What It's Really Like to Use Reusable Menstrual Pads During Your Period
Nobody likes a stressful mess, especially when they're dealing with their period. Luckily, D'Vaughn McCrae at YourTango has tried reusable menstrual pads and is here to tell the tale.
I'm not proud of everything that happened here.
If you've ever thought about trying reusable menstrual pads, you might not have talked about it with your friends first. There is a lot of shame around menstrual periods. It's not uncommon to grow up with people who act disgusted or freaked out by them as if they're NOT one of the most normal things in the world. Is anyone else totally sick of that?
I have not used pads since my early period days, and I really had no intention of ever going back since they were total failures for my inexperienced flowing youth. AKA: Leak-throughs galore! I carried a sweatshirt with me every day just in case. They were messy and risky. Unpredictable and bulky.
The only "good" that came from it was that I never worried about getting cold in class, and sometimes I had an excuse to leave school early. Tampons were my first menstrual revolution.
Menstrual cups were my second menstrual revolution, and I haven't turned back since.
Disposable menstrual goods have been an interest of mine since I learned how many downsides there are to disposable menstrual products. Women spend thousands of dollars on period supplies throughout their menstruating life, it's yet another contribution to landfill, and many of them have chemicals that can be harmful. Those were enough reasons for me to give a menstrual cup a shot, and I didn't regret it.
It actually made me more accepting of my period, which can be hard to overcome considering how many period jokes are floating around, and they seem to be something to be ashamed of . . . even though they're natural and every woman deals with them.
Reusable products are definitely something to try out, especially since there are so many options now, and they keep growing.
Since I've grown quite comfortable with my menstrual cup, and it proved to be significantly more awesome than tampons, I decided to see how cloth pads compared to disposables. Although the idea of a cloth pad isn't exactly new, it's not a common practice for modern women because of the inconvenience factor.
Periods are inconvenient enough as it is. If a woman has a heavy menstrual flow, they may not even be practical. But given the fact that cloth pads are eco-friendly, it was worth a shot.
I haven't worn a pad since my early-menstruation days, but I figure: hey, there's got to be SOME reason why plenty of women still choose them over tampons! Plus I love trying new things anyway.
Here are some of the pros I found during my first try with reusable menstrual pads:
1. They don't actually feel like diapers.
One of the things I hated most about pads was the fact that I could always feel them the way I imagine I would feel a diaper. I used Hesta Organic Cloth Pads and I didn't feel like I was wearing anything but my trusty, comfy, period granny-panties. One point for reusable pads there!
2. There was zero (yes, zero!) leakage.
Pads and I rarely got along. They just didn't have my back! I would have blood leak through my jeans and not notice until one of the lovely girls in my class would whisper: code red. I always needed a sweatshirt to feel safe so I could wrap it around my waist in case of an emergency. But these babies sopped up that junk before it could dribble anywhere. My pants AND underwear came out of it unscathed! Another point for reusable pads!
3. The pads don't make it look like you're going to drown in blood during the heavy days.
I have a pretty heavy flow for my first couple days — no, that's not TMI.
Anyway, with heavy flow comes a heavy (messy) responsibility. Since the pads I used wouldn't sop up the mess as instantaneously as I would have liked, it would spread throughout the pad so the stain looked HUGE, which used to gross me out back in the day. But I noticed that with these cloth pads, my heavy days wouldn't look so huge in comparison, even though I was bleeding the same amount. It's a small thing, but it somehow made dealing with it much more tolerable.
4. Surprisingly, they don't smell weird.
Periods stink, literally and figuratively, with disposable menstrual products. Blood, gooey uterus slough, and heat make a great breeding ground for some stinky stuff. I hated this with a passion. It was one of the big reasons I traded in my tampons for my menstrual cups, and it seems to be the same case for pads.
5. They're easier and more comfortable to manage in your underwear.
Damn sticky wings. This isn't super hard to begin with, but having the flexibility to adjust to a different position without a struggle is a nice little luxury.
6. The pads are really cute.
Cuteness makes everything better. They generally have cute designs AND, for our convenience, you can fold them up all neatly, so they look like a nice little package instead of trash.
7. It made my period seem WAY less stressful than usual.
Just like with menstrual cups, they made my five days of gore fly by with ease. I haven't dreaded the mess that comes with my period in years, and this stuff just feels easier to deal with, since they last longer and work better and I don't have to worry about stuff like toxic shock syndrome (yes this is rare anyway but I'm kinda paranoid).
Of course, as with all things good, there were some cons to using cloth. Here are the main points, including a few pro-tips:
Con: They're a bit too "hands-on" for me during my heavy days.
If you're like me, you don't like noticeable stains, even on things that no one else will have to see. In order to get the stains out of these pups, you have to soak them in water and wring them out repeatedly. And THEN throw them into the washing machine with cold/lukewarm water.
Since I would use three pads a day for the first two days, I have to say, I felt like a six year old going: Ew!
I'm cool with blood. I'm cool with vaginas. I'm cool with the goo of the uterine wall. Really! But for some reason, wringing it all out of cloth was just . . . Ugh.
Obviously, there wasn't that much blood. Just enough to stain the water a little. Okay, here's a pro tip that I should have thought of sooner: Use rubber gloves.
A ton of you are probably thinking: ew, you didn't use rubber gloves? To which I would like to respond: I was trying to be one with nature, OK? Yeah, OK, it was dumb. Whatever. I was really out of it, OK? I was alone and confused and just wanted to take a shower and sleep!
Fine, it was still dumb.
Rubber gloves definitely would have made the situation less gross for me, but I still can't say I'm a fan of using any kind of pad on my heavy days.
Con: I don't like feeling my period. At all. And in these, you do.
When trying these out, I was quickly reminded of how often I would feel that gushing from my vagina onto my pads, and how paranoid it would always make me. It made me feel like I needed to jump into a shower immediately. And just being aware of every time something leaked out was enough to make me run to the bathroom to make sure these things were working.
Despite the revisited feelings of puberty, I haven't written them off. They were easy to put on and comfortable. I've been using my menstrual cup for a couple years now, and I love it, but towards the end of my period, putting it in doesn't seem like it's worth the effort considering how light my flow is at the end. Too little to justify a whole cup, too much to go unprotected.
So I'll be switching up my routine. First two to three days will be the cup, and last two to three days will be with the pads. Not that you need to know that. But I figured it was a good enough chance to remind everyone that you can do whatever you want to make shark week as pleasant as possible.
If you're now convinced you want to give these a try yourself, here are some pro-tips to help you not make rookie mistakes while saving some money:
1. Don't buy too many.
I had three regular size pads, and three overnight pads, and it was easy to make those last for five days.
I washed a couple each night, and let them dry overnight. If they weren't finished drying, I'd leave them to dry for the rest of the day. No matter what, I always had two pads available. It was a simple cycle, so don't think you need 20 pads for one cycle the way you normally would with regular ones.
2. Make sure you're wearing them right.
This sounds obvious, but every pad is different. Some pads have designs on both sides, some only have a design on one, some are reversible so you can use either side, some only go one way. After wearing my pads for the first day, I realized I was wearing them upside down.
I had thought that I would want the patterned side up so the blood would blend in with the design, and the directions said "smooth side up" which was both sides . . . but then I took a minute to actually rethink it and realized that even though it was working fine, it was wrong. So yeah.
Reusable menstrual products aren't for everyone, especially for the particularly squeamish. Don't feel bad about this. Your period is hard enough without adding environmental guilt on top of it. So if you feel like you can, do, if you feel like you can't, consider/try, if you feel like you absolutely can't, then you just do you, boo.
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