
-It’s reusable FOREVER as long as you take care of it (i.e. wash it and sterilize it).
-There’s no weird chemicals, GMOs, or cotton pesticides in my vagina.
-I don’t have to worry about running out of tampons or pads because I can just reuse it after it’s full.
-It’s cheap! I bought mine for $15 off Amazon and have been using it for 5 years now. Stop being upset about politicians charging taxes on products we NEED and circumvent them by using a reusable product.
-It’s better for the environment!
To be fair, here are a few cons:
-You will get blood on your hands. There’s just no way around this.
-If you aren’t near a sink, it’s a little inconvenient. You don’t HAVE to wash it before reinserting it, but I prefer to.
-You may have to get a different cup after childbirth. BUT, I didn’t have to. It totally depends on your body so you may be fine using the same one, like me.
There you have it! Menstrual cups are awesome, in my opinion! If you have any questions, don't be shy, ask me!