Content warning: If you aren’t interested in periods and/or are squeamish about descriptions of periods, then this probably isn’t the post for you!
Going green is a slow process but seems to be inextricably linked to motherhood. Maybe before as a childless person I was more carefree with the idea of disposing of my daily trash all over the planet. Maybe I was selfish. Maybe I just didn’t think. But anyway, as I’ve grown into motherhood I’ve become more environmentally aware. (I’m sure there are people who come to this realisation without having kids – I’m just a bit slow.)
It started small and it starts with stuff that is encouraged in our country by law or by policy. For example, a charge for plastic bags came in a while ago and suddenly we became more thoughtful about reusing bags. I bought various tote bags and I’ve managed to do this with some success, although I still forget to carry shopping bags with me half the time. At least I make an effort to reuse any plastic bags we’ve bought, as bin bags etc. And it’s a nice excuse to get cute cloth bags.
One of the huge wastes I’ve become more aware of is the waste to do with periods. And I have awful periods, due to my history of endometriosis and fibroids. I looked up the definition of “heavy period”.
Apparently a heavy period is one where you bleed more than 80ml per cycle, or soaking through a pad/tampon in two hours or less.
Obviously you can only measure the amount you lose if you’re using a menstrual cup. A few cycles ago, I decided to try a cup again (I’d used one years ago pre kid) and I went for the mooncup as it’s the easiest available one in shops here.
Aside: If you’ve never tried a menstrual cup, I’d really suggest you give it a go. You have to be okay with knowing your body but I don’t think that’s a bad thing! Used correctly they are far less invasive than tampons (no fibres being shed inside of you, so they don’t irritate you or make you feel “dry”) and you shouldn’t need to change them as often if you have “normal” periods. You do have to be okay with seeing your own bodily fluids but I’m the kind of person who isn’t squeamish – I find it keeps me in touch with my body a lot more.
A mooncup capacity is 30ml and I was having to empty it about every hour, and that was just on my heavy day! I estimated that during my last period I lost more like 300ml or more (probably 400+, I mean I was half delirious getting up so many times a night). A “heavy period” would be a light one for me! I’m amazed others seem to lose so little!
Not only that but I’d have to wear a pad as well to catch any overflow spills, plus at night time I would lie on a towel and I’d wear a few pairs of shorts in case… It was awful.
I’ve been spending plenty of time hanging out on some fairly crunchy mom groups and one of the things I kept hearing about was “CSPs” or cloth sanitary pads.
(Hear me out here. I thought it was gross too!)
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be something to try.
The reason is, I really lose a lot of blood. So I end up using so many sanitary products, and that is all waste that goes into landfill and isn’t recycled. The cup did reduce the number of tampons and I prefer a cup to tampons, but I still had a big fear of leaks. I would still leak a lot with the mooncup simply because my periods are so heavy. I did some research and I decided to try a different cup. But I also felt like I needed some other protection and I wanted to try something more sustainable so was looking at period pants, CSPs etc.
There is a great site called Put A Cup In It which talks you through all the different options. You can even do a quiz to find out your ideal cup! For me I’d already come round to the idea of a cup so it wasn’t a huge mental leap, but the mooncup could be quite fiddly with having to change it so often, so I realised I’d probably have to try and find a larger capacity cup. The one recommended for me based on the quiz was the Super Jennie.
However I’m in the UK and they’re not so into cups here, although they are into CSPs. I couldn’t find the Super Jennie for sale here. But Put A Cup In It has an affiliate link to another site called Feminine Wear (awful name!) where you can get 10% off with the code PUTACUPINIT. So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.
They didn’t have the Super Jennie but they did have the Merula XL, which has a large capacity for heavy bleeding. Also, it comes in a range of different colours so for those of you who are excited by things like that (ha!) it’s an idea. I always didn’t love the fact that the mooncup comes in a kind of yucky transparentish colour. So I went for the Merula XL. At the time they only had it in black but they have a lot of cute designs…
And then I saw these…
Honestly, who knew cloth pads could be so pretty?! For those of you in the US, you can get these from Mimi’s Dreams Etsy store. She has lots of different designs. I was glad someone had decided to import them to Europe!
With that and the 10% off voucher I was a sitting duck for pretty period shopping. And – bonus – it’s a much greener idea than having a tonne of disposable tampons, pads and pantyliners.
I was actually looking forward to getting my period!
My last period was kind of uncomfortable. Mainly because we went to visit my friend so we were staying at her house. Even without all the stuff you have to throw away for periods, it is still kind of awkward emptying a menstrual cup.
TMI warning: Sometimes when you empty a menstrual cup and you have a lot of blood, it kind of sits at the bottom of the toilet and it doesn’t shift even when you flush it. My tip is to empty it onto some toilet roll you’ve put down in the loo beforehand. Or empty it into the sink (but some people are icky about this).
Anyway, it does mean you end up doing a bit more toilet cleaning than usual. Also, we had a photo shoot planned and of course I had my period so I felt all bloated and spotty. (It was a family and motherhood photo shoot so I guess it was at least true to life, although I’d have preferred to be less bloated and spotty!)
So now I am on day two of my period, which started last night. I wore the new Merula cup overnight and – woohoo! – no leaks! Not even a drip! It was amazing. Although usually it doesn’t get super heavy until day two.
This morning after emptying the cup and replacing it, I had a leak but I think it was because I hadn’t placed the cup correctly, because when I extracted it, it was only about half full. So the next time I replaced it I took extra care in placing and turning it to make sure it was fully open. I also decided to brave the peacocks! (I still have a load of disposable pads I was using up.)
So my first experience with CSPs is… well, I don’t like the idea of bleeding onto the pretty peacocks! But actually they’re pretty comfortable. They do feel a bit “bunchier” but that probably just takes a bit of getting used to as you’re used to super thin disposable waterproof stuff and now you essentially just have a bit of cloth in your knickers (albeit pretty cloth!). Actually had to write to the maker to find out what side to bleed onto! (She was very nice and said it’s a very common question and yes, it’s the pretty peacocks!)
In terms of using them, they are shaped like winged pads and you just place them in your pants and they have little poppers to do up, rather than adhesive which you get on disposable ones. The pretty material is face up and it’s backed with fleece and has some padding inside.
When you are done, you are just supposed to rinse or soak them in cold water to get the initial blood off and then you wash them in a cool wash. (Also if you’re out and about you can kind of fold them up into a little package with the poppers which appeals to my sense of satisfaction and portability!)
I really feel like they are a great investment so far as I like that I’m not dumping a tonne of disposable paper and plastic for my period, but we shall see how the washing goes.
So… It’s Day 2 and usually by now I’d have leaked through onto a pad with the mooncup but I haven’t leaked at all with the Merula. Long may it continue! Maybe I’ll have no need for added protection with the new cup? That would be the dream!