As she squatted naked on the bathroom floor desperately trying to retrieve the menstrual cup that appeared to be permanently stuck in her vagina, Sarah couldn’t help but think miserably “I have made a terrible mistake”.
Fast-forward a few months and now that she has got the hang of it, Sarah happily reports that the menstrual cup is “The Business!”
Sarah is one of thousands of Australian women who have made the switch from conventional sanitary products, like pads and tampons, to alternative reusable options.
The primary reason for the shift towards reusable menstrual products is an increased awareness of the impact that disposable menstrual products have on the environment.
According to estimates, the average Australian woman uses approximately 10,000-12,000 disposable sanitary products in a lifetime. Multiply that by the 3.7 billion women in the world and that is a hell of a lot of waste!
According to Sustainable Menstruation Australia, in Australia alone, approximately 18 thousand metric tonnes of sanitary waste is contributed to landfill every year. With every pad (not to mention the packaging) taking approximately 500-800 years to biodegrade, disposable menstrual products have an enormous ecological impact on the planet.
Another reason attributed to the move towards reusable menstrual products is the cost. Australian women purchase roughly 500 million pads and 300 million tampons a year. In an article published by Mamamia in 2017, it was estimated that the average Australian woman will spend approximately $19,000 on menstrual products in her lifetime!
To add insult to injury, disposable sanitary products are STILL subject to GST in Australia. Because as every woman knows, nothing quite says luxury like menstrual blood, bloating and feeling like you are being kicked repeatedly in the abdomen for 5 -7 days.
Two of the most popular alternative menstrual products on the market are the menstrual cup (a reusable, flexible bell-shaped cup that sits inside the vaginal canal) and menstrual underwear (washable underwear made with fabric in the crotch that is designed to absorb blood).
As someone who has yet to make the switch to sustainable sanitary products, I was curious to know more! I sat down with two friends to talk about their experience using alternative menstrual products.
Sarah – Menstrual Cup (Diva Cup)
How easy is it to use?
Inserting it is easy. It feels comfortable once it is in, and I don’t notice it at all.
Initially I had difficulty removing it. It seemed to be up so high that I couldn’t reach it, and given the seal it creates with your vaginal wall, it was very difficult to remove. However, this was all a lack of practice. Once I calmed down and realised it isn’t going to get lost, and avoided pushing it quite so far up in the beginning, it was absolutely fine.
I go 12 hours without emptying it, no problem, and have gone longer. I consider myself to have a pretty average flow, but I have never even half filled the cup. I simply empty it in my morning and evening showers.
Mine has leaked only once, and this was in the early days when I hadn’t quite mastered how to insert it in the right place. It has otherwise been completely leak proof.
How much do they cost?
$50 at Chemist Warehouse.
Are there any other positives you want to mention?
I find it more comfortable than tampons. I also like that I don’t have to remember to carry tampons with me, as I know it can stay in until I get into the shower at night.
What are the negatives?
Because it is so comfortable and it doesn’t have a string, I have forgotten it’s in once before. This meant that I emptied it at my next shower, so it was in for 24 hours. It still wasn’t full, didn’t smell and from everything I’ve read online, it really isn’t a problem if it stays in for that long.
Amber – Menstrual Underwear (Modibodi)
I love that menstrual underwear has less chemicals than traditional pads and has even less bulk. I also like that I don’t need to worry about it sliding out of place.
How easy is it to use?
The menstrual underwear is so easy. I usually rinse them out with cold water before washing but you don’t even need to do that. The absorption is amazing and I normally feel very dry.
I’ve only had a small amount of leakage with the menstrual underwear on very heavy days.
How much do they cost?
Are there any other points you want to mention?
Apart from the environmental benefits, it’s a relief to know there’s always something there to use. It’s the worst feeling needing a pad or a tampon and then finding you’ve run out!
I don’t like inserting tampons or a diva cup when I’m feeling a bit sensitive and crampy, so I prefer menstrual underwear on those days. You know those days where you swear your uterus is going to fall out of your vagina
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