Menstruation in the Military

Some of you may remember the Period Makeover we did for Krys a while ago. Krys is an active member of the US army and faces some pretty unique challenges when it comes to managing her period. She send us this update on her LunaRevolution and what it’s been like to use Lunapads.

“To say having a period in the military sucks is a severe understatement.” That is what I would say to civilian girls before making the switch. Lunapads turned that sentence into, “Nah, having a period doesn’t even cross my mind, let alone get in the way of work.”

I’ve been in the army for 7 years now. I certainly get distracted by my wishy-washy Aunt Flo who tends to appear (she has never represented the punctual side of me) late, early, or not at all sometimes, depending on the training and how it is affecting my body. The last thing you want is to bleed through your uniform. I’ve had it happen before, and it took a good amount of washing pants while not wearing any in a sink, toilet paper, and dumping a bottle of water on my head to make the top part of me soaked as well… On top of that embarrassment potential, there’s no privacy. You work with the same people, day in and out. You shop with those same people. It doesn’t matter WHEN you buy that box of pads or tampons, everyone takes one look and assumes what time it is. Latrines (bathrooms for you civilian types ) are hard to come by on missions in Iraq or other third world countries.

And just when you think that doesn’t get any worse, the products don’t even work. Sure, they work fine for civilian females sitting at a desk in the A/C, or even temporarily outdoors, gardening or doing their jobs and coming straight home.. but camping for days out in the middle of no where in 100+ degrees means sweat, and lots of it. Pantyliners? Forget them. They fall to pieces and crumple up within the hour. You use pads as your pantyliner.

Pads? Forget them for first line defense. You have to change them every 3-4 hours because they will absorb the sweat as much as they do anything else, and they shift and move too easily as soon as the fabric gets wet enough to keep the sticky stuff from sticking. Not to mention they don’t breath at all, so chafing *will* occur. ( I know I know, more information than you probably wanted.) They’re painful, but still necessary.

Tampons are your best bet, and if you’re on mission you need to wear pads as well for back-up. Why? Finding a latrine to change it in is sometimes difficult, nor do we always have time for bathroom breaks whenever *I* need them. The army doesn’t really stop for individuals. There also isn’t always proper areas to dispose of them so you’re sometimes stuck saying, “Screw the environment!” or holding a dirty tampon in plastic baggies until you’re done with training and pray no one goes through your stuff in the process.

Cue the forum I enjoy posting on, where a woman asked anyone if they’ve used a DivaCup or reusable pads and if they work. It sparked quite the debate amongst the females, whether it was sanitary, whether it was worth the money, etc. I thought, “Worth the money? It’d be worth twice as much if it meant I could gain my privacy back!” A Google search brought me to Lunapads, and after approximately 30 seconds of reading I was sold. I spent another hour reading anyways, going from not knowing any other alternative (they don’t really have these things advertised in stores, nor does the army frequently have in depth discussions about the effectiveness of period devices) to potentially owning one that was better and didn’t make me rely on shops or stock up for months in advance and lug a bunch of boxes with me.

I posted in the forum, “Ladies, fear not! I have purchased an entire kit of this stuff and I will report my honest reviews of every product I try!”

My purchase: 7-day pantyliner kit, 2 heavy pads with wing Inserts, a set of Tri-folds to bulk them up, a diva cup, a laundry bag, a carrying case, and some detergent. I was so excited I couldn’t wait, even though I knew I had to–I had a mission to Uganda and the purchase wouldn’t arrive until I got back to camp. So with no one to pour my excitement out to, I wrote to Lunapads themselves, and happily exclaimed, “I hope to come back from Uganda using the last disposables I’ll ever need!” I had three products I was trying to replace. I’m happy to say I’ve replaced all three.

Pantyliners were the first thing I tried. I am not exaggerating when I say that every problem I had with disposables was fixed with Lunapad products. They breathe, stand up to humidity and sweat, work as long as I need them to, they’re adorable, and I can comfortably wait for my period to start without WORRYING about the exact moment and rushing to the latrine RIGHT then. They are the most comfortable things I have worn. During the time I had purchased my kit, I also bought a sample pantyliner from PIMP (Party in my Pants). The Lunapads product was much more effective–it absorbed better, and the PIMP liner was made out of a coarser, less breathable material that made me chafe just as badly as a plastic pad.

The pads were just as effective. They are MUCH bigger than disposable pads, but when I put my clothing on I could not tell the difference at all. Since the ENTIRE pad is absorbent, even when they did bunch up a bit they still protected me. I wore it all day, comfortably, on my heaviest day and never had a leakage problem or problems with chafing. The tri-fold worked great on my two heavy days, and I just ended up using the wing liners by themselves, attaching them to my panties with a pantyliner for lighter days.

The DivaCup was probably the most intimidating out of all of them. There is a really big learning curve, and I am still trying to figure it out. My first try gave me some weird back pains from inserting it in a funky way. The size is a bit big for us more petite women, and I still cannot quite get it. They said to twist it 360 degrees and I looked at the email like, “What?! How?!” Luckily, the Lunapads are not only sufficient at guarding leaks during the learning curve, but when I got frustrated and gave up for the cycle I wasn’t stuck going back to disposables.

I can honestly say that has made my job a great deal easier. We’re about to go out for days on end into the desert for training and I know for a fact I’ll start while I’m out there.. and instead of rolling my eyes and stomping my feet, for the first time I thought, “Meh. I’ll pack my carrying case,” with a shrug.

Thank you Lunapads!

– Krys, Sergeant in the US Army, Djibouti, Africa

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  • Stephanie

    Awesome!!!! I’m glad you found a great solution. You’d think the military, with their emphasis on efficiency and ultimate preparedness, would figure out the most effective, time-saving method for women to deal with their periods while active. They’d have you believe they’re so gung-ho prepared for everything. I mean, this is a significant portion of their forces they’re losing good labor and time on because women are having to struggle through when this should be a total non-issue. Well, pass the word on to every female you know who’s going through the same agony, woman! 🙂 Start a quiet revolution! I bet if enough female commanding officers get the news, there’ll be a change!

  • cinco blancha

    I’m sorry to hear your experience with PIMP pads wasn’t what you needed. The sample panty liner definitely doesn’t reflect the entire product line! The larger pads are ULTRA thin, seriously like you’re not wearing on. More so than lunapads, I find. And they’re /way/ more absorbent. 

    I have a healthy mix of both companies products, and PIMP are my go-to day to day(especially the super soft fleecey ones!). BUT I love my lunapads still, and they’re still uber soft and perfect for when I want a different brand of cuteness and different type of softness. 🙂 Glad to hear reusables have solved your training problems. I hope you can spread the word to other military ladies and help them avoid the same eye rolling and foot stomping every month!

    • Sarah C

       I don’t care how good they are, I refuse to buy a product called ‘PIMP’.

      I know the term is in common usage as meaning ‘good’, but really, I’m not using a sanitary product named after men who use violence and psychological manipulation to control prostitutes.

      I’m sure whoever came up with the name thought they were being soooo clever and ‘edgy’ but violence against women is REAL, and making a joke out of it is not cool.

      • Ilikeshopping

        Whoa, it’s ok. It just stands for Party In My Pants. I’m sure they’re the last people that would ever make a joke out of violence against women

        • Sarah C

           I’m sorry but that’s not good enough, they KNEW what acronym they were making with that name – they thought it was funny and good and would help their product sell.

          It IS making light of violence against women; the whole mainstreaming of the term ‘pimp’ is making light of violence against women.

          I refuse to participate in that by buying their products, and anyone who cares about violence against women should do likewise.

  • lightningstorm

    Krys– I had the same problem with the Diva Cup- it was a full year of on-again, off-again trial and error before I consistently got it right- but IT WAS WORTH IT!!!! Now I can’t imagine not having one. It’s literally the best period product I have ever come across- for you I think it would be ideal because you can keep it in for much longer than a tampon. The only issue might be cleaning it without latrine access.
    Please stick with it- it gets a LOT easier and I  promise you’ll adore it!

  • Jessica

    I seem to be one of the few freaks who took to the DivaCup within their first cycle. Between the two of us, it’s probably a LOT easier trying it out for the first time at home; not much of an option for soldiers.

    There are still times when the cup gives me problems, although it’s probably the other way around. I know the cup doesn’t change, but something in my body might be just a tad different so that making the cup pop open becomes a bit of a chore.  It’s more than worth it when I finally get it into position, though, seeing as I don’t need to remove it for another 12 hours.  In my year and a half of owning one, I’ve only had one leak (user error) and just a couple of times when I needed to empty it more than every 12 hours.I do love my lunapads, too! When I sliced the thumb on my dominant hand last month, using the DivaCup wasn’t much of an option. I could have given it a try, but I didn’t have the patience. Snapping the lunapad into place was much more convenient, especially compared to disposables. Ever try to open and apply a pad with one hand?  Wrestle with the packaging on a tampon only to plunge the applicator and drop the tampon on the floor?  I’m sure we’ve all had those times, and I know there are people for whom this isn’t a temporary problem.  For this demographic, I highly recommend lunapads!  And being more dextrous than myself, I’d still recommend the DivaCup to those who’d be interested in trying it.

    Okay, off my soapbox now.  Great post, Krys!  I hope you can convince other soldiers to make the switch!


  • Krys

    To update — I ended up having to re-order 3 pantyliners, both of my heavy pads and the liners because they were stolen from my (clean, thank goodness) laundry. So, someone is enjoying them right now. *shrug* I think that’s the first downside I’ve ever found to these things is ensuring they make it from my laundry to my living quarters again, gross factor aside. If they’re good enough to steal, they’re good enough to buy. 

    • Gracie_Haynie

      So I just not read your blog about this and I am really interested. I’m going to join the army and this was one of my main problems considering. What do you do about cramps ?

  • Pingback: Society for Menstrual Cycle Research : » Vasectomy, PCOS, Scary Menarche, Menstruating in the Military, and more Weekend Links()

  • Obvious?

    why don’t you just take the pill? Can’t be that hard… you take extra with you in case you have to stay longer or whatever.. SMH

    • I can’t speak for Krys, but there are many, many reasons why someone would not want to take hormonal birth control to suppress their period. Some people don’t like messing with their hormonal cycles (given that we still don’t understand how they effect our overall health), others can have very serious side effects when taking the pill. Plus, why should they have to? Menstruation isn’t a disease and can easily be managed as any other bodily process can. We just need to make room for it in our society and stop pretending that it doesn’t exist.

  • Tyler

    There are many other brands of menstrual cup which are much better for petite ladies I recommend lunette or fleurcup personally 🙂

  • tonistolle

    Helpful suggestions , Speaking of which if you have been needing a US NAVPERS 1336/3 , my colleagues found a blank version here