A softer & greener "time of the month"

Menstrual Cups

For about one year now I've been using a menstrual cup during my period. It took me the longest time to figure out these things even existed, which is why I'm writing about it. The more women who know about this, the better.

I'm not sure what originally tipped me off that there were greener options to the usual disposable pads and tampons. I think I started questioning it when I read something (don't ask me what or where) about chemicals/bleaching agents in tampons. I never did use those much anyway since having babies but I wondered what the environmentally friendly and body-safe alternatives were.

This led me initially to purchase A Keeper. You can purchase them directly from the website, I found mine at the local health food store. I figured with a 3 month guarantee I couldn't lose.

In the beginning using The Keeper was like the intial stage of breastfeeding my first baby. I knew I wanted to do this but it sure wasn't easy!

That area of my body still seems like such a mystery to me, even after natural childbirth of 3 kiddos and the you-know-what that makes the babies! Figuring out how exactly to fold, insert and position the cup was frustrating and at times humorous. But even after I mostly figured it out I was still leaking and needed pads for back up. Also near the end of my period, or sometimes at night, I prefer a pad.

Enter the cloth pads...

Cloth Menstrual Pads

For a few months while adjusting to the cup I kept using disposable pads. I started buying Seventh Generation Chlorine Free maxis (does anyone know why they're called maxis??) so I wouldn't be exposing myself to bleach derived dioxins.

In the meantime I started researching, yet again. Anyone else feel like all we do in this modern, toxic world is research!! It takes me a long time to decide on purchases so I kept putting off buying cloth pads, partly because I wanted to see and feel them before purchasing. I also couldn't find any made locally, even at Common Ground Fair.

So when I found them at a natural/hippy/crunchy store on our trip to Canada (handmade locally) I picked up a couple to get me started. Because we hang dry all our laundry it takes me longer to dry pads so I discovered I needed a couple more.

My second set I purchased from Phreaky Boutique via her Etsy shop.

All together this is the whole kit and kaboodle that I own:

General Notes about Menstruation

Since adopting a whole foods, plant based diet (we eat some animal products but not often) I don't experience the usual PMS symptoms. It's hard to say if this is due to having babies or the diet change since we changed our diet during my pregnancy with baby no. 2 (8 yrs ago). I personally think it's the diet since I know many women who still have menstrual pains & heavy periods after child bearing.

I never really know when my period is coming since I don't keep track. One day I'll get kind of emotional and teary, and every month without fail I wonder what's wrong with me when this happens. Then sure enough the next day my period starts - no cramps, no bloating, no pain and suffering - just a few tears. My periods are also relatively light but they never were particularly heavy.

Regardless, I don't jump for joy when I get my period but since using the cloth pads I enjoy my period more. Before you think I'm crazy consider this: having cloth next to your skin is vast improvement over paper, really now who wants to wear paper against their most intimate body parts??

Resources

If you're still reading this post you may want to investigate further. Or maybe everybody's already using cloth and cups and I'm just really late to the game!

Please feel free to ask any questions or post comments about your own experiences.

Since originally publishing this post four years ago I have bought a second set of pads for my oldest daughter from Eco Fab Mama. We are very pleased with the quality and construction of those pads. My five year old pads are still going strong.

Also, I now use an online "period tracker" to keep track of my period so I don't have surprises while traveling, camping, etc. I get a friendly e-mail reminder, along with feeling a wee bit emotional, to notify me to expect my period in the next couple days. Funny, but true.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • nicola

    nicola on April 16, 2009, 9:12 p.m.

    awesome post, both the content and your willingness to discuss it so completely. i have been using cloth pads for years and love them. i prefer them greatly over paper for so many reasons. i figure, i use cloth on my baby, why not me. (although, in truth, i started using cloth on me long, long before i even married the babies' dada!) i read recently about cloth and was shocked at the evolution those have gone through. you can get cloth with PUL sewn in for waterproofness, fleece for comfort, and more. mine are the first generation flannel, my first set bought from gladrags and the second set made by me. now, not only is there the keeper, there is the diva cup. i need to read more about both and choose one. i didn't buy one before kids, because there are two sizes and i didn't want to buy one before kids only to replace it after having had kids. and i have had very few cycles since i became pregnant with #1, so my cloth has been sufficient. sorry for babbling. but it seems safe here as i haven't wrapped my guts around posting so completely on my own blog! nicola http://whichname.blogspot.com

    nicola's last blog post... right now's love list

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  • Cori

    Cori on April 17, 2009, 2:05 a.m.

    Gee, mine are just plain beige, how dull! They are much cozier than paper, but I should add I don't like the PUL backing some of mine have because it is too slippery. Also, shopping locally is great, but in this case I think it's justified to buy them from afar if necessary instead of buying one more package of regular pads made who knows where out of who knows what.

    Cori's last blog post... breakfast in bed

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  • SavvyChristine

    SavvyChristine on April 17, 2009, 4 p.m.

    Funny that you mentioned this now! I just bought a LadyCup last week. I went with them because they are (supposedly) the easiest to clean. There are all sorts of forums out there for advice on choosing a menstrual cup -- I think your SIL linked to a few.

    SavvyChristine's last blog post... Poll: What Kind of Simple-Loving Person Are You?

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  • Shawna

    Shawna on April 18, 2009, 3:38 a.m.

    A very timely post. I'll blame you for getting my period while I was at work today, haha. I'm like you in that I don't know it's coming until it's here and I look back and say, "ohhh that's why i was almost in tears for no reason."

    This is my second or third period in a few years (miscarriage + baby + nursing) so i'm not back into the swing of things yet. I used to use the Diva cup which I loved (though I much preferred it when the bathrooms were private, rather than a stall and public sinks). I now have to get the, uh, mama size and I just haven't upgraded yet.

    Last month was the first time I used cloth pads (haha, aka bella's diapers) instead of 7th Generation. I've gotten the fabric to make my own but I just have to decide on a good pattern and get ready to wave away onlookers when I use my uncle's sewing machine. Some day I'll get my own machine!

    Shawna's last blog post... Today

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  • Naomi

    Naomi on April 21, 2009, 12:53 a.m.

    That is so funny! They say that women who live near each other often have similar cycle patterns, I wonder if women who think like each other have similar thought patterns about menstrual cycles! LOL I hadn't seen this post when I posted mine. I bought the Moon Cup just a couple weeks ago, and was actually hoping I'd get to use it soon because shortly after I thought I was pregnant (which I'm not, pheww!). Anyway... I'm having pretty good luck with it so far, not really leaking, although I agree I'd rather use pads at night since I don't usually bleed much at night anyway. I've been thinking about making some cloth pads though, and just washing them with my babies diapers. I first got interested in non disposable methods a long time ago, before I knew about them. Glen and I have long thought about what would happen if we were living during the end times and we couldn't buy all the fancy disposable items we do now. And the funny thing is that my biggest concern was having to stick rags in my you-know-what to keep from leaking! Funny the things we come up with! So when I was following some links about the history of menstrual products and found a blog by a woman about simple living, and her post on cloth pads and keepers, I was sold! I just never got around to buying one until now. As for vegan diet and menstruation, I have no doubt the two are related. I have always had relatively mild cramps as the bleeding started, but it would quickly disappear, although they were stronger before I went vegan. Right now I do eat more cheese and ocassionally meat, but I still don't have as strong cramps, and I would consider my periods mild/medium flow. Oh, and another thing... I think people look at us cross-eyed when we talk about enjoying our periods, but I think that when women don't have as many difficulties during their periods, like bad cramps and heavy bleeding, that it is easier to celebrate it as a part of womanhood. I know midwives that wear red the day they start their period to signify the "special day" of the month. I can't say I look forward to it either, but I do kind of see it as a fresh start, and it reinforces my trust in my body and my ability to follow the natural family planning method. I'm certainly looking forward to the day (in another decade or more) when I will help my daughter to celebrate her menarche, when I welcome her into womanhood. OK, that was a LONG post, but I do think it's really funny that we both posted about it ;0)

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on April 22, 2009, 4:34 p.m.

    Great Post Renee!

    A few vegan friends of mine ALSO say they have no cramping before their menstrual cycle begins. I've also noticed as well! Aaand yes, I still get teary eyed. I wish there was a diet to stop that as well!! HA!

    Oh, and research... there really is no end is there!? LOL

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  • genny

    genny on Aug. 8, 2009, 2:43 p.m.

    I found this link - I don't remember where now! oh goodness I still have baby brain. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, making this change. So glad I found your links for making these and resources. I hope you don't mind, but I posted the links in my sidebar under "Tutorials from other folks" - although I think I'll start a category called Green Links...or something like that! Thanks for talking about this.

    -genny

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Feb. 13, 2010, 6:04 p.m.

    I've never been able to get the silly cups to work (tipped uterus, long story). If anyone's having the same issue, try sea sponges. look for the really small-pored kind. (don't get synthetic ones...) There are a few caveats...like if you know it's full, don't shout, laugh or heaven help you, sneeze. it is a sponge, after all...but, I have never been so comfortable.

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  • Granola Girl

    Granola Girl on March 8, 2010, 5:29 p.m.

    My partner (significant other, basically husband, whatever you want to call him) thinks this is so funny. The idea that women talk about and swap menstruation tips he finds not only funny, but odd and kinda bizarre. We won't even get into this concept of non-disposable. He is still getting used to the idea that my son and I use handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex. He isn't ready to really know about this. However, I am very thankful you posted it. I've been looking for quite some time to find an alternative when I get my IUD removed (thankfully soon!).

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    • renee

      renee on March 12, 2010, 7:49 p.m.

      That's funny. How else are we supposed to learn about these "unmentionables" unless we mention them.  If you start using and washing moon cloths (or menstrual pads) just make sure to tell him not too look under the lid of the small bucket in the bathroom. LOL!  That might be more than he can handle.

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      • Stacy

        Stacy on April 6, 2010, 4:25 p.m.

        That is so funny! Thanks for the laugh! My hubby refuses to open the cupboard under the sink for fear that he will see "the bloody bucket!" He doesn't mind that I use them and does pick on me a bit about them sometimes, but understands why. I am thankful that he is not so squeemish, like other husbands that I know, that he insists that I steralize the washer before I wash our clothing in it after washing the cloth pads. For some odd reason, we were discussing using cloth pads a few days ago and he as shocked to realize that I carry the used pads around in my purse! LOL! I don't know what he thought I did with them when we were out. He told me that that is why he does not like to go into my purse. "What if I put my hand into something that I don't want to?" LOL! "I carry a wet bag for just that reason, Honey!" Men can be so funny!

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  • Merry

    Merry on Jan. 8, 2011, 4:26 a.m.

    Hi, I just have a question.... I have a conviction about the paper products and a desire to use cloth ones, but I haven't followed through on it yet. Since I work everyday, I'm trying to imagine what I would do with a used cloth? I imagine I would want to clean it before, what? sticking it in my purse to carry home? and smelling extra gross for the next how many hours? Also, I'm hypothyroid and tend to bleed too often and too heavily. The doctors can't seem to do anything about that, so I'm trying a diet based approached. I don't generally keep track of my cycles, but one month I bled for 17 days. this month, one week after I ceased a normal cycle, I started another, heavier one. (I am 44 years old this month). I can't imagine the mountain of napkins I'd be carrying around, both used and unused and the smell (coming from two locations). Disposable seems more agreeable at the moment. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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    • Lisa Clarke

      Lisa Clarke on Sept. 28, 2011, 11:06 p.m.

      I realize I am really late to the party here, but I wanted to mention that much of the smell associated with my period was actually caused by the disposable pads! When I switched to Diva Cup + cloth pads a few cycles ago, I discovered that it was virtually smell-free. I used to feel so stinky and dirty using disposables, and now, at 40 years old, I am finally discovering my period doesn't have to be like that at all!

      If you have to carry around a few used pads, you probably won't have a smell issue, especially if you use a ziplock.

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  • Merry

    Merry on Jan. 8, 2011, 4:37 a.m.

    I have another question...

    as I read these various articles about the cups, I hear women saying things like after they had babies, etc. I've never had babies. and I don't have a husband, so I'm not active. Would I have any problem using one of these cups?

    reply

  • renee

    renee on Jan. 18, 2011, 9:55 p.m.

    Merry,

    A reply to all your questions:

    I can't speak directly to the situation of working outside the home but this is what I do when backpacking with my paper products and it might apply to using cloth in the workplace. I use a ziploc bag tucked into a pretty cloth bag (that I have sewn for this purpose) tucked again into another ziploc. When I get home I dispose of the pads. I don't use cloth in the woods because I haven't figured out how to clean them adequately on the trail - still working on that one. I don't see why you couldn't use this idea at work also. Tuck the whole thing into a backpack or large purse and no one has to know. Put your used pads in the inner bag (don't wash at work - that would be tricky). When you get home rinse and soak the pads and launder them as you would otherwise. Wash the ziplocs and you're good to go. Not sure about what to do about your long cycle but if you are determined to use cloth "where there is will there's a way". With such a long period that might be all the more reason to go natural.

    Any woman can use a cup (from what I understand) babies and partners aside.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Feb. 7, 2011, 9:21 p.m.

    if you get lunapads you change the liner instead of the whole pad. You can also carry around a wet bag.www.lunapads.com

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  • Kate

    Kate on Oct. 13, 2011, 10:06 p.m.

    What a great post. I have a mirena iud (not getting pregnant is too hard to accomplish and with three kids already i had to stop it somehow!!) which means i don't get my period, however in about six months time it will be getting to its end of use time and i have been wondering how to return to handling my period, thankyou so much for the great information. My oldest daughter is now also stepping quite quickly on the road to beginning her period and at ten I want to give her the options of non chemical reusable products as well as the disposable ones. Thanks, i'll be back to read more.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Oct. 13, 2011, 10:43 p.m.

    Interesting. My grandmother used to tell me about how she HAD to make her own and wash them. Now, we are choosing to use them.

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  • Rachel Himes

    Rachel Himes on Sept. 26, 2012, 6:52 p.m.

    It's not just you. I ceased to have pms and low back spasms after adopting a vegetarian diet. It was HORRIBLE for me before then.

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