rmc28: (uterus)
Rachel Coleman ([personal profile] rmc28) wrote2012-01-07 12:40 pm

Reusable products for menstruation

Silicone cups

There's a "hilarious" Amazon review of the Mooncup being retweeted all over my timeline at the moment.  I didn't find it that funny, but mostly because I felt it was suffused with an attitude of "what kind of CRAZY person uses THIS?" and I don't usually enjoy having my decisions laughed at for being crazy.    It prompted me to dig out the review I wrote 8 years ago, which reminded me that I too found the first few times a bit challenging.

I used the mooncup regularly until conceiving Charles.  Then I had a long gap without periods at all, thanks to my contraception.  When I started trying to conceive again, my periods returned, and were much more painful without the pill.  The mooncup's size and solidity seemed to trigger cramps on insertion and removal and so, reluctantly, I decided to stop using it.


Washable pads


I bought a load of Lunapads with a friend, sharing the shipping costs from the USA.  With stunning timing, they arrived just after I had got pregnant with Charles, but they came in quite useful for the post-birth bleeding, and then got put away again for five years. 

The lunapad consists of a cloth pad similar in shape to a disposable pad, but with poppers to secure it to the pants.  There are two elasticated strips which allow extra cloth liners to be inserted if more absorbency is needed.  They are softer and more pleasant against the skin than disposable pads, but also bulkier and less comfortable to walk or cycle in.   I also found that the liners would come out of the elastic too easily and stick to me and I had to be careful when going to the loo or I would lose them.

Laundry was easy enough: for the post-birth bleeding, I used to soak them in the nappy bucket; last year I just threw them in with my regular laundry.

I found them less likely to leak than disposable pads, but with the same problems of coverage (unless I use extra-long pads, I end up staining my underwear) and messiness/smell, not to mention incompatible with swimming.  Fundamentally I don't like pads much - tampons or the mooncup keep my blood much more contained, and though I never smell other women's periods I can smell my own and I dislike it.

If I liked pads better in principle, I would have bought some Party In My Pants pads to replace the Lunapads, as reviewed here by [personal profile] staranise.  They seem to use better textiles technology to solve the bulkiness issues I have with Lunapads, as well as actively encouraging "just throw them in the laundry with eveyrthing else".   Getting a set for post-birth bleeding would be extravagant but I might spoil myself and do so anyway.


Sponges


[livejournal.com profile] k245 alerted me to the existence of Jam Sponges, sold from the UK (I think I've seen them in Boots) and thus without enormous shipping charges.  I also like that they don't have a moon-based product name.

Usage:
Wet the sponge, squeeze it, insert it.  To remove it, you bear down until you can reach a bit of sponge, which generally provides a good grip to pull it out.  It's easiest to remove when it's full.  If you are somewhere with a handy basin, you rinse and squeeze it out and then can reuse it.  Otherwise you can put it in a zip-lock bag and deal with it later.  They are much more absorbent than tampons, and so I found it was always possible to save rinsing them for when I was at home.  For heavy flow, I used two sponges.

Cleaning between periods consists of soaking in boiling water with a bit of antiseptic (e.g. teatree oil) and then leaving to dry somewhere warm, e.g. in direct sunlight.

I found the sponges easier to insert / remove than the mooncup, and no messier.  I got similar "go all day or all night" performance from them: no faffing at work, no worrying about leaking in bed.  They didn't trigger cramps the way the mooncup did and I found the cleaning regime easier than boiling the mooncup.  They don't last as long as the mooncup - the Jam Sponge site reckons about a year - but I felt they'd make a good long-term solution for me.  (And then I got pregnant on the next cycle, so I'll not be able to test that for a while.)


Problems:
It took me a while to figure out the right way to insert them to prevent leakage.  The sponges have a long axis and a short axis, and I started off inserting the sponge like a tampon, long axis up the long axis of my vagina, and then I wondered why it was leaking despite obviously not being full.  The trick is to have the long axis across the vagina: the sponge compresses amazingly when wet and will then expand to fill the space available.  After figuring that out, I had no leaks.

The pretty red bag supplied isn't actually waterproof, you need a small zip-lock bag inside / instead of it to carry around either clean wet sponges or dirty sponges waiting to be cleaned.  A couple of zip-lock bags are also supplied, but again I needed to learn from experience.

kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)

[personal profile] kaberett 2012-01-07 12:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, thank you for this post. I'm... also quite bothered by the misogyny of that review you link to.

Maybe it's time for me to make another posting about my Mooncup.
ailbhe: (Default)

[personal profile] ailbhe 2012-01-07 01:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, I won't read the review you linked to, but jam sponges may well be the answer for me, because the mooncup is sometimes painful due to the various other issues I'm dealing with. I'll definitely investigate.
ailbhe: (Default)

[personal profile] ailbhe 2012-01-07 03:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Slightly disappointed that the site selling them is called Moon Times, but I'll get over it. The Jam Rags site is great. I love their FAQ.
kalypso: (Snake)

[personal profile] kalypso 2012-01-07 05:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Swings and roundabouts - it's "Jam" that I find irritating!
hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)

[personal profile] hilarita 2012-01-07 03:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I think it's possible that we underestimate the learning curve associated with using a new menstruation product. It's just that most of us tried out various tampons and towels and things when we were teenagers, and have basically forgotten that we probably went through several iterations of getting things to work. But I think we may have associated a lot of that with figuring out periods, not figuring out products.

[personal profile] techiebabe 2012-01-07 06:44 pm (UTC)(link)
I remember when I had to use a tampon for the first time. It was in a toilet cubicle on a school trip. It was a non-applicator tampon so I pushed it up and then realised my middle finger was red. My friend was waiting outside and I needed to wash my hand so instead of trying to hide it I made a joke about it and she saw my red finger and nearly passed out. Whoops.

I don't think the first time we use any product is perfect and easy, is it? My memories certainly aren't so. I remember sitting cross legged at primary school (age 11) and my pad made my pants bulge. Someone spotted it and said "ha, your pants make you look like a boy!" without realising, she was SO embarrassed when it was explained to her. Awkward times.

And I remember waiting to use the toilet with the sanitary bin in it, the other three cubicles were free and other girls asked me why I was waiting for my "favourite" toilet... only two of us at primary school had periods so there were a lot of moments like that.

The whole experience of being young and learning to use pads, tampons or whatever is something I remember as being very awkward. I remember the "several iterations of getting things to work" only too well. But when you're 11 you just think you aren't very good at it or haven't understood it. And possibly both are true.
feanelwa: (Default)

[personal profile] feanelwa 2012-01-07 07:37 pm (UTC)(link)
I definitely never got to the top of the tampon learning curve. I never quite decided whether the problem was not enough practice, tampons just suck, or I'm just a funny shape. But I decided after 5 years of trying, I couldn't be bothered anymore. Now nobody demands a note from my mum if I don't feel like going swimming any more, this is entirely ok. God I love being an adult.
naath: (Default)

[personal profile] naath 2012-01-07 03:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I bought a mooncup and then went on no-period-having contraception. I have Isshoes with inserting/removing it (they are called "finger nails" and (TMI REDACTED)) and I think sponges would be harder for me (I can't do no-applicator tampons at all). Much better than chucking loads of stuff out all the time though.
ailbhe: (Default)

[personal profile] ailbhe 2012-01-07 03:25 pm (UTC)(link)
I wonder how a reusable tampon applicator (do they still exist?) and a sponge would combine?
naath: (Default)

[personal profile] naath 2012-01-07 06:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, these drugs iz great...
kalypso: (Snake)

[personal profile] kalypso 2012-01-07 04:00 pm (UTC)(link)
I would love to have been able to use the Mooncup but, despite my being told there were ways to fold it up to make it easier to insert, none of them was ever going to make it narrow enough to get inside someone with my issues about penetration. Fortunately I managed to pass it on to a friend without my particular problem.

But I'm still using the Lunapads I got at the same time, as protection against leaks from tampons.

The sponges sound promising, though I suspect I'd find insertion awkward (see above); they should at least be easier to compress.
kalypso: (Snake)

[personal profile] kalypso 2012-01-07 05:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, at £9 it's probably worth an attempt. (Though I suppose in a few years it will cease to be an issue anyway!)
lavendersparkle: (Lady Garden)

[personal profile] lavendersparkle 2012-01-07 06:05 pm (UTC)(link)
I like my mooncup and took to it easily, but I realised in a conversation with some friends about bedikah cloths that I'm more comfortable than most about rummaging about in my fundament and my vagina's rather cooperative. My only problem was one time I was drunk and managed to insert it sideways.

I'm using cloth pads at the moment because I had my IUS replaced a few months ago and I want it to bed in a bit before I risk using a menstrual cup in case I accidentally pull it out. I'm also hoping my periods might go away again. I've tried a couple of brands and I really hate lunapads. They seem the least sensibly designed cloth pads I've come across and I think it's a real shame that they are the most well known brand, as I'm sure some women are put off all cloth pads by the stupid rick rak design.

[personal profile] techiebabe 2012-01-07 06:28 pm (UTC)(link)
As you might have noticed I did tweet that review; I found it entertaining, nothing else. I don't think it says "what kind of crazy person uses this" - in fact, knowing that you and others used the mooncup without a problem, I saw the difficulty in using it as a reflection on the reviewer, not other users. Sorry that you didn't like it, I hope it didn't offend you to see the review in my timeline.
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)

[personal profile] staranise 2012-01-07 06:49 pm (UTC)(link)
*squints at that review* Isn't the solution here "buy the smaller size and try that instead"? Or is that not hilariously misogynistic for her?
atreic: (Default)

[personal profile] atreic 2012-01-07 11:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Yay, thank you for helpful and sensible reviews! Should I go back to menstrating (yay for implanon also!) I will remember this fondly.
miss_t_ide: (Default)

[personal profile] miss_t_ide 2012-01-09 01:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow. I never knew there was so much choice out there. I've been using a Diva Cup, but I haven't really got on with it so well lately. I like the look of the sponge but I don't think it would work for me as my periods are so light these days.

Mooncup blase..

(Anonymous) 2012-03-14 10:50 am (UTC)(link)
I wish I found the mooncup as easy to use as you did! But when you said, 'You only have to empty it once a day' that does make me laugh! I've had leakages with it only to find out its only half full (after less than 30mins) and had to empty it twice (and it has been full) in less than three hours. Everyone has a different experience with it.