Sustainable Periods? Are they simply too messy?

*Small disclaimer: I will be discussing periods in a fairly personal way in this post, so if that doesn't interest you or it's something you feel uncomfortable about reading, then please click away, or maybe read on to educate yourself and become comfortable with a subject that is natural, normal and part of life for most women*

Dear reader,

Moving to uni last year meant making more independent living choices and for me, this particularly involved smaller sustainable changes in my everyday life. I follow a lot of zero waste influencers on social media and many of them have spoken about how they use reusable menstrual products to cut down on the vast amount of waste they produce, as well as emissions from manufacturing.

Did you know that it takes a singular tampon longer to degrade than your entire lifespan? Plastic applicators for tampons are among the worst offenders and take 500 years to decompose. The average woman will throw away over 11, 000 pads or tampons in her reproductive lifetime. 

That's a lot.

I'd heard of menstrual cups and 'period panties' and watched videos of people trying them out for challenges to see how they fared but was hesitant to try them myself. They seemed risky, scary, hard to handle and messy. Periods are a complete bloody nightmare (pun intended) a lot of the time, and I didn't fancy adding any more stress to that time of the month.

However, I finally took the plunge and got myself a menstrual cup about 4 months ago. I wanted to wait until I had completely sussed the cup out and got my period to be as waste-free as possible before writing about it. 

I'll mostly be talking about my own experience using a menstrual cup and period panties rather than other alternative products, of which there are MANY. I am not sponsoring or promoting any of the products I mention, this is just my honest thoughts and feelings!

So here I am, having just had my first ever completely waste-free period (woohoo!), and I think I feel equipped (literally) to speak about it and explain why I'm saying goodbye to tampons and pads forever.

Do your research!!

Before you take the plunge and invest in reusable period products, definitely take the time to research what type of product is best for you, particularly with a menstrual cup! I watched a tonne of review videos etc, so I felt like I knew what I was getting into a bit more than if I'd just randomly bought one.
There are soooo many alternative period products! With each product, there is so much variation in capacities, shapes, brands, colours, and dimensions! I literally thought there were Mooncups and reusable pads and that was it. NO! There are far too many to choose from. 

If you're interested in giving the cup a whirl but aren't sure where to start, a really good tool is the following quiz, which picks a selection of cups they think best suited to you. It literally takes 5 minutes and is so useful!

A menstrual cup isn't the only solution as well. organic tampons biodegrade at much faster rates than regular tampons and can be found in highstreet drugstores, as well as reusable applicators, which reduce the number of plastic applicators being used. There are so many new options, so there is definitely a plastic alternative period product for every woman.


Spending £21 on a Mooncup and then recently £38 on two pairs of period knickers made me want to cry a bit. Spending that much money at once is a bit of a shock to my poor student bank account, however, even buying the cheapest tampons and pads Boots have to offer means I'm spending about £4 a month. I know girls who stick to branded products as well and can spend up to £10 a month (this doesn't include all the pairs of underwear I've ruined!)

Considering that a cup lasts about 10 years and knickers (if washed gently) last about the same or just short, I'll get my money's worth back in about 14 periods or fewer. I also don't have to do that panic run to the shops when I've undoubtedly forgotten to restock with tampons and my period comes early. I just carry my cup with me in its little bag and voila.


I'm not going to sugarcoat this one. Using a cup especially is a messy business. Don't get me wrong - when its in and doing its job it can be far less messy/unhygienic than using a tampon or pad, however, the removal process is rather hands-on.

The first few months of using my cup felt a bit like that scene from Carrie, but it definitely made me way more comfortable with my body and my period -You literally come face to face with it! Having said that... I found it kind of interesting? I now know way more about how much I bleed, where my cervix is and how my body works. Now I feel like a pro!

I think at the end of the day, I'm not a squeamish person at all, which helps. Blood is just blood, it's just coming from a different body part. It isn't dirty or gross. You kind of just have to get over yourself on this one I'm afraid.


Cups (although they vary in capacity) usually hold about 25ml of blood. That's about 3-4 regular tampons worth. Lots of women can keep it in all day (there's no risk of TSS - an extra bonus) change it once and carry on. You can do sports, swim, sleep and do pretty much everything with it. SO once you've figured out your flow and how often you have to change it, it is way more convenient. You also don't have to worry about carrying enough tampons around with you.

There are times where it can be inconvenient. Personally, the first day of my period is obscenely heavy. This is where the cup can be a bit of a pain, as I discovered whilst traveling back from a holiday abroad and finding I had to change my cup every one and a half/two hours in airport toilets and on the plane...not fun.

This is where period pants come in handy. If I'm at work and I feel the cup overfloweth I can't always immediately run to the loo and change it. Rinsing it out is also impossible, as they are cubicle loos and I would have to go out of the stall looking like I'd just murdered someone, rinse, then go back in. It's also a bit more time consuming, obviously, and time isn't always a luxury when you have a busy shift. 

I usually wear my period pants now with the cup and if I have a small leak because I haven't put it in right or the cup is full I don't feel panicked and when the moment arises I empty it. I clean it out with a damp tissue when I can't access the sink and then give it a proper wash when I come home and empty it again at the end of the day.

Most women find, however, the cup will last most of the day, especially with period pants on, so this isn't something worth worrying about. I usually wear a tampon-pad combo anyway so it isn't too different from that.

I will say that obviously, you have to wash your underwear at the end of each day, so you might have to switch up what days you do you light and dark washing or maybe just handwash!

But I haven't even used tampons before?!

I've seen lots of questions online from women who want to have more sustainable periods but are afraid to use the cup because they're a virgin or haven't even used a tampon before. Cups look big and let's face it, a bit intimidating. There's nothing to fear! If it makes you uncomfortable maybe go for period pants or reusable pads as an alternative option. Inserting the cup for the first time is funny to get used to for sure, but it shouldn't be uncomfortable at all. Plus you have to take it out/put it back in far less than you do with tampons! 

You can't feel it at all once it's in, as crazy as that sounds! Once you've figured out how it works, it just sits there and does its thing.

Period pants also feel 10x less bulky and uncomfy compared to pads. Holy moly.

I don't trust it/ what if it leaks

I think this was my biggest worry. There are so many horror story videos on youtube where someone's cup has leaked and blood has gone everywhere. Usually, if there's a leak, it's because its not in properly or the air seal hasn't been made, which you can check easily by running your finger around the outside of the cup to check there are no dents or gently tugging it down (you can literally feel it suctioned to you when you pull on it). If it continues to leak maybe try a different shape or brand or check the air holes at the top are fully unblocked before reinserting. 

maybe you underestimated your flow and it filled up quicker than usual! On my heavier days, I wear period pants, as I've said before to catch any leaks. If the leaks are major then I'll just take out the cup when I can and pop it back in, double-checking I've done it right. 

As someone with awful periods and trust issues with my own body, I'm telling you now, once you've adjusted to using a cup or period pants, leaks aren't something to worry about at all, and if anything, my periods have been easier to manage!

I could go on and on (as per usual) but hopefully, I've summed up the experience of using reusable menstrual products and hopefully made some of you ladies think a bit more about what changes you could make in your lives for the environment.

Hebe x

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