Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Puttin' the Cotton Pony out to pasture...

This was like my Bible as a young girl.
Sometimes I look back on my pre-teen days...that innocent time when life was so carefree and it never really crossed my mind that boys and girls were really any different until Judy Bloom was introduced to me in the form of "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" and I started to hope and wish for, of all things, my period...and then I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Honestly, I thought it would be magical...some kind of passage into womanhood in which I would instantly transform from a goofy, bi-focal wearing tomboy into a glamorous, long haired, long legged undiscovered supermodel.

This isn't me but, being a gymnast back in the day, it might as well be. Not knowing how to handle my periods without pads (which seems to be this girl's problem as well) was the main reason I quit.
Boy was I in for a surprise. At age 12 I got my wish and, being terrified of tampons, I suffered pure and utter embarrassment in Junior High as I had 'accidents' so frequently that part of my 'fashion style' was walking around with my Member's Only jacket tied around my waist. In a short span of time I felt I had gone from diapers to...well, 'woman' diapers, since back in the early 80's maxi pads were just that...MAXI. We didn't have the luxury of space-aged absorbent material and 'wings' that are available today, making even the most absorbent pads as thin as a panty-liner. No, ours were only slightly smaller then Pampers, unless you used 'overnights' which I believe had to be delivered by a semi-truck.

At age 41, I have spent the last 29 years....348 monthly trips to the Cotton Festival...or roughly 2436 days with a wad of cotton (and synthetic materials) shoved in to or on my crotch. I managed to graduate to tampons but never felt confident enough to wear them sans pads most of the time. So, the old budget suffered as much as my bottom, which I admit, was prone to the occasional  'diaper' rash. If you don't know let me tell you, the whole tampon/maxi pad/panty liner business is a HUGE pain in my...er...ass?

So, when Tina P of For the Love of the Run was looking for blogger volunteers to participate in the Instead Softcup Challenge I applied for a spot just as quickly as my fat fingers would type.

The Instead Softcup is an alternative to tampons with no know risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome<--that's some bad stuff there). For someone like me...a lazy athlete with a heavy flow, this was the most appealing part of trying the Softcup. It never fails...at a big race (preferably and half or full marathon) I will inevitably start my period just in time for said event (see San Diego Marathon, Tough Mudder Norcal and Rock N Reno Half Marathon...so far).

As I have gotten older, my flow has gotten heavier and I've even experienced a few 'accidents' in the past year. Now, like pre-adolescent me...40+ year old me is hoping and wishing for menopause!! I generally have 2 days where I pretty much feel like I can't go anywhere because I need to have access to a bathroom immediately, just in case.

This past cycle, which made it's surprise appearance on the morning of my last half marathon, was the testing grounds for my new Instead Softcups. Now, these may look a little intimidating because you will think 'wow, these are kinda big...how in earth will the fit inside of me?'...well, do not fear, you just squeeze the ring together and wa-la, they are no bigger then a tampon.

Getting them into the right position takes some practice (it took me 4 tries, which actually became quite comical, especially since I was so excited to try these that I told my husband all about how they work and he was waiting for the verdict). I confess, I DID wear a pad the first 2 days I used the Softcup because #1 I didn't trust myself to have placed it correctly and #2 as I've stated, my flow can be very heavy and I was afraid that NOTHING could hold it back. Let me tell you, once placed correctly, not only do they keep fluids in the right place (i.e. NOT in your pants) but you can't even feel them! I don't know about you but I've had tampons dry my innards up so much that removing them was more painful then having a tooth drilled on without Novocaine!

Okay, so that leads me to the removal. It's easy. There is nothing to be afraid of...your body won't 'eat' your Softcup, nor will it require a trip to the E.R. to have the jaws of life help remove it. Just bear down a little so you can feel the little rim. Pull gently and there you have it...a little cupful of you own blood. Right, so, that part is a little odd because you might be sitting there on the pot thinking...'ummmkay...now what'?!? Dump it out, wrap it in toilet paper, put it in the wrapper of your next Softcup and then go wash your hands.

Here's my honest opinion on the Instead Softcup based on my experience:


1- Easier to use then tampons. Once you learn how to insert them it's a piece of cake.
2- Ability to wear for extended periods of time. Instead Softcups can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time (for heavier flow you may need to change them more frequently but I seemed to do fine at 10-12 hours). This is great for someone like me, who often has to change tampons every 2 hours...which is not so convenient when running or hiking for 4 or more hours at a time. Also, there appears to be no danger of wearing them longer should you forget to change it.
3- Cleaner feeling, which probably comes from the blood being 'sealed' in the body and not sitting on a pad exposed to air. Also, there is no string hanging out of your body letting things go up or come down all willy-nilly.

4- Comfortable. In all areas the Softcup wins hands-down. From insertion to removal to walking around or sleeping...running, biking, shopping...it's like you aren't wearing anything. I've had experiences with tampons where they have managed to work their way down (or perhaps expanded) to the point that sitting on a bicycle seat made me feel violated.
5- Economical. You can get the Instead Softcup for about $5 per 14 count box. On the surface that may seem like a lot but remember, you can wear these for 12 hours. So depending on your own body you may only need 8 of them per cycle. Compare that to what I was doing prior-pads and tampons at the same time, especially if you are using the 'healthier' all cotton, unbleached tampons which are even more expensive then the average brand-and I'm practically making money!!


1- Can be inconvenient if you need to change while you are out. No lie, these can be a bit messy. There are ways to eliminate the mess (like changing prior to leaving your house for an event or stashing latex gloves in your purse and just turning them inside out once you pull the Softcup out) but you ARE going to be inserting your fingers into your hoohah which may then leave them covered in blood. You need to have access to a sink to clean up and you need to be careful when tossing the used cup as a little accidental drip on your friend's white rug under the toilet will be noticeable.

There is still plastic waste. Trying to live green is a constant battle. It's hard enough sometimes to find tampons with cardboard applicators or to opt for non-applicator ones if you want to avoid the mess but you know that every month you are adding more waste to the landfills. Between the boxes or bags, the outer wrapper, the applicator or peel off panels on pads, and then disposing of all the above, there is a lot of waste. There are some hard core greenies out there that have reusable pads (which are washable) but I am not ready to take that big of a step, after all I live in an RV with no washer or dryer so no,  I won't be hanging my reusable cotton maxi-pads on the awning to dry. On the plus side...you use less of the Softcups then you would tampons and/or pads, therefore you can at least make your footprint smaller.
Note: Instead Softcup does offer a reusable cup which can be used for one entire cycle. That might be an option for those greenies looking for the least wasteful way to tame the flow. The company claims up to a 95% reduction in menstrual waste when using the Instead Softcup reusable cup, and that is pretty awesome.

I am a convert and I encourage all women who still menstruate to give these a try, especially those who are active or feel they need extra protection due to heavy flows. The website (and other reviewers) have mentioned being comfortable while swimming, gymnastics (if only these were around when I was little!!), and even during sex.  I wore mine with no problems for running, core exercises (including about a gazillion crunches), strength training and during my heaviest flow days.

I believe that over time, these will become easier for me to use and any inconveniences can be overcome...after all, even tampons and pads can be inconvenient (ever been at some one's house and had to change your pad only to discover that their French Bulldog LOVES to rummage through the garbage and eat maxi pads like a they haven't been fed in a week while you're trying to look like you have no idea how THAT got into the garbage?...No? Um, me neither).

So when the Cotton Festival comes to your town, check out the Instead Softcup and see how it measures up for yourself. I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised!!

 I received one or more of the products mentioned in this blog for free to review. Regardless, these opinions are 100% mine.


  1. This was awesome! I giggled the whole time! Thanks Lynn!

  2. You are awesome. You made me laugh many times. I have another couple of weeks before I get to write my post. :) Glad you liked them!

  3. Hi Auntie Lynn! Okay, outting myself here, but you can take this one step further and try the Diva Cup. I was introduced to it a couple years ago and have never looked back. :)

  4. This was funny and informative! Thanks!

  5. this is farking hilarious!! i can't say i've ever labeled anything with a label "menstraution"...go you for having the lady balls to write a whole post about this!!!

  6. No French Bulldog, but I do have a beagle that thought a garbage can full of tampons would be a lovely thing to drag outside into the yard for the world to see. Reason #4 that I love my Softcups.


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