Periods. If you’re like me, you’ve had a long and complicated relationship with your period filled with a lot of confusion, some embarrassment, and several many stained underwear. I was 12 when I first started my period, 13 when I learned to use a tampon, 18 when I started using non-applicator tampons, and 20 when I got my first menstrual cup.
For years pads and tampons were all that I knew of to manage my period, learning to hide them and use coded language to describe them, instead of being encouraged to explore my options of what products to work best for me and how to effectively use them.
Periods aren’t going anywhere, so why aren’t taking the months, years, decades of knowledge we have about our periods and sharing with each other the ways we have found to make them more manageable. There is no shame in a natural process that half of the world’s population experience and once we start talking about it, we can start to undo the learned embarrassment and stigma and surrounding our periods.
Here I want to openly discuss options for dealing with our periods and share my opinion on the options we have because everyone deserves access to safe and environmentally friendly menstrual products.
I want to start off by noting that menstrual products are not a leading cause of pollution and they will not be. This is not a post to shame anyone for using disposable sanitary products. I didn’t like having to throw away plastic every time I changed my tampon, and I do believe there are ways we individually can become more sustainable while having a better period experience.
Non-Applicator Tampons: These are a smaller, lower waste alternative to traditional tampons that come with a plastic applicator.
To use them you peel off the plastic film, place the end of the tampon on the tip of your index finger, and use that finger to guide it into your vagina, aiming for your lower back, until it’s in a comfortable position.
- They come wrapped in a thin film of protective plastic which means less packaging waste – and if you add up the months and years, the waste we avoid adds up.
- This also means they are a lot smaller and easier to carry around.
- They are also a more affordable option, saving on average around ten to 5 cents per tampon.
- You have control over where the tampon is positioned and how to adjust it to make sure it’s comfortable for you.
- It can take time to become comfortable with this different method of tampon insertion.
- This method also can be a bit messier than applicator tampons, but it’s nothing a bit of toilet paper and hand washing can’t fix.
Non-applicator tampons are my go-to during my period. They create significantly less waste than tampons with plastic applicators and after some practice I have found are a lot easier to properly insert for comfort throughout the day.
Menstrual Cups: Another low-waste reusable alternative to tampons and pads.
- Menstrual cups are reusable and with proper care menstrual cups can last up to 10 years.
- Because of this you reduce your waste!
- They can be worn overnight so you don’t have to worry about leaking out of your pad.
- They also hold more blood than tampons and can be left in up to 12 hours.
- Investing in a menstrual cup can save money in the long term. Averaging at around $30, you can save money from not having to buy (as many) pads or tampons.
- Insertion, especially the first couple of times, can be intimidating and can take some getting used to.
- Removal also can be tricky and sometimes messier than a tampon or a pad.
- Upkeep: menstrual cups do require some maintenance to clean and sterilize it.
Menstrual cups can be a bit more of an intimidating option that does take some getting used to. The first time I tried to take out my menstrual cup I’ll admit I did spill some on myself, so I’d recommend removing it in the shower until you are comfortable with it. After some practice, just like with anything else, they do become as easy as inserting a tampon. While they may not always be the most practical or convenient choice for every situation, they are still a great low waste option for managing your menstrual cycle.
A general period tip: Just because a product can be left in for 4-12 hours, does not mean it will hold up for that long. Just remember heavier period flow will require more frequent changing, so listen to your body!
There are plenty more sustainable period products like period panties and reusable pads, I just haven’t tried them yet. There are so many great options to try out and share our experiences about that work better with our bodies and are a little bit kinder to our environment. Try something new, share your experience with your friends, find what works for you. To destroy this stigma, we must normalize something that in reality is the norm and is natural, so talk to not only each other but non menstruating folks openly regarding our periods. No more hiding tampons in sleeves, no more silence about menstruation, no more shame about our bodies.