It has never been this good to have periods. No, I’m serious. Some countries are lowering or abolishing the tampon taxes (e.g.: Scotland, UK, Kenya); activists are raising awareness about period poverty so nobody has to suffer in silence and shame; and we, as a society, are in the process of destigmatizing the conversation about menstruation.
But in our modern world a whole new perspective arose: periods are wasteful: just in the United States alone, 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are being discarded each year, and sanitary pads take somewhere between 500-800 years to decompose. And I am not saying that menstruating people are the ultimate culprits of this climate disaster, only that taking individual sustainable actions can help one’s conscience as well as the planet a little. Here is my journey to finding my next favourite sustainable, affordable period product!
This is a highly subjective article which showcases only my personal experiences and thoughts. Women are different, our bodies and needs are different, and if you are lucky enough to be in the position of experimenting with various products then go for it. While some women experience period poverty, there is a whole other group that experiences, what I would call “period wealth”. And I am utterly grateful to be able to choose the product that fits me the best. It’s a privilege.
Washable pads; rating: 3/5
The people who swear on the reusable pads are doing it for a reason: it provides a more natural feeling than the plastic ones; depending on the manufacturer, it can be more body-inclusive and is also very cost-effective in the long run. So, I was excited about these pads. I did my research beforehand, and found a cute little webshop in Budapest that makes adorable prints in various colours; the only problem was that they were a little pricey.
To make sure the pads work for me before investing in the nice ones, I opted for a cheaper, plain black pad from DM. And, well, the experience was more than disappointing. The single button on the back of the pads did not provide the necessary adjustment and it was overall a pain to keep everything together. I might try out an expensive one later (with two buttons this time!). Not to mention that this particular model was made from 100% polyester. Not the greenest choice for sure.
Comfort: 2/5 (depends on the model you choose!)
Menstrual Cups; rating: 2.5/5
Oh, the cups. The cups are supposed to be the crown jewels of sustainable periods. Made out of surgical silicone, they are flexible, easily cleaned and durable. I had my reservations about the cups: what if the vacuum is not effective enough and all the blood spills out? How do I know I’m putting it in right? How do I get it out? So many questions. Luckily, my whole country went into lockdown: I had nowhere to be and used all my free time to experiment with my uterus. I found plenty of sources on the internet, video guides (such as this or this one) on how to fold the cup and how to make sure it’s safely adjusted. All these guides explained that it can take up to 3-4 cycles to perfect the cup-routine – and the first tries are most definitely going to be frustrating.
After purchasing my t.o.c. cup, I boiled it in hot water to make sure it was sanitized and then went on a quest to befriend it. Not going to lie, I did badly. It was only later that I realized that different cup shapes might have worked better for me and that I can also trim the end of the cup if it’s not fitting well enough (or some people even recommend turning the cup inside out to feel more comfortable).
If you have very little patience I don’t recommend the cup, only once you feel fully committed to learning it. It can be incredibly tricky to learn the folding techniques and to place it safely into the vagina. I gave up after the 100th try, but I will most definitely give it another go later. After all, if you master it and establish a comfortable relationship with your cup, it’s going to be a very convenient and sustainable choice. Compared to tampons the cup is also less likely to cause toxic shock syndrome!
Comfort: 1/5 (highly subjective experience!)
Period Panties; rating: 5/5
It’s impossible to remain impartial when rating products. For a UK brand, I would choose WUKA, which works with recycled plastic and respects all body sizes and forms, and the Kora Mikino menstruation underwear line from Germany is also an exceptional choice. The Hungarian brand This is Redy uses only eco-conscious materials (eco-text) and they are big on inclusivity: both with their products and with their advertisements. And the period panties won everything for me. I tried out the panties designed especially for heavy flows (able to contain 2.5 tampons worth of blood!), and I thought if this underwear is going to function well during the first night of my period, then it will function well any other day too. And it was a great experience. No leaking, funky smell or uncomfortable feelings. Good vibes only. I was genuinely surprised how effectively it worked, and I even did some dancing and yoga to test its limits: worked perfectly each time. For me, the period underwear gave me utter freedom as well as safety, which is, in my opinion, the most important thing when choosing your ideal menstrual product.
Overall, I can confidently say that these past months taught me more about my body and about my cycle than any sex-ed class in high school. Is it sad a little that I had to wait 23 years to be able to talk about my period and my needs openly? Yes, maybe. But I would encourage everyone to take the time and see all the fantastic and innovative options we have; see what’s best for you! Doing a lot of research is an inevitable must, but it pays off in the end. But most importantly: articulate your needs, and never-ever be ashamed of your natural functioning, embrace the mess we make.