Let’s Talk About Feminine Hygiene

No, really, this post is about feminine hygiene. If that’s something you would rather not be a part of, this is your chance to click the little X and move along.

Amazon.com links are affiliate links. I paid for my own products and my opinions are my own.

Here’s the executive summary: If you are a woman of menstruating age, you should probably get a menstrual cup even if you have never liked tampons. Here’s why:

  1. Save money over monthly purchases.
  2. Environmental benefit of not having all these disposable things manufactured and thrown away.
  3. They feel better than tampons.
  4. They also feel better than reusable pads.

If you’re not convinced yet, read on. If you just want to know how to buy one, skip to the end. (Full disclosure: reusable sea sponge tampons are another option which I have not tried.)

When I start thinking about writing this article, I realized with something of a shock that it’s been going on twenty-five years since I first peeled the backing of an adhesive maxi pad. And I can expect to be dealing with menstrual periods for another 13-20 years, according to US averages.

For most of my post-pubescent life, I dealt with this in the standard American way; I bought Kotex or Always (or the store brand if I was feeling frugal, but they were never as satisfactory) at the grocery store.

When I developed an interest in avoiding toxins in personal care products, the issue got more complicated. You can buy maxi pads that were made without chlorine bleach. There are three problems: they’re expensive, they’re hard to find in stores, and they never seem to have very good adhesive.

LunaPads (clickable Amazon image)


So one day when I sat down to order some from drugstore.com, and found my cart starting to add up ridiculously, I wondered if there was another way, and more or less on an impulse, ordered an intro kit of reusable cloth LunaPads instead. At the time, I had two children in cloth diapers, so the ick factor was simply not present and I was getting much more interested in avoiding waste as well as toxins. I liked these enough that I ordered some GladRags a few months later so that I would have enough to last a full cycle. (I had been supplementing with disposables.)

They work. They are comfortable (when clean and dry). As a few years went by, however, I began to notice problems with them:

  1. They slide around, causing minor leaks, unless safety-pinned to your underwear.
  2. The metal snaps are painful for bike riding.
  3. They are gross. Once I moved on mentally from cloth diapering, I think I noticed more having to rinse these out and soak them.
  4. On heavier use, they feel slimy.

I kept hearing about menstrual cups. Not for me, I thought. I don’t even like using tampons. (In fact, a four-pack lasted me ten years.) Finally, after hearing so many people go on about how great they were (in this MMM forum thread), I resolved to try one.

I certainly noticed some downsides:

  1. It can be uncomfortable if not positioned properly, and it’s hard to tell, when putting it in, what that means.
  2. Also if it’s not positioned properly, you can get SPECTACULAR leaks.

Those are the only disadvantages, and I expect they will resolve themselves as I get more proficient. More importantly, I noticed the advantages:

  1. I can take a bath when I have my period! I know, also true for tampon users, but I’m new to this party.
  2. I can easily bike.
  3. I do not feel gross.

The last one is huge for me. Even wearing tampons, I always felt gross. With the cup, I sometimes forget about it for hours at a time. Emptying it out can be messy, but to me, messy is somehow not the same thing as gross. Highly subjective, obviously.

I anticipate needing to replace my cup every three to five years, so just a few times in my remaining “childbearing” years. No monthly purchases!

I have a Lena small, which I like. Diva Cup seems to be the best-known and most widely available, but not necessarily the best. I made my selection after extensive perusal of this excellent Mr. Money Mustache forum thread I mentioned earlier.

It has links to various size charts and reviews. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll see me waffling over the purchase and the ladies encouraging me to try one. Lots of ladies recommend their own favorite brands and if none of them sound right for you, you can post what you are looking for and see if someone has a suggestion!

I also read the review on menstrualcups.wordpress.com. Note that there is a discount code for Amazon, which was still working when I ordered mine.

I still have my reusable pads, which I wear as cup backup and as  pantyliners. If I were starting from scratch, I would strongly consider Thinx instead. They cost more, but they look a lot more comfortable.

Have you made the leap to reusable?

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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

3 responses to “Let’s Talk About Feminine Hygiene”

  1. Leah says :

    I’ve got a cup and LOVE it. I’ve actually had mine for 7 full years, and it’s still working just fine. It is discolored, but no one else sees it. I do boil the cup between cycles, which helps keep it clean.

    I went with the diva cup because that, the moon cup, and the keeper were the only options I found when researching.

    I must say that I wish I had done this even earlier. I’ve been menstruating for 21 years now, and the last 7-some have been the easiest.

    I do use some washable pantiliners if I’m worried about leaks (like if I just can’t get the cup seated well) or for those spotting days at the beginning/end of the cycle.

    I would encourage every woman to try it. I only personally know one person who has tried the cup and not liked it.

    • frugalparagon says :

      One advantage of the Lena, which is pretty new on the market, is that it’s pink, so discoloration should be such an issue. I know, it doesn’t really matter and it was not an important factor in the decision, but it seems like a good idea!

      • Leah says :

        Yes, I think it’s smart. My diva is fairly discolored now. I also like the idea of the angled holes — the holes are pain for me. I use toothpicks to clean them out between cycles.

        On the whole, tho, I am supremely glad I have a cup in general. The only times I haven’t used it in the past 7 years are when I’ve been recovering from childbirth. Same cup still fit post-childbirth, thankfully.

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