Let's. Talk. Period. National Period Day is October 19, 2019
Did you know it’s the world’s first National Period Day in the US is on October 19? According to Period.org, this day is “elevating the issue of period poverty and demanding real change to making period products more accessible for all and ending the #TamponTax. 35 US States still have sales tax on period products considering them non-essential items." In Canada, we dropped the "tampon tax" in 2015.
In 2008, I decided to forgo using tampons for trying out this reusable cup I’d been hearing about. I was skeptical and wondered how the heck do I do this? Do I have to be in the shower, my leg halfway up the wall, squatting for what feels like an eternity? Nope, nope and nope! I inserted the cup while seated on the toilet just like I did with a tampon.
There are a couple of different methods to insert it and once I got the hang of it I was hooked. I love the convenience, the cost savings, the comfort and how much simpler it is to travel with. The difference now compared to 10 years ago is that I’ve come to realize how much less waste I’m creating. The average menstruating person uses more than 11,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime.
The most popular reusable menstrual products are:
- Menstrual cup
- Cloth pad
- Period underwear
A little bit more about each below.
The Scoop on the Cup:
(the tampon replacement)
Cost: $35-$40 for one.
What: They are flexible cups that are typically made of medical-grade silicone.
How: They capture blood rather than absorb it which significantly reduces the chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome. There are a couple of ways to fold them for insertion. Some like to sit on the toilet, some like to squat. There’s no hard-and-fast rule. Whichever way is most comfortable for you. It may take a few tries but you’ll be a pro in no time. It can stay in for up to 12 hours at a time.
Cleaning: Wash with water and mild fragrance-free soap. Boil in water for 10 minutes to sterilize between each cycle.
Maintenance: Keep in the cloth bag or container it came in and wash again before use. Cups are guaranteed for 1 year, but truth be told I’ve been wearing mine for nearly 5 years. When you see significant discolouration (slight discolouring is normal) or cracks it’s time to replace it.
Tips: I highly recommend taking the quiz at putacupinit.com to find the right cup for you. So many great instructional videos here as well. Using the cup in a public bathroom? With clean hands remove the cup to empty into the toilet and reinsert. Use toilet paper to wipe hands before going to the sink to wash.
The Low Down on Cloth Pads
(the disposable pads replacement)
Cost: $10-$15 CAD for one pad (kits are often available for less)
What: These can be made from cotton, polyester, fleece etc… They all have an absorbent layer with things like snaps or velcro to keep them secure and stay in place.
How: They are used like disposable pads but instead of throwing them out they are washed and reused for years!
Cleaning: I typically cold water rinse them and spot clean with Bunchafarmers stain stick and toss them in the laundry. They can be placed in a mesh bag to keep them together and treated delicately.
Maintenance: No bleach or fabric softeners. Letting them hang dry will keep them at their best for years.
Tips: Make sure to browse through the sizes and reviews when choosing a cloth pad. There are different styles, lengths and absorbency levels. Fun fact about cloth pads once you’ve decided your sizing you can often choose fun colours and patterns!
The Story on Period Undies:
(replacement for disposable pads)
Cost: $35-$60 CAD for one pair (higher priced pairs come with several inserts and/or higher absorbency)
What: Often made from a range of different materials like cotton, polyester, nylon, elastane.
How: Wear like normal underwear without worrying about leakage. There’s an absorbent layer sewn into these. They often come with or have an option to add a liner that has either a pocket, velcro or snaps to fit on top of the lining.
Cleaning: Use the same methods as the cloth pads above.
Maintenance: Same care as the cloth pads.
Tips: There are different styles, absorbency levels, materials and colours. I’d also recommend reading the reviews. Check your hip measurement at it’s widest point to find the right fit. They often have a sizing guide to refer to.
Want to learn more? Join me, Environmentalist in Residence, at Richview Branch on Tuesday November 5 from 6:30-7:30 pm for the Safe, Convenient and Low Waste Period program. This will be an in-depth discussion of how to use and care for reusable menstrual products. There will be a limited supply of donated new period products for attendees to take home.