Postpartum periods and my experiment with tampon alternatives
Note: Products in this post were provided in exchange for my honest review. In this case, I specifically contacted these companies because they are the products I was interested in trying. Please know that opinions are always 100% my own.
Note 2: Please leave your period shaming at the door.
When I started my first postpartum period it felt like a joke. I wanted to push the "off" switch. I already had my baby, thank you body. I'm cool now. No more periods needed here.
I dug out my tampons reluctantly. I've never liked tampons but it felt even worse than before. Having nearly two years off gave me a different perspective. I had accepted tampons as the normal yet horrible "solve" but now, after some distance, they seemed foreign to me.
I sat there on the toilet (sorry not sorry getting into TMI territory here), staring at the tampon for a few moments. I didn't want to do it. It seemed strange to me, plugging up something that very badly wanted to come out. Sticking a piece of bleached cotton up there and filling up my trash can with waste all week.
I decided there had to be a better way.
So I did some research. I had looked into the cup before but disregarded it. I thought it was too hippie and weird for me. And to be honest, it intimidated me. But after birthing a human, my vagina no longer intimidates me.
I had also looked into THINX but thought they were too expensive. Meanwhile I didn't bat an eye when I bought tampons every month. The most expensive kind, I might add. With THINX (and the cup), I like that I'm investing in something that's producing less waste and that can make me more comfortable each month. I'm done with hating one week per month. That's a lot of time to waste.
Think about it. Let's say your period lasts 5 days and that you have one each month. That's 60 days every year. The average age of menopause is 51. I'm 31 years old, which means I probably have 20 years left of this ish. I'm no mathematician but that's 1,200 days, OVER 3 YEARS, of my life spent on my period. I don't want to use tampons and hate life for three years. No siree.
In this post, I'm going to share my experience and final thoughts about both the Saalt menstrual cup and the THINX underwear after using them both during my second postpartum period.
I also shared my experience during the week in my Instagram Story, so go to my profile (@caramcdo) and tap the "🚫 Tampons" highlight to see how my week went. You have to be logged in and following me to see the story highlight on your desktop.
My Experience with the Saalt Cup
Why I Chose Saalt
Not all cups are for all women. I learned this quickly in my research. The Diva cup seems to be one of the only ones you can buy in store, and many women who have tried it and hated it have given up on cups all together. I'm not bashing the Diva cup. Some women love it. But if it's not right for your anatomy and it's the only one you've tried, it's not you. It's the cup.
I was clueless as to where to start, so I took this quiz from PutaCupinit.com. They base their recommendations on factors about your flow, anatomy and activity. One of their suggestions was Saalt. I liked their story, I like that they give back to support women's issues ... and let's be honest I'm a sucker for pretty packaging.
TIP: You may want a couple of sizes as your cervix changes during your period. Who knew? I got the small and regular in this duo pack and used both of them. (Use code Cara15 for 15% off!)
Using the Cup
Oh boy. Using the cup. When I pulled the cups out of their beautiful packaging, I was excited but also a little nervous. Kind of like the first time I used a tampon over 15 years ago. I read all the instructions and had already researched and watched YouTube videos, so I felt prepared. I thought I would get it immediately.
I didn't. I tried first with the "C" fold method, shown below.
Then with the "punch down" method, which is what I preferred.
Sometimes I got it perfectly. Sometimes I thought I nailed it and then discovered it was wrong when I leaked (thank goodness I had Thinx for backup!). I'm still not a pro but I improved every day.
Things that helped me:
- The punch down method (see above)
- Wetting the cup with water, but inserting with dry hands
- Inserting it standing up, preferably in the shower
- Finding my cervix FIRST to know where I'm headed. The cup should be lower than your cervix to catch everything. The cup sits lower than a tampon. Get to know your anatomy! I'm so glad me and my cervix are friends now.
- Inserting it at a 45-degree angle
- Grabbing the base and turning to ensure a seal
- Also folding the cup as I removed it to prevent pain/discomfort
- Community support! Saalt has a "Saalt Cup Academy" private Facebook group where women help each other. Everyone is supportive and encouraging, and many say it can take a few months to really be an expert but once you've got it, you'll never go back. Their testimonials and tips really helped me.
For a "how to", check out the Saalt website.
Washing the Cup
Washing it wasn't an issue at all. After emptying the cup in the toilet, I rinsed the cup. First in cold water, then hot, using the Saalt cup wash. You can use any mild soap, but I trust the Saalt cup wash because it sanitizes without damaging the silicon cup or your sensitive skin.
Between cycles, if you want to sanitize further, you can wash it off and then place it in a cup of boiling water for a couple of minutes. To make this quick, you can microwave a cup of water.
The biggest pro here is FREEDOM. Freedom to go almost the entire day without worrying about changing a tampon. Freedom to do the things I love — I even took a Yoga Sculpt class on day one! — without fear of leaking or having to pause to find a restroom.
Other benefits include:
- Better for your body. The Saalt cup is made from medical grade silicone and is BPA and latex free. (Pads and tampons can contain toxic chemicals.) The cup promotes the natural pH balance of your vagina and doesn't cause dryness like tampons.
- Better for the planet. Did you know that over 20 billion menstrual products are disposed of every year in America? According to Saalt, just one cup diverts 3,000 tampons and pads from landfills.
- Better for your wallet. Saalt says that one cup saves the average woman $1,500 over the cup's 10-year life.
- Travel-friendly. Not only because you only have to empty it every 12 hours, but also because you can put the cup in even when you haven't started your period. If you know you're going to start soon and don't want to be stuck in a predicament, you can put your cup in. It doesn't hurt anything to have it in, unlike a tampon.
- Yoga/running/swimming/living-friendly. You can do anything with the cup.
- Comfortable. YES, IT'S COMFORTABLE! I feel it less than I feel a tampon, as long as it's in there properly.
More "cupdates" are in my Story highlights on Instagram.
The biggest con is the learning curve. It's different. It's intimidating. You have to get friendly with your cervix. But I just reminded myself that I didn't master the skill of tampons the first time so I shouldn't expect the cup to be any different. Does it get easier in time? Sure. But have some patience and don't expect to be a pro right away.
- Upfront cost. A cup costs more than a box of tampons ... so even though over time the cup will save you money, the upfront cost is a hurdle. Especially if you're not sure whether or not you're going to dig it. Saalt has a guarantee that if you don't love their cup after two full cycles, they'll refund your money. So there goes that fear! Also as I mentioned earlier you can save 15% using the code Cara15 at Saaltco.com!
- Mess. Emptying the cup can be kind of messy. There's just no getting around that. I really don't mind ... I mean, you just wash your hands (and the cup).
- Emptying in public. I actually haven't emptied in public. Since the cup can stay in for 12 hours, I just make sure I empty it before I leave the house ... and I'm seldom out for that long. After all, I have a baby who needs to nap every 3-4 hours! But a couple of tips I've read if you do have to empty in public: Take a water bottle/wipe in the bathroom with you.
My Experience with THINX Period Underwear
Why I Chose THINX
Quite frankly, I chose THINX because I have several friends who love them. They are the most well-known brand in the menstrual underwear category, and I trusted that their product was high quality.
Can THINX Really Replace Everything?
THINX has a variety of styles but not all hold the same amount. I got the hip huggers which hold the most (about 2 tampons worth). So for heavy flow days, this isn't enough for me. But I did enjoy wearing them with the cup as backup. The cup really shouldn't leak unless it overflows, but because I'm still learning and sometimes I didn't have it positioned correctly, THINX was a much better backup than a panty liner or pad. On my lighter flow days, I enjoyed wearing just the THINX.
This was a concern I had. THINX said that washing their underwear with your regular laundry wouldn't ruin anything, but I had my doubts. So I put them to the test. I followed their instructions: Rinse THINX out in the sink, then wash on cold with regular laundry, hang to dry. To give them the true test, I washed them with a white white white blanket. A crappy one we use as a moving blanket so I didn't care if it was ruined.
Perfectly clean. I was pleasantly surprised!
The biggest benefits to me were comfort and ease. The hip huggers are really soft and comfortable. They don't feel like a diaper (another fear I had) and there's no learning curve, unlike the cup. Easy peasy.
Other things I liked:
- Washable with other laundry (as described above).
- No smell. I got asked about odor a lot on Instagram! But have no fear, THINX are anti-microbial and fight odors. It's not like wearing a pad.
- Dry. THINX are super absorbent and because of the moisture-wicking layer, you never feel damp.
- No more stains. We all have those super cute undies we used to love until they got a blood stain on them ... and then they become our "period panties". No more.
- Less waste. Even if you're using THINX as a backup and on lighter days, it still means less waste than pads and liners!
The biggest con here is the cost. Because having one pair isn't enough if you plan to use them throughout your cycle, especially since they have to hang dry. I personally think it's worth the investment to be comfortable every month, but at $34/pair, it's pretty steep. BUUUUUUT if you use this link you can save $10 off your first purchase! That helps! Similar to Saalt, THINX also has an awesome guarantee. If you don't love them after 60 days, they'll refund your money.
- You have to rinse them out right away after use. I read that if you don't, they can develop a funk ... which can be removed with vinegar but I'd rather not deal with that. Pro tip: Take them with you in the shower and just rinse them out in there!
- They don't necessarily replace everything. At least for me. If you never go through more than 2 tampons in a day, then they can for you!
- Not yoga pants friendly. Although they were fine in my jeans, there would have been major panty line if I tried to wear THINX with yoga pants. THINX does make a thong, but it only holds 1/2 a tampon's worth. I totally want this to wear as backup with my cup, but I don't think I'd ever only wear the thong.
I'm in. On both. And I'm donating my tampons, liners and pads to a local women's shelter.
Overall I found both the cup and THINX to be much more comfortable and freeing than "traditional" menstrual products. I'm extremely pleased and also a little frustrated with myself for not trying these products sooner. Particularly the cup. There's so little awareness around it — mostly because of period shame — and that's such a bummer because tampons are THE WORST.
Anyway, if you're in, here are those links again to save some money and experience tampon liberation.
15% off purchase at Saaltco.com with code Cara15
$10 off first THINX purchase using this link
... and by purchasing THINX on that link you'll help me out, too :)