I Need...A Happy Period

>> Friday, February 13, 2009

My husband mentioned to me today about a website where you can track days that your female friends, boss, coworkers, etc. are acting grumpy, and it uses that info to try and figure out their "time of the month." I responded, "I need to use that on myself! I can never remember when my time of the month is coming."

Considering I experience this lovely part of being a girl every single month, this change has been a long time coming. I swear I've been planning to switch to something more "natural" ever since I started cloth diapering because it's kind of hypocritical to put cloth on my baby and not on myself, but, well, uh, I'm a procrastinator...and, um, eeeewww!

Have you ever wondered why people are always arguing about cloth versus disposable diapers, but no one ever talks about cloth versus disposable pads. According to Grist, "the average woman will menstruate for about four decades and use an estimated 16,800 sanitary pads or tampons in the process -- that's 250 to 300 pounds of waste." Over forty years, that would look a little something like this:

(Thanks to The Keeper for that great visual image.)

Besides the disposable factor, most feminine products are made of pesticide-drenched cotton and chlorine-bleached rayon, and tampons can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome.

So if you desire a healthier, greener menstrual period, you basically have four options:

Biodegradable Pads

  • The Good: If you're used to pads, these are exactly the same as conventional pads except that they don't contain chlorine bleach. Natracare pads are also rayon free.
  • The Bad: Although less environmentally damaging, these pads don't even make a dent in the feminine product waste. They are also costly.

Organic Cotton Tampons
  • The Good: Like the biodegradable pads option, these tampons are identical to conventional tampons so you can seamlessly transition to this more earth-friendly option.
  • The Bad: Again, waste is still an issue, and they cost more.

Cloth Pads
  • The Good: These are washable, affordable, and last a long time.
  • The Bad: Because these have to be washed, the same arguments could be made here as are made against cloth diapers. Also, any cloth diaper user could tell you that managing cloth is not the easiest thing if you're spending a long time away from home. Plus there's the "eeewww" factor of wearing a bloody pad.

Menstrual Cup
  • The Good: These cost about $25-35 and last up to ten years, making them the most affordable with the least amount of waste. They are similar to tampons, but you can wear them up to 12 hours without worrying about TSS and they even hold up well during strenuous physical activity.
  • The Bad: There's still the "eeewww" factor, and not to be too graphic here, but they are much more "hands on" then inserting or removing a tampon.

Tips for the Budget Conscious

Although the cost is high upfront, a menstrual cup can last up to ten years, so you end up saving hundreds of dollars over the life of the product.

Where I'm At
For me, it seemed like a no-brainer to go with a menstrual cup, so it was really just a choice between The Keeper/Moon Cup and the Diva Cup. I ultimately picked The Keeper because it was recommended in The Tightwad Gazette and by Umbra Fisk, and also because I thought the packaging sounded better. So far, I've been very happy with it, and that's all I really want to say on a blog read by my mother and brother....


Maren Hansen February 14, 2009 at 12:08 AM  

So several years ago, I tried the Instead cup. I liked that it was cheaper in the long run, though I didn't so like the ew-factor. But my main issue with it was that I always had a hard time putting it in comfortably. Sorry for the TMI, but eventually, I gave up and went back to Tampax. Also, at one point they were removed from the market (though I can't remember why). I also worry that they cups would promote a greater possibility of yeast/bacterial infections since they are so hands-on. Could you comment on any of these things for me? I'm very interested. (Again, sorry for the TMI...)

David February 14, 2009 at 4:28 AM  

The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use at the same time by using it to clean your tush! Available at www.bathroomsprayers.com they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 14, 2009 at 9:42 AM  

Maren - The Keeper and the Diva Cup both have a long stem attached to the bottom of the cup that helps you put them in and take them out (they look like tiny plungers), so they're not quite as hands on as it looks like the Instead cup is. I agree with you about the greater possibility of yeast/bacterial infections, but I'm guessing that you should be fine as long as you wash your hands before and after inserting/removing.

If you're willing to give a menstrual cup another try, the Keeper has a 90 day moneyback guarantee, so you get a risk free trial. The upfront cost is $35, but then you shouldn't have to buy any feminine products for 10 years, so it pays for itself within a year.

Maren Hansen February 14, 2009 at 6:53 PM  

Thanks again Erin. I just checked out the site and there are some obvious differences. I think I will try the moon cup (no latex for me!), that is when I'm no longer preggo... ;) I'm very excited about this!

Emily,  February 16, 2009 at 2:28 PM  

Erin, I have used the keeper for about 5 years, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I doubt I will ever use anything else. After I got used to it, I thought it was SO much better (especially for travel and backpacking) than tampons. I use tea tree oil wash to clean, and it eliminates nearly all of the bacteria/eww factor for me.

Also, I saw this this weekend and meant to tell you about it:


verrrrry interesting, no? I like the compost factor, and it seems like a really nice compromise.

Stephanie February 16, 2009 at 8:27 PM  

I went with the Diva cup, and have NEVER been so happy. Half the time, I forget it's that time. No leaks, no mess, it's seriously wonderful and paid for itself within a handful of months. I agree with you, though, you really do need to be extremely comfortable with your body to be using these things, because it takes a bit of practice to figure it all out. But the results are wonderful- tampons never worked for me, and pads, well, ew, you know? Leaks and messes and the sticky underside yanking on things it shouldn't. Totally unpleasant. I can't say enough good things about my Diva cup.

And as long as you wash your hands before messing with the cup/keeper, you should be okay. (I had a problem with yeast many years ago, but thankfully no longer! Yay, acidophilus!)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 16, 2009 at 10:32 PM  

Emily, I think the gDiapers look awesome, except they're kind of expensive. I've also read some reviews saying they don't hold up at night. But if I were a first time mother, I would definitely give them a try. I agree with you that they're a great compromise between cloth and disposable.

Stephanie, I agree the menstrual cup is wonderful. Too bad more people don't know about it!

Anonymous,  February 17, 2009 at 1:17 PM  

I also use the Keeper and agree with everyone. The ick factor is very low--even lower than tampons which can sometimes be vile or painful if you end up finishing early. Even if it wasn't green I would prefer to use it because it's so easy, convenient, and discreet. Never have to ask anyone for tampons/pads. I also use the cloth pads at night sometimes, but I like them less, probably because I always already preferred tampons.

Anonymous,  February 17, 2009 at 1:18 PM  

I also use the Keeper and agree with everyone. The ick factor is very low--even lower than tampons which can sometimes be vile or painful if you end up finishing early. Even if it wasn't green I would prefer to use it because it's so easy, convenient, and discreet. Never have to ask anyone for tampons/pads. I also use the cloth pads at night sometimes, but I like them less, probably because I always already preferred tampons.

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