Feminine hygiene products make up quite a bit of my inorganic, non-recyclable waste, and I’m sure that many women can relate. Why are the products non-recyclable? Regardless of what the products are made of, anything that has bodily fluids all over it can’t be recycled. This includes things like tissues and Q-tips as well. Using organic cotton or bamboo pads is better health wise because they don’t contain as many harsh chemicals as other disposable pads, but doesn’t make much of a difference to the environment.
So, what to do? At the moment, there are two alternatives to disposable feminine hygiene products. My initial reaction upon hearing about both of these was pretty much “Eeeewwww”, but I strongly suggest that you keep an open mind and do a lot of reading about both of them. This week I’ll be discussing menstrual cups, and next week I’ll be writing about reusable cloth pads.
I first heard about menstrual cups two years ago and immediately thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. I mean, those things are big. And it sounded incredibly messy and unhygienic. But then I started thinking about the hygiene factor in disposable pads and began to get kind of grossed out, and tampons have never been on my list of options because of the risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome) that comes with wearing them. And I started thinking about how much money I spend a month on pads and panty liners, and the fact that all of that goes into a landfill at the end of the week.
So in November, after doing a ton of research on them, I decided to go for it and I ordered one from MeLuna. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, and once I do, I’ll post my thoughts. For now, here is a list of some of the benefits of using a menstrual cup instead of pads or panty liners.
- First of all, apparently you can’t feel it at all once it’s inserted and you forget that you’re wearing it.
- Second, there is apparently zero leakage, apart from the adjustment period where you could be putting it in wrong, or if there is residual blood in your vaginal canal when you take it out and reinsert it. But this would just be light spotting, if anything.
- Third, it works even for women who have a heavy flow: you may have to empty it more often than every 6-10 hours, but a lot of women say they’re surprised by how much blood the cups can actually hold.
- Fourth, if you don’t wear it for longer than 8 hours before emptying it and you’ve put it in correctly, there is little to no mess when you take it out.
- Fifth, they can last for 5-10 years. Yes, you read that right. 5-10 years. Imagine not having to buy pads or tampons for the next 5-10 years.
- And finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are no harsh chemicals in it unlike in disposable pads and tampons, there is no risk of TSS, and if you clean it properly there is pretty much no risk of any kind of infection from using it. Health wise, it’s difficult to find a better option that a menstrual cup.
If you’re nervous to try it because you can’t even use tampons and/or because you’re a virgin, don’t worry, I had the same concern. I could never use tampons even before I decided not to because of TSS…inserting them was the most uncomfortable feeling ever. But lots of women who have not have their vaginal canal stretched by tampon use or because of sexual intercourse say they are able to use menstrual cups quite easily. Many teenagers who are just starting their periods use them too, so it should be fine for almost anyone.
There are 3 brands available in South Africa: MPower and My Own Cup (which are South African brands) and Mooncup (UK). You can find Mooncup at The Good Stuff at Cavendish Square in Cape Town (lower ground level close to the Woolworths cafe entrance), and these other places in South Africa. Here is MPower’s website, and you can find My Own Cup at Wellness Warehouse or Faithful to Nature.
I’m not going with any of these (for reasons I might go into in the future, but not right now), so I will be using a cup by MeLuna. They have a ton of sizing options, their customer service is excellent, they are the most affordable cup on the market that is still excellent quality, and even with shipping to South Africa they are cheaper than the Mooncup. You don’t have to pay customs because they send it as a registered letter. Mine took about a month to arrive and that was over Christmastime, so I’m sure it will be even quicker at a different time in the year.
Whatever company you decide to go with, I suggest that you contact them for sizing advice, especially if you’re completely new to all of this.
To learn more about these alternatives, I highly recommend the Precious Stars Pads YouTube channel, as she covers both alternatives (cloth pads and menstrual cups) thoroughly as well as comparisons between different brands of menstrual cups. She also has tips if you’re struggling to insert the menstrual cup or having other issues with them, most of which are rare and easily resolvable.
It’s difficult to write a short and snappy post about these things, but I hope this was helpful! Please do consider doing your own research, watching videos on them, and researching the different available brands before making your decision.
Until next week!
-GreenGirlZA, aka Veronique