Alright, dear readers, today we’re venturing into uncharted territory and chatting menstruation, aka periods, that time of the month, the rag, the crimson tide, the red river, shark week, and my personal favorite, Aunt Irma. We’re also going into the nitty gritty details of what it is like to have a period and how to determine which menstrual products suit you. This is not a “tee hee, let’s be cute and not gross anyone out” kind of post. Nope, we’re going real, natural, and a little bit funny because, hey, we’re all adults here, people. It’s about time we have a frank discussion about the human body, even its less glamorous functions. Specifically, I am reviewing three alternative menstrual products: the Diva Cup, Thinx Period Underwear, and Lunapads. Clearly, this post is not for everyone, and in order to review the products, I will need to go super TMI and discuss my own period experiences. The number of twisted comments I delete is going to go through the roof I’m sure, but menstruation is a natural part of life for many of us. We need to acknowledge it and have an actual conversation about how to maximize both our comfort and reproductive health, and part of that starts with opening up to each other.
Diapers & Vagina Chafers
My first period came at the ripe old age of eleven. It was summer, and while I fortunately knew what the mess in my underwear meant and what to do, I was not exactly enthusiastic. Given my age, I started with heavy pads and later graduated to a tampon/pad combo during my teenage years. Because of my endometriosis and PCOS, I suffer from heavy cycles, and even those super thick tampon monstrosities were not enough to handle heavy days comfortably. I had a few close calls, and in the 9th grade, I had to leave early because of an unfortunate accident involving a heavy day and a striped dress. My mom and grandma always used conventional products, and I never realized any other options existed. Like most people, I was never satisfied. Pads would rub the tender bits raw, particularly because I had to stack them when I played baseball, often in 90 degree heat. Did I mention our uniform pants were white and that I played on an all male team? Even when I wore pads for normal or lighter days, they still chafed or itched—one of the reasons I added tampons to the menstrual mix. However, certain periods simply did not work with a tampon. I would need to change a super size every two hours, and those weren’t without their own sensitivity issues. The opening of the vagina where there was no moisture from the blood (told ya we weren’t mincing words today) would get dry or sore, especially by the end of the period. I don’t know of any person who enjoys their period, but I truly hated mine.
Enter the Diva Cup
About eighteen months after we opened, I became friends with quite a few lingerie bloggers, and several raved about menstrual cups, specifically the Diva Cup. My gut reaction was: Ewww, gross! Considering the use, the cup is not for the squeamish. The gist is you insert a medical grade silicone cup into your vagina, rotate to create a seal, and viola! The cup captures 1 oz. of liquid, giving you 10-12 hours of worry-free period protection before it needs to be removed and cleaned. In fact, my packaging noted most women do not even menstruate a full ounce for the duration of their whole period. When you need to remove it, you simply dump the contents into the toilet, flush, rinse the cup, and reinsert.
That’s the sales pitch, and I admit my curiosity won out. In fact, the Diva Cup website is exceptional, overflowing with useful information including a comprehensive Q&A. Do check it out because they discuss their product more in depth than I will. But, what about personal experience? Does it live up to the hype? First, I’m totally one of those people who imagined a dramatic “Clean up in Bathroom 6” kind of moment when it came time to pop that sucker out, and I was intensely skeptical that, at most, I needed to only change the cup three times in 24 hours.
The Diva Cup completely lives up to everything it claims. Seriously. Once the Diva Cup is in place properly, you cannot feel it at all. The medical grade silicone did not disrupt the balance of my vagina, and the seal it creates nullified any period odor. Because the cup stays comfortably in place, you never have to adjust it until it’s time for removal, and it in no way limits your activities or attire. It removes all that nonsense stress. Post menstruation, you need to clean the cup thoroughly too. I put mine in hot water with peroxide and soak for about 15 minutes. For removal, I prefer not to empty in public if I can because you do need to rinse prior to reinsertion. Some people carry a water bottle with them to assist, but I tend to change mine in the morning during my shower and then after work. Some days I may need to change before bed too. Being able to discreetly dump the contents in the toilet, rather than leave a trash can full of waded up pads or tampons is a nice bonus.
Because I was under 30 at the time, I purchased the first size for under 30 with no childbirth (the other is over 30 and/or post-childbirth), and have never felt the need to change. For being about five years old, the cup is in great condition, and my only grip is the silicone has yellowed a bit. Next time, I’ll buy a pink version. I paid $35 for my Diva Cup five years ago, making my cost-per-year $7. I believe the price now is $40 though. Nevertheless, with tampon and pad costs on the rise and subject to ongoing tax in most places, the cost-saving benefits of this little cup should not be discounted.
I can’t believe I am going to type this sentence with all the creepers I get here . . . but for the sake of honesty and disclosure, here goes: Insertion gets a little tricky. First, I recommend not trying to insert it the first few times during your actual period. If you don’t get that seal right, there will be a murder scene in your underwear. And if you haven’t ever inserted the cup, a little practice not only helps you find the right angle but also the most comfortable method. For insertion, you need to wet the cup with water and then fold it in half by pinching the cup together with your index finger and thumb. Then, you need to slide the cup into the vagina angling at the cervix, usually inward toward the naval. Once in place, rotate the cup around to unfold the sides and create a seal. I found if I use my Kegel muscles and push the cup out a little bit, I can rotate it easier and check it is fully unfolded. Sometimes I can feel the pressure difference when it creates the seal too. After experimentation, I determined sitting on the toilet with the legs spread is the easiest way for me, but experiment to see what works best for you. Toward the end of my period, insertion becomes more difficult. My vagina gets all temperamental and refuses to relax enough to get the cup fully in place. It’s typically the last 24 hours, and I sometimes chose an alternative product. Or swear a lot.
Earlier, I mentioned the package on the Diva Cup stated many women only menstruate 1 oz of blood during their entire cycle. Oh sweet summer’s child. No. No, no, no. Hell no. On my heaviest day, you know the day, the one where you think your uterus is set to high, and you’re pretty sure it’s impossible for you to keep bleeding at this rate and not die? Well, on that day, I can overflow a cup. That’s the only day I need to change three times. Because of those aforementioned reproductive problems, my menstruation is not just blood either. It’s tissue. Viscous, dense, oh-my-god-what-the-eff-is-that tissue. If you have periods like that, you need to dump and flush immediately. Don’t wait to get cleaned up. I made that mistake once or twice and had to scrub my bowl with Soft Scrub because the blood bonded with the porcelain. On those days, the cup does keep everything sealed up in vagina, but once that seal is broken . . .
Furthermore, removing the cup during those times also means the flow in the upper part of the vagina drops down, including that aforementioned connective tissue. I’m telling ya. I can’t undersell how annoying my period is. For heavy days, I sometimes use another period product in conjunction with the cup or I make sure I’m stocked on wet wipes. Of course, it’s best not to bother with clean up until post-insertion because you’ll get blood all over your fingers too. You also want to pull your underwear/pants all the way to the floor (or even off) so you can get up and clean without inadvertently staining anything from the bloody gravity drop. It is a lot to go through, but I have always made it at least 10 hours before needing to change the cup.
These were a gift from a friend, and I have both a brief and a short which I’ve been using for six months. The concept behind period panties is you can throw them on instead of worrying about pads or cups. On heavy days, they serve as excellent back up protection. In theory, I adore the concept. Some days, you just don’t want to fiddle with a Diva Cup, and for me, that’s the first and end of a period. My period is a) irregular and b) my sworn enemy. So, first, it doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to, and then when it does, it’s all passive aggressive about the whole thing. It spots and makes me think we’re ready to go, so I insert my Diva cup only to come home and find it empty. Then it stops for two days before immediately heading toward heavy duty mode. I call it “the shot across the bow” and know it will start sometime soon.
Period panties look and feel like normal underwear, and if Aunt Irma rears her ugly ass head, I’m covered without needing to keep inserting my cup every day. Likewise, at the end of my period when my vagina has had enough and the excessive rate of flow for the first few days has petered out, I’m also more inclined to wear these. Finally, before I discuss Thinx’s contribution to period panties, I will not be commenting on their recent legal issues. I’m here for the product review only as other people have covered the harassment subject in more detail.
It’s hella convenient to wake up and throw on a single pair of underwear that also happens to absorb menstrual blood. On the interior, Thinx uses an incredibly soft cotton which feels better than some regular underwear I have tried. The exterior is a slick Nylon, and the middle contains an added cotton section for more absorption. Because of the thicker materials and added protection strip, Thinx are physically heavier than any other panty I own but are not burdensome to wear. For sizing, I have a 2XL, which fits slightly big but I prefer looser clothing during shark week anyway. The cheeky bikini brief is exceptionally comfortable, and I have even worn them on laundry day when I wasn’t on the rag. They feature a lower rise with moderate rear coverage, but Thinx has other styles available too. The bikini is a light day panty, holding about 1 tampon’s worth of fluid according to the website. I wear these mostly on the first day and have never had any leak issues.
The boyshorts, however, are another story. They are made from the same excellent materials, and in general, I am a big fan of short style underwear. I’ve taken to wearing men’s boxer briefs in the summer to prevent chub rub between my thighs, but this style? I hate them. I hate them so much. The rise in the back is too low for my ample booty, and they slide down constantly. The first time I tried them was a work day, and I was miserable. I repeatedly had to yank my underwear back up my butt (always a sexy look) and silently willed them not to get any blood on my pants. Since then, I have not worn them to work and only use them if I plan on spending the day sitting. There were two periods during testing where I was sick, and since the shorts hold two tampon’s worth, they came in handy. Of course, they still had a tendency to slide down on me.
Fit and rise issues aside on the shorts, the quality and construction of both panties is worth the price ($30+ depending on style), and the amount of blood they claim to hold is accurate. Like traditional pads, the Thinx panties do not allow any sloughed uterine tissue to be absorbed, but on the positive side, liquid blood tends to be absorbed better by the fabric, thus decreasing moisture in the area. Due the limitations of how much blood the panties hold, anyone suffering from heavy periods could easily go through three or four pairs in a 24 hour period. Clean up is as simple as hand washing or tossing them in the machine in a lingerie bag then air drying. If you clean them immediately after use, you can recycle them during your . . . well, cycle.
On a non-period related note, I love how Thinx is trans and non-binary inclusive. My beige ones have “real menstruating human” written on them, and in their advertisements they seem to aim for more diversity.
As much as I love the idea period panties, I’m not as big a fan of Thinx as I expected. For starters, there is no odor control. If anything, there is odor magnification. I know, I know. Gross. But I told you I was going to be brutally honest here. Now, I’m not engaging in vaginal odor shaming nor do I think we need to shove perfumed products up there because heaven forbid our vaginas don’t smell like “summer’s day” in the middle of a messy bodily function. But I also don’t want to drop trough and keel over either.
The price on these, while befitting quality, feels a bit prohibitive if this is your only method of period protection. After all, if they are $30 a pair, you’re probably looking at spending around $200 for a total set, more if you are either a heavy flow peep or don’t like doing lots of washing/laundry.
Around the time I purchased the Diva Cup, I also snagged the original Lunapads. A retailer had a bundled kit containing multiple sizes and inserts in various prints and patterns. I think I paid $50 for it. Lunapads use cotton flannel and cotton fleece to create a classic winged pad design which you can purchase in a variety of sizes, thickness levels, and styles. Pads come equipped with elastic bands at the front and back to hold up to three inserts for maximum leak protection. Lunapads sells kits, but you can also buy individually. Most pads come with at least one insert, and there are options for post partum, overnight, and panty liners. My kit contained an overnight pad with two inserts, a regular pad with two inserts, and two panty liners. Pads can be worn alone, or you can add/remove inserts as needed. In the morning, you can put on a pad with multiple inserts and be fine for the full day, even during heavy flow. Personally, I prefer stripping off the top layer once I know it cannot absorb more.
The fabric is crazy soft and comfortable which eliminates chafing, and the button snap on the wings keeps the pad stationary while protecting from leaks. The lack of adhesive also thwarts any of those painful waxing situations that happen with normal winged pads too. Lunapads are easy to hand wash at the end of the day and dry quickly. If you are on a budget, you could purchase two pads with four or five inserts and simply wash them each day. The quality is fantastic, and I am still using my original Lunapads. In my sample kit, the patterns were mixed, and I would have preferred solid black on the inside (one is black, one is red, and the liners are light pink) because I was concerned the pink would stain horribly. Truthfully though, the clean-up has been thorough and easy, and while the liners could use replacing on account of some pilling, they are still the same color pink as when I bought them. Lunapads are also thinner than your normal diaper channeling options at the supermarket but are just as leak proof, and the cotton fleece fabric minimizes odor.
Diva Cup is clearly the most bang for your buck as most Lunapad kits are going to be on pair with Thinx in terms of building a set. Most kits cost $70+ with some around $200. Otherwise, I can’t think of any cons as they truly are a superior version of the classic pad. I’ve never had a single problem with mine, and when I was linking for the review, I saw they now offer period panties too. I know what I’m trying next!
To Sum Up
Because I ultimately compared each of the products in the review, I wanted to close with a rating out of 10 for each option. I evaluated each period product by six categories (price, quality, convenience, comfort, odor control, and effectiveness) and found the cumulative non-weighted score.
- Diva Cup: Price – 10, Quality – 10, Convenience – 6, Comfort – 10, Odor Control – 10 Effectiveness – 10. Cumulative Score is 9.3.
- Thinx Panties: Price – 7, Quality – 7, Convenience – 10, Bikini Comfort – 10, Short Comfort – 3, Odor Control – 0, Effectiveness – 6. Cumulative Score is 6.3 for the bikini and 5.5 for the short.
- Lunapads: Price – 8, Quality – 10, Convenience – 8, Comfort – 8, Odor Control – 7, Effectiveness – 10. Cumulative Score is 8.5.
Personally, I think the Diva cup is the bees’ knees because it lasts forever, and if inserted properly, prevents leaks and spills without feeling like it’s even there. The obvious caveat is you must insert it correctly, and clearly, clean up has its own inconveniences. On heavy days, I combine the Diva cup with a Lunapad without inserts or one of the liners in case of removal messes or overflow. Before I am asked what I mean by “overflow,” I am referring to those tortured souls who can bleed more than 1 oz a day. The cup eventually totally fills and starts to seep around the edge, even with a perfect seal that morning. We’re not talking a waterfall here, but I will get the occasional spotting in my underwear. That’s it. So even if you need to wait to for privacy to change the cup, you do not find yourself in dire straits either. Just wear a period panty or lunapad that day. Lunapads are also perfect if you’re just not in the mood to insert the cup. When I was sick with pneumonia, I only used Lunapads, in part because I coughed so hard one day, I inadvertently flexed those muscles and nearly dislodged the whole cup. Yikes!
My recommendation to anyone considering alternative menstrual products is to buy the Diva Cup and then supplement with either Lunapads or period panties. Others have reviewed Thinx positively, so I may be an exception. Having multiple forms of period protection gives you the flexibility to curtail your routine to each individual cycle. The quality on all the pieces was amazing, and I view them as an investment in my reproductive health. You can’t put a price on comfort, and all of these methods were leaps and bounds above normal options. My vagina is a much happier body part now!
Thoughts for the Future
In the introduction, I mentioned how we were not going the cute “teehee” route today, and I wish I saw this more in menstrual products too. So often everything is feminized, which obviously presents issues for trans and non-binary folk, and well, I want funny, gross, gender non-specific options! Yes bicycle, kitty, and moon prints are adorable and clever, and inclusive statements for all menstruating people on the front are validating. But, there have to be other people out there who want something hilariously inappropriate. I’m thinking crime scene tape print, an open shark’s mouth, or maybe embroidered expressions like “There will be blood!”, “This will get messy”, or my personal favorite: