Reusable Menstrual Products: Why You Should Switch To Using Them

Depicted: Menstrual Cups & A Disc. Photo from PeriodNivana.com

It’s time to talk about something uncomfortable… period products. For some reason, there’s this huge cultural stigma against periods. They’re gross, the worst thing ever, you never discuss them. If we’re being honest here, I kinda hate that. Periods are a natural occurrence for roughly half the world’s population. They mean your body is working properly. Why should we, as a culture, hate and ignore them?
Anyone who has talked to me in the past year and a half has probably gotten my spiel on reusable menstrual products. See, a negative side effect of having that period stigma is that no one actually knows much about period alternatives because it’s just something we never talk about. I want to change that. Most people think there are just two options for periods: pads or tampons. That’s wrong. There’s a whole other world of period products out there, and odds are many of those products are going to work better than a pad or tampon ever will.
There are SO MANY pros to switching to reusable menstrual products that I will cover here. I switched over a year and a half ago and I am never going back. Let me just say this upfront: my main experience that I am speaking from is from using a menstrual cup- and I couldn’t recommend menstrual cups more. However, I do also have a dabble of experience with both menstrual discs as well as period underwear. I will discuss all of my thoughts on these products later in this post.
This is going to sound cliche, but I can’t help it: it’s true. Switching to a menstrual cup was a life changing experience for me. It completely changed the way I felt about and saw my period. So before any of you ask: No, I am not sponsored. I’m just passionate about reusable products, and think that there’s not enough knowledge out there about them. I want to spread the word and get other people in on these. I want other people to also have their lives changed by menstrual products. I promise that making the decision to switch is not one you’re going to regret.
For those of you wondering about ages: there are no age minimums or maximums on reusable products. Someone experiencing their period for the first time is actually able to use a cup- many brands even make “teen cups” just for that purpose. But then again, just because you’re physically able to do something doesn’t mean you want to or are comfortable. There are less “hands on” options, such as period underwear and reusable pads. I think people just starting their periods should be using what they’re most comfortable with- even if that means pads/tampons- I just thought I’d put it out there that there are reusable options. I, for sure, would’ve loved to know about some of these products even when I was first starting my period.
Now, here are some reasons you should switch the reusable menstrual products

1. It Will Save You Money

On average, a period can last from 3–7 days, and most people will menstruate from around ages 13–51. This means most people who menstruate will go through around 456 total periods/2,280 days of periods- which comes out to around 6.25 years of one’s life. That’s a lot of time, and if you’re using single use products On average, a lifetime of spending on solely tampons costs almost $1800, and that’s not including the extra costs of pads, medicine and new underwear to replace ruined pairs. Those who suffer from particularly heavy flows end up spending even more ( Sources).
Let’s compare that to my favorite reusable menstrual product: the menstrual cup. If properly taken care of a menstrual cup can last up to 10 years. On average, reliable brand menstrual cups cost between $25–40. While yes, up front that can seem like a pricey investment, believe me when I say it’s worth it. (Lots of brands offer plenty of coupons and deals as well). On average, menstruators will spend up to $60 a year on tampons ( source). One cup for 10 years will average out to $3–4 a year vs. $60. Comparing those prices it seems pretty simple which one is the cheaper, more cost efficient alternative.

2. It Will Save The Environment

Single-use products also contribute to plastic waste. Think about the amount of plastic that goes just into the packaging, if not in the product itself. It’s a lot. Solely the United States contributes around 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons to waste annually ( source). Again, that’s a lot of plastic & waste going into the environment and that’s not including the environmental cost of production of these products as well. To quickly sum all of it up:
Why do reusable products save the environment? Simply put, less of them have to be made, and less of them are thrown into waste. They’re reusable, after all. If treated properly, you only need about 4 menstrual cups for your entire life, that’s a very small amount of waste created compared to thousands of pads and tampons.

3. Comfort

Honestly, I understand the period dread coming from when I used pads and tampons. Tampons can be uncomfortable and leak, and they have to be changed so often. Pads? Well, pads aren’t as invasive as tampons but sitting down on a wet pad? Yeah. Not comfortable. At. All.
Reusable menstrual products-especially cups & discs- can change that! When you find the cup/disc that’s right for you, you can’t even feel it. I honestly will sometimes forget I’m on my period or that my cup is even in, that’s how invisible and comfortable these products can be when you find the right fit.
Also, this is a little more explicit but anyone who has ever pulled out a tampon dry knows it hurts terribly. That always makes one question whether they should even risk using a tampon right before their period is supposed to start or towards the latter day of the period. It’s hurts that much because tampons absorb everything. Meanwhile, with cups and discs, they simply sit in the vaginal canal (or fornix) and collect. So pulling a cup/disc out isn’t extra painful on any given day as they are not absorbing any natural moisture. This means that you can stick your cup/disc in when your period is supposed to start and on your period’s later days without worrying about the pain of removal.

4. Timing

Every person has a different timing on when they switch out their period products. Generally, tampons are advised to be switched out every 4–6 hours. While pads are a little more open ended as to when you need to switch them, you probably want to switch them a fair amount, especially if you have a heavy flow.
Cups/Discs on the other hand only need to be switched around every 12 hours. That’s right, 12 hours. No more multiple trips to the bathroom while covertly holding your tampon/pad behind your back or up your sleeve. You really only need to change the cup/disc when you get up in the morning & when you go to sleep at night. No more awkwardly trying to change your product in public restrooms either. Hurrah.
Again, with cups/discs the timing varies person to person. People with a heavier flow may need to change theirs more often as the cup/disc will leak if full. (Though, I should mention now that there are high capacity cups/discs available). Meanwhile, people with a lighter flow may find that they don’t even need to change it that religiously. I’ve been guilty of waiting longer than 12 hours to change my cup (though this isn’t advised by the companies).

4.1 Safety

On the topic of timing, I think it’s important to also mention that insertable reusables are actually safer than tampons. While tampons are at high risk of toxic shock syndrome, cups/discs run a very low risk of it. This is why you can leave the cup/disc in much longer than you can for a tampon. The one case I’ve ever heard of about someone getting TSS with a cup was from a girl who left it in for 2 months. Which, well, just don’t do that, okay?

5. Wide Variety to Choose From — There is a Perfect Product for You

A common myth around reusables, especially cups, are that there are very few of them to choose from. Many people I know thought there were only two kinds of cup: The Diva Cup 1 or The Diva Cup 2. No. There are hundreds of different brands and varieties out there. If the Diva Cup works for you, great, but don’t be worried if it doesn’t or doesn’t look like it would. There are plenty more shapes and sizes and types out there. They make different cups for virtually everything: heavy flows, light flows, high cervixes, short cervixes, bell shaped, bullet shaped, (insert here)-shaped, softer cups, stiffer cups etc. Everyone’s body is different, so it would make sense that there’s no one size/shape fits all. All you have to do is a little extra digging to find a product that works right for your needs. If you’re interested at all in menstrual discs & cups I would highly recommend trying this recommendation quiz. It asks things about your period, lifestyle etc. to recommend what might be the best fit for you to try.
I was also under the misconception about cups, so when I tried the Diva Cup and it DID NOT work for me, I thought that was it for me and menstrual cups. Skip to me procrastinating writing an essay a few months later, I stumbled upon an article on menstrual cups. Then I took a similar quiz, and picked a cup based on the recommendations. Guess what? That was the perfect cup for me, and unlike the Diva, it worked. That being said, I can’t guarantee that your first cup will be a success, some people go through a couple cups before they find their “goldilocks” cup. You’ll know it’s your goldilocks when it’s comfortable and has no leaks. That’s right, if you have the right cup it will not leak. Unlike the tampon, where you just shoot it up and hope for the best, the cup sits in a specific position, and if it fits right, it will create a seal that ensures you have 0 leaks and therefore never have to worry about ruining underwear again.
If cups aren’t working for you or you just really don’t want to use a cup, don’t worry! There are plenty of other reusables out there. As mentioned before, there are discs or period underwear. Reusable pads are also an option. There are a lot of other reusable products out there such as sponges, interlabial pads etc. out there, but seeing as I don’t actually know much about them I’ll leave that research up to you.

6. Great Customer Service

Most good menstrual product brands have phenomenal customer service. I’ve only had personal interaction with one brand, but I’ve heard most other reputable brands also have similar services. Most menstrual cup companies will offer you a full refund on your cup if it doesn’t work for you. They just ask that you actually try to use it for 3 cycles first. Not only that, but if the size/firmness of the first cup you ordered is wrong, many brands will send you another cup for free. That’s how much they believe in their products and are invested in their customer’s satisfaction. Of course, I also can’t guarantee this treatment from every brand so definitely look into the company’s policy before ordering.
Many of these companies also have “help” lines, meaning you can shoot them a chat or an email in real time. So yes, if you’re sitting on the toilet and have a question, you can shoot them a chat and they’ll try to respond as fast as possible.
My favorite menstrual company is Saalt. I have basically every product from this brand, and I love them. I love how environmentally conscious and useful they are (I believe a percentage of every purchase goes towards not just sending products to people in need, but also towards providing education). Their products are also top tier. I’ve also had a great customer service interaction with them. My first cup was a defect, which I discovered in early spring 2020- right at the beginning of when everything was going terrible with COVID. I contacted Saalt through their customer service email, and they got back to me within the next day. They immediately sent me another cup for free, no questions asked. I love that. A friend of mine had the situation where she had the wrong firmness and size cup from Saalt, and they sent her a new cup for free as well. Those are just two personal experiences on how amazing these company’s customer services are.

Some Things to Take Into Consideration

While most of this post has been praising and glorifying reusables (namely cups), I should mention there are some potential “cons” you might want to consider. I want to put all the facts out there. Probably the biggest thing to think about when deciding whether or not to switch to a cup is that fact that it’s very hands on. You have to be willing to put the cup in and get it out. To be fair, once you get this right it’s a very simple process that takes less than a minute and is mess free. But if you’re not comfortable with the idea of putting a cup in and taking it out, it may not be the best option to switch to. (Reusables are still an option though! Period underwear & reusable pads)
I also need to say this loud and clear, just like any new product there is a learning curve to using menstrual cups/discs. Unless you are extremely lucky or skilled, you are probably not going to get the cup to work perfectly the first time. There are going to be leaks and tweaks to your techniques to get it right. How long that takes really depends on you. I have friends who only took a couple tries to get it right, whereas for me it took a few cycles to finally get a perfect leak free period. Yes, several cycles. But I stuck with it, and now I love cups enough to be making a public post about them. While first learning to use a cup, I would recommend having a backup just for those little leaks, whether that be reusable pads, normal pads, or period panties is up to you, but definitely don’t assume it will go perfectly the first time.
Yes, reusable products will save you money in the long run, but the initial cost is pretty steep. That means if you don’t get lucky and your first cup doesn’t work for you, then you might be spending quite a bit to find the right cup for you. I can’t guarantee that the quiz will give you the perfect cup, and yes the first cup you get may not work for you. Even if it doesn’t, I would encourage you to keep looking. Why? Because like I mentioned earlier, a lot of companies will work with you, at least for cups. They’re willing to send you different sizes & firmnesses, and if the cup still doesn’t work for you, many will offer a refund. There are also selling sites out there where you can sell your products just to get some money back. While this may sound gross, if the cup is boiled for the right amount of time it is completely sanitized. If you’re okay with that, you can even look for cups/discs on these sites, but if you’re not, you can always just sell your own.

Products That I Have Used

I’ve decided that I won’t spend too much time on this post about this. Why? Since this post is so long I’ve decided that I’ll make at least one more post about cups/discs/period underwear to describe exactly what they are and how to find the right fit for you. As soon as I write and upload that, I will add the link to this post as well. But I’ll add some links at the bottom of this post as well to some useful resources if you want to jump right into looking for reusable products (which hopefully you do after reading this post!)
But as for products I have used, as mentioned above, I’m a huge Saalt fan. I have used the Saalt cup small, the Saalt soft cup small, and Saalt wear (period underwear). I love every product I’ve gotten from Saalt. You may be wondering why I have two firmnesses for the Saalt cup. Well, for one I wanted to be able to try both so I can, in good conscious, recommend both, I also find on different days of my period it’s useful to use a different cup. I know some people who use different cups for different days of their period, whether it be for capacity or firm/softness. That doesn’t have to be the case, though; a lot of people are fine with just one cup.
Side comment: Saalt cups are also pretty universally recommended as a good beginner cup as they are pretty neutral and average for a cup.
Both cups are the perfect fit for me (which makes sense, since they’re the same shape, just different firmnesses. I’ll make another post about the pros/cons of different firmnesses). The Saalt Wear is my first (and only) experience with period underwear, and I absolutely love it. It’s made out of recycled plastic, for starters. Somehow, incredibly, the Saalt Wear is even more comfortable than my normal underwear? I kinda wish I could wear it every day (I mean I could…). It’s light and stylish- does not at all feel like you’re wearing anything remotely diaper-like, and its gusset design makes it absorb quickly but also feel dry. You don’t feel like you’re sitting in your own blood like with pads, and it also doesn’t feel bulky. If you’re looking for a reliable period underwear, I couldn’t recommend it more.
I have also used the Lena Cup. It’s similar to the Saalt, but I prefer the Saalt in comparison to the Lena because I prefer the stem on the Saalt. Though, I have heard Lena has similar customer service. As mentioned before I’ve tried the Diva Cup and it didn’t go well for me.
I’ve tried using the Nixit Disc once. It didn’t go well the first time, but I’m planning on trying again. I am also planning on trying the Lumma Unique Discs, so I will make a post and definitive statement about discs once I’ve tried them out more.

Conclusion

Anyway, I hope that this post has at least made you take reusable products into serious consideration, or even convinced you to switch. If you have any questions feel free to contact me in the help section! I’m always open to helping and answering any questions. Even if you’re not convinced at all, at least you now have some knowledge about reusables that you didn’t before. I hope this was helpful!
I’ll link below more useful resources for any more menstrual reusable questions you may have. I’ll also add in later links to more posts I make about cups, discs & period underwear. But for now, here are some useful links. :)

Cup/Disc Recommendation Quiz

Menstrual Cup Tips

Menstrual Cup Folds

Period Underwear Chart & Shopping Guide

Common Questions About Period Products

Period.Shop (This is a small business that sells reliable period cup brands, as well as different kits such as a teen period kit.)

Originally published at https://anjicooper.weebly.com.

Undergraduate student at University of Delaware.