Select Page

Your Guide to a More-Natural “Time of the Month”

Ladies, we’re going to get a little personal today. {So for our small percentage of male readers, you might want to skip this one… or better yet, forward it to your wife/girlfriend/sister/etc.}

You can probably imagine how much waste women throw away each month with all the wrappers, applicators and packaging that gets thrown away. In fact, “in 1998 alone, U.S. women disposed an estimated 13.5 billion sanitary pads and 6.5 billion tampons.” (source) That stat is over ten years old, so I can only imaging what it is now.

Add to that the toxic chemicals used to bleach feminine products, and then consider that many of us choose to put these products directly inside our bodies. From the Safe Cosmetics website:

About 43 million women in the United States use tampons. A woman who uses tampons monthly will buy more than 11,000 in her lifetime. You’d think that there would be ample ingredient and safety information about such an intimate and often-used product, but there isn’t. As with cosmetics, feminine-care product manufacturers aren’t required to tell you what’s in their products. Unfortunately, tampons may contain traces of dioxin from bleach, pesticide residues from conventional, non-organic cotton, and mystery “fragrance” ingredients.

I personally used these products, blindly putting the toxins in my body and mindlessly tossing out mounds of trash each month, for over fifteen years.

For four years, I’ve been using cloth diapers with my babies– not exclusively, but definitely more often than not– for those same reasons mentioned above: the trash and the toxins. And yet, when it came to my own personal products, I couldn’t imagine veering away from disposables.

Finally, about a year or two ago, I learned about a new approach to menstrual care, one that would indeed be safer for my body and better for the environment. Gradually, I began to make the switch, and now I can’t imagine ever going back.

Cloth Pads

Photo by ecoAlternatives

A longtime athlete and active woman, I’ve never been a fan of pads. But let’s be honest, after childbirth, I found myself using pantyliners more, even with tampons.

When I finally decided to brave what I thought was a the scary realm of cloth pads– also affectionately called Mama Cloth or Mama Pads– I realized they weren’t anywhere near as gross as I thought they’d be.

They turned out to be soft, comfortable, easy to use and surprisingly easy to clean. A thin, simple cloth pantyliner was just what I needed, and as I began using them along with tampons I significantly reduced my waste. (Since I mostly use mine as liners, I just wash my cloth pads right along with my regular wash, but here are some great washing tips.)

Cloth pads are also great for your postpartum time. After the first couple of weeks a lightbulb went off and I began using mine, and wondered why I’d suffered through the uncomfortable paper/plastic version that whole time!

You can find a variety of beautiful (yes, beautiful!) cloth pads on Etsy. And the fabulous company that where I got mine is Lunapads, which has a brilliant product even better than the cloth pads– LunaPanties— the perfect companion for use with the DivaCup, which is what I ventured into when I finally decided to go for the gold: to give up disposables (including tampons) completely.

DivaCup

Photo by PiperKins

The name might be a little cheesy, but don’t be misled. The DivaCup is amazing: “The DivaCup is a reusable silicone menstrual cup that is convenient, reliable, environmentally responsible, and economically smart. Latex-free, plastic-free and BPA-free, it can safely be worn for up to 12 hours at a time.” (source)

Basically, with a little practice, you insert the DivaCup and then periodically (no pun intended) remove, empty, rinse out, and then simply reinsert it. That means no waste and with the safe material it’s made of, that means no toxins in your body either.

I learned about the cup from a friend who has traveled a lot and recommended it to me because of its ease and eco-friendly aspect. But honestly, it took me a while to get used to the idea and to go for it, because, let’s be honest, tampons were familiar, fast and routine.

So here’s my caveat with using the DivaCup: give it time.

I started gradually using mine. I didn’t fight it, and if I couldn’t quite get it right, I’d go back to my stash of tampons in the cupboard. I started using up all the random ones in my purses, bags and glove box (don’t you keep a secret stash, too?), and each month I tried using the DivaCup more and more as I used up my stash of disposables.

I began to get more comfortable with it, but I will say it took a good six months before I was able to use it confidently for my whole period. So if you’ve tried one and haven’t quite figured it out, don’t give up!

For more information, visit this great FAQ page. For me, the DivaCup and a simple pair of LunaPanties is the perfect way to deal with that uncomfortable time of the month. There are other brands of menstrual cups, too; this is just the one I have experience with. You can find the DivaCup at many natural food stores.

{None of these items mentioned contain affiliate links; I just really love these products/companies!}

I hope you feel inspired to make your time of the month a little more eco-friendly and natural! Are you already using these more-natural options? What inspired you to make the switch?

Reading Time:

4 minutes

 

 

 

52 Comments

  1. Kara E.

    Wow. 6 months to fully adjust. Maybe I’ll give my cup another try.

    • Nicole

      Yeah! Go for it again and give it some time. 🙂

  2. Natalie A

    I tried the DivaCup for the first time last month (even went to the gym and had a heavy workout after the first insert), and I got it except for one insert that leaked (but I think I know what I did wrong). I hope I got the hang of it for good and don’t digress or anything! I absolutely love it! I don’t know why I him-hawed about it for a year. I don’t ever want to use anything else. I have not gotten into the cloth pads yet. I am trying to sell the house so I don’t have a good hide and stash for cloth pads while I have to show my house. That is my next step though. I’m just sick of all the waste in the trash and the money used to have to go out and buy new packages every month. Mine is just so light and tampons are too rough and pads irritate my skin. Tired of these chemicals in such a tender spot. Again, I’m so glad to have tried and used the DivaCup.

    • Nicole

      Yeah, I’ve read that DivaCup is perfect for lighter flow days because it’s not dry and irritating like tampons can be.

  3. Kimberly

    I’m so glad to hear you say to give the Diva Cup 6 months! I soooo want to be able to use it but it just has never felt right in spite of trimming the bottom. I feel encouraged to give it another go! Thank you!

    • Nicole

      Yep, keep trying, even just one day per month until you get used to it. I think they have a number on their FAQ page too if you have more questions.

  4. Holly

    LOVED the Divacup from day one. Everyone, you gotta try it!
    http://menstrualcups.org/

  5. monique

    It took me about 3 months (3 cycles) to adjust. Love it! And love my cloth pads although I do need to find some thinner ones. They barely get “used” since the cup works so well, so I’d feel comfortable wearing thinner/smaller pads or nothing at all. But I do need something for when I start my period and I’m not at home.

    • Nicole

      The thin ones are perfect for what you’re talking about! I’ve even read that if you are regular enough, you can insert the DivaCup before you start on the day of, so that you are already ready for it.

      • monique

        Thanks. I don’t bleed enough on my first day to need the Cup, so I’m cool with the pad until I get home. At the most it’s 8 hours (work time).

  6. Mary Beth

    Great post! I LOVE my Diva Cup. It did take some getting used to, but I was determined and used it exclusively until I got the hang of it – so it took maybe two cycles or so to feel entirely comfortable with it. One difference for me from probably a lot of women was that I had stopped using tampons more than 20 years ago, so regardless of the inconvenience of the learning curve, the Diva Cup was still a huge improvement over using pads with all the mess and feeling of leaking, etc.

    I haven’t yet invested in cloth pads/liners, though I think I’m going to after my baby is born in a couple of months. Once I get a new sewing machine to replace my broken one, I might try making some!

    And I agree with Monique that the Diva Cup works so well that pads/liners aren’t really necessary most of the time, though a thin cotton liner would be ideal.

  7. Kinda Crunchy Kate

    Ok, I have a question. What do you do when you are in a public restroom? I just can’t see myself rinsing the Diva Cup out in the sink in a public restroom and then going back into the stall to reinsert it. What do you do in a situation like that? (Sorry if that’s too personal of a question. I’ve just been wondering about it and don’t know who else to ask!) 🙂

    • Jen

      In a public restroom, you simply empty the cup into the toilet and reinsert without rinsing the cup. The process I practice in public restrooms is this: Wash hands, remove cup, dump contents into the toilet, reinsert, tidy up and rewash hands before leaving the restroom. I love my DivaCup. Truly, affectionately love it.

      • monique

        Yep, except I do take a tissue to wipe the outside. Just makes it easier to grasp onto for reinsertion since it’s not wet (not THAT might be TMI).

    • Nicole

      Yep, what Jen said, and on the DivaCup FAQ page they mention using a clean cloth or tissue to wipe it off after dumping it. As long as your hands are clean you’ll be fine, then you just rinse it out next time you are able to. They also point out that you can leave it in for up to 12 hours so you shouldn’t have to do it in a public restroom all that often!
      No worries, Kate, that was my biggest question before, too! 😉

      • Kinda Crunchy Kate

        Thanks ladies! I’m not going to say I’m a convert yet, but I am one step closer now. 🙂

      • Mika

        Just like to point out that “can” leave it in for 12 hours doesn’t necessarily mean that every woman will be able to. I use MeLuna cups (two different sizes) and on heavy days even the large size needs changing every hour or two. Ok my heavy days are *very* heavy, but I know I’m not the only one out there. I adore my MeLunas and will never go back to pads (always loathed tampons anyway) but I was terribly, terribly disappointed to realise that actually, for me, keeping it in for twelve hours was only going to happen on the first and last days. So it is worth knowing how to deal with a public restroom situation in advance! 🙂 (I also recommend only using them at home until you are confident).

  8. Alyssa

    Thanks for this post. I really want to try the DivaCup – currently I use Sea Pearls natural sea sponge tampons and love those. They’re a great alternative to traditional tampons; they are reusable and sooo much more comfortable than regular tampons. I haven’t made the switch to cloth pads yet but plan to after my pregnancy.

    • Nicole

      Thanks for sharing about the natural tampons you use, that’s good to know for reference, but yeah, I say go for it with the cup when you get back to having a period again!

  9. Alison

    Love my Diva cup and have used it for years. My only problem is that after having had several kids, my cup tends to twist sideways and stab me. It doesn’t work as well as it used to, and that saddens me, because I truly love it. Instead of using it through the whole cycle I can only use it for the first 2-3 days and then need to switch to a pad. (I do have the correct size, just need to work on some exercises I guess)

    As for the public restroom… I don’t. You shouldn’t need to empty it in public unless you have a serious, serious heavy flow, or you’ve been wearing it for an incredibly long time. Even on my heaviest days I only empty morning and night.

    • Nicole

      Alison, if I were you, I’d contact DivaCup and see if they have any suggestions on fit! I hope it continues to work out for you. At least part of the time is better than nothing though in my opinion!

    • Mika

      Every woman’s flow differs. I’m delighted for you that you have such light periods (and terribly jealous!) but there will be plenty of women out there who have to empty it more than twice a day. It also depends on the position and size of your cervix and all sorts of other things!

  10. Ashley

    Yea Nicole! Way to attack a “private” conversation head on! I’ve been using cloth pads for almost a year now, and really like them. I cloth diaper, so I just toss the rinsed pads in the cloth diaper laundry. ( I rinse them while I shower). My one caveat, if buying pads online, compare the sizes to what you have been buying in the past. I got a sampler with one that is just way too big.

    • Nicole

      Good idea on the laundry and on buying online. Thanks, Ashley!

  11. Rachel

    After my second son I used cloth pads immediately postpartum and loved them!! So much more comfortable than regular pads! I had a container of water beside the toilet that I put them in after I used them, it didn’t have a lid but if you wanted to be more discreet when company comes a lid would be a great idea. Once nursing slowed and I began a regular monthly period I decided to try natural sea sponges. I have mixed reviews. They are very comfy and I love that even when I throw them away they are a natural earth substance that will biodegrade. But since my second son my period has been so heavy and I just don’t seem to be able to wear the sponges for more than an hour or two max which gets very annoying. But if my period was lighter I would love them! I am thinking I will try a diva cup next, good to hear that so many of you have had such luck with it.

  12. Angel

    I have yet to try cloth or a cup, but I am so ready!!! I’d love to hear if any of you have daughters that use them with you? My daughter is almost 11, so she hasn’t started yet, but I’d like to be ready when she does. I’d love to start her out with better products. How do they or you handle cloth pads in public and such? We homeschool, so I could see using them at home and then switching before leaving the house at least for awhile. I’d love hear your thoughts. Thanks.

    • Nicole

      Great question! I have really young daughters so I’m interested in hearing from others on this as well for future reference.

      • Ashley @ Root and Twig

        Angel…
        My 13-year-old daughter just started her period, and is using cloth. She already knew that I was using cloth, and a year ago or so, I showed her how they work, and how to care for them. Then we went online (lunapads.com) and I let her pick out the fabric colours for her own set of cloths. She thought that was pretty cool, and it was important to her that hers be different patterns from mine (of course). We homeschool, too, so it’s no big deal. I think most young girls have fairly light periods at the beginning, so she doesn’t have to change her cloths that often, and certainly it hasn’t come up away from home.
        Lunapads has a nifty wet-proof pouch that you can buy. You’d take it along in your purse with a clean cloth, and put your soiled one in it, if you have to make a switch away from home. I have never used my pouch, though; I would rarely have to change away from home.
        I do still use disposable tampons when we’re traveling, though. It would be impossible to take care of your cloth while staying at someone’s house, I’d think. That’s when the diva-cup would be a better choice. But I haven’t tried it yet.

  13. Denise

    This is intriguing. I just ordered mine. We’ll see 🙂 Thanks for your willingness to be so transparent.

  14. Christie

    I used the Diva cup for a year and I liked it in, but didn’t like taking it out. Never got used to that. So I gave it up. About 6 months ago I started using Instead. It’s disposable and they recommend using a new one every 12 hours, but I rinse and reuse so that I use only 1 or 2 a month. I’m certainly not recommending you do that, but i feel fine with the “risk.” It has a softer rim and is easier to remove. Available in stores.

  15. Jenifer

    My sister and I have used the Diva Cup for years, I also have a Lady Cup. I also used cloth pads I bought from some great ETSY sellers. I recommend them to everyone I know. There are many different types of cups so if the Diva is not working with you search on line and you can find a slightly different one that will work better. Here is a good place to start.
    http://menstrualcups.wordpress.com/category/comparisons/

    Over the last 6-8 months though my periods became so heavy I could not use any of them and went back to organic cotton tampons and pads. I hated using them they were uncomfortable and wasteful. After a lot of research and talks with my OB I recently had the Nova Sure procedure done because I could not go an hour without changing my tampon. This last month I could tell I had a period but not even enough that I needed a pad. It is a wonderful feeling to no longer be controlled by my period!

    • Mika

      Just wanted to second this post – the link is where I started too and it was incredibly useful giving different sizes, insertion methods, typical problems with insertion – pretty much everything you could need to know. So helpful!

  16. Annemarie

    I’ve been using the Diva Cup for about a year, now. I think it’s wonderful, especially since I started using it my period lasts only 3 days instead of 5. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the suction cup action (sorry, if that sounds gross) but whatever it is, I LOVE it!

    I used it on a tent camping trip July and one of the campgrounds had just a restroom with stalls. I ended up bringing some water with me. I was able to rinse it out, in the stall without a problem…except for the huge line that just happened to come in once I took the Diva cup out. :O|

  17. Kristina L

    I love, love, love my Diva cup and have been using it since I was 19. It took me 2-3 months to get used to (learning how to correctly fold it while putting it in was the hardest thing for me). I also learned to twist the cup around once after inserting it–this creates a tighter seal, preventing leaks.

    One time I lost my grip on the cup, and I accidentally flushed it down the toilet! I had to go back to traditional tampons for the rest of that period, and I absolutely hated them. The wet strings (when you have to relieve yourself but it’s too soon to change your tampon), the dryness, the expense, the waste…I would never go back!

  18. Andrea Merrigan

    Ok…I saw these a few months ago but was hesitant to try them. Hope this isnt TMI but I have to use the smallest tampons I can find because I can not use any of the regular sized ones because they hurt to much– havent had kids yet 🙂 So I have to ask, are they pretty good sized and does it hurt to put them in or take them out??

    • Heather Moll

      I’ve never been able to wear tampons because they hurt too much too but have been using the DivaCup for a year and a half and have never had pain (unless it’s not in properly). I absolutely LOVE it. Give it a try and maybe go with the small size since you haven’t had kids. It takes a bit of time to get used to it but it’s worth it.

    • Mika

      If you’re really very worried, you could check out the link a couple of posts above, to find out about smaller cups. I also hate tampons and found them painful before pregnancy and uncomfortable afterwards, but have never had that with the cup. Good luck!

  19. Heather Moll

    I love your caveat with the DivaCup – so true. It definitely takes time to adjust – took me about 3 months but it is SO worth it. I love mine. I could never wear tampons as they were so painful for me but have never had pain with the DC – it is one of the best inventions ever. Thanks for tackling a topic that isn’t often talked about. 🙂

  20. Jen Guarino

    I have never heard of anything like this. What a concept! Thank you so much for being willing to share and be so open about something so private. Not sure I am ready to jump all in but this post has given me plenty to consider.

  21. brie.

    I LOVE the Diva Cup. I have been using mine for more than 7 years, never with any problems. it’s just as fast as tampons, but probably faster since you don’t need to change it so often! it’s easy to pack, and really easy to insert. i recommend it! i originially got one to travel through india, i’ve kept using it because it’s just so darn good! and i’m going to have to look into these luna pads!

  22. Maria

    I LOVE my Diva Cup, too! I’ve been using one for about 5 years minus two pregnancies. Every month I’m reminded how much I love it. I’ve never had any issue with leaks and my period is 2 days shorter. There have been times during my peroid that I actually forget that I’m having my period (the cramps remind me) I highly recommend a Diva cup to anyone who wants life to be easier, cleaner, and more comfortable.

  23. Rebekah from Simply Rebekah

    At one point I thought I would try the diva cup, but I just haven’t yet. Honestly, I think my mother would write me out of her will if I did! It is a little too “extreme green” for her. (and maybe for me too!) 🙂

  24. Nickole@savvyteasandherbs.com

    I love my Diva Cup! I also have cloth pads I have made (I used to make and sell them but I am not a rapid sewer so it was not worth the time) and like those as well. Looking at the pic above of cloth pads, so new and bright, makes me want to replenish my old supply for sure! 😉 I like the Diva for heavier days, and then the pads, the thinner ones (I made thick and thin ones) for the end of my cycle.

    Nickole

  25. Keilah

    Love, love, love my diva cup! I am so glad to hear your story because I felt the same way. It took about six to seven months to really feel comfortable and to do it right. The biggest problem I think was not turning it completely 180 degrees. Now I make sure to get it right and take my time. I wish I knew about it sooner. Great post!

  26. Victoria

    Sea Sponge was my organic choice for going with the flow….
    It took a while to adjust, mentally, and the cleanup was a bit of a chore at first.
    Yet… felt so much healthier in the long run.

  27. Lynette

    i LOVE LOVE LOVE my diva.
    oh my goodness.

    i started using it in 2007 and have never gone back. it did take some getting used too…but i think after about 2 cycles i was a pro. since then i have made it one of my personal missions to convert every female i know. so much so – that i used to run the wilderness adventure program at a small christian school in indiana and diva cup orientation became part of every trip orientation for the girls. there was even one dorm on campus that was known for “being divas”. i’ve had girls in my office asking advice on how to learn to love it, and other girls call me to get advice. i’ve used it camping (backcountry – no bathrooms) with wonderful success (alcohol pads to clean up and pack those out), and mastered the public restroom (which isn’t really a problem unless your cycle is REALLY heavy – the cup should go all 12 hours). i usually clean mine out in the shower in the morning, and again at night.

    i also have used the diva on really light days with no problem, and put it in even a few days before my period started just to be on the safe side. all with no side effects. i’ve also been super lazy (did i mention wilderness trips) and left it in 24 hours at the end of the trip in order to get to civilization to take care of it.

    and for husbands/men: they are so lucky. i was a diva before i was married – so my husband will NEVER experience the late night run for tampons or pads…or have to empty the nasty trash in the bathroom.

    because it doesn’t look like a tampon, and it comes in a cute purple bag (that looks like a small jewelry bag) you can hold it in plain sight and have a professional conversation with someone and they will not have a clue or even blink an eye.

    i could go on and on and on and on…if you are still holding out…take the plunge. you might actually look forward to your period once you get used to using the diva. i tell everyone, “it has revolutionized being on my period”

  28. Stasi

    I’m coming up on a year of using my DivaCup. I love it. I was one of the lucky ones and it worked for me right away. I used tampons just a few days this summer when a camping trip was at “that time”. I’m simply not that hard core, but it was less than the simple pleasant experience i have gotten used to…
    Still, I think my husband would contemplate separation if I decided to use cloth pads.

  29. renee @ FIMBY

    I’ve written about my own “greener time of month” journey:
    http://fimby.tougas.net/moon-cup-cloth-pads

    I want to try the Luna cup to see if it’s a better fit. Would love to find a leak free option so I wouldn’t need cloth back up.

  30. Christie

    Thoroughly fascinating! I’ve never heard of this, yet I am trying to implement more natural products into my life (no-poo, coconut oil, vinigar) so thank you for the post–I’m sold but have one question.
    What is the correlation between using the DivaCup and a possible shorter cycle (5 days instead of 7) or lighter cramps? I have read reviews on the Diva Cup site that states cramps not being so heavy. Does anyone know if this affects women accross the board or ist ia a coincidence from person to person?

  31. Nisha

    One of my friends wrote about this on her blog last year and I was interested, but needed to hear from more women about their experience with it, so I’m glad you posted it! I’m going to give it a try! I was waiting until I ran out of tampons, but it sounds like I should go ahead and order it in case it takes me a while to use it all the time. THANKS!!!

  32. HighOrderGuiltComplex

    I have tried cloth liners in the past without much sucess. They move around even with the wings. How are you getting yours to stay in place?

    • Nicole

      Mine have snaps on the wings that seem to keep them put, or better yet are the luna panties because the pads are built in!

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.