I bleed for a week straight without dying. How am I not a superhero?
Just a little humor to start this very real post about menstruation. Perhaps not the most popular topic but it's a fact of life. I got my period in middle school before attending sex ed so I feared what was going on in my body. I've read so many other stories of this being the case. So many girls unsure of what was happening turning to young friends for advice without really understanding what their bodies were doing and how to minimize period pain, stigma and waste. For years, I used tampons and pads but still had those embarrassing leaks. I didn't realize there was an alternative until last year I started doing a lot of research and transition to eco-friendly alternatives on my zero waste journey. Enter the menstrual cup. I hadn't heard that something like this existed and truthfully the thought grossed me out. I mean seriously, how does this thing work and how is it more effective? With my period supplies getting to the low levels, I bought the cup and used it for 2 periods. Still trying to get the hang of it, I was afraid of leaks so continued to have a pad and carry tampons just in case. Some days I don't think I put in right because I had leaks, sometimes, I had a hard time putting it in, some days it took me several tries to get it out. The fear is real when you are sitting in the toilet trying to take this thing out, but alas it's all a learning process.
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This weekend, I wore the menstrual cup to the beach with a bit of apprehension. How disastrous will this be? I really wanted to test this out. I donned a two piece suit, got in the water, got knocked out by a wave, dried off, got in the water again, ran around all in a bathing suit and HAD NO ISSUES! NO LEAKS, NO NOTHING! I kept asking my husband to keep an eye out (poor guy!) just in case leaks occurred, but NOTHING! Six hours at the beach on my heaviest days and I did not need to change a pad, a tampon or anything. This is how I became a convert. It took me a few trial months and the guts to try it out in the first place. This by far is one of my biggest win in the zero waste and plastic free journey.
I am using the Diva Cup 1 Pre-Childbirth which I purchased on Amazon. You can get these cups at certain supermarkets and pharmacies. There are so many companies making them and they are definitely hitting the mainstream. There may be some trial and error with sizing that you will have to play around with. At the end of this post are a list of other companies making menstrual cups that you can peruse. I can only review the Diva Cup as it is the only one I got and that worked out for me.
It's easy to insert though it does take some practice
It's definitely better for the environment as it doesn't generate as much waste as pads and tampons.
It's better for the body as it doesn't contain any of the chemicals like bleach that tampons have
It can be left inside for 12 hours without emptying
It doesn't harbor the bacteria that can cause toxic shock syndrome
It's pretty inexpensive. I bought my cup at around $27 and this can last for 10 years.
It doesn't smell since it forms an airtight seal and the blood is not exposed to air like a pad does.
It takes a bit of practice to insert and remove
It's not for the faint of heart as you actually see and touch blood
It does require that you empty it out next to a sink which sometimes can be difficult at public restrooms (for me I just emptied it once I found a private bathroom with its own sink)
It's not the conventional solution for periods so seek the internet for additional info and ask friends. I was surprised that a close friend of mine was actually using this already. I never would have thought.
There's no shame in having your period, but know that they are alternatives out there that are better for you and the environment. Try it out for yourself and if you don't like it, go back, but if you do go back to the pads and tampons of the world, find one that is good for you and the environment, one that doesn't have a lot of chemicals, one that biodegrades over time, unless you are OK with finding your used pad 20 years from now in the ocean. Now that's gross! Bleed wisely friends.
And men, be supportive of your significant other, sister or mother during this time of the month. I bet if you had to experience a period, many of you would not last. #sorrynotsorry
Other Eco-Friendly Options During Your Period
Because I am a research fiend, I also read and watched almost everything about the cup. My favorite article is this one from The Sweet Home: The Best Menstrual Cup. They basically reviewed all cups in the market. A big note is that not all vaginas are the same so you may have to see which cup size works for you.