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Like so many women, my period has always been a THING. Preceded by anywhere from 5 – 10 days of emotional PMS symptoms that my doctor once referred to as my Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, and accompanied by debilitating cramps, nausea, fatigue and an unpredictable flow, I spent years in a state of surviving one period, then experiencing a brief reprieve before preparing myself for it to begin all over again. And through it all, the thing I think I hated the most was how out of control it made me—out of control of my body, my emotions, my time—and just how helpless that made me feel.
Over the years, I’ve worked with doctors, naturopaths and nutritionists to get a better handle on my PMS and period symptoms. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s far more manageable now and I feel like I have much greater control over what’s happening to me (and in me) every month.
Having an unpredictable flow means lots of accidental leaks, stained sheets and general unease in long meetings and yoga classes.
The one area where I still struggle is with which menstrual products to use. I haven’t used pads since I was a teenager. And while some of my friends love their menstrual cups, I travel a lot for work and the thought of being stuck in a public bathroom in an airport somewhere having to wash out my cup is just not for me—which really only leaves tampons. I switched to organic tampons last year, but I still don’t love them. Having an unpredictable flow means lots of accidental leaks, stained sheets and general unease in long meetings and yoga classes. Which is why I was excited to learn about an entirely new product that promised to combat all of those concerns.
Flex, by the Flex Company, is what’s called a “menstrual disc”, which is similar to a menstrual cup, except for two key differences: the first being that Flex is disposable, and it doesn’t sit in your vaginal canal, which can be the main cause of discomfort that some women experience with tampons and menstrual cups. Instead, Flex actually tucks up behind your pubic bone, in an area called your vaginal fornix, which—full disclosure—I had to Google because I never knew I had one, let alone what it was! But after using Flex for a few months, I’ve gotta say I’m a big fan of the fornix!
By not blocking the vaginal canal, Flex stakes its main claim to fame (or at least the one my friends have found most intriguing) which is that you can have sex while wearing it. Ever the committed researcher, I have tested this out a few times with relative success. On lighter days, there was no leakage and my partner said he couldn’t feel anything.
After gaining confidence from our first few tries, I gave it a go on a heavier day and it worked pretty well but there was a little bit of leakage. And I couldn’t get the visual out of my head of bodega workers who, on rainy days, use a broom to poke water off of their store awnings. Needless to say, that made it a little hard to stay in the moment. I probably won’t use Flex again to have sex on heavier days but it is great for lighter days at the beginning and end of your period.
Beyond the sexy benefits of Flex, it’s safe to wear for up to 12 hours. It’s made of medical-grade polymer. It’s FDA registered, hypoallergenic, BPA & phthalate free and doesn’t use natural rubber latex or silicone, which means it won’t disrupt the ph of your vagina.
Trying Flex the first few times did feel a bit different, and I was reminded of wearing a tampon for the first time and running to the restroom every hour to make sure it wasn’t leaking. I did experience a little bit of leakage as I was getting used to Flex, but I just paired it with my Thinx for those first few days and problem solved!
I don’t think I could ever go back to wearing tampons after using Flex for the last few months. They have given me more control over my period, and I feel less like I’m at the mercy of my body and its unpredictabilities. They’ve also turned me into that person, the one who talks about vaginal canals and fornix’s over wine with friends, while interested (or perhaps concerned?) patrons side-eye me from the next table over. But maybe that’s the greatest benefit of all, because anything we can do to bring our periods out of the shadows is worth every penny to me.