I had my first menstrual cycle a month after I turned 12. It was summer, and I had been already wearing a bra for a few years, and had also done plenty of reading on what to expect during puberty, so I immediately realized I was having my first period. My mother, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. She went so far as to ask me if I had “wiped properly” (seriously, Mom?!), before giving me some Always pads and heading off to call my stepfather and grandparents to let them know of my “milestone” (15 years later and I’m still slightly mortified at how she immediately shared such a personal moment of mine with family members without a second thought!).
For the next fourteen years, I used disposable menstrual pads (Always was my brand of choice, simply because of their excellent absorbency, and the frequent coupons and sales) and tampons (Tampax Pearl, to be specific – multiple absorbency options, and applicators that didn’t collapse in on themselves or jam, as others were wont to do). Then, in late summer of 2010, I had a bit of an epiphany: why was I dealing with the inconvenience and discomfort of pads and tampons every month? The products are expensive, and at the rate I go through them (I have always had heavy periods, but they became heavier after I lost a lot of weight in late 2009/early 2010), I was easily spending a couple of hundred dollars on disposable menstrual products every year. To add insult to financial injury, disposable pads and tampons were not always reliable in terms of absorbency (I can’t tell you how many times I had an overflowing tampon suddenly make an unwelcome appearance, or attempt to remove a disposable pad that would cling desperately to my underwear while simultaneously ripping open elsewhere, resulting in a disgusting mess of blood-soaked bits of foam/jelly material that wasn’t easy to clean up), and they were often uncomfortable: dry wads of cotton were never comfortable to insert, especially on the first few days of my period, when I experience especially hellish cramps; and pads often stuck to the wrong things or caused painful chafing.
Because I used cloth diapers for both of my children, and even choose to use cloth pads for the times when I keep my dog (she’s a Pug, so the resulting “mess” isn’t too bad) indoors, I wasn’t opposed or grossed out at the prospect of handling and laundering cloth menstrual pads. Instead, I was intrigued – optimistic about having a more comfortable product to use when I physically wasn’t feeling at my best, and excited at the prospect of, in the long run, saving a decent amount of money. Bonus: doing my part to reduce the amount of waste added to our planet!
I began using cloth menstrual pads – some Lunapads, as well as some “homemade” menstrual pads purchased from a few sellers on Etsy – in August of 2010, and have been a loyal fan of them ever since. That following winter, I purchased a Diva Cup, and have been a Diva Cup convert ever since I figured out the right insertion/twist to create a decent “seal” (it took two menstrual cycles to get that down).
Cloth menstrual pads are amazing comfortable. They don’t stick, they don’t shift, and they certainly don’t rub or chafe. They absorb better than any disposable pad I have ever used, though the comfort factor alone is enough to make me prefer them over any disposable pad. And there are no chemical smells to deal with, either. And on a purely superficial note, cloth menstrual pads are cute! I have a whole rainbow going on in my collection, which is made up of not only pads of different brands, but of different sizes and “add-on” options (my Luna Pads, for example, offer the option to add a liner for additional absorbency).
I love my Diva Cup just as much as I love my cloth menstrual pads. Diva Cups are made out of medical-grade silicone, and because they are round, there are no sharp edges, and a tiny dab of water-based lubricant can make inserting the smooth Diva Cup an even smoother (pun intended) process. There is no jabbing or uncomfortable slippage with a Diva Cup, and it has excellent absorbency capabilities – with no leaks or the uncomfortable “dropping down” sensation that tampons are known to do when they’re nearing their capacity. When my Diva Cup is correctly inserted, I really do not feel it at all, not even remotely, like I can feel a tampon. In fact, I’ve accidentally gone to sleep, and accidentally *almost* had sex with my husband, because I forgot I was wearing a Diva Cup! And when it’s time to remove it, there isn’t that awful dragging sensation like you get from a tampon that has adhered its horrid cottony self to the sensitive walls of your vagina.
Both cloth menstrual pads and the Diva Cup have provided me with more comfortable options during my period, with the bonus of being more cost-effective, more assuring in terms of me knowing what I’m putting against or inside my vagina (especially since I myself am the one who is cleaning and storing them in between uses), and secure protection against leaks and spills.
I think it’s great that we as women have so many reusable, comfortable, and eco-friendly options for our menstrual cycles. Whether a woman wants to switch to reusable products for her body, for the environment, or for a little of both, it’s reassuring to know that there are so many high quality, safe, cost-efficient, and effective options.
And, I think it’s wonderful that You ARE Loved works tirelessly to help educate women. I follow them closely on Twitter, and regularly read their blog. I encourage you to take advantage of all that they are doing.
Jenn is 28 years old and lives in Pennsylvania. She is married, and has two children. She works from home full time, and when she isn’t working, she is blogging at Jenn.nu or indulging in her favorite hobby: digital photography.