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I’m about to talk about menstruation in all its bloody glory so if that makes you feel uncomfortable, then lean in closer so we can dismantle your patriarchy-based shame while going over the tools that have become my new best friends. This is the recipe I have discovered makes this natural mama’s period healthier, cheaper, easier, and eco-friendly.
I spent about 20 years using tampons backed up with pads. They were unhealthy for my body, costly for my wallet, and terrible for our planet. I had to carry around a stash, try to figure out which sizes I’d need to have with me, always know where the closest bathroom was, change them every 4 hours . . . so much energy!
1. Menstrual Cup
Then my hippie friends introduced me to the menstrual cup and it was at first a horror show and then life-changing freedom. It probably took 6 months for me to really get the hang of it—a steep learning curve to be sure. Inserting it, positioning it, and emptying it got me up close and personal with my vagina and my uterine lining in a way I never thought possible.
(To insert: Wash hands and then fold, push, then twist the cup in while sitting on the toilet or in a slight squat. To remove: sit on the toilet and reach in and pinch the bottom, pull and twist out, pour contents into the toilet, then wash cup and hands in the sink.)
In those early days I kept waiting for my husband to walk into the bathroom and exclaim, “Did you murder someone!?” It felt heavy, I nearly birthed the cup while going number 2, I had leaks from bad positioning—there was blood, sweat, and tears—but I was patient with myself. I started with the Diva Cup but switched to the Lunette (size 2 for anyone who’s given birth) and found that to be a better shape for my anatomy. Alas, no murder charges were levied and I made it to the other side.
And it is life-changing. I insert the cup when I get up in the morning, go about my active life, and don’t even think about it again until bedtime, when I empty it, wash it, and reinsert it. You can leave it in for 12 hours and even on my heaviest days, I’ve never had to shorten that window. Hiking through the wilderness? Period is not a problem. Standing in lines all day at a theme park? No hay problema. I boil it in water on the stove at the end of my period and I’m all set for next time. It’s good for my body, it’s aces on my wallet, and it’s wonderful for the planet.
Although, I was still using a pad (which felt like a diaper, irritated my skin, was a pricey ongoing expense, and was so bad for the environment). But it provided a safety net that gave me peace of mind and I relied on it exclusively during the lighter front and back end of my period.
2. Period Underwear
Then my hippie friends introduced me to period underwear and I ordered a set of 7 Thinx organic cotton briefs. It was love at first wear. Again, great for my body, better long term for my wallet, and so much better for the planet. I bleed into the underwear exclusively for the first and last couple days of my period and it acts as a backup to the menstrual cup in the middle. They are so comfortable, like, I wish I could wear them every day comfortable. I toss them in the washer at the end of my period, hang them to dry, and I’m good to go for next month. Admittedly, I haven’t tried to use them without the menstrual cup on my heavy days, but that’s not what I want them for. For me, they are a replacement for the pads and they are so vastly superior on that front that I want to sing them a love song.
3. Tracking App
The final piece to the perfect period puzzle for me is tracking my cycle with the help of an app. I happen to use Flo, but I’m not necessarily proclaiming my love for that app specifically (it’s got a lot of clutter that I’d rather wasn’t included), just for tracking your cycle in general. I enter the start, flow, and end of my period and it collates that data into very helpful insights. My husband tends to look as irresistible as a hot fudge brownie when I’m ovulating mid-cycle and as resistible as asparagus right before my period. And speaking of chocolate, I’m stocking all the chocolate covered almonds when my period starts.
My friend Lucy has a fantastic post here about how the seasons of her cycle affect her and how she works with those seasons to meet her needs. I have to say that funnily enough, the most helpful application of this knowledge for me has been in travel planning. You can literally plan vacations around your cycle if you know when it’s coming. I have found tremendous value in tracking the details of my cycle more than a simple period in the calendar on the start date of my flow could provide.
So that’s my recipe for menstrual success: menstrual cup + period underwear + tracking app = Witchy Wonder Woman. My body feels healthier, my bank account is fuller, my life is simpler, and Mother Earth is singing me a song of gratitude. What is one shift that you will make toward a healthier, more economical, and more environmentally friendly period?