Hey boys, just move on. No, really.
Full Disclosure: I am in no way being compensated by any of these brands. I didn’t receive anything for free nor am I being paid to review the products. Also, I’ve been using some of them for SIX years, so… I feel like you can actually believe this lengthy product review. Also, all photos have been borrowed directly from the manufacturers’ websites not because they asked me to, but because their images are much better than any I could take of my used products.
I’ve been using “alternative” ways to deal with my monthly cycle for years. It actually goes back to 9 years ago when I switched from an estrogen based birth control pill to a progesterone pill and as a result unwillingly lost my period for 2 years. It also, not surprisingly, coincided with being the heaviest weight I was outside of pregnancy (332lbs).
It wasn’t until 2 years later after I was off of birth control, joined a women’s gym, and dropped 30lbs did I get my period back. Oh no wait, I never got my period back. I got pregnant without knowing it was even possible! Fortunately, we have Cole as a result of my wonky body.
When I finally got my period back about a year after Cole was born (thank you, breastfeeding!), I was cloth diapering. It was a logical progression to not use disposable products for me. All the boards I followed and bloggers I read were doing it, seemed natural; all the places I bought cloth diapers sold women’s products too. Ever since, I’ve taken Aunt Flow seriously.
I never went back on birth control and I started researching natural ways to manage my menstruation. The results? I no longer have an unreasonably heavy flow, terrible cramping every month (the kind that had me going home sick from school in high school) or cyclical migraines and crazy mood swings. Don’t get me wrong, I still have mood swings… just much more predictable and comical ones now.
How did I fix all that crazy jazz? I have regulated myself to a perfect menstrual cycle using a nutrient dense paleo diet and natural menstrual products. Natural menstrual products? Yes. I’ve gone over the deep-end people, and I’m here to tell you it’s totally worth the effort for you to become a crunchy granola suburban hippy too.
Each woman has her own reasons for deciding to use non-disposable menstrual products. It could be she is aware of the environmental impacts involved in the production and waste disposal of the disposable products. Perhaps she is concerned about the toxic chemicals in the pads and tampons that she is exposing herself to. Or it could be a matter of wanting a more cost-effective product. Whatever the reason, more and more women are returning to the non-disposable menstrual products as a return to sanity in a world that is becoming more and more toxic and artificial. – NaturalMenstralProducts.com
You avoid bleach & BPA in all other aspects of your life, why not this one too? Bleached tampons and BPA-plastic lined pads are about the worst things I can think of to put inside or next to your most sensitive lady parts. I certainly was unwilling to expose my body to that anymore once I thought about it a bit…not to mention, they’re awful for the environment!
I do come bearing good news, however. Don’t freak out and run away, there ARE other options! After years of trying out a HUGE variety of natural products, I’ve got some thoughts on what to recommend. And these are not just for extremist… every woman can do these! Remember, I’m a working woman with 3 boys who give me ZERO privacy. If I can do it, so you can you.
The good news for you is, I’ve been testing for 6 years and can give you an honest opinion and assessment of each.
Going into the woods and loudly whining for 2-4 days
I mean, I used to think this was a viable option. If this is you, skip to the summary below. Don’t bother reading my lengthy review, you need help and you need it fast.
When I first when au naturale in 2006, unbleached tampons were the first product I tried. I found that after one or two cycles of using them I just completely lost interest in a disposable product, but they are a great “intro” to those using standard menstrual products today.
I continued to use them as a back-up plan as I transitioned into going completely disposable-free. Before I found and fell in love with Cups, they were my go-to swimming solution for years. They are also the only insertable product which are going to be mess-free (at least until you get the hang of the other products, which sometimes takes a few cycles).
What I found with any product that “plugs” the vaginal canal, however, is they it prolongs my period by a day. I think it’s because the momentum and flow your body would normally have is hindered by something literally stopping it up – which seems to take my body anywhere from 12-36 hours extra than if I don’t use anything.
As I moved away from disposable unbleached tampons, the next thing I bought was Jade & Pearl’s Sea Sponge tampons. Admittedly, the #1 factor in choosing these over a Cup was the price. For about half the cost of a Cup, I got 2 sponges. Problem is, the set would only last me 6 months – so I kept having to buy new ones. I did, however, like that these can be cut and easily fitted by you at home. They are the only insertable product I’m able to wear and forget about, as I am able to get an extremely comfortable fit with them.
Granted, it does seem more natural to me to use a product of the earth than plastic. And… I was completely scared of a Cup. So I used and loved my sponges for years. In fact, when Cave Girl Eats talked about natural menstrual products, I was totally a sponge-pusher. And she hadn’t even heard of them!
Problem is, they are (by far) the messiest of all the natural products. There is absolutely no way that I could figure out, after years of use, to get these out without (sorry for being graphic here ladies) squeezing the sponge as you take it out of your body. This, of course, results in the liquid held by the sponge (blood & whatnot) to ooze onto your hand. I’m not one to be squeamish, but when you’re a working woman or on-the-go in public restrooms, this can result in more than a few awkward situations.
As an aside, for those of you who haven’t been married 11 years, supposedly you can have sex with sea sponges. So, that seems like a reason to keep ‘em around sometimes… *Barry White music playing*
A few months after Wesley was born, my darn period returned. I was SO irritated with how unexpectedly early it was. I was completely unprepared and didn’t have any Sea Sponges in the house. I couldn’t find my cloth pads in the house and had to run to the store to get something. It was there I finally braved the purchase of a Diva Cup.
I had several friends telling me to try one for years, but I liked my sponges. But the real reason I wouldn’t use one: the idea of the cup somehow coming loose and spilling icky everywhere had me seriously scared. But, faced with few options at my local store, I grabbed a size 2, came home and figured it out. The good news? I’ve been using a Cup for a long time now and have never had a spill incident.
I have mixed emotions about a Diva. On one hand, it’s simple. Problem is, it’s so persuasive a brand in the US that it’s able to be an inferior product and still get name-brand recognition. Now, don’t get me wrong. If I had to choose going back to a sponge or Diva Cup I’d choose Diva. But, otherwise, I don’t use mine anymore.
Here’s what happened. After 3 days of yelling at Matt, “Leave me alone. I. have. A. Cup. INSIDE . OF ME!” I realized my period was then over. What? Did I count wrong? What just happened.. 3 days? That can’t be right. So another month came, and my tolerance level for the cup increased. My skill level with insertion and removal improved. I got it to be more comfortable. And then, 3 days later, it was over. Again.
What I realized was that by removing the “stoppage” of a tampon or sea sponge my flow allowed the fluids to exit the body faster. Essentially, the Cup effectively shortened my period by a whole day!
So, obviously, I’m a Cup girl. Problem is, the Diva Cup just never felt “right” to me. It either went up too far and made my cervix sore or it hung out of my vaginal canal a little so that the end piece poked me when I was sitting down. Also, the soft silicon material requires the insertion technique above, which means you have to twist it a full 360 degrees once inserted – something I never accomplished without getting messy. A couple of times I even dropped it into the toilet because I couldn’t get my grip right and it was too slippery. Talk about GROSS.
So, after I fell in love with the Cup, I wanted a 2nd. They’re not cheap, so I’d been using and washing it in between wearings for a few months before wanting to make the investment into a 2nd. This time, though, I had time to research online and look into alternative brands of Cups. What I found was that the review for Lunette were far superior to Diva. Women found it to be easier to insert and more comfortable to wear.
By choosing Model 2 in Cynthia (last one pictured above) it has a higher volume capacity, a wider circumference, a shorter length than Diva and thicker silicon that doesn’t have to be “twisted” at insertion. Everything I wanted changed about Diva, Lunette already did! Best of all, it came in colors – I say this because my Diva was turning a gross brown color after a few months of use. My Cynthia’s stayed a pretty maroonish-purple color!
What I found with Lunette was sheer love. I did have to learn how to insert it properly because it is different than Diva, which is what I was used to. The first month was nearly unbearable because I wasn’t wearing it correctly. However, once I got it deep enough, it now fits me so well I’ve gone swimming with it several times and had NO leakage (either in or out) of water!
Also (after some practice) insertion and removal is now nearly-mess-free! The stem is longer to grasp, which means I can grab it with toilet paper covered hands, rather than the tip of my fingers I had to use for the Diva. This is especially awesome because a good grasp means I’ve never dropped it into the toilet. I also love that, if in the event you do have to emergency clean it, Lunette makes biodegradable wipes to sanitize them on the go! Let’s not forget, either, that although it’s a hefty price tag on silicon Cups up front – these will last years and years and years – saving a lot of money in the long-run.
Admittedly, the only issue I have with Cups is that on the first and heaviest day of my period their capacity can’t really handle the 10 hours I’d like to go without emptying them. This means I try to work a shorter day and change them right before bed to keep it to about 8 hours between emptying. As an added protection, however, I wear a cloth panty liner (below) with them on that 1 heavy day.
Don’t want to use an insertable menstrual product? Then Luna Pads “eco positive periods” are for you. They make the most leak-proof product that stays in place and holds up (I’ve had mine for 5 years) over time for full flow that I’ve used. I personally don’t like wearing pads, but sometimes I do it to give my body a break. For overnight and heavy days, I have to use Luna Pads Long Maxi or Overnight Pads. The link I’ve provided is for a whole set, including liners. Anything else leaks – for realz. I’ve tried A TON of brands and homemade items from Etsy.
The problem with maxi pads is the bulk. I mean, I get it, they’ve got to be thick in order to not leak… they’re not using plastic. But, ugh. It just feels like I’m wearing a diaper! Of all the brands I’ve tried, Luna is the most “sleek” feeling. There’s a nylon liner that I think allows them to be less bulky. Whatever the case, it lays nicely in underwear & stays put – plus it doesn’t leak. That’s about the best you can ask for in a not-too-bulky reusable pad. Bonus, it’s held up well over time and does NOT stain the way you’re imagining in your head!
Buyer beware: Other products use hemp, which are alluringly absorbent. However, if not properly and thoroughly washed (which is hard without harsh chemicals) they will build up an odor over time. I suggest just avoiding all that drama and going with Luna.
JazzyPads from Tamarack Creations
I saved the best for last. And I know this for a fact because I’ve had the same set of JazzyPads since 2006. Seriously. I’ve been using 1 set of JazzyPads for SIX YEARS and they still look just as pretty as the ones I’ve showcased above.
What I love about these pads is that they are seriously as thin as a store bought disposable liner. I wear these as a back-up plan on the heaviest day and night of my flow with the Lunette Cup, then again on the last day of my cycle when my period is at it’s lightest.
The problem with most cloth pads is the sheer bulk and discomfort of them. With these, that is NOT the case. And because they come with additional inserts, they’re super easy and discrete to carry and change on-the-go. You just change the pad, leave the liner and go. I don’t use these as a maxi pad, but rather a panty liner. Admittedly, I even wear them sometimes when I go running because I’ve had 3 kids and that thing that none of us likes to talk about sometimes happens…
Some final tips:
- Save the planet, save your health – go green with your menstruation, ladies!
- To shorten your period even more, avoid items that stop flow by “plugging” you up.
- Don’t be scared. If I can do it, so can you!
- Don’t buy hemp pads – they accumulate gross odor.
- Don’t drop your cup in the toilet: badness.
- Don’t get overwhelmed by choice.
Do you want insert something or wear pads? If you’re inserting, get a Lunette Cup and JazzyPads for a liner. If you want to only wear pads, get a set of Luna Pads. There, I made the tough decision easier – now, stop buying bleached and plastic products and help your body have the easiest, lightest, shortest period of your life with natural menstrual products and a nutrient-dense paleo diet!