Why I'll Never Buy Tampons Again

why i'll never buy tampons again

I started my period when I was one month away from turning 13 (yes...this really is a post about periods!)

As I'm now 28 and five months old, and my period arrived at the weekend, that means I've reached approximately 202 periods (52÷4x15+7 if anyone is interested in the maths, although don't be too interested as I've ignored the BODMAS rule so it doesn't really make sense...but that's not really the point of this...)

Until a couple of years ago, I had been using standard tampons every month, whichever ones happened to be on offer, and hadn't really thought too much about it - they were cheap and convenient, and available almost everywhere. Then I started reading about the manufacturing process of this type of tampon, and after being sufficiently weirded out by articles discussing bleaching and dioxin and even asbestos I decided that, factual or not, they were off putting enough to convince to me to swap whenever possible to a 100% organic cotton brand which were more expensive and not as readily available, but I definitely felt happier about buying them.

However, fast forward a couple of years and I had slowly started to slip back to the cheaper, much more convenient supermarket offering. However, as I was now using a combination of both standard and organic cotton tampons, I began to notice a difference between the two. The organic ones were not only more expensive, but I definitely used more as the protection didn't last as long as the standard ones. On the plus side, I became completely convinced that the manageable but definitely present stomach and back pain I got every month was much less intense with the organic tampons versus the standard ones. I thought maybe I was imagining it, but after a bit of research discovered other women seemed to be having the same experience!

non applicator tampons

This got me thinking about alternatives. I remember my sister getting a sample of a disposable menstrual cup when she was at college and us both thinking it was a piece of hilarious nonsense - it was crinkly,flimsy, expensive and not to mention HUGE! However, I discovered that things had moved on somewhat since then, and decided to try a reusable one.

After a bit of research, I bought a Mooncup® menstrual cup (This post contains affiliate links - if you buy via The Salted Tail I'll get a small bonus for recommending you, and you'll pay exactly the same. I purchased the Mooncup, and all opinions are very much my own)

This little piece of silicone is the reason I will never buy tampons again! From the very first time I used it (at home...carefully!) it totally changed how I feel about my period. A Mooncup is a small silicone cup which you fold it into quarters and insert as you would a non-applicator tampon, at which point it pops open and the air holes around the top create a small amount of suction to hold it in place. It doesn't absorb like a tampon or a sanitary towel, but collects the 'flow' (anyone else really dislike that word?) and holds everything safely until you remove it, tip the contents down the toilet, rinse (or wipe it out) and re-insert. You can use it throughout your period (even that annoying end bit) and at the end of each month it gets sterilised and stored in a drawstring bag. Mine is currently in use - so here's a picture from Mooncup.co.uk

mooncup.co.uk mooncup drawstring bag

Why do I love it so much? I've been pretty lucky really: I have a really regular cycle, I don't get any crazy PMS type symptoms and any period pain was always really manageable - a bit of cramping and a sore back but never bad enough to take pain killers. However the Mooncup has made that pain disappear - completely and totally disappear! I didn't really believe it was the reason until this month, thinking maybe I'd just grown out of it, or been busy enough with the things not to notice, but this month my period arrived while I was at work and I had to rush out for emergency tampons (the non-organic type) and by the end of my shift I was seriously considering taking some painkillers (and I don't do that very often - hence the serious consideration!)

However, within half an hour of getting home and swapping to the Mooncup the pain had completely gone again! Is it just a placebo, witchcraft perhaps? There are several theories as to why this happens.  Some think it's to do with the muscles being held in a certain way, some think its because tampons absorb everything (even the helpful moisture) and some think it's because women who use a menstrual cup are less tense and anxious about their period. Whatever the scientific reason - the fact that it works is enough for me.

As well as the pros in terms of pain, theres the cost to think about too. The Mooncup cost me about £20 - not a major outlay but more than a box of tampons. I would normally use about 20-25 tampons per period, probably spending around £2.50 on standard tampons or a little more on organic ones. So, £2.50 per cycle, 13 cycles per year is £35, meaning I've already spent more than £500! With another 25 or so years of period joy to go, I could easily have spent £1500 by the time I don't need them anymore! It's worth bearing in mind too that I have always used the non-applicator type - those snazzy plastic ones with the annoying TV advert are considerably more expensive! A Mooncup is designed to last for years if it's looked after properly - so £20 doesn't seem so bad!

Also - there is zero waste from a Mooncup, aside from the box if you want to get really pernickety. Tampons and sanitary towels are pretty annoying to deal with if you don't have a sanitary bin (and who has a sanitary bin at home?) and the easy solution is to flush them down the toilet - but flushing 25 tampons per month down the toilet is going to be a nightmare for your drains, not to mention that if they don't get filtered out at the treatment plants they can end up in our rivers and washed up on beaches - now I know periods are normal and it would be great if we were all a bit more open about them, but tampons on the beach is a touch too far don't you think?

The most common question friends seem to ask is, 'It looks huge, how the heck do you get it in and out!?' Getting it in is easy - you just fold it up so its about the size of an applicator tampon (there are several different folding methods - I use the 'C-Fold") and insert it in exactly the same way. However it sits much lower down than a tampon so there's actually much less prodding about needed to get it in the right place. As for getting it out - I admit that to begin with I was a bit concerned it would be a very messy disaster, but it's totally fine! You pinch the end to release the suction and gently 'wiggle' it out, keeping it upright before tipping the contents away. Yes, it's a larger object to remove than a tampon - but when you think about what else your vagina can cope with - it's really not such a big deal!

I also get asked quite often 'Isn't it disgusting looking at the blood though?' Yes, you are definitely more aware of it than using a tampon, but, unless you especially want to, you don't have to analyse what you're tipping away! In any case - maybe it's a good thing that we all get a bit more in tune with whats going on in our bodies? It's certainly made me more aware of my heavier and lighter days, and another plus side is that you can use the Mooncup on the lightest days when a tampon would be too absorbent and drying and you therefore end up using sanitary towels too (and I hadn't factored that into the cost earlier either!)

What about rinsing it in a public toilet? I've found that I don't need to empty it nearly as often as a would change a tampon, so there's often no need to do so in a public toilet. However, if you do need to, you don't need to rinse it every time - I just tip out the contents, wipe with some toilet roll and make sure to rinse properly when I get home.

Have I had any mishaps with it? Honestly, I've been using mine for about six months now, and I can think of two problems during that time. The first was the very first month I used it, and wasn't really a problem it just took me a few attempts to get it right. The Mooncup has a 'stem' at the bottom which is used to reach the base when you need to remove it, and most people need to trim this a little for a comfortable fit. I was really wary of trimming off too much and making a hole in the bottom (which would make it less than effective!) and kept leaving it too long which proved quite uncomfortable. In the end I ended up cutting nearly all of it off - but everyone will need theirs to be slightly different. The other slight mishap I had was in a coffee shop where the toilet and sink were in the same room and I decided to use the opportunity to rinse my cup rather than just wipe it out. Without going into too much detail the pressure from the hot tap was an awful lot stronger than I expected and the water sprayed back out of the cup all over the sink and backsplash. Thankfully the shop's cleaning products were also stored on a shelf in the toilet so the crisis was quickly remedied.

One tip I have if you're worried about people knowing what you're up to in the bathroom is to put some paper into the toilet first and tip the contents onto that. If you tip it straight into the water I've found the blood sits on the bottom of the bowl and takes a couple of flushes to disappear completely, so tipping it onto some paper first makes it much easier to flush!

mooncup tampon alternative

As you can tell I am completely converted - it's liberating to know I never have to buy sanitary items again, and (as long as I remember to have it with me when I'm due on, unlike last weekend) I'm doing something that is healthier, cheaper and more comfortable for me and an awful lot better for the planet!

If you'd like to try one too, you can buy one here, or they're also now stocked in lots of shops!

2 comments

  1. Bravo! I love this, and for a nanosecond I almost wished I still had periods! Well done you for writing about what can be an awkward topic in such an open, sensitive and honest way x

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  2. I'm on the pill which stops my periods 98% of the time but if I go off it (which i know is healthier to do so) I will definitely try the cup! Interesting read :)

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