What are tampons made of anyways?

What are tampons made of anyways?

If you’re like most of us, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what’s in our tampons. We take some time to figure out what brand works for us, or we spend time in the aisle of Target each month browsing, wanting to try something new. Have you ever noticed that the typical tampon box doesn’t tell you what tampons are made of? We’re tackling that today!

What is a tampon?

We need to start with the basics. If you’re like me, you may have never looked at a tampon let alone used one! I was in my 20s before I strayed from pads and braved the idea of a tampon. A tampon is a rolled sheet of cotton or cotton-like material such as rayon and has a string sewn in. It’s designed to expand in the vagina as it absorbs menstrual fluid. 

What are tampons made of?

As we mentioned, tampons are typically constructed out of cotton or a blend with the cotton such as rayon or polyester. While tampons are an approved medical device by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA does not require them to label or disclose what other things may actually be in the tampons. Some of these may not be direct ingredients, but bi-products of the harvesting, growing and production process. So the concept of the tampon is approved, the idea of an absorbent material being inserted into the vagina for menses and being removable by a string. However, not necessarily what it’s made of. Make sense? We don’t think so either. 

What chemicals could be in tampons?

Pesticides. On a super basic level, if you don’t reach for an organic tampon option, you could be running the risk of pesticides remaining on the cotton from the growing process. 

Fragrances. It’s your period. You typically feel gross and you’re hypersensitive to how you may smell. It’s super tempting to reach for a box of scented tampons! The term ‘fragrance’ is a tricky one here in America. The FDA allows companies to put countless chemicals under the banner of fragrance, unfortunately, without having to specifically name them.  

Dioxins + furans. These are part of the bleaching process. Unbleached cotton looks much different than bleached cotton and tampons are not exempt from the bleaching process unless you specifically buy unbleached organic tampons. 

What are the side effects of using a tampon? 

We’ve talked about what tampons are made of and you’re probably wondering how that affects you directly. Your vagina is a muscle structure that’s super sensitive. You’ve probably heard that most anything you put on your skin (lotion, etc) is absorbed and in your bloodstream in less than a minute. Same goes for your vagina. It’s a very complex environment and the probability of toxins, bleaches and pesticides entering your body via your vagina is high. We also recently spoke about how tampons could negatively effect the vaginal flora that makes up the delicate ecosystem of your vagina. Tampons have been long linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) so we don’t really have to spend a lot of time talking about that. 

What is an alternative to tampons?

Thankfully, women’s active and busy lifestyles have demanded a more reliable period protection option. Have you ever thought about a menstrual cup? A menstrual cup is a flexible egg-shaped cup typically made of medical-grade silicone. It’s folded and inserted in the vagina and left to collect period menses. Get a load of this: it can be left in the vagina (safely) for up to 12 hours! Let’s say ‘hello’ to period freedom, shall we? Because a menstrual cup is solid and doesn’t absorb, there isn’t a worry of it affecting your vaginal flora, potentially leading to infection. We haven’t even mentioned how eco-friendly a menstrual cup is and how many tampons it saves from entering landfills!

Talk to us! Ask any questions you may have about menstrual cups or leaving traditional period protection. If you’d rather watch videos, we have a full Youtube channel on questions, tutorials, and common techniques. Head over to our store to see what sizes and styles we have to fit your needs! If you’re wondering what cup is best for you, check this page out too.

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Talking about menstrual cups: a how-to

Talking about menstrual cups: a how-to

Periods aren’t fun to talk about. Why is that? (Definitely another post for another time) For a woman, it’s a normal bodily function just like breathing, eating, sneezing or snoring. All these things happen every single day and we don’t feel awkward (OK, maybe the snoring). You may feel doubly uncomfortable talking about a product that may not be as well known or is “out of the norm” for periods and menstruation. We get it! (We get weird looks when we are asked what we do for work, ha!) Here are some helpful tips for when you’re talking about menstrual cups. 

holding menstrual cup

What are menstrual cups?

If you’re going to explain it to someone, you’ll feel most comfortable if you know exactly what it is you’re talking about, right? Here’s a quick refresh. Menstrual cups are egg-shaped cups typically made from medical-grade silicone that are inserted into the vagina. They collect menses and can be worn for up to 12 hours, safely. If you’re casually talking about it, all the detail may not be necessary…

“A menstrual cup is an alternative to tampons and pads. They are better for your body and eco-friendly.”

If they push for more detail or “Wait, how do they work?” you can quickly say, “It’s inserted in the vagina and collects your period mess!”

Menstrual cups aren’t just a fad

Even though menstrual cups have recently gained popularity, they have actually been around for nearly 100 years! Tampons and pads took the spotlight in the 1970s because they were a disposable product. Up until that point, most women still used rags and other reusable cloths to soak up menses. If I had only known washcloths and wads of fabric in my underwear, I would leap at a throw-away product too! Women working outside the home became increasingly popular in the 1970s as well which would make reaching for a tampon even more appealing. 

menstrual cup

What should I say when I’m talking about menstrual cups? 

Whenever we’re excited about something new, we always talk about what we love first, right? So here are some super easy and quick perks when talking about menstrual cups.

Period cups are eco-friendly. Menstrual cups save nearly 250 tampons (and plastic applicators) from entering the landfills, per woman, per year!

They are healthier. Tampons are linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). This is no mystery. Recently, however, tampons have been the discussion of vaginal flora and disturbing the pH balance in the vagina. We talked about that recently. Menstrual cups do not soak up anything, they just collect. So this doesn’t mess up your vaginal balance. 

Menstrual cups save you money. A typical box of tampons is $7, and that’s not even the really nice, organic ones. In two months time your Pixie Cup will have nearly paid for itself. 

They are convenient. Menstrual cups can be safely left in the vagina for up to 12 hours. This was a mind-blowing fact for me! I was used to getting maybe 3 or 4 hours out of a tampon and I felt like I was a slave to toting them around during my period. 

We’re here for you

Here at Pixie Cup, we believe in period freedom for all women. Our company was founded on that very fact. This is the breath and backbone of everything we do here and with our Buy One, Give One program we do just that. Every time a Pixie Cup is purchased, we donate one to a woman in need. So really, you not only changed your life, but you changed someone else’s too. How’s that for a fact?  

How did you break the ice with your boyfriend, girlfriend, BFF or coworker? We would love to hear the story. If you’re still on the fence regarding switching to a menstrual cup, hopefully, we’ve made the idea of “the conversation” easier! Head over to our store to see the different styles + sizes. If you’re questioning which one is best for you, we have that covered too

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Why you need to switch to a menstrual cup (and it has nothing to do with the environment)

Why you need to switch to a menstrual cup (and it has nothing to do with the environment)

Menstrual cups are rising in popularity and with something new comes questions and checking reviews and feedback, right? Menstrual cups offer so many benefits to you physically and to your busy schedule. Your period shouldn’t slow you down. We’re summing up some of the reasons why making the switch to a menstrual cup will totally improve your life.

holding a menstrual cup

What is a menstrual cup? 

A menstrual cup is an egg-shaped cup made of medical-grade silicone that is designed to sit in the vaginal canal and collect menstrual blood. While they have been around for nearly 80 years, they are just recently having their time in the spotlight. (and for good reason!) Menstrual cups are super eco-friendly and kind to the earth in big ways. Today we’re talking about you and how they can make the whole month fantastic. Keep reading for 5 really practical, every day (and awesome) reasons to switch to a menstrual cup. 

Menstrual cups are approved to be worn for up to 12 hours

12 hours?! I know when I made the switch to a menstrual cup this fact totally blew my mind. Hello freedom! I was used to wearing a pad which definitely couldn’t be worn for 12 hours. Or with my short relationship with tampons, I quickly realized that I needed to change it every couple of hours. I was doomed if I forgot to pack some in my purse or if my emergency car stash ran out. Which leads me to my next point…

You don’t have to pack extra “just in case” if you switch to a menstrual cup

Going on a trip? Taking a hike? Running errands for the day? If you are wearing a tampon or pad, you would absolutely need to pack extra for any of these scenarios. Depending on your flow the tampon should only be worn for 8 hours max. On days when my flow is heavy, I was lucky to get 2 hours out of a tampon! Menstrual cups safely collect menses for up to 12 hours. 

They don’t contribute to vaginal dryness

Tampons are made of cotton. Cotton absorbs absolutely everything it touches because that’s it’s purpose. The problem is if you wear a tampon that isn’t appropriate for your flow level (example: wearing a super tampon on a light flow day) you’re not only soaking up your menstrual blood but also any vaginal fluid. This fluid is gold. It keeps your vagina working smoothly! We talked about the vaginal pH balance recently and the types of bacteria that naturally live there. If you get a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, then somehow that delicate balance was thrown off. Your vagina is naturally a little dry the first couple of days after your period as your body is adjusting to the hormone shift and re-establishing that pH balance. If you are sensitive to your pH level or if you feel you’re doing the dance between infections and handling your period, you may want to switch to a menstrual cup. Because they are made of medical-grade silicone, they do not soak up anything. They just collect your menstrual blood until you empty it!

sleeping girl

Switch to a menstrual cup and you can sleep in peace

Because they can hold menses for up to 12 hours safely, you can change your menstrual cup before bed and sleep without worrying if you’re going to leak onto the sheets. Or the age-old hack of using a tampon and a pad while you sleep. (ew!) Once you get the knack of using a menstrual cup, you’ll master wearing it with no leaks! Say hello to a blissful night’s rest while on your period.

When you see the numbers, you’ll switch to a menstrual cup

They save you money! And quite a lot of it, actually. Here are the dirty details. In 2015 a research project found that the average American woman will spend nearly $1800 on tampons alone. That’s not counting the panty liners, new underwear because of staining and menstrual products that help with easing discomfort. A Pixie Cup costs the price of about 2.5 boxes of tampons. This means that in about 2 months your menstrual cup will have paid for itself! Keep in mind that a menstrual cup (if taken care of properly) can last and function for up to a decade! 

 

If you’ve tossed the idea around of trying a menstrual cup, now is the time to do it! With our 100% Happiness Guarantee, you can try a Pixie Cup risk-free! Life is complicated and we like to keep things simple. If you aren’t completely satisfied with your Pixie Cup product, we will refund your money. Please comment if you have questions and check out our store here

 

Using your menstrual cup postpartum

Using your menstrual cup postpartum

Pregnancy can be a mixed bag, right? Some of us love it, some of us hate it. Regardless, it’s an incredible journey and one of the perks is having a 9+ month break from our periods! Postpartum is often referred to as the 4th trimester of pregnancy and for good reason! It’s definitely a second leg of the journey. We’re talking about adjusting to after-birth and using a menstrual cup postpartum. 

postpartum menstrual cup

Postpartum bleeding: what can I expect?

Postpartum bleeding is a mixture of blood and debris from the uterine lining. It looks like a period but it’s not the same thing. To distinguish them, the bleeding after birth is referred to as “lochia.”  Here’s what to expect the first six weeks after delivery.

  • The first 2 to 4 days after birth: Bleeding is very abundant and bright red. You’ll basically be wearing a diaper during this time. There may also be blood clots, but if they are as big as a golf ball, you need to seek medical advice.
  • From the 4th day and for the next one to two weeks: the loss of blood diminishes and the lochia becomes pink, sometimes brown.
  • Around the 3rd week post-partum and for the next 3-4 days: Bleeding regains intensity, which is due to the pregnancy hormones falling. But it’s nothing at all to do with your period because your menstrual cycle has not yet resumed.
  • Until 6 weeks after childbirth: Lochia is light yellow or white. It should smell similar to a period.

Lochia is present strongly for the first 6 weeks postpartum. If you are breastfeeding, you will feel your uterus contract and it will help shorten the length of your postpartum bleeding!

Can I use a menstrual cup postpartum?

The short answer to that is no. Your healthcare provider will strongly urge you to not put anything in your vaginal canal for the first 6 weeks after delivery. Nobody is created equal, and you may notice that your period returns relatively quickly after giving birth. Sometimes it stays away for months! A menstrual cup can be worn safely for up to 12 hours without changing it. You’re a new mom, you don’t have time to change a tampon! 😉

Everybody is different and the time it takes to heal from a vaginal birth varies from person to person. Consult your doctor before the use of your menstrual cup or any other internal feminine hygiene products.

What menstrual cup size do I need postpartum?

If you gave birth via c-section, you most likely won’t need to change menstrual cup sizes at all! If you gave birth vaginally, your doctor will give you instructions on how to strengthen your pelvic floor to help your vagina and uterus go back into place. Chances are, you’ll still be able to use your original Pixie Cup! We do have three sizes, so if you feel like sizing up is best, try our large or x-large.

Does my cervix change after giving birth?

You bet. Your cervix was basically the quarterback player during your birth process. It enabled you to safely push and birth your baby. Everything about your cervix changed during birth and it will take some time for it to go back to normal. After giving birth, you may become more aware of your cervix height and even if you have a tipped/tilted uterus! Your cervix never really gets a break and is constantly moving through our cycles. If you find that after pregnancy, your cervix is low during menstruation, you may want to try our Pixie Cup Slim. It’s designed to sit low in the vaginal canal and is a favorite among gals with a low cervix or tipped uterus

menstrual cup

Can I have an IUD inserted right after giving birth?

Yes! An IUD can be inserted after the placenta has been delivered. The average woman experiences abnormal bleeding after having an IUD inserted. If you choose a hormonal IUD, your bleeding will potentially start right away. The good news is that if you have it inserted right after birth, the IUD bleeding will happen right along with your postpartum bleeding. If bleeding exceeds the 6-week postpartum healing, consult your doctor. This discharge could be due to the hormonal IUD. A menstrual cup would be a very convenient solution to dealing with this extra discharge after the first six weeks. We recently talked all about IUDs and menstrual cups! If you choose a non-hormonal IUD, one common side effect is heavy periods. Take a break from changing tampons and give a menstrual cup a try! You won’t even notice that heavy menstrual bleeding! 😉 

Giving birth comes with so many decisions. Birth control, period management, birth plan, breastfeeding. You name it! Your body is doing a lot of changing and is trying to get back to normal after a 9-month pregnancy and that can be a rollercoaster! Be patient with yourself. Seek support. You’re a rockstar.

Are you interested in switching to a menstrual cup? Please let us know if you have any questions. We would love to help you decide which cup is best for you. Now or after a baby!

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How to recycle a menstrual cup or disc

How to recycle a menstrual cup or disc

You’ve already made the switch from single-use tampons and pads to reusable menstrual cups/discs and that’s big! Congratulations! A couple of things: you’ve made the world a greener place and you’ve changed a woman’s life too. Kind of crazy, right? We all ditch the disposable menstrual products for different reasons. Some gals switch because reusable menstrual products are more convenient or more cost-effective. Others choose a period cup or a period disc because they are better for your body and the earth.

No matter what made you switch, we’re so glad you did! There are a few reasons you could be looking up how to recycle a menstrual disc or cup such as: using period-stopping birth control, pregnancy, medications, menopause or it’s been well-loved and needs replacing! Most menstrual cups and discs are made out of medical-grade silicone, which can be safely disposed of in a few different ways. Continue reading for a couple of suggestions on how to recycle a menstrual cup.

What is medical-grade silicone? 

More technically referred to as medical-healthcare grade, class VI silicone tested for biocompatibility, this type is typically the material of choice for a wide range of products, including menstrual cups, baby bottle nipples, scuba mouthpieces, menstrual discs and food and skin contact products. Silicone creates watertight seals, it has antimicrobial properties, is hardwearing and withstands UV light sterilization. 

When should I recycle my menstrual cup or disc? 

Menstrual products are safe to use for up to 10 years… technically. That being said, the care and keeping of your cup/disc plays a heavy role. Depending on the soap (and if it contained drying agents like alcohol) that was used on it regularly can cause damage. If you notice any sort of cracking in your reusable period product or the outside has become tacky to the touch, recycle immediately. At this point, the silicone has been damaged and shouldn’t be used any longer.

What do you do with menstrual cups and discs that don’t fit?

Menstrual discs and cups come in the same general shape but some are wider or thinner to get the perfect fit. Our bodies change especially after pregnancy or childbirth and what menstrual products fit you before, could very well not be the right fit after. What do you do with old menstrual cups/discs? If the cup/disc is in good shape, it can actually be passed on. If there is light staining or slight odor, there are a few ways to get rid of those! Once your reusable disc or cup is sterilized, it’s germ-free and ready to be used… by you or someone else!

How do you recycle a menstrual cup or disc?

Chop it up. Medical-grade silicone is safe. Safe to be inside your body as a menstrual product, safe to eat off of, doesn’t give off any sort of toxins and is free from hazardous ingredients. You can chop up (or grind down) your menstrual disc/cup and add to the soil of a potted plant or scatter in your garden!

Check with your local hospital. Hospitals use instruments all the time that are made of medical-grade silicone and eventually, they will need to be disposed of. Asking them if there is a procedure or method in place could be really helpful!

Burn it. If you don’t have time to contact facilities for local recycling advice, a super simple solution would be to burn your menstrual cup and reusable menstrual disc! Sounds crazy, we know, but it burns to simple ash and doesn’t give off toxic fumes. Keep in mind that silicone is heat-resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit so it does take some time to break down. Placing it in a wood stove or in the embers of a bonfire is perfect! 

How was your menstrual cup or disc journey? Which way will you choose to recycle your menstrual products? Did you wear it out and you need to replace it now? Check out our store for different sizes and styles or read this post to determine what size is right for you!

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Scared to try a menstrual cup? This will help!

Scared to try a menstrual cup? This will help!

Have you considered using a menstrual cup, but you’re hesitant to try it? Maybe you’re afraid it will hurt or you’ve heard other’s fears about it getting stuck. Trying anything new can be slightly unnerving, but we wholeheartedly believe that your life will be better after switching to a menstrual cup. But don’t take our word for it! In this post, we’ll openly chat about any fears or hesitancies every woman has before ditching the disposable products for the last time! Let’s do this!

girl holding menstrual cup

FEAR: What if my menstrual cup is stuck?

FACT: A super important thing to remember when using a menstrual cup: 

It’s all about the seal 

When inserting, you want to make sure to hear the seal so you know the seal is made. When you go to remove the cup, the same applies, only backward. Break the seal. By pinching the base of the cup, you’re able to let enough air in to break the seal. Pull the cup down and keep upright so you don’t dump the menses that have been collected until you want to! We interviewed a doctor about this same topic

FEAR: What if I can’t reach my menstrual cup? 

FACT: If you go to remove your menstrual cup and you can’t feel it, DON’T PANIC. Sometimes when women insert their menstrual cup, they could be sitting in a certain way that makes it easy for the cup to seal to the cervix. Though this does happen, it’s not the goal of wearing a menstrual cup. You want the cup sitting in your vaginal canal so you can easily reach the stem to remove. There are several tips on relaxing your body and moving certain ways to make it easier to reach your cup!

FEAR: What if my menstrual cup leaks? 

FACT: This is a big one when switching to a menstrual cup! For any menstrual product, right? Getting caught in less-than-desirable circumstances with leaks! Eek! The big point with stopping leaks is making sure the seal is set in place. If you have a low cervix, (check out this guide to measuring your cervix height) it can be easy to catch your cervix and not get the proper seal. Secondly, once you feel your cup is in place, either gently turn your cup via the base OR run your finger around the lip of the cup to make sure the cup has popped open. 

 

FEAR: What if inserting the menstrual cup hurts? 

FACT: It may be slightly uncomfortable inserting the cup until you get used to it, but most people do not experience any pain. We have a specially formulated Pixie Cup Lube that’s safe for you and safe for your menstrual cup. A little on the rim of the cup prior to inserting takes the worry away! Or you may be looking at the size of the cup and wondering how that is fitting there. We hear you! Finding the right fold when switching to a menstrual cup is key! There are three popular folds; figure out which is best for you! Once the cup is in place, you shouldn’t be able to feel it at all. If for some reason you do feel it, experiment with the placement in the vaginal canal. Or you could need a smaller sized cup.

FEAR: What if wearing a menstrual cup affects my IUD?

FACT: Good news, girl! You can have your cake and eat it too. It’s totally possible to wear a menstrual cup and have an IUD. You’re not alone; this is a super popular question when women are switching to a menstrual cup. There are a couple things to consider when using a period cup with your IUD… like making sure the strings of the IUD are short enough that they don’t get caught in the rim of the period cup. Or making sure you break the seal of your cup prior to removing. This will be sure to not place any undo tension on the IUD. We made a whole blog post about this exact topic, with cool illustrations too!

menstrual cup and IUD

FEAR: Can I poop with a menstrual cup? 

FACT: Yes! You have a lot of muscles that are packed into the pelvic floor area in your pelvis, so everything touches and everything moves, to some degree, together. It’s really important to make sure your cup is properly placed (and not too low) in the vaginal canal. If it’s too low in the first place (and stem + base fully sticking out) you risk “birthing” or pushing the menstrual cup out during a bowel movement. If you’re questioning it, just quickly feel the placement. Some women do prefer to remove it prior to having a bowel movement, but it is not required.

FEAR: Can I pee while wearing a menstrual cup? 

FACT: Totally! One of the many wonders of female anatomy is that we have a lot going on in a pretty small area. The urethra and bladder sit close to the vagina, which means it is possible for a menstrual cup to put pressure on them when being worn. This can result in two things: the sensation of feeling like you have to pee + a slower urine stream. Both of these things can be remedied by finding that “sweet spot” either lower or higher in the vaginal canal where neither are affected. Another tip from our friends at Put A Cup In It is to opt for a softer cup! Our Pixie Cup Slim is our softest, most pliable cup yet. 

girl holding menstrual cup

FEAR: Can wearing a menstrual cup cause uterine prolapse?

FACT: We recently chatted about a prolapsed uterus and how to prevent it. There isn’t enough study to show that wearing a menstrual cup can lead to a prolapse. Two things to do that would stop that in its tracks is to 1) exercise your pelvic floor muscles regularly and 2) make sure to break the seal of your period cup before pulling it out of the vagina. 

FEAR: Can wearing a menstrual cup cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

FACT: Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) happens when a substance is in the body for too long. A menstrual cup holds menses in the silicone cup as opposed to having it continually touch the vaginal walls. With tampons, you have the risk of particles of cotton being left behind and holding onto aging blood, which can lead to TSS. Menstrual cups leave no trace! They are approved to hold menses in the vagina for up to 12 hours. It’s not recommended for longer than that because of the fact it’s just not good for you and can lead to infection

 

You’ve got this!

Switching a menstrual cup is a big decision! You’re daring to be different, and daring to make a difference for not only the planet but also for another woman somewhere around the world. With our Buy One, Give One program, every time a Pixie Cup is purchased, we donate one to a woman in need. So not only are you changing your life, you’re actually changing someone else’s too. Menstrual cup support sites and communities are popping up as the trend for eco-friendly menstruation grows.

What hesitation is holding you back? Comment below and let us know! We’d love to answer you and provide support and maybe even add your fear to our blog post! Don’t forget we have our 100% Happiness Guarantee. If you don’t like your Pixie Cup, we’ll work with you to fit your needs or refund your money!

Check out the different menstrual cups and products we have to offer in our store

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