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Have you been thinking about ditching tampons or pads? Flex is one of the companies out there helping people who have periods do just that. We decided to give their menstrual disc subscription service a try to see just what happens when we "flex" our period care. Here's our full review.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
How Does It Work?
Flex is the maker of the Flex Disc, a disposable, single-use menstrual disc that's inserted during the period and designed to collects blood right at the base of the cervix. The Flex Disc can be bought as a one-time purchase at $10.99 for an 8-disc box, or menstruators can sign up for a subscription to receive deliveries every two months.
The Flex Disc Subscription begins with a Starter Kit, and subscribers can chose from:
- Light Flow:
- Box includes 4 Flex Discs
- Costs $9.99
- Medium Flow:
- Box includes 8 Flex Discs
- Costs $9.99
- Heavy Flow:
- Box includes 12 Flex Discs
- Costs $13.99
The brand also sells:
A reusable Flex Disc is currently available for pre-order but won't begin shipping until early 2022.
A long-time user of a menstrual cup, I've been intrigued by menstrual discs since a friend mentioned she prefers them to the cup. Although they both have the same basic purpose — to collect period blood — there are some pretty significant differences, which Flex describes well on its site. The biggest difference between the two is where they sit. Menstrual cups are made to tuck behind the pubic bone, while a cup sits down lower in the vaginal canal.
The length of the cup has always been the one drawback for me, which made testing the Flex Disc a no-brainer!
What Was in the Box?
With a flow that tends toward the heavy side, I opted for the 12-disc Flex Disc Starter Pack, which arrived in a pretty standard brown cardboard box. The Flex Discs themselves come in their own small brown box. Pop it open, and there are 12 individual paper wrappers, plus an instruction booklet.
Immediately upon opening the Flex Disc box, you spot a line of text — right on the box — that tells you to read the instructions. Although I'd looked up tips from disc users in a Facebook group I'm in just for users of menstrual cups and similar period care items, I was relieved to see there was a little booklet tucked right at the front of the box.
Figuring out how to insert a menstrual cup the first time had required watching several YouTube videos. Fortunately the instruction booklet saved me from having to do that — although there were definitely hiccups. I didn't place the first disc far back enough in the vaginal canal, which meant some serious leaking. Tip: On your first few tries, make sure you have some sort of back-up for the blood. I wear period underwear as a back-up to my cup, so I had them on and simply did an undies change when I leaked. But you can also wear a pad until you get used to positioning your disc.
I appreciated that the instructions are encouraging and let you know there is just about always some trial and error when it comes to getting your new disc in place! I'm nearing 40 and have given birth — I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about my anatomy — but it's still a bit of a crapshoot when you're talking about placing something inside your body where you can't see it. The conversational, "real talk" vibe of the instruction booklet made me feel completely at ease.
Bonus: There's a cool QR code right on the Flex Disc box that takes you to the Flex site, where you can get more information about the menstrual cycle, the fornix (the part of the vagina where a disc sits), and a whole lot more (my favorite article dives into the history of period euphemisms, and whooo boy, is it fascinating).
Ah, so this is what you're really here for, right? If you're a tampon or even a cup wearer, you're used to something sitting at or at least relatively close to the entry to the vagina. Discs are that proverbial gamechanger — they're made to sit waaaaay up inside.
The disc itself is ring-shaped with a flexible polymer ring at the top. It's almost as if they took a rubber band and made it realllllly thik so you can bend it, but you can't stretch it out. Attached to the ring is a soft filmy substance that you can poke at to expand — this is the part that will collect the blood.
I noticed immediately that it's significantly shorter than a cup, even if you stretch out the plastic film. It's wider, though, so it can still hold just as much blood as it stretches to accommodate your flow.
So about the blood ... Emptying a cup means taking the whole thing out and dumping it in the toilet. Not the disc! Just bear down (yes, like you're pooping), and the disc will pop out from behind your pubic bone, and the blood will flow out. You'll have to pop it back up into place, but it's certainly less messy. I did find, however, that when I actually did have to poop, the bearing down forced the disc much further out. I was nervous about it falling into the toilet, so I removed it completely, popping it back in place when I was done.
User tip: If you're a tampon or pad user, you probably don't wash your hands before going to the bathroom. If you're switching to a disc (or a cup for that matter), you'll want to start so you don't introduce any germs into your vagina when you insert a new disc or even push it back into place.
What I Loved About Flex
Once I finally figured out how to get the disc situated, I couldn't feel it inside of me. This isn't always true of my cup, which is pretty comfortable but does start to bug me the further into my period I get as the cervix moves lower down. This is far and away my favorite thing about the disc, but wait, there's more!
Unlike tampons, which carry the risk of toxic shock syndrome if worn more than 8 hours at a time, Flex Discs can be worn up to 12 hours, meaning you can fall asleep and not worry about sleeping too long. I still wore my period undies just in case things moved around when I tossed and turned, but I woke up dry. Also unlike tampons and even pads, the Flex Disc doesn't have fragrances or other chemicals that can irritate the vagina or vulva.
I'm also a big fan of the blood "dumping" method of bearing down, rather than removing the entire thing when it gets full. It's easy enough to wash your hands when you're at home, and even to avoid touching things with your hands (aside from the faucet). But if you've got a particularly heavy flow day and you're out and about, removing your cup to dump it in a public toilet stall almost always means getting a fair amount of blood on your hands, which you then have to wipe down with toilet paper so you don't accidentally smear it on something on your way to the sink.
Finally? Flex says you can have sex while using the disc because it's so much shorter than a cup (or a tampon!), but alas we got our COVID booster shots the weekend I was on my period, and our teenager was almost always around... so we just didn't get a chance to give this part a try!
What I Didn't Love About Flex
I really liked the Flex Disc, so it's hard to find a "meh" here, but I have to be honest, I am not wild about disposable products. One of the many reasons I moved to a menstrual cup was to limit the amount of waste I create — primarily for the environment but also because I have dogs who love to get into the bathroom trash (I'll leave what happens next to your imagination).
Flex says the Flex Discs create 60% less waste than tampons and pads, and I appreciate that. Still, I'm excited to hear they have a reusable option coming out soon! For me the sustainability issue is important enough that I want to buy a reusable disc, but I've always had a few tampons stashed in my car or bag for those "oh no, my period came early" occurrences. I'll be replacing them with disposable Flex Discs ASAP!
I am sold on using menstrual discs after this experience, and I'll be bidding my cup goodbye. If you're looking to make a switch to something that's more body-friendly, it may be a good option for you too!
Have you tried Flex yet? What do you think of the menstrual disc?