I’d like to introduce my favourite zero waste reusables: Modibodi underwear and menstrual cups. These life changing products allow me to menstruate without generating waste and tackle period stigma.
From prepubescence through to womanhood my options were presented as disposable pads or disposable tampons – take your pick! I had books and magazines to read, went to puberty talks given by nurses, and still no mention of reusables like menstrual cups and cloth pads. Why?
At some point I learnt that some women did use reusable cloth pads, but in my experience there was a sense of disgrace associated with their use. I’ve never understood why. I guess it has to do with marketers that like to tell us how revolting we are so that they can sell us a solution.
Unfortunately, a sense of indignity still pervades around the world when it comes to periods. Disposable pads and tampons can contribute to this by reinforcing the ‘ick’ factor of periods. It’s like you must not see or touch menstrual blood, and you must dispose of the evidence as fast as possible. Let’s all pretend it doesn’t happen.
Reusables on the other hand can encourage women to be more comfortable with their bodies and with menstruation so that period anxiety and period stigma are reduced. You might even discover you don’t lose as much blood as you thought (50 – 100ml per period). Reusable menstrual products empower women to make good choices for their health (you should read this to learn more), the environment, and for their wallets (they are a great option for low-income women). You’ll never find yourself dashing to the shops again.
I hope there are men reading this because part of the solution to period stigma is educating men on the different options available to women for managing menstruation. If men have a lack of knowledge and negative views about menstruation it can lead to women experiencing embarrassment or shame and contribute to gender inequality.
So help me spread the word about menstrual reusables like cloth pads, Modibodis and menstrual cups. There are other options available to women to manage menstruation too. These include reusable tampons, sea sponges, and free bleeding (you might already do this at times and not even realise it e.g. night time, days at home). It’s your body so choose something that works for you.
After considering all the information, I decided Modibodi underwear and a menstrual cup would suit me best.
Why I love my menstrual cup
Once I started menstruating I quickly developed a preference for tampons. I found plastic disposable pads and liners would bunch up, move about, be messy, smelly, scrunchy-sounding, and not practical for playing sport.
Now I realise that cloth pads remove some of these problems, like the plastic feeling, or the scrunchy sound, or the awful ‘sanitary’ smell created by the heavy perfumes and absorbing agents in disposable pads (the same thing happens with disposable nappies). All the reviews I have read state that cloth pads don’t enhance a women’s natural odour. I would think cloth pads are an excellent choice for people who already prefer pads over tampons, with the additional benefits of being able to make them yourself (there are lots of sewing patterns online), or support small makers (Moonpads are Australian) rather than big corporations. They are easy to wash in the machine with your other washing and if stains occur, I wouldn’t consider that such a big deal given they are for your personal use only. You will need some way of keeping them if you are out all day.
But back to tampons. Given I didn’t know there were other reusable options I kept searching for 100% organic cotton tampons that came in plastic free packaging. Unfortunately, this was difficult, but all that searching eventually uncovered the menstrual cup. Mind blown. I was like OMG there is another option!
A menstrual cup works by placing the cup in the vagina (you fold it to insert and when it opens it creates a seal) to collect menstrual blood. The cup is emptied into the toilet, rinsed and reinserted.
But hang on. Why wasn’t this simple idea mainstream? I started to think there must be some fault with the product. Maybe manufacturing was destructive or the material used was bad for our health? Nope, it’s made from medical grade silicone which is kinder on the environment than cotton farming. I trawled the internet for days reading reviews and stories about using menstrual cups in different situations (e.g. at work, hiking, traveling, night time use). I came across the occasional over-dramatised story and a few comments from people who couldn’t make it work for them, but overwhelmingly this product was receiving rave reviews. I couldn’t wait to try one.
Being Australian, I went with the Australian made and owned JuJu cup which is made from medical grade silicone, is cruelty free, and comes in 100% recycled paper packaging. I had to order it online because I couldn’t find any menstrual cups in any stores or chemists. There were two sizes to choose from so I ordered the one for women who have had a vaginal birth.
I had to wait for ages before I could use it because I was on the Implanon at the time and had really random periods. Finally, the moment arrived. I read the instructions thoroughly and gave it my best shot. Wow, that was easy – until I left the bathroom and I suddenly felt dull pain. I quickly raced back to the bathroom and repositioned it. I spent the next 30 mins doing squats and making odd movements around the house until it finally got into a position where I couldn’t feel it any longer. My panic that I was going to fail at this subsided. After feeling pretty good about myself for the rest of the day, and even completely forgetting about it, I was challenged again in the evening when I tried to remove it. I thought ‘crap that’s stuck’, but it was because I pulled the stem before breaking the seal with my finger first. Now to rinse and start all over again.
It’s definitely gotten easier each time. JuJu recommend giving it at least three cycles to get it right and I would have to agree because despite being super keen and relaxed, I still had to figure out what worked for my body. JuJu have excellent support pages with videos of the different folds you can try and a thorough FAQ page.
In addition to everyday use I have used my menstrual cup whilst on holiday and whilst camping in the bush with only a pit toilet (I was scared I would drop it down the long drop). I took a water canister with me to rinse the cup and wash my hands. You really can use menstrual cups in any situation and actually they are better when you are out for the day because they can be left in for 12hours at a time.
The benefits of using a menstrual cup for me are:
- I can completely forget I have my period all day because I can wear it for 12 hours at a time. I simply insert it in the morning, then empty, rinse and reinsert at night.
- No chemicals, bleaches, fibres or absorbency enhancers.
- Hygienic and easy to clean
- Ideal for exercise and activities
- Ideal for traveling and camping when there are limited facilities
- If you are expecting your period you can start wearing the cup because it won’t dry you out like tampons do
- Will save me a significant amount of money over time. It cost me $55 whereas the average women will spend $4000 on disposable products in her life time
- I am doing much less harm to the environment. With most women having about 400 menstrual cycles in their lifetime and using 10,000 disposable products, that’s a lot of waste going to landfill.
- It is healthier for me.
For a laugh check out this tampon user versus menstrual cup user video. I’ve shared it on Facebook before but I do find it amusing and accurate.
Why I love my Modibodi underwear
Now for something I like so much that I want to wear it every day! Discovering Modibodi underwear was another of those moments when I punched the air with a sense of triumph that I could lead my life in a way that suited me. Someone out there understood my needs (and no doubt thousands of others) and was doing something about it.
Modibodi underwear is an Australia brand of underwear that uses fabric technology to create an inbuilt liner as an alternative to disposable liners and pads, as well as cloth pads. Eighteen months of scientific testing went into finding the most effective combination of fabrics, and the underwear is made in Australia by ethical manufacturers approved by the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia.
These undies are so comfortable, versatile, and attractive that I am sure you will fall in love with them too – even if you are not interested in the health or environmental benefits of not using disposable products.
Modibodi underwear can be used for any situation that you would consider using a liner, pad or tampon, for example:
- When you are expecting your period to begin
- Absorption of discharge
- Light bladder weakness
- Sweat absorption during exercise or in hot weather
- Light period days or spotting e.g. at the end of your cycle
- Moderate period days if you choose the heavy absorbency lining (holds the same amount of liquid as 1 -2 tampons)
- For night flow (usually I don’t use anything at night because I don’t need to but these could be used)
- Backup protection for tampons or menstrual cups
- Post giving birth, and
Here is a demonstration video for you:
I love them because you can’t get more convenient than putting on your underwear at the beginning of each the day. They also fit great with no riding up or elastic cutting into my skin. The pad is well placed so that the seams are not annoying, and it doesn’t move around or bunch up!
I also love that the pad is thin enough to be comfortable and unnoticeable, yet it gives me a sense of security. I can’t tell you how often I have been out and started to wonder if my period has started or if I’m just experiencing sweat. I wish I had these when I returned to netball last year. Turns out having children has resulted in light bladder weakness in some situations. Oh and I have been that women at the gym that gets off the treadmill and realises that everyone can see she has a sweaty crutch. But not so far with Modibodis which really does make me feel more care free and focused on the task at hand. Modibodis will definitely be used when I travel, hike, camp, or go out for special occasions. Like I said, I’m going to wear them all the time.
I think Modibodis are really well priced in comparision to other underwear, and of course there are no ongoing costs. There is also none of the chemicals, bleaches, or absorbency enhancers that come with disposable products.
I find they wash really well in the machine with other clothing and dry on the line. Before purchasing I recommend you look up the sizing guide on the Modibodi website because I found I needed to choose a smaller size than I normal would have.
What to do with your left over disposable products?
So you’ve decided to use reusable menstrual products and have some tampons, pads, or liners left in the bathroom cupboard or your handbag. Why not donate them to those in need? The Gippsland Period Project accepts donations of sanitary products to support women and transgender men experiencing homelessness in Gippsland. Check their Facebook page and website for more information and to find drop off locations.
Also check out Days for Girls International to find out how to make a difference to the lives of girls and keep them in school to break the cycle of poverty.
Just thought I’d clarify that this post is not sponsored by any of the organisations mentioned. Modibodi provided product upon my request, and as always my post represents my unbiased opinion.