Sustainable Living: swapping tampons for the menstrual cup

Swapping tampons for a reusable menstrual cup

Yes, I’m going there. For this first time on this blog I’m going to talk periods. If this topic isn’t for you, turn back now.

My period started around aged 12, and from the start I found the whole experience incredibly annoying. Needing to remember pads and tampons and liners for all the different needs / stages, horrible cramps, and basically watching my hard earned paychecks get rubbished instead of spent in a more fun way. Even as an adult the whole situation felt more like a nuisance than a celebration of a body healthy enough to menstruate, or a reminder of the wonders the human body is capable of.

Put simply: it sucked and I wished for a way out.

Enter the menstrual cup.

I first heard about this alternative to traditional feminine hygiene products at university, but I didn’t know anyone who used them until I moved to the UK. Thankfully, I felt comfortable enough with this friend to ask the awkward questions: is it easy to insert / remove? Is it uncomfortable? How do you clean it? Her response was pure confidence: it’s a life changer. Just do it.

And so, about a year ago I made the choice to purchase a Mooncup from Boots for about £22, which felt like a lot up front, followed by a £5 saucepan dedicated to sterilising the cup at the end of my period before storing away. (Because I have this thing about cleanliness and I don’t want my pasta sauce sharing the same saucepan as my menstrual cup – even if it has been sterilised!)

Yes, this felt like a significant financial investment for my period, but let’s do the maths together: in the UK, approximately £10 is spent on sanitary towels and tampons monthly, or £128 per year. By spending £27 on a menstural cup and saucepan for sterilising, this offers an estimated savings of £101 in the first year. Period poverty is real, and not everyone can afford a £27 purchase in one go, but if you can – I couldn’t recommend it enough.

And on the period front? This has been a game-changer.

The Pros

  • Stress-free: I’ve gone from getting stressed about my “heavy” flow on the way, remembering to put tampons, pads, and liners in my bag daily – to never having to think about tampons, pads, or liners.
  • Comfort: more comfortable to insert/wear/remove at every stage of the cycle for all activities (sleeping, exercising, shopping, sitting, commuting, walking, dancing…) than any tampon or pad I’ve tried.
  • Easy to manage: once inserted, the cup has always sealed nicely for me and I don’t think about it until about 8 hours later when I remove, rinse, re-insert.
  • No more flooding: before the menstrual cup I’d tell you my flow was heavy. Very heavy. Prepare the ark heavy. Now I see what’s in the cup, indicated by the measure marks, and I can only say: any flooding I experienced before is likely due to terribly designed sanitary products, because my period is not at all heavy.
  • Reduced cramps?: since I’ve started using the menstrual cup, the bed-bound cramps I often experienced have totally disappeared. This isn’t necessarily causation, but from looking online it seems like I’m not the only one to experience this. I’m not going to complain or question it for too long. Instead I will remain thankful.
  • Better for the environment: I’m no longer creating monthly sanitary product waste, and for this I am happy.
  • Long term savings: with all the money I’ve saved on sanitary products I’ve been able to spend my money on literally anything else – which I’m well chuffed about.

The Cons

  • Getting used to it: it can be tricky to get used to inserting & removing the cup, but once you’re used to it (it took me about 3 or 4 days), it’s easy. And way, way, wayyyyyyyyyyy easier than using a tampon that’s too big for your flow or wasn’t actually full enough to come out.
  • Touching your own blood: this bothered me at first, but I’m used to it now and I practice excellent hand washing before & after, so I’m over it.
  • Sterilisation: because it’s re-usable, the cup needs to be properly sterilised before being stored. This step only takes about 10 minutes though, so while I wait I have a cuppa.
  • The cup stains: with use, the cup stains colour. It’s not dirty, but if you aren’t expecting it then it can be unsettling. Think of it like how tea stains all white mugs over time. They aren’t dirty, it’s just from repeated use.
  • The up front cost: not everyone can spend this much at once, so I won’t pretend this isn’t a factor.
  • Bathrooms without sinks: if the sink is outside of the toilet itself, it can feel awkward to rinse the cup in front of other people. However, this has only come up once during the past year and I rinse the cup 3-4 times per day, so the risk is low. Now I just make sure I rinse my cup sooner if I’m going somewhere where the sink may be outside the toilet cubicle.

Have you – or would you – make the swap to a menstrual cup? Do you have any questions you’d like to ask? – because if you do, I’d be happy to try and help in the comments or on email!

Much love, Katie xo

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