I’m quite a frank/open person with my close friends. Periods have such a taboo around them and I’m pretty bored of it to be honest. I actually asked my best friend if I should even write this post and she replied:
“It’s something that there shouldn’t be such a stigma around so it would be good to write about it and break those barriers down.”
And I couldn’t agree more, so here we are! I think this is a topic that people of all genders and sex’s should know a bit more about to open up the conversation.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried a number of different period products and wanted to share my experiences of them. I know it is a luxury for me to have access to these different options and I personally wish to utilise this privilege to try and minimise the waste and environmental impact this inconvenient time of the month causes.
Pads & Tampons
This is where many people will start, it’s certainly where I started. Super easy to use, convenient and can be tailored to suit your cycle. The issue I had with these was the regularity of needing to change them and the regularity of needing to empty my bathroom bin because it was forever filling up with plastic packaging/applicators. The process of emptying the bin wasn’t what bothered me (I know I’m a student but I’m a clean student, okay). What bothered me was the sheer quantity of plastic that I was seeing mount up for 1 week every month. It got me thinking about the seemingly scary world of alternatives…
The Mooncup is the first non-disposable product I tried. This was in 2016. I was terrified to start with but it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve tried.
Firstly let’s talk about the cost. As a student buying tampons and pads every month gets very expensive and very old, very fast. I don’t want to be shelling out so often for things that get thrown in the bin and bring me literally no joy. Hence why I decided to give the Mooncup a try. It’s £19.99 for 1 reusable cup which lasts for a number of years. It’s a bit fiddly to get used to and you need to be comfortable with your own anatomy but once you’ve got the hang of it it’s brilliant! I spoke so highly of my Mooncup I actually converted two of my housemates to menstrual cups last year (oops, sorry not sorry)! The only downside of the Mooncup is that occasionally it can be difficult to put in and position properly and can cause irritation if it is positioned too low down. Once you trim the stem to suit your body it is a lot easier to position it correctly.
Once in properly you can’t feel anything and it can stay in for 12 hours, holding 3 times more than a traditional tampon. It can be used throughout your period from the lightest to the heaviest days. To date it’s one of my favourite products. You can sleep with it in all night without worrying. You just empty it and rinse it and then at the end of each cycle you boil it to sterilise it and then put it away until the next month! This is definitely worth the small investment. If you were to spend say £10 a month on tampons, pads etc then after 2 months you have already broken even. It definitely takes some getting used to as you need to fold/insert the cup in a specific way but be patient and the rewards are worth it.
Flex Fits discs
I wasn’t sure about the Flex Fits to start with. The fact that plastic discs were being sold as an alternative to natural fibres used in standard tampons and pads just didn’t sit right with me environmentally. However upon further investigation, I think that due to only needing to change the Flex discs every 12 hours you should theoretically use fewer. Meaning it seems to balance out/be slightly less plastic overall than perhaps the equivalent of tampons (including wrappers and applicators)?
I decided to give these a whirl. Flex is set up as a subscription service and they were running a deal of £13 for the first 3 months worth of Flex which is a package of 24 discs (normally £40 for 3 months). One disc can hold up to 5 tampons worth of liquid and with the promise of reduced cramps and the option for mess free time with a partner, the flex was something I knew I needed to try.
I absolutely loved this product. It fit so comfortably, was easy to insert and dispose of, held a large quantity of liquid and was leak proof! (They do however, leak when you go to the bathroom but you can just tuck it back up and it’s good to stay for the remaining time of the 12 hours). It held up to all the promises on their website and although I didn’t have a noticeable difference with cramps it didn’t make them any worse which is a bonus. It was also more comfortable than tampons and felt like I wasn’t on my period.
I think I will have a couple of these in my various bags for emergencies as it’s easy to forget to pack your 1 reusable item. However despite my positive experience I’m not sure I would repurchase. Firstly the normal cost seems a little high for disposable products, for the price of 3 months of Flex Fits you could get either a Mooncup or a Ziggy Cup which would both last a number of years. Also £160 for a year is a lot of money although this is comparable to the amount often spent on tampons and pads. The amount of plastic waste is still substantial due to the product itself being made of plastic and the plastic wrapper. Although I do really like this product I feel that with the two reusable alternatives I have found, it wouldn’t sit right with me knowing I could use less plastic and continuing to use these for my whole period every month.
Now this is exactly what I had been waiting for and I was not disappointed! After seeing the Flex discs I thought to myself “I just wish there was a reusable version”. Lo and behold, about 2 weeks later I stumbled on the Ziggy Cup. Aside from being slightly annoyed that someone had beaten me to my million dollar idea, I was thrilled and ordered one straight away. This was a bit more pricey than I had expected at £35.99 but with the promise of at least 2 years of use, that means it would cost less than £1.50 a month.
This shallow cup/disc boasts all the positives of the Flex discs and all the positives of a menstrual cup. Again you really do need to be comfortable with your anatomy as it can take a little bit of trial and error to ensure it is inserted right. I think it is easier to insert than a the Mooncup as it sits a lot higher up it is easier to get the positioning correct and be confident you have got it right. It is also convenient due to the 12 hour wear and is incredibly comfortable, you don’t feel a thing. As with all the above products the initial getting used to positioning it correctly can be a little tricky but is easy enough after some practice. It washes well and doesn’t cause any irritation. I actually prefer this to the Mooncup, as someone with an IUD I am a tiny bit worried about dislodging the IUD when using a Mooncup but this is something that I do not worry about at all when using the Ziggy Cup.
At such a low price per month and with so many positives the Ziggy Cup is my favourite ‘alternative’ period product. Intimina is the only company I know of so far that produces a disc like menstrual cup and it has only been released relatively recently, I am sure more will come onto the market (potentially with lower price points) as they gain popularity. I think the only small negative with the design of the Flex Discs and Ziggy Cup is that they are a little more messy when being changed/taken out to be rinsed, I personally don’t mind this but I know some people can be a bit squeamish. I hope this is helpful!
I am not here to persuade or judge the decisions of anyone with a uterus & menstrual cycle. Different products etc work for different people and the above mentioned information is only from my experience and general knowledge. The best thing is what works for you and your body! Pads may be the best item for some people whilst others may love the Flex discs, what is important is that you find something that suits your needs. Always speak to your doctor regarding any concerns you may have.