I Tried FLEX Discs and (for Once) Didn't Mind Getting My Period
Getting your period shouldn't be a day-ruiner. And thanks to FLEX, now it isn't.
I've always been a tampon gal. But in the past year, the negatives of tampon usage really hit me. The unknown ingredients, the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), the environmental impact-not to mention the pure annoyance of having to change it every few hours. (Related: What's the Deal with Herbal Tampons?)
Then, a month ago, I discovered FLEX. I was perusing my Insta on the subway (per usual) when I discovered the product on my feed. Not only was it aesthetically pleasing, but the brand's whole mantra really resonated with me. "Have the most comfortable period of your life," their bio read. "A new period product for 12 hours of protection."
Um, 12 hours of protection at just $15 per box? It didn't take me long to make a purchase.
What Using a FLEX Disc Is Really Like
So, what is FLEX exactly? Their website describes it as a "disposable menstrual disc that comfortably forms to the shape of your body." And from personal experience, I found that it really does.
When the little package arrived in the mail, I ripped it open like it was Christmas morning. The small white box looked more like something I would decorate my desk with than like something holding period products. Inside, each disc was individually wrapped up in a chic (yes, chic) black wrapper similar to a panty liner. (ICYMI, people are obsessed with periods right now.)
The discs themselves are round, really flexible, and lightweight-but to be honest, a little bigger than I was expecting. It's about the size of your palm or the rim of a wine glass. Considering I've never used a Nuva ring or anything similar in shape, I was a little intimidated. I thought: "How in the heck am I going to get that in there?" (Related: This New Contraceptive Vaginal Ring Can Be Used for an Entire Year)
After a little trial and error, I got the hang of it: You begin by pinching the disc in half, so it looks similar to the number 8. From there, you slide it into your vagina just like you would a tampon. Once you have it in as far as it will go, the trick is to "lock" it in place by tucking it above your pelvic bone. Sounds weird, I know, but this acts like a magical little shelf for the disc to sit on. Once it's popped into place (you'll know when), the black ring unfolds on its own, revealing a clear plastic film that creates a sort of hammock to catch your period. It's impressive. And the best part? You can't feel the disc at all. It's like it isn't even there.
On my first day of using FLEX, I completely forgot I had my period. I went about my workday without the stressor of having to change my tampon or ruining my cute new undies. Initially, I was terrified of leaking, but it turned out to be a non-issue. (Pro tip: To reduce the chance of leakage, tuck the disc back into place after you use the restroom, since it can shift a little from time to time.)
Since each disc lasts for 12 hours, I only had to change it in the morning and before bed. It became another easy part of my routine, like brushing my teeth or putting on deodorant. My one moment of confusion, however, came after using the first disc: How do I dispose of it? Do I reuse it? Do I flush it? Unlike period cups, FLEX is a single-use product. After removing the disc, simply empty the contents, wrap it up, and toss it in the garbage. The process can be messy at first, so I do recommend practicing at home once or twice.
It doesn't matter if you have a really light or heavy flow, either. FLEX will send you a personalized number of discs depending on what they think you'll need during each cycle. (I personally used 10 during mine-two per day for five days.) And since they aren't made from cotton, your vagina's natural lubrication makes them easy to slide out even if your flow is super light-which is great considering there's nothing worse than pulling out a dry tampon.
Why I'm Never Going Back to Tampons
The perks of FLEX don't stop there. These discs also have a hidden superpower: They alleviate cramps by up to 70 percent. "There is an element of cramping that has to do with the tampon filling with fluid in a 360-degree fashion, and then pressing against the vaginal wall," says Jane Van Dis, M.D., medical advisor to FLEX. But since the discs fit at the base of the cervix up inside the vagina, they immediately deplete the sensation of cramps. (Check out these pads that claim to help soothe period cramps.)
Besides the pure joy of letting me dismiss my monthly cramps, FLEX discs have a plethora of other benefits. For starters, they produce 60 percent less waste than tampons. They're also not linked to TSS and allow mess-free period sex. Yes, you read that right. You can have sex without having to remove the disc, and FLEX claims that "it is virtually undetectable by your partner." Though I can't speak to the latter, that's a huge bonus for all parties involved. (P.S. THINX Just Launched a Period Sex Blanket)
If you have an intrauterine device (IUD), you may be cringing a little-but there's nothing to worry about, says Dr. Van Dis. "FLEX is very safe for IUD users. Women are worried that as they remove FLEX, they could dislodge the strings of the IUD and pull it out. I have never heard of a client being able to do this while using FLEX."
To top it all off, FLEX discs can also be a huge help if you deal with chronic yeast infections. With tampons, "you're putting paper into the vagina. Even if it's organic, it's still paper and it has the ability to change the pH and the way that the vagina functions," says Dr. Van Dis. (Yes, your vagina has a pH. Here's what you need to know about your vaginal ecosystem.)
That's why the company has been incredibly transparent about what they use to make their products. Their website explains that FLEX is made of a medical-grade polymer used in surgical tools. It is FDA-registered, hypoallergenic, and BPA- and phthalate-free. It's also made without natural rubber latex or silicone.
While tampons still have the popular vote, as time goes on, women are beginning to ask questions like "what's actually in this?" With more alternatives like FLEX (and period panties) being put onto the market every year, standards are rising when it comes to making periods healthier, more sustainable, and wayyy more comfortable.
"Women are owning their bodies in a way that they haven't before," says Dr. Van Dis. "And that also means demanding better products that we put in our bodies."