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.

My Modibodi underwear is my favourite reusable for a zero waste lifestyle.
My Modibodi underwear is my favourite reusable for a zero waste lifestyle.

Modibodi underwear is a recent invention (2013), but menstrual cups have been around since 1937, so I’m trying to work out why hadn’t I heard about them before pursuing a zero waste lifestyle.

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

IMG_3894
My JuJu 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
  • Pregnancy
  • Post giving birth, and
  • Menopause.

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.

The Gippsland Period Project does not accept donations of the reusable products I have mentioned however Share the Dignity does accept donations through JuJu and Modibodi.

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.

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23 thoughts

  1. Love this Tammy. I recently purchased my first handmade reusable pads and they are fantastic! I went back to a disposable once out of necessity, and it was awful. I’m a convert and love everything about using them. Supporting local, handmade and significantly reducing waste. I also purchased a handmade waterproof pouch with some of them to keep them in when out and about. Not going back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great! I probably will try cloth pads at some stage, it all depends what happens with my periods now that I have stopped all contraception. For now though, the cup and Modibodis are doing a great job!

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    1. Wow that’s a lot. Yeah I still have days when I can’t seem to get it right for the first 10mins. Apparently our cervix can change height during our cycle which must have something to do with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Huge fan of the cup! The health benefits are huge and I’ve also found there is no ikky smell like pads and tampons. I have a very heavy flow so the cup is fantastic for me. My periods don’t last as long and I don’t cramp as much. I’ve had a few people mention the “gross” factor in a cup, however the idea of blood soaked items in landfill is by far more disgusting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found my period got shorter too, so I’m mostly wearing the undies. Women just need to know all the options so they don’t have to spend their lives in as much discomfort as they may have been. Makes so annoyed that it is considered ‘ick’.

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  3. Hi Tammy, Natural Living in Foster sells JuJu cups and many other great products too – thanks for all your efforts. You have changed the way we think in our house. I have told my 2 boys about you and so often they will say “What would the plastic free lady do in this case?”. Thanks for the inspiration to change, 1 step at a time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw that’s so nice to hear, thanks. I especially like it when the kids get involved. It’s amazing to think that I used to believe there was not much I could really do about packaging and waste… And now all this! Thank you for letting me know about Natural Living, is it your store?

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  4. I’m down to my last two pairs of black nylon stockings thanks to my over enthusiastic wrenching causing unsightly holes. As I’ve tended to do with other items, once I’m running low on the commercial/consumable product, I look for an alternative. Do you have any wisdom to share re biodegradable stockings (or similar)?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tammy just having a browse around on your website and came across this article. You’d be so proud of me, I just bought a juju cup!! Today! I’m actually looking forward to getting my next period, lol. I am looking forward to not having to ‘tend’ to that business throughout the day and just forgetting about it. And pads at night are so uncomfortable for me, I find them irritating so am looking forward to getting more comfortable sleep! Next on my list is to get some modibodi undies or even upscale some of my own undies with my sewing skills 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Tammy I just read about your blog in Wellbeing mag I picked up in the library, and was inspired to check out your website – it’s very informative and nice to see others trying to reduce their environmental impact. I already do many of the same things as you though I haven’t been able to reduce plastic waste as much as I’d like – I need to try harder. Was interested in you getting bread in cloth bags – bread bags are the most common soft plastic waste I have. I wonder if Baker’s Delight will agree to do that? I do take our soft plastic to Coles as part of the Redcycle program. Re the menstrual cups I had one that lasted for 10 years – it cost more than $120 at the time (1998) and had to come from the US, but it still saved me money in the long term. I only bought a new one after having kids, as the old one no longer cut it! I do still use 2-3 disposable pads each month as some days the cup is not enough. I made some cloth pads but found them too bulky and uncomfortable, so was interested in reading about the period pants. I look forward to following your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for getting in touch Kath :). I get my bread from Bakers Delight but I have heard the occasional report that some of their stores won’t use reusable bags. Reducing plastic waste is very hard. I briefly heard on radio today that we touch plastic every 10mins in our modern world! We can only do what we can do and try to demand some design changes. My periods are on the light side so I find myself using only the period pants now. They would be a great back up for a cup for heavier period days.
      Hope to talk to you again soon. Tammy

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      1. I did ask Baker’s Delight (in Goulburn) about fabric bags and they said no problem, so that was good – now I just have to make some! Thanks again for such a great idea.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No worries, Kath. I was at the Warragul one yesterday and the owner of the Phillip Island one was there too. She said they are pushing head office to make the cloth bread bags to sell. I was happy to hear that positive step.

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  7. Thanks Tammy! I’ve just ordered my first JuJu and modibodis to try. I’m super excited. As someone who prefers tampons but also loves camping in the middle of whoop whoop, I’m stoked to try these.
    I also have a friend with an incredibly irregular cycle to I’m keen to see how the modibodis go and hopefully suggest/recommend them to her.
    Side note: on the juju website it recommends wearing the JuJu for eight hours, whereas you said you wear yours for twelve. Do you know if time of wear depend on the cup/individual or are those times recommended for health reasons?

    Liked by 1 person

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