My Period Nightmare: Plastic Free Periods Whilst Travelling

Travel Tips

menstrual cups

Although travel can give you a break from real life, many of you won’t catch a break from mother nature’s monthly gift, even when you are in a far flung place having the time of your life. I wanted to have single use plastic free periods whilst travelling. However, despite all my good intentions, I ended up having a bit of a period related nightmare! Travelling isn’t quite like being at home. So, here’s how to avoid nightmares and how to have a single-use plastic free and environmentally friendly period whilst travelling. 


Period Taboo & Stigma Across the World

It is important to note, that whilst it’s not pleasant for travellers to get their periods in far flung places with low sanitation levels, for many local folk this is their norm.


Periods are taboo and stigmatised in many places around the world, and poorer women often have limited or no access to proper menstruation products or decent toilets. In some places in the world, women use dung or hover over holes because they can’t afford period products. 


Globally, one in three people do not have access to a decent toilet of their own, and one in nine is unable to obtain clean water near their home (WaterAid).


In some places girls miss school due to their periods. Doing this on a regular basis means a significant impact on girls’ education.


Some absolutely fantastic organisations are working to improve the lives of women in poorer countries through focusing on issues around menstruation. With Femme International being my particular fave. Femme International focuses on East Africa.


Action Aid also focuses on improving sanitation in poorer countries, providing menstruation products to poorer communities and working with communities to end the stigma and shame around periods.


Even in the UK (where I am from) period poverty exists and Bloody Good Period does some awesome work to provide menstruation supplies for refugees and asylum seekers. 


The Big Period Plastic Problem

Those who menstruate are estimated to use 10,000 pads or tampons in their lifetime. If you imagine that in the ocean (where they often end up) or in a landfill, it’s devastating. Most throwaway menstruation products have lots of plastic in them, so will take hundreds of years to decompose. 


The solution? Menstrual cups, eco pads and other more environmentally friendly menstruation products such as period pants. 


However, before we start on these. There are the following options you can consider.


Plastic Free Periods Option 1: Drug Yourself Up

If you don’t get bad side affects and don’t mind taking hormones, you can manage your periods using the contraceptive pill. And new scientific evidence suggests it’s okay to skip your periods when using the contraceptive pill. Yay!


HOWEVER, evidence suggests that contraceptive pill users are more likely to be depressed than non-pill users. Some people are more sensitive than others. So the pill could work for you and help you manage your periods, or it might not. Do speak to your doctor and see what’s best! 


Plastic Free Periods Option 2: IUDs

I always get this muddled up with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These are two things you don’t want to get mixed up!


If you have a IUD (intrauterine device) often you can go months without having a period and thus not have to use any menstruation products. A few of my friends have found these very useful whilst travelling. 


Non Hormonal Options?

However, if you are like me and can’t or don’t want to take the contraceptive pill or any other hormones, you gotta put up with periods while travelling. Boo! Hiss!


And if you are travelling in less wealthy countries, this often means having your period in places with low sanitation. 


Let’s talk about some environmentally friendly period products that aren’t menstrual cups first. Then we can talk about my menstrual cup related nightmare!



Plastic Free Periods Option 3: Eco Sanitary Pads

When I don’t feel like using my menstrual cup (it happens), I use eco pads back at home:

Natracare have the best reviews. They don’t have plastic in them and are made from biodegradable materials.


A Bit Too Eco?!

However, whilst travelling I’ve found them less useful as they are, erm, too eco. They can completely disintegrate in hot weather or if you walk around a lot. 


Plastic Free Periods Option 4: Period Pants

Period pants are another good environmentally friendly option for back at home. These are underwear which collects your period and then you wash the pants afterwards.


I’ve never used them as they are a little pricey but lots of people do like them. Shethinx appear to have the best reviews and their pants hold 2 tampons worth of blood, which is PRETTY IMPRESSIVE! But there are loads available, even ones with Donald Trump’s face on them, so you can bleed all over that.


When it comes to travelling though, these are less useful as you are unlikely to have regular access to a washing machine. 


Thus, I’d say when it comes to more environmentally friendly period products when travelling, menstrual cups win. 



Plastic Free Periods Option 5: A Menstrual Cup

menstrual cups

Have you put a cup in it yet? If not, and if you are comfortable enough, give it a go. You might never go back! 


What Are Menstrual Cups? 

A menstrual cup is a small, usually silicone cup which is inserted in the vagina. It collects menstrual blood. It is emptied and can be reused.


Many brands of menstrual cup can be used for years if well looked after.


It stays in place by creating a vacuum, not a strong one, don’t worry it’s not a toilet plunger. 


You Are Not A Failure 

Although I’m a menstrual cup convert, I understand they are not for everyone.


Some people with health problems can’t use them. Others struggle to use them. Some people have issues with the invasiveness of them, particularly those who have experienced sexual abuse.


Please don’t ever feel like a failure or that you are letting down the planet by not being able to use them.


I struggled with them too and have gone through a whole host of issues with them. I persisted, but if they are not for you then they are not for you.


You can’t help having periods and you need to use products you feel comfortable with. 


Menstrual Cups Whilst Travelling

If you are a newbie menstrual cupper, I’d suggest giving them a go for about six months before you go travelling. You need to get the hang of it at home first! But it’s up to you, you might be a menstrual cup natural (I wasn’t). 


For newbies, read the instructions on the packaging, watch YouTube videos and speak to anyone you know who already uses them. Menstrual cup users tend to swear by them and will be happy to help. Also by talking to people about periods, you are challenging the taboo and shame around menstruation. Go you!


Put A Cup In It has loads of helpful information for you. 



What Size Am I?!

I use a DivaCup. I tried a Mooncup and an Intimina Lily Cup, both of which didn’t work out for me. 


Everyone is different, so read reviews and see which one works for you. Make sure you get the right size for you too! Put A Cup in it has put together a handy sizing guide.


Travelling Is Different

Travelling is different from everyday life, often you’ll end up in terrible toilets. Below is my advice on how best to use a menstrual cup while travelling.


Most of this advice is similar to that at home, but I do think some extra precautions are needed if you are visiting countries with reduced sanitation.


I also would like to challenge the rhetoric of some menstrual cup companies and users who claim the cups are ALWAYS good and ALWAYS more convenient. They aren’t, but they are decent. Like pads and tampons, menstrual cups have their downsides. 


Menstrual Cups: My Period Nightmare

menstrual cups

Lots of people have no issues using their menstrual cups whilst travelling.


However after 3 months away and 3 periods using my menstrual cup, I got Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) twice. In treating the BV I got super thrush. 


I hadn’t had BV in over ten years before this. There was only one suspect, using my menstrual cup and my lack of taking proper measures to look after it when away.


Infections related to menstrual cups are rare, but can happen if you don’t take the correct precautions. Menstrual cups (and tampons) can store a shed load of bacteria on them


In the UK it was easy, yet when travelling being hygienic got more difficult. For example whilst trekking in Nepal I didn’t see a sink for days.


However, since bringing in extra travel measures, I’ve kept myself healthy whilst away. 


Problem 1: Dodgy Water 

In the UK, in most of Europe and North America we are blessed with amazing clean water straight from the taps. In many other parts of the world, this isn’t the case. This is something to consider when using your menstrual cup. 



When using a menstrual cup, you need to boil it in water before and after every period, and wash it in between uses. Kettles are often hard to come by when travelling. If you can’t boil it before your period, don’t use your menstrual cup. 


Solutions To Dodgy Water

To keep mine clean and my body healthy, along with the usual boiling technique, I wash it with Lunette Menstrual Cup Cleanser every time I take it out.


Then rinse it with water from the tap. Do a final rinse with clean bottled or filtered water. This step is important, if the water in the country you are in is dirty and undrinkable, you are putting all that bacteria in the water right up your foof. 


Wash Those Mitts! 

Remember also to always wash your hands with soap and water before you go digging in the Grand Canyon to get your menstrual cup out. If worst comes to worst, hand sanitiser will do.


You are actually more likely to get an infection from your own dirty hands than a menstrual cup. So, you don’t want to stick any grubby mitts up your bits (sorry that was actually terrible). 



Problem 2: Leaving Your Cup In Too Long

Most menstrual cup companies say that you can keep the cup in for up to 12 hours. However, after I had my issues I was advised not to do this. I was told to keep it in from 6-8 hours.


It might just be because I have an over sensitive bajingo, but I also expect that keeping a mini bucket of blood inside you for half a day in 38 degree heat might not be the best idea. 


Solutions To Leaving Your Cup In Too Long

If I don’t know what time I’ll next be able to change my cup hygienically, I just don’t use it that time around. 



Problem 3: No Sink & A Dead Rat In The Toilet

Sometimes you get caught out. You put your menstrual cup in. You go out, have fun, lose track of time and now you’ve gone to the nearest toilet.


There’s no sink, no bog roll, it’s covered in poop and there’s a dead rat in the squat toilet (yes, that actually happened to me). What do you do? You’ve gotta get that cup out.


Solutions To Disgusting Toilets

Lunette Cup Wipes are here to save the day.


Lunette Cup Wipes are perfect for situations where there aren’t any sinks or cleaning facilities. You will need bog roll and hand sanitiser though, but the wipes will help with the vagina related issue.


Sadly nothing can help the poor rat, although its death was probably a mercy in that toilet. 



Replace Your Cup

So, as I mentioned above, my vajayjay wasn’t well recently.


When I raised it with Diva Cup, they suggested that if I’ve had anything wrong with me (like thrush or BV) I should replace my cup.


This really sucks, as menstrual cups are expensive, but your health is more important. Luckily I had a back up cup with me. 


Worst Come To Worst: Back Up Tampons

Before you go travelling, make sure you do pack a few back up tampons (if you use them).


You might drop your cup down a toilet (it happened to a friend of mine) or you might have to ditch your cup as it’s not working out for you.


In many countries (particularly in parts of Asia) tampons are not available and where they are, they are expensive. Menstrual cups are even less widely available outside the West. 


Final Words: Plastic Free Periods Whilst Travelling

Despite the issues I faced using my menstrual cup abroad, I still rate them and I think they are the best environmentally friendly period product to use whilst travelling 🙂


But learn from my mistakes.


When it comes to using your menstrual cup whilst travelling:

  • Keep it SUPER clean
  • Beware of dodgy water and dodgy toilets
  • Don’t take any risks
  • Be prepared for unexpected situations
  • And bring back up options.


On this page, I have used affiliate links. This means I make a little pocket money if you buy anything through the links I have given, it won’t cost you though. And don’t worry, I would never suggest buying bad products! I only recommend products I have used or I would use.



Reducing Your Plastic Waste

There are other ways you can reduce your plastic waste whilst travelling. How about getting a travel water filter?

Top 5 Travel Water Filters That Actually Work (2019 Comprehensive Guide)


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