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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Traveling with Your Period

The day before my flight to Gaborone, Botswana from Boston, by way of New York City and Johannesburg I got my period. Including layovers it was something like 22 hours of travel. As instructed by a friend who lived just outside of Gaborone, I was to bring my own supplies because things, at least of the quality I was used to, would be hard to come by. So I packed up tons (TONS) of pads and tampons to bring along. This wasn't too bad as I had tons of space as I'm a minimal packer and I knew I could give away what I didn't use during my trip.

It all worked out, but as I entered bathrooms throughout the beginning of my trip that required I pay for a small piece of toilet paper (or pay double or triple for extra) or lacked disposal options, I realized how much unnecessary waste I was creating each and every time I needed to use the facilities.

When I got home I decided to look for alternatives to the methods I'd been using since I was 12. First, I came upon reusable pads. These sated my environmental concerns but wouldn't cut down on space and certainly wouldn't cut down on toilet paper needs or being quick and tidy in public restrooms. If they were as absorbent as plastic pads, which I doubted, I would still have to carry around the used ones until I had time to wash them. Yuck.

Next I heard about a reusable cup. To be completely honest with you I was terrified by this option. It doesn't look like something that I wanted to wear. It did, however, sate my environmental needs, my space needs and since there's no evidence of them causing toxic shock syndrome they can be worn for up to 12 hours and would only require that I take it out and clean it twice a day (compare this to the 4-5 changes needed per day for pads or tampons depending on that day's volume).

Practicality won out over terror. I purchased the DivaCup (I had read great reviews about it) and gave it a try. Inserting it took several days of trial and error. Even after I had worked out how to wear it, I didn't trust it and continued to wear wasteful plastic pads. Months later, the DivaCup has much more of my trust but is not foolproof. If I find that I'm doing lots of moving (getting up and down off the ground, playing sports, going to the gym) there are minor leaks. I have worked my way to just using a disposable pantyliner, which takes care of all the leaks I've had, but I was still being more wasteful than I wanted to be. That's when I decided to take a closer look at the reusable pads that had bypassed early in my search. Many companies offered reusable pantyliners so I bought a few.

The downsides of this combination have been minimal. Whether I'm traveling or at home my waste as a result of my period is literally only water now (as opposed to water and tons of plastic). At home, the pads get thrown in with my laundry, while traveling they get hand washed daily with my underwear (usually with laundry soap while I'm taking a shower) and then are line-dried. I do take two showers a day while I have my period and try to keep them close to twelve hours apart so the cup can be cleaned on time.

The pantyliners do take up some additional space, but as I only need to use two in 24 hours (I change them with my underwear). I've never needed to bring more than 3 or 4 with me on a trip because I hand-wash my underwear immediately after use.

So that's that. I strongly recommend a combination of cup and reusable pantyliner. I will never go back to disposables if I can continue to plan ahead for my "friend."

If you have any questions, please ask.

  • The most important tip to figuring out how to wear the DivaCup came from their website: "Unlike tampons, be sure to insert the The DivaCup horizontally (toward the tailbone)." I can only do this while sitting on the toilet.
  • The "Push Down" fold option is the only insertion method that I had success with.

  • (I bought my DivaCup through this website. They have more expensive pantyliners but they also participate in "One4Her" which sends one reusable pad to a girl in a developing country for each one you buy. Many girls miss out on schooling because of their period, reusable pads change this.)
  • (For all my questions and concerns about the DivaCup, including how to wash it, store it, fold it, use it, etc.)
  • Muffies by Pleat on Etsy (My first reusable pantyliners came a kit with my DivaCup from LunaPads, but I found these to be as good of a quality and much more affordable. I have these bad boys in assorted patterns/colors.)


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