This blog post is for those of us humans who menstruate. If you've been on the fence about whether or not to make the switch to reusable menstrual cups and/or pads, we're about to get into the nitty gritty! Hopefully this blog post can provide a little insight.
A Brief History of Plastic Use in tampons & pads
As you are probably well aware, most tampons and pads come with tons of plastic packaging! But it wasn't always this way. Reusable pads (aka cloths) were a thing long before it was cool - they just weren't the sleek, cute ones we have today. When tampons were first invented, they didn't have any plastic - just your basic wad of cotton and a string!
However, as tampons started gaining more popularity in the early 20th century, many doctors and members of the public just didn't like the idea of women - especially young women - coming into contact with their genitals while inserting and removing their tampons (source). Thus, the applicator was born.
Now, tampons and pads are all about convenience, discretion, and disposability. There is plastic in the packaging, the applicator, and even within the fibers of the tampons and pads themselves.
While some of these plastic additions came about to provide a more comfortable experience for women themselves - such as wings on a pad that help to keep it in place - most of the so-called "improvements" to menstrual products were developed in order to help hide this monthly "problem" and to keep others from knowing that a woman is on her period.
Let's do away with the shame & stigma around menstruation
In Ancient Greece, period blood was seen as something "unhealthy" and "impure" - an excess fluid that needed to be expelled from the body in order to bring it back into balance. Unfortunately, this is an attitude that persisted for centuries.
By the mid-1800's in the United States, menstrual blood was seen as something dirty and shameful (source). As time went on, it became more of a problem that just needed to be dealt with, as discretely and quietly as possible in order to not disrupt the modern workday, thus all of these plastic contraptions that we have today.
Fortunately, we are seeing attitudes around menstruation changing today. Some menstruators even choose to bleed freely whenever their time of the month comes around - doing away with the stigma that surrounds menstruation. The menstrual cycle is no longer seen as something to hide, or ignore, but rather something amazing and beautiful that we should try to be more in-tune with.
Many who are more environmentally and health conscious, or just trying to be more in-tune with our bodies and menstrual cycles, want to choose products which honor our bodies and the earth that we live on. That's where reusable menstrual products come in.
How much waste is created from single-use menstrual products?
Over 5.8 billion tampons were purchased in the United States in 2018 alone. It is estimated that a single menstruator will use somewhere between 5 and 15 thousand single-use tampons and pads over their lifetime (source). With about half of the earth's population being menstruators, the potential amount of waste amassed over time is staggering (granted, not every country uses the same menstrual products as the U.S.).
Another unfortunate fact about plastics from period products is that they cannot be recycled due to health concerns. So they're sticking around for a while.
Why use menstrual cups & reusable pads?
Besides benefiting the planet by majorly reducing your plastic waste, switching to a menstrual cup and/or reusable pads also benefits your health, and your wallet!
Recent testing has shown that carbon disulfide is found in all well-known tampon brands that contain rayon. This is a known reproductive toxin that many menstruators are (unknowingly) putting into their bodies each month. By using a reusable alternative, you no longer have to worry about what potential toxins or carcinogens could be in your menstrual products.
By using a reusable alternative, you also avoid plastics, fragrances, adhesives and other synthetic ingredients which can be irritating to this most sensitive area of your body. Plus, when it comes to menstrual cups you can usually wear them for longer - up to 12 hours, depending one your flow - while tampons generally need to be changed every 4-6 hours or so.
Not to mention that cloth pads and reusable menstrual cups will last you for countless years to come, saving you money in the long-term, and saving you monthly trips to the store!
Tips for use & things you should know
How to insert and use a reusable menstrual cup:
Mahina Cup has an amazingly helpful and simple guide here if you're new to menstrual cups. Our big tip is to remember that it may take some time to getting used to when you first make the switch, just be patient and kind with yourself as you adjust to the change.
When menstrual cups are inserted properly, it should be comfortable and you shouldn't really feel it at all. You may experience discomfort if your cup is inserted improperly, just take it out and try again. But if you experience pain inserting or wearing your menstrual cup, please talk to your OBGYN because there is a chance it may just not be right for you. And that is perfectly okay! You have to do what's best for you and your body.
Keep in mind that menstrual cups can come in different sizes, too! Mahina Cup has a handy size guide on their website to help you determine which is the best one for you.
Potential downsides + solutions:
If you're worried about having to clean your menstrual cup in a public restroom because you're out and about or at work all day - an easy solution is just to keep a backup menstrual cup! You can simply place the dirty one in a bag for when you can clean it at home later. It's much better to have two menstrual cups, than buy a box of tampons each month! Alternatively, you can bring your water bottle in the restroom with you and use that water to clean your menstrual cup.
It may be a little more difficult to insert the menstrual cup if your flow is really light. If you have a light period and have a hard time getting the menstrual cup in, you can try wetting it with some water to help it slide into place more comfortably.
With a properly inserted menstrual cup, you don't have to worry about any leaks while being active, working out, or even when you're working on your yoga inversions!
How to use a reusable cloth pad:
Just like disposable pads, cloth pads are designed to absorb your flow. They come in multiple sizes which you can choose from depending on your flow, and they simply snap around your underwear to stay in place - so handy!
The absorbency is similar to disposable pads, so you’ll change cloth pads every few hours as needed. Then you simply machine wash and dry and reuse over and over again. We carry and love GladRags cloth pads - they’re made of 100% cotton fabric, no plastic or other synthetics required, and will last for years. They have even had customers report using the same pads since the 1990's!
We hope you've found this article informative and useful! If you have any more questions about reusable period products, please feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, or come visit our store and any of our store associates are more than happy to help!
Shop the Mahina Menstrual Cup here.