“Yuck,” would have been my response if you had told me I was going to write an article about non-disposable ways of coping with periods three years ago. But that was before JUNO…
Cloth nappies were an obvious choice for me and I’ve been happily smug and mightily fond of them through two children. But washable sanitary towels? Definitely not my bag, or even ever in my experience. Most importantly to my outlook, I didn’t know anybody who did such things. Only during a phone call I made to Mooncup when working for JUNO, seeking advertising for the very first issue, did my curiosity overcome my distaste for all this. A while later an approximately 5cm long clear rubbery cup arrived through the post. Several months later I summoned the courage to try it, with a feeling reminiscent of the first time I tried tampons as an unconfident teenager. Shortly after I became mightily fond of it.
No longer did I have to pack up a kit of tampons and pads (assuming I hadn’t run out last time and had remembered to buy some in the meantime). No, I just threw the mooncup in the washbag. Earlier this summer, when away on holiday at a place with an indoor swimming pool, as is typical, my period started when I wasn’t expecting it. You know that sinking feeling. Well, we swam every day with the children and it didn’t let me down or cause any logistical challenges.
I started to think about my attitude to periods and the way I dealt with them. As the only child of an older mum (41 at birth), I never knew much about periods. They were known as the curse, or just not mentioned. My aunt, now 89, told me how her mother would go around swathed in bath towels at that ‘time of the month’, whilst she herself, when at school, if menstruating, was marked down as ‘afflicted’ in the register when it came to games lessons. She was amazed to see the mooncup. No wonder I had such a negative attitude to my own body’s natural processes. And yes, it can be messy.
Then, on an internet surfing trip, I came across ‘pleasurepuss.com.au’, a cloth pad maker in Australia. The site had information relating to this whole attitude to periods and how a positive view of a period as a life-giving sign of fertility could help overcome some of the yuck factor. Inspired, I sent off for some funky washable pads which I have been delighted with. They work as well as the old ‘ultra thin super duper’ disposable towels I used to use that I always thought were pretty clever compared to the old thicker towels of my teenage years. However, with the Mooncup, pads are just insurance so it’s less mess all round – and much less landfill.
So, why am I now shouting about it from the rooftops? Landfill, beaches and personal choice – that’s why. We are inundated with advertising about what we need, what will make us cleaner, more capable and able to ride with wings at that time of the month. But there is little mention of the 17,000 odd disposable pads and tampons that the average woman uses in her lifetime, which she finds money to buy and then throws away, and which end up blocking sewage systems, being incinerated, ending up in landfill, or, maybe worse, being washed up on beaches. Hmmm…
I was very heartened that an article on this very subject by Serena Mackesy appeared in the Times Body & Soul section very recently. I think that if only we can talk about it more, then it becomes more acceptable and more people realise that nondisposables can be a valid choice. They save you money and the environmental waste in the same way as cloth nappies do. There are always people ahead and others just finding out. I’m not sure I’m quite at the stage of one site contributor who speaks of using the ‘blood soak water’ from her washable pads as a fertiliser for her (non-edible) plants. After all, I have purchased blood, fish and bone meal for my roses. It’s an idea…
I hope by the time my daughters are of an age to need them, disposables will be viewed as yucky old-fashioned things and non-disposables will be standard. My experience of using a cup shows no disadvantages and no reason why they should not be used – liberation by technical innovation at its best! Apparently you can even get them in Boots.
Rowena Moore is mother of two gorgeous girls, wife of a Naval barrister and juggler of family responsibilities, part-time work and democratic responsibilities as a locally elected Conservative District Councillor.
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First published in issue 11 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.