Having to deal with periods is the worst. Even though it’s a natural part of being a woman, it sucks. It can affect plans, make intimate moments awkward and ruin a good day altogether with the cramps and bloating, and mood swings.
Unless you decide to get pregnant or pump yourself full of hormones, there’s no stopping it. So, we learn to live with it and make ourselves as comfortable as possible.
This is where the various period products come in. If you live a comfortable life, you may not give much thought, but the price of period products can really add up by the end of the year. Some women even experience what is known as ‘period poverty’ where they are unable to afford to buy products such as pads and tampons on a monthly basis.
This article is for the woman on a budget, the cautious spender, and everyone else who is curious about the value of menstrual cups and how they compare to the other popular period products on the market today.
As the name suggests, menstrual cups are tiny cups that are used to catch menstrual blood. They are made of a flexible, vaginal friendly silicone or latex material that is placed inside the vagina by folding and inserting like a tampon, which when inside the vagina, unfolds into a cup and forms a seal against the lining of the vaginal walls.
When the cup fills, after about 8-12 depending on the heaviness of the blood flow, it is removed by tugging on a flexible knob on the bottom and emptier before being rinsed with water soap, and water, and reinserted until the end of the period.
Some menstrual cups are disposable and discarded after each use, but generally, they are reusable and are sterilized with hot water afterward, and before the next period.
The prices of menstrual cups may vary by brand, size, and quality, but they generally fall between the $6 to $60 range depending on the number of them in the package. They generally have a high up-front cost.
Since menstrual cups are generally reusable, they are not purchased as often as other period products. Some menstrual cups may even be used for ears.
What makes it worth the cost but can make you second guess?
Menstrual cups are worth the cost because they are durable, and don’t have to be disposed of immediately like the more popular period products. They are also super eco friendly and use less material to produce.
They are also less prone to spills when inserted correctly and are more comfortable to wear than other period products.
On the other hand, menstrual cups can be a nightmare for women who are squeamish and scorn the idea of touching blood. They are also a learning curve for the beginner, as it may be difficult and messy to insert on the first try as it doesn’t come with an applicator.
Comparing other products
Pads sometimes called sanitary pads, or sanitary napkins are a type of period product that is placed in the seat of underwear to absorb blood and tissue during a period. They are generally the same shape but come in a variety of sizes, colors, and designs.
All pads are lined with some sort of absorbent material, typically cotton, to soak up the blood and hold it until it is changed. The underside of the pad is lined with a type of sticky plastic as a final barrier to prevent blood from leaking out underneath and to hold it in space.
Some pads are longer than others, while some are thinner and shorter. Some come with additional sticking wings to help keep it secure while others do not. As a result, they can accommodate all types of periods for all types of women, from the very light to the extremely heavy periods.
Pads range in price, and also quality. Generally, cheaper pads are of poor quality, and prices can range from $4 and even lower depending on the brand, absorbency, and size up to $25 and beyond.
These are single-use items that have to be purchased monthly or in bulk. Pads can only be worn for up to 6 hours, and a woman generally uses 4-5 per day, depending on how heavy the flow is.
Pros and cons of pads
- Pads are the most easily accessible period product
- They are easy to use
- Pads are relatively inexpensive
- They come in different sizes and levels of absorbency
- Since pads are single-use items, they do have a significant impact on the environment especially when not disposed of properly
- If worn for longer than recommended, they can cause infections and unpleasant odor especially on hot days
- Pads can become uncomfortable to wear, especially if you are allergic to the material from which it was made
Reusable pads are similar in concept to regular pads or sanitary napkins, but the difference is that they can be used for a long time before needing to be replaced.
Reusable pads are generally made of cloth such as cotton and bamboo that are absorbent, yet breathable. They are sewn in the same design as regular pads and have wings that clip under the underwear to keep them in place.
When soiled, they are soaked and washed, then dried for another use.
Reusable pads can be made by yourself with cloth, or bought from stores or dressmakers for varying prices, from $3 to $50 and higher, depending on the maker, size, or number of reusable pads.
Pros and cons of disposable pads:
- They are cheaper in the long run since they are reusable
- They are eco friendly
- They are perfect for persons who are allergic to the materials used to make disposable pads
- They generally require hand washing which may feel uncomfortable to some users
- If you are in public when your pad needs to be changed, you will have to store the soiled one in your bag or packet as it would be inappropriate to wash a bloody pad in a public bathroom.
- You will have to wait until they are dry to reuse them
Tampons are tubes of absorbent material such as cotton or rayon that are inserted into the vaginal canal to prevent menstrual blood from seeping out. After 4-8 hours, or when full, they are removed by tugging on a string at the end before being discarded.
This product revolutionized women’s experience with periods and is almost as popular as pads. They are discrete, and help to ‘plug it up’ so that the period doesn’t interfere with daily life and there is less mess.
Tampons are generally single-use items, but some companies have since come out with reusable tampons. The FDA only recognizes the safety of single-use tampons as reusable tampons increase the chance of vaginal infections.
A box of tampons can range in price from $3-$35 and onwards depending on the brand, number of tampons, and absorbency.
Pros and Cons of Tampons
- Tampons are more discreet than pads and are small enough to fit in your pocket, and won’t leave lines on your clothes
- Once in place, they are comfortable to the point that they are virtually unnoticeable
- Tampons allow you to go swimming, and engage in other sporting activities made uncomfortable by pads
- Tampons allow you to wear any type of underwear without the worry of the seat being too small to hold the pad
- They are difficult to use for first-timers, especially virgins
- There’s no visible way to tell when it’s time to change it
- It increases the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which involves vaginal bacteria entering the bloodstream causing various symptoms such as fever, nausea, muscle pain, and in rare cases, death.
Pads and tampons will leak when not used property are full. This leads to panty stains that may seep through your clothing and even onto furniture.Period panties were designed to stop this from happening, and eliminate the need for tampons, pads, or any other period product.
Period panties look just like regular panties and can take the form of boyshorts, thongs, hipsters, and any other panty design you can think of. The difference is that they are made of highly absorbent material that absorbs the blood and keeps it in place until it is time to change them. They are then washed, dried, and reused.
Depending on the brand, size, and design, period panties may range in cost from $10 to $35 for a single pair.
Pros and Cons of Period Panties
- They are discreet and look just like regular underwear
- Period panties are comfortable to wear
- They are eco friendly
- One will need to buy an entire collection if they wish to use them throughout their entire period
- They have a high upfront cost
- If worn for too long, they will cause an odor
- Period panties have to be washed and dried after each use which can be a problem if you are in public, or are traveling
While you may be married to pads and tampons, you should seriously consider trying out a menstrual cup. They are more economical in the long term and are becoming more popular every day.
With that being said, they aren’t for everyone, especially the squirmish, or persons who suffer from sexual trauma or conditions that make touching their vagina painful or uncomfortable