Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Secret women's business.....

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

I thought I'd continue on from my last post on personal care (no shampoo) and talk about simple, green and frugal ways to take care of...... secret women's business (in this context, taking care of "that time of the month").

So what did I do to take care of my menstrual needs??

Okay, I know that this can be a touchy/squeamish issue for some, so be warned for too much information ahead!!!

I use reusable menstrual products - products I've been using for over three years now. Namely, I use cloth pads and the Diva Cup. Now there are a heap of websites out there talking about how to use cloth pads and the Diva Cup so I won't repeat too much (I've provided some links at the bottom of this post) and I'll just write about it from my own perspective and how it went for me.

Firstly - cloth pads....

I used to be a tampon person but I did use disposable pads for the first 3 days of my period (my period back then was 7-8 days). So it took me awhile to get sold on the idea of cloth pads. After all disposable pads would sometimes leak on me so surely the idea of cloth would mean its even more messy.

Well, after much thinking, I finally bought ONE (yep, only one) cloth pad. When I took it out of the package, my first thought was there was NO WAY this thin little pad would hold all of my menstrual blood. I used to change disposable pads every hour to hour and a half on the first day. The cloth pad was thinner than the "slim" pads that they have out there! Still, I tried it and surprise, surprise it held it all in! AND I didn't have to change as often - about every 2-3 hours.

Changing would involve me putting the pad straight into a wet bag (like the kind I had for my kids' cloth nappies) and putting another one on. Then when I got home that night, I would put it in a bucket and leave it there till next wash time (about a day later). My cloth pad washing routine was cold rinse cycle first, then warm-hot wash afterwards.

I know some people would say I should soak them first, but I am first and foremost pretty lazy. Besides, I found that the velour topped hemp pads didn't stain anyway. And for those pads that didn't have a velour liner, the stains came out in the sun.

The cloth pads were also way way more comfortable than disposable pads.

The Diva Cup...

Now as I said before, I was a tampon person and while I was enjoying the painless switch over to cloth pads, I still wanted to have the same flexibility as tampons. So after a bit of reading, I decided to buy a Diva Cup.

When I first got it out of the box my first thought was WOW, ITS HUGE!!! The Diva Cup is probably the size of a standard pub shot-glass. I thought there was no way this could be comfortable! So in typical avoidance fashion, I waited till another friend of mine tried it, then I asked her about it. She assured me that once in, you can't feel it at all and was very very comfortable. PLUS she told me she wore hers for 12 hours straight and no leaks.

Anyway, the 12 hours straight thing sold me and next period, I tried it. I folded up the cup as per instructions. It was a bit scary going in ("relax, relax, breathe in, if a baby can come out of there then this little cup CAN fit in") then once in, I squirmed a bit, moved around and.... yep couldn't feel a thing!! I had one of those moments where you feel like a little miracle has occurred... yes, really. I realised that because its so soft (the cup is made of silicone), its not like a tampon where you can feel it move inside you if you squirm enough.

That day, I wore it for only 6 hours - I wanted to see what it looked like! So in the shower, I took it out and saw that the cup was only 1/2 full..... oh and the cool thing about the cup is that its got measurements on side so you can see exactly how many mls of blood was caught! (okay, I find it very cool, but I am a bit weird like that.)

Taking it out was also a bit scary at first but again, once I learned how to relax, it got a lot easier.

I now wear my Diva Cup 12-14 hours straight with no problems or leaks.

Three and a bit years on...

Am loving my cloth pads and Diva Cup. I find that not having to change so often has made the whole time of the month a lot simpler. And here's something else.... my period is now a lot shorter! So there's no real study or evidence done to prove that going reusable means that your period will get shorter, but I'm attributing the use of less chemicals in my menstrual products for the reason why its now shorter. My period has gone from 7-8 days to now 3-4 days. Also, I no longer experience any cramps during that time of the month.

I feel good that I'm no longer contributing to landfill every month. PLUS, after an initial outlay of about $100 AUD (for 7 cloth pads and the Diva Cup), I am no longer having to buy menstrual products every month.

For those who want to read a bit more about cloth pads and menstrual cups, check out the following websites:

ETA: I just realised that I have talked about the Diva cup as if its the only menstrual cup out there. Its not - there are heaps of different brands - the Diva cup is the only one I've tried simply because that was the cup a friend bought first. For a really good read of the different types of menstrual cups out there, check out:

Thanks again everyone for responding so positively for this post.


Desiree said...

Thank you for your post!

This is no doubt something that many of us wonder about, but either don't dare to ask, or, have to hear about from several people to learn that this stuff really does do well. I have a friend who swears by cloth pads and the diva cup, but I thought, meh, she's just one person and her cycles are probably way lighter than mine. Mine are moderate, but to hear it come from someone else, especially someone who says their cycle was heavy and long, well then, that's the real test subject!! Again, thanks for sharing on such a hush-hush subject!!! :)

Amanda said...

Thanks for the post! I wish someone would of told me years ago about cloth pads and the diva cup.
They are all I use now and my periods are shorter and crampless.
As far as washing goes I just throw them in with my regular laundry and have no problems. I know that isn't the proper way but I'm lazy :)

badhuman said...

I haven't tried the Diva Cup yet, I'm right on the edge of going for it... But I did purchase a couple cloth pads on Etsy. I was concerned about leaking but also about feeling the moisture. I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable they were. The large overnight pad was a bit bulky but the regular pads are great.

KPiep said...

Amen! I switched to the Diva cup a year ago, and I've been a happy camper every since. The freedom of not having to worry about it for 12ish hours is amazing!

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

I'm a Diva Cup user as well. It was the price of tampons, their disposable nature, and the fact that they'd end up in our septic system that made the decision for me. I calculated an 8-month ROI for the Diva Cup compared with tampon usage.

I heard that DC is now only allowed to say their product lasts for a year. Something to do with medical liability. Needless to say, I've ignored that and have been using mine for a little over two years. I don't plan to replace mine.

Can't wait to see what the menfolk post in rebuttal as a hush-hush manly topic.

Tameson said...

I noticed lessened cramps too. Odd.

Mrs. Kelly said...

Great post!! Reminds us that we do have control of our own bodies, not the advertising idiots that want us to spend $$$ on crazy products with pretty pink packaging on a monthly basis!!

*grr!! smile** hopping off the box!!

Really. Smashing post. We all must be brave enough to talk about issues that may raise eye-brows!!


Rachel B said...

I am a cloth pad girl all the way. I have even made my own. This is definitely something that people are squeamish about! But YES I agree with the above poster - we are in control of our own bodies!

Annette said...

I have wondered about these and how to handle it while at work! Sounds like something I will need to try. Aside from not contributing to the land fill, I can almost see the $$ saved from not buying the products every month - well worth the initial investment! =)

Rebekka said...

I think I ate my comment... Oh, well. It was really long, I'll try to recap shorter, but I wanted to add a few things for people who might be considering it or are worried about wearing cloth pads at work or whatever:

- I'm a snap person, not a velcro person. Don't want scratchy velcro down there. I've noticed that the larger type plastic snaps are less comfy to wear when riding my bicycle (I don't have a car so this is a lot) than the smaller metal type snaps.

- I wash all our underwear at 60 C because of hygiene standards (I'm a nurse, so I can't help it) and I wash the pads at the same time. If I had kids, I'd do the diapers there, too.

- I'm not a fan of internal protection so I don't use a cup, I almost never used anything but pads before, either. The cup wouldn't be worth the money for me, and the 2-3 times a year where swimming actually coincides with my period I just use organic cotton tampons. The cloth pads are totally fine for exercising.

- I've got both lined and unlined pads (by which I mean a nylon or other sort of barrier layer inside). I've never had leakage problems with either of them. The unlined are coloured flannel with terry inserts that you can remove. The lined ones are unbleached organic flannel and are thinner, but I notice that they're warmer because of the barrier and if you're a yeasty person you might want to go with the unlined. (I use them at work because my nursing uniform is white and it would just be so uncool for the one time I had a leak for it to be at work, plus I don't want the bright purple wings with cats and pumpkins showing through my white trousers, do I?)

- I've noticed that the more you wash them, the more absorbent they get. And my period is also shorter by 1-2 days (it used to be 4-5, is now 3-4).

Anyway, I really recommend the switch!

Anja said...

I blogged about this, too at LOVE the Diva cup, and I don't experience cramps anymore, either. I also have a friend who said she didn't have cramps anymore after she started using a Diva cup. Quite the phenomenon--someone should do some research!

Melissa ~ Wife to 1, Mom to 5 said...

Diva cup is awesome! I wish I had gotten it years ago. My girls are going to grow up with these choices rather than the cost of all the disposables. Really, if you've been on the fence about the Diva, GET IT! You won't regret it!

Tracy said...

Thank you for sharing your experience! I truly believe I am allergic to menstrual pads & I can't use tampons. You have convinced me to try cloth pads!

mrsdirtyboots said...

Great post.

I've only had my mooncup for 4 months but already its saved me money. I feel much better knowing I'm not sending tampons to landfill along with the zillion bits of plastic they're packed in!

Wish I'd changed years ago!

alazyknitter said...

I'm a Diva Cup user too... love it! I'm not sure if anyone else mentioned it, but when you soak your cloth pads, you can pour the soak water on your plants or in your garden - makes your plants really happy!

Chiot's Run said...

I've been thinking about taking the plunge and going for the Diva cup, but I too am nervous.

Maybe I'll give it a shot!

Rosa said...

My first Keeper lasted 8 years before the latex got weak, for what that's worth. I have a Diva now too, but I like the narrower shape of the Keeper better.

Another benefit of a menstrual cup is for hiking/camping - it's a lot lighter & less gross to pack out than pads of any sort, and cloth pads are nicer to pack out than disposables if you rinse them out & dry them.

Willo said...

I have cloth pads and a Diva Cup. I love both and wish more women would give it a shot!

dND said...

Another Diva cup fan here. I too wish I knew about it earlier. It meant going from changing maxi-size tampon every hour to emptying every 4 hours. I could live again - I could leave the house on a 'heavy' day.

I also noticed less cramps, to the point where I would forget I was having a period.

sewfunky said...

I haven't used a diva cup... but I do use cloth pads and I find them so much better than the plasticy supermarket ones. They're just more comfortable to wear.

Corinne said...

I have been using the Diva Cup for almost a year now and I love it. I am so glad that you posted about it so that many others can benefit from it, too.

Eva said...

Thank you so much for this post!I've been 'on the fence' for about two now... maybe it's time.

Rest is not idleness said...

Great post, I have been using a Keeper cup for over a year now, I wish I had got one years ago. Like you I thought, omg that's huge, but once you fold it, (I use the 7 shape fold) it fits no worries, and is very comfortable.
Trying to get my sisters and nieces to start using them.
I think that the tampon and pad manufacturers don't want women to use these cups and re-usable pads as then they miss out on all the revenue, so therefore you don't read or hear much about alternatives.
take care

Mindy said...

Once upon a time I used to think Senior Day at the grocery was such a wonderful thing! Now I know the truth...old age and menopause, how do I love thee???

In truth, I am humbled by your efforts to save this world of ours. And I'm proud of you!

Cheap Like Me said...

It's great to get the word out on this subject. I have a detailed TMI post about the Diva Cup on my blog, and believe me, the ladies are starving for information! I have heavier cycles and have had great success with the Diva Cup. It was a rough first couple of months, but the last 8 or so have been great.

Bel said...

Thank you for this post, Eilleen. Posts about alternatives for menstruation are always well-received.

I did a guest post on Rhonda's blog awhile back about the same topic:

Thanks again! x

Kez said...

I'm another cloth pad girl and love them. I did switch back to disposables when we went on holidays as it was 'easier', but they were so uncomfortable compared to the cloth. My period is also shorter - weird huh?!

Rebekka said...

I'm a different Rebekka from the Rebekka above, but how cool, we spell our name the same way!

I've made my own reusable pads, from scraps of flannel, corduroy and towelling (left over from making PJs etc). I don't use nylon or anything, and nothing's removable - and I've never had a leak.

I soak them in a bucket of cold water with a little salt before throwing them in the wash with towels etc.

Basically I made a pattern by tracing a normal pad with wings, cutting it out, and pinning it to the flannel/towelling/corduroy. I cut out one full pattern of each of those, plus one extra towelling strip and two flannel ones for in the middle. I sew two straight lines down the extra middle bits then zig-zag around the edges. Pin the layers together, corduroy at the bottom, then towelling (old nappies work well), then the extra middle bit, then the top flannel layer. Sew a couple of straight lines down the middle, then zig-zag around the edges (I go round twice for extra strength).

Then I sew on a small metal snap to join the wings, and it's done. I also don't like velcro - I tried velcro once and it was *very* uncomfortable.

Lana said...

Thanks for the awesome post! I am with you all the way, though it has only been just over a year for me :) My period has gotten longer (6 days to 9-14 days) but is so much lighter, and very little cramping, so no drugs any more!!

In this heat I am so thankful for the cloth pads as they breathe so much better than the disposables :D And I love love LOVE that I don't leak overnight with the Diva!

Eilleen said...

Thank you all for such positive responses. I have to admit, after I hit the submit button for this post, I was very tempted to delete it 'cause I thought I might think it was an inappropriate subject to bring up.

I know that when I was younger, the thought of reusable menstrual products would have sent me running for the hills... I wouldn't have been bothered to educate myself better.

Thank goodness, there are so many of you who are much more open minded!!

Mrs Kelly - YES!! Its very empowering isn't it to suddenly no longer *need* to buy disposable items to take care of our bodies.

I'm also glad that so many of you have blogged about it too. I would like to think that re-usable menstrual products would one day be regarded as a norm. Perhaps getting the word out is one step towards that direction.

Thank you again for such positive responses.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this post. I have learned a lot from it and I am going to do a little seaching on the internet to find the products.

Thank you again


Threads of Light said...

Thank you for this post! Titling it Secret Women's Business was great, prepares those (like my daughters; sigh) who aren't ready to read about this type of thing. I've been disposable free in this area since October 2008, and am loving it! Got some great ideas from your post and from the comments others have left. Thanks again!

nikkishell said...

I'm a diva cup and cloth pad girl too! I wrote about it over on Sew Green and there's even a pattern on there i made up for you to make your own cloth pads.
Please feel free to share it with your readers her on the blog. :)

Paulalee said...

I switched over a year ago to cloth pads. This was probly already mentioned, but rather than spending so much money on them , why not make them! You can find patterns all over the web, they are super easy, Im not the best sewer, but mine have lasted a year so far. Thanks for all the great info, I might have to try the diva cup now!

Kath said...

Hehe! Love you description about what went through your mind when you got your Diva cup! I got my first one about 3 weeks ago and thought exactly the same thing - it looks HUGE! I'll be trying it in a day or two for the first time so your account was very timely. I am glad to hear that you had a good experience with it.

I can't belive I never knew about Diva cups until now. I must have been moving in teh wrong circles, but it is such an amazingly good idea that I can't believe more peopl edon't use them. Why don't they sell them alongside tampons and pads in supermarkets???

Riana Lagarde said...

it's great that more people are posting about this. i use sea sponges, like the ones in operation rooms. after 2 years, i'll never go back and you can use them 12-14 hours too. i did a post about 15 months ago but i'll think i'll bring it up again with diva cups and cloth pads as alternatives too.

rhonda jean said...

Eileen, thank you for writing this. It's nothing to be ashamed of or hidden - it's part of our human psychology.

And being post-menopausal, like Mindy, I agree with her every word:
Mindy said...

"Once upon a time I used to think Senior Day at the grocery was such a wonderful thing! Now I know the truth...old age and menopause, how do I love thee???

In truth, I am humbled by your efforts to save this world of ours. And I'm proud of you!"

Great work, Eileen.

Dani said...

Here here! It's many a year since I've bought disposable pads or tampons and I love it! I love the savings, I love the environmental impact, the lack of cramping, the shorter, lighter periods, the ease of use. What is not to love?

One thing to add to this to new diva cup users is to give yourself a couple of cycles to work it out. I found by the third cycle, I had mastered the whole insertion routine but it did take me a short adjustment time. No problem, I just backed up with cloth pads.

Gina said...

The Diva Cup totally changed my relationship with my period. Lessened cramp severity & the feeling of security (NEVER had any leaks) made me feel so much more confident to go about my day without worrying about how close I was to a bathroom.

It took me some time to work up the courage to use it, the "ick" factor loomed large in my mind, but it turned out to be surprisingly mess-free! I would recommend it to anyone desiring a change from being chained to the never-ending cycle of buying disposable lady products.

Anonymous said...

I've got a Lunette cup (from Finland) which I LOVE. Had it for about 6 months now. The only issue I had at first was that the 'stem' part was too long, and I had to cut off a couple of notches so I wouldn't feel it. Now it's perfect. I've been telling all my friends and whilst most think I'm just crazed, a couple are actually considering trying it!

Liz said...

I switched over to full-time cloth about six months ago. I decided to treat myself and bought a few commercially made ones each cycle until I had a full stash.

My 11yo daughter is approaching her menarche, so we're building her up a stash too. I think it's a beautiful way for her to be anticipating her first bleed: my mother never discussed menstruation with me at all so I never got to ask all the questions I had or share anything with her about it. I can't imagine bonding over a packet of disposable pads!

Daffy said...

Thanks for this post :) And I know it was a couple of months ago, but I had to comment anyway!

I bought a Keeper reusable cup a few years ago, which I loved and used for at least a couple of years, with no problems.

I went back to tampons though, as I had a copper IUD fitted, and read in a few places you shouldn't use the Keeper with an IUD because of the risk of the IUD threads getting caught and being pulled out (ouch!). And since both my Mum and sister have IUDs fall out, I decided it wasn't worth the risk...

I've always been put off cloth pads because of the cost (ridiculous, I know), and for some reason it never dawned on me to make my own.

Last week I had a go, using a pattern link from Bel's post on Rhonda's blog (I think) and making a few bits up. Mine have inserts, and I've found for the first couple of days I can just wear the outer pads without the inner ones.

I've just done my first period with them - and I love them! They cost me nothing (used old scraps of material), I throw nothing away (except the rinse water - I guess I should be putting this on the plants...), and they're such good colours! I'm a complete convert :)

Lynnette said...

Isn't it great when a post is useful to someone after a year of posting it?! Thank you for sharing your experience with the Diva Cup and cloth pads. I have been trying to decide what to do and your post has helped so much. Thank you.