In this post we are going to go over the sustainable and zero-waste options you have for your menstruation cycle.
In my last post, I explained why switching to these options is so important for our health and the earth's health. Be sure to pop over to that post if you haven't gotten a chance to read it yet!
There are three options at your fingertips to complete a zero-waste and non-toxic period - the cup, absorbable washable undies, and washable pads. Let's go over all three in depth and talk about their learning curves as well!
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How To Use The Menstrual Cup
A menstrual cup is the best no-waste option for women. This flexible silicone cup is folded and then inserted into your vagina, much like a tampon. Once there, it “pops” open and collects your menstrual blood as it exits your cervix. The cup itself is well, a cup, with a stem or ball at the bottom. You remove the cup once or twice a day, depending on the heaviness of your flow, empty it, clean it, and reinsert it.
There is a learning curve as you get started with the cup. The first is finding the right sized cup for you. Just like all our bodies are different, so are our lady parts! The length or width of your vagina, the height of your cervix, and the heaviness of your flow all will factor into what size cup will be best for you. I recommend getting started with Lena’s Small & Large Menstrual Cup Combo and pairing it with a washable organic cotton pad (more on those in a bit) on your first cycle to help you get the hang of it. As for comfort, the cup should feel just like a tampon does.
Insertion and removal are the two major frustration points when getting acquainted with a menstrual cup. After you fold the cup and insert it, try squatting and moving around to see if it’s set. To be sure it’s flush with the walls of your vagina, grab the bottom of the cup and twist it gently to seat it. With removal, the ramifications of doing it incorrectly can be...messy, so I recommend always doing it in a squatting position over a toilet. The best tip I’ve found with removal is to not to grab the just stem or ball at the bottom of the cup and pull. Instead, gently pinch the bottom of the cup, along with the stem, and pull it out very slowly.
When you are starting out, I recommend saving cup removal for your home bathroom. Regardless of how often you remove tampons to stay on top of your flow, waiting a full work day to remove your cup is achievable. On average, women lose 35 to 50 milliliters of blood per cycle. Menstrual cups hold between 25 and 30 milliliters in total. Thus, the likelihood that you would overfill your cup in one day of your cycle is highly unlikely.
Cleaning your cup is not rocket science. Read the instructions for the cup you decide to go with and follow them. Typically, a simple dunk in a pot of boiling water for three minutes usually does the trick. Save boiling your cup once your cycle is complete. When you are dumping your cup mid-cycle and then reinserting, a rinse under warm water is all you need. Be sure to wash your hands before you touch the cup though, and after, of course. If you find yourself in a bind and have to remove the cup in a public restroom, have a pack of compostable baby wipes on hand to clean the cup and your hands.
For storing your cup, never put it in an airtight container. As the silicone cup dries, that moisture needs to evaporate; otherwise it can start to smell. Some cups come with a mesh bag, or you can set it in an open pint-sized mason jar.
Be patient with yourself if you choose to go the cup route. It took six cycles for me to get the hang of the cup, and as I mentioned before, wearing a small pad as a backup for those first few cycles is a godsend.
How To Use Absorbable Washable Menstrual Undies
This invention is absolute genius in my book. Forgo the installation of menstrual protection and build it right into the underwear! Absorbable panties have a multilayer crotch that works to hold blood, up to two tampons/pads worth in some cases. You can even get a few different levels of absorbent panties to match your cycle as it unfolds. I cast my vote for THINX cotton line andLuna Undies of Lunapads (a B Corp). Both of these brands use certified organic cotton and have various panty options to match up with the heaviness of your flow. Luna Undies is also working hard to bring their reusable organic products, as well as menstruation education, to young girls in Africa. THINX is on its way towards more philanthropic ventures, but no official news yet.
Caring for your absorbent panties is not hard either. When you are ready to switch to the next pair in your flow, run the used pair under cold water in the sink. Then machine wash cold, don’t worry your other clothes will be just fine with them in the washer, and then air dry. Stay away from bleach and fabric softener! They will reduce the absorbency of your panties as well as harm the environment.
How To Use Absorbable Washable Menstrual Pads
For those of us who swear by pads, whether it's during the day or for overnight protection, there are great reusable no-waste options for you. These reusable pads work just like regular pads, except you can wash them and use them again when you are done. When cotton tampons and pads can go for 20 cents a pop, you can reach nearly $1000 worth of savings in your menstruating lifetime by going reusable! My personal favorite is Lunapads. This B Corp has been making washable organic cotton pads since 1993. They have tons of options for we bleeders, from heavy to light flow.
The pad attaches itself to your underwear by little metal snaps, think like a regular pad, but instead of adhesive, there are snaps on each wing that snap together under the crotch of your panties.
Caring for your washable pad is extremely simple. You rinse them under cold water when you remove them, then machine wash cold, and finally dry them in your dryer. No need to air dry here! If you are out and about and in need of changing your pad, they have a variety of reusable zippered wet/dry bags to store your lady helpers.
In my next post in this series on how to have a sustainable and zero-waste period, I share with you all the zero-waste and holistic period pain management options I've tried. There are a lot of amazing non-toxic and sustainable options at your fingertips to help you through PMS and I can't wait to share them with you!
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