Period Product Alternatives

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For most vagina owners, getting your first period is confusing, stressful, and painful. While getting your period becomes more irritating than traumatizing as you get older, many of us never move past our first menstrual products: tampons and pads. These mainstream period products are inefficient, expensive, and terrible for the environment. According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, nearly 20 billion pads and tampons are thrown away every year in North America alone! The lack of affordable, reusable menstrual products is a serious barrier to achieving gender equality around the world: many people who have periods are unable to afford disposable products so they can’t attend school or work while they are menstruating. However, alternatives to disposable products do exist—you just haven’t heard of them!

Sick of ruining your underwear every time you get your period? Check out Thinx, a brand dedicated to creating “period panties.” Thinx’s sleek black underwear absorbs menstrual blood and is effective worn alone or as a backup to other products. Thinx panties come in a variety of styles and most are priced in the $20-30 range. Best of all, period panties are washable and reusable!

Another alternative to the classic disposable pad is reusable cloth pads. These pads are more comfortable than disposables (no chafing!); they are a great option for vagina owners who are sensitive to plastic products. Many reusable pads even have fun patterns! Cloth pads can be washed quickly and easily and save lots of money over years of use.

The real MVP of menstrual products is the menstrual cup. The menstrual cup is exactly what it sounds like: a small silicone cup that you insert into your vagina. One of the most popular cup brands is the Diva Cup. The Diva Cup can be left inside your vagina for up to 12 hours. This means less maintenance and fewer leaks! Unlike tampons, menstrual cups don’t contain dyes or chemicals, and they carry no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. They’re simple to use: every 12 hours you remove your cup, dump its contents in the toilet, rinse, and reinsert! While insertion and removal can be tricky initially, it becomes quick and easy with practice.   

Most menstrual cups are priced between fifteen and thirty dollars. The Diva Cup needs to be replaced annually, while other cups can be used for several years. Using menstrual cups instead of tampons or pads is cost-effective and dramatically reduces your waste output. Menstrual cups are safer, more comfortable, and more effective than plastic products. Some vagina owners even find that switching from tampons to menstrual cups reduces the severity of their cramps.

Many people with periods are wary of reusable products because they necessitate getting up close and personal with your menstrual blood. While we learn that our periods, and vaginas in general, are “gross,” menstruation is a natural biological process. You wipe your nose when you sneeze; you insert a menstrual cup when you bleed. Yes, you will get blood on your fingers, but we’re all adults—let’s stop acting like our periods are something to be afraid of.

Illustration by: Alyssa Geissler