When it comes to sustainable period care, two eco-friendly alternatives stand out: reusable pads and menstrual cups. Here at Amie, we’re big fans of anything that advances women’s health by decreasing exposure to unnecessary chemicals, plastics and perfumes. Of course, we also love garbage-free options, so we love a good menstrual cup - and you know we love reusable pads! Let's explore the pros and cons of each option to help you make an informed choice that is right for you based on your preferences and needs.
1: The Basics
Reusable Pads: Made from the same cloth as clothing, reusable pads are easy to use. They are secured to your undies with snaps and provide reliable absorption without the need to be inserted into your body. Plus, they come in various patterns and colours, bringing you a little joy at a time that can otherwise be a bit of a downer.
Menstrual Cups: Made from medical-grade silicone or rubber, menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina and sit at the cervix to collect menstrual fluid. They have a bit of a learning curve and require some practice to master the insertion and removal process.
Reusable Pads: If you're accustomed to disposable pads, transitioning to reusable pads is super-easy. It is really a matter of a simple swap.
Menstrual Cups: While menstrual cups may take some getting used to, they offer the convenience of endless empties and reuses with just one cup once you become proficient in using them.
3: Leak Protection
Reusable Pads: Reusable pads are not just for menstrual flow but also for managing bladder leaks. They provide dual-purpose protection that menstrual cups cannot match.
Menstrual Cups: When it comes to menstrual flow, cups can create a reliable seal that minimizes leaks, as long as they are changed regularly. However, they are not designed for bladder leaks.
4: External vs. Internal Protection
Reusable Pads: Reusable pads offer external protection, making them feel more familiar for those who are transitioning from disposable pads. They're ideal for those who prefer not to insert anything into their bodies, and they provide a sense of security and comfort.
Menstrual Cups: Menstrual cups, on the other hand, provide internal protection. While they may have a learning curve, they offer discreet and internal protection that many find highly reliable and effective. They eliminate the sensation of wearing a pad entirely. They can be worn swimming, as a sustainable alternative to tampons.
Reusable Pads: Because they are made with clothing fabric, reusable pads are wonderfully comfortable. They are soft, breathable, and gentle on the skin, free from the plastic and chemicals often found in disposable alternatives, meaning freedom from rashes and reactions often associated with disposables.\
Menstrual Cups: With practice, menstrual cups can be super-comfortable, as well as offering all of the above benefits. Once properly inserted, they should be virtually undetectable.
6: Odour Control
Reusable Pads: Menstrual flow by itself does not have a strong odour. Bacteria is what actually smells bad. Because they lack the plastic of disposables, reusable pads minimize odour by allowing air flow around the pad, discouraging bacterial growth.
Menstrual Cups: Menstrual cups have the advantage of being naturally odour-resistant because they are made from medical-grade silicone or rubber, which is not a happy place for bacteria to grow.
Reusable Pads: Travelling with reusable pads is hassle-free. You can easily pack them in a wet bag or pouch for convenience. No need to rinse; just pop soiled pads back into the wet bag and transport home to wash.
Menstrual Cups: Menstrual cups are incredibly portable and discreet…since they are generally travelling inside the body. They are removed, emptied and reinserted for the ultimate convenience!
8: Care and Cleaning
Reusable Pads: Easy to clean, reusable pads can be simply tossed into a wet bag and stored until wash day to be soaked and then washed and dried along with laundry you’re already doing.
Menstrual Cups: As easy as reusable pads are to clean, there is no getting around that menstrual cups are the ultimate in simple care. Rinse with each use before reinserting (it’s okay to just wipe it out if you are changing in a public bathroom) and give it a good wash at the end of each cycle with a menstrual cup cleaner or a mild, unscented oil-free soap.
In the reusable pads vs. menstrual cups debate, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Both are excellent, sustainable options. Reusable pads offer familiarity for those transitioning from disposables, fabulous leak protection, and the ability to manage both menstruation and bladder leaks. On the other hand, menstrual cups provide a very convenient option on-the-go, super-easy care and the ability to be worn internally.
Ultimately, your choice should depend on your specific needs and comfort level with each product. Many individuals even choose to use both, depending on their preferences and situation. It's all about finding what suits you best.
If you’re in Canada and would like to check out your options for menstrual cups, we’d highly recommend the informative article The Best Menstrual Cups and Menstrual Discs in Canada.