Cloth pads vs. Menstrual cups.

Although there is some variety in the kinds of reusable menstrual products available, there are two that stand out as the most common: the cloth pad and the menstrual cup.  While some women who choose reusable products use a combination of these two methods, some are devoted to just one or the other.  I’m often asked by people which of these products I’d recommend, and I would suggest that they are both great.  While they both have some downfalls, each has a distinct set of advantages as well.  There are certain situations where I prefer one over the other.  So today I thought it might be fun to give you a low-down on the pros and cons of my two favourite menstrual products.

Cloth pads

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Pros

– You can make your own if you are handy with a sewing machine, which will really cut costs.

– Last for a long time.  Generally pads will last several years.

– Easy to clean and care for.  Just pop them in the washing machine and air dry.

– Simple to use.  You just clip or slide them into your underpants as you would a disposable pad.

– Comfortable and discreet.

– Little or no smell.  With cloth pads you don’t get that gross “period” smell that disposable pads produce.  That smell is caused by the blood reacting with the chemicals in the disposable pads as well as sweat that gets trapped by the plastic backing of the pad.

– Completely painless.

-It’s pretty easy to pick the right pad for you.  Although shapes and thickness vary, it’s hard to go wrong when selecting pads for the first time.

Cons

– It can be tricky to guess how many you will need, and you run the risk of running out if your cycle is heavier or longer than expected or you don’t plan ahead with your laundry.

– Not as discreet as a cup.  If you need to change a pad at school or at work, you still have to carry the pad to the bathroom, and then carry the soiled one in your bag.  This can be awkward or embarrassing for some people.

– Can be uncomfortable when worn during sports.

– Needs to be changed several times a day.

– Leaks do happen from time to time, particularly if wearing overnight.

– Can’t be worn to go swimming.

– Can be slightly uncomfortable in hot weather.

Menstrual Cup

Pros

– Very discreet.  It’s small and easy to slip into your handbag.  Plus, it’s safe to wear when you don’t have your period.  So if you know your period is due, you can pop it in before you leave the house for the day and you’ll be covered in case you start bleeding.

– Is washed and used again, so you’ll never run out.

– Very economical.  One cup can last 5 years or longer.

– Very hygienic.  Cups are made from medical grade silicone and can be sterilized. As they don’t absorb and hold the blood against your skin there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome.  You also don’t get any odour using the cup.

– Once you’ve learned to use the cup properly the risk of leaks is extremely low.

– Can be worn for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow), so you can wear it all day without having to empty it at work or school.

– Very easy to clean.

– Is very comfortable and can be worn for high-impact sports and in water.

Cons

– It can be tricky to learn how to use the cup properly.  It usually doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, but the first few times may be awkward and potentially messy.

– Not as readily available as cloth pads.

– More expensive than cloth pads (although in the long run a cup works out cheaper).

– You have to be very hands-on with your body to use a cup.  You will have to put your fingers right into your vagina.  You will see your menstrual blood in the cup.  You may get blood on your hands.

– Although a cup is safe to use if you haven’t had vaginal intercourse, it might be difficult.  I know that a lot of women, myself included, struggled to use internal menstrual protection until after they had sex for the first time.  But this varies from body to body.

– Can be difficult to choose the right cup the first time.  You need to do a bit of research and be very familiar with your body to pick the right cup for you.

– Removing the cup can be a bit painful until you’ve learned how to do it properly.

– Unlike a pad, you can’t see when your cup needs emptying.

Overall, I prefer the cup to pads, but they both have their advantages.  The cup is great if you very active or travelling and it’s definitely the more discreet of the two. However the cloth pads are simpler to use and a better choice if you are squeamish about blood or touching your vagina.

If you have any questions about reusable menstrual products I would be happy to answer them.

Do you use cloth pads or a menstrual cup?  If you do, which do you prefer and why?

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2 comments

  1. I experienced leaks everytime I used the cup. It doesn’t feel at all while it’s in, which means I have inserted it right. But after a couple of hours there’s leaking. Even if it’s not much it’s quite obvious and increases over time. And even if I remove it every 3-4 hours its 3/4th full each time and blood splashes over whenever I remove. This is on my heavy days. Does it mean the cup is small or I am not inserting right

    • Leaks are really uncommon with a cup, but they do happen. There are a couple of things I’d suggest you could try.
      Firstly, are you positive that the cup is opened completely once you’ve inserted it? If one corner of the cup is still folded down then it won’t create a full seal and may leak. To check, insert your cup, then slide one finger inside your vagina alongside the cup. Feel all the way around to make sure that the cup is smooth and fully open.

      Secondly, I’d take a look at how soft your menstrual cup is. If your cup is too soft, and bends easily when you push on the sides with a finger, then it can collapse while it’s inside you, particularly if you have strong pelvic floor muscles or are very active. If you are currently using a softer cup, you might want to shop for a more rigid version which will hold its shape better.

      Finally, it may be possible that you’ve selected a cup that is slightly too small for your body. If you’re finding it’s filling up quickly on your heavy days, you might want to try a larger cup to give you a bit more freedom from leaks.

      Thank you so much for this awesome question. I’m planning on writing a more detailed blog post with some more troubleshooting suggestions for menstrual cup leaking very soon, so stay tuned for that!

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