It was always interesting to me growing up how little science understood about the female body and how much of a taboo vaginas and periods are sometimes made out to be in society. Always having to hide tampons in our bras or cringing at the crinkling noise pads make when we subtly slide them into our hands to shuffle to the bathroom.
To start off on a personal note, I’ve tried both pads and tampons and they’ve both had their positives and negatives. Pads can be annoying just sitting there between your legs (If you haven’t, please watch Amy Schumer’s new Netflix special ‘Growing’, it’s hilarious!) and tampons are either painful or uncomfortable.
Why am I telling you this? Because on my journey to discover more sustainable life hacks, I discovered the Diva cup and my periods will never be the same again. TMI? I don’t think so! Let’s talk about it!
The issue with conversations about periods
Let’s backtrack a little bit. For a young girl, experiencing her first period and everything that comes with it can be a bit daunting. What does it all mean? Periods, the ability to have babies, sex, men? Where to start with the onslaught of information that is to come?
By the time most girls start their periods, they’ll have learnt about sex from friends or at school, they may even have watched porn, so it’s important to nurture a healthy interest in understanding and not fearing the sexual organs and periods.
So, the first introduction most of us have to sanitary health from our mothers or schools is with sanitary pads. Most girls also find themselves drawn to using tampons at a young age because somehow they’re made out to be cooler than pads (think mean girls and peer pressure).
In many cases, girls most likely feel like they aren’t able to have open conversations about the insertion of tampons and how it all works and this can be bad because it means that there are no open conversations about the dangers of tampons. These young girls could hurt themselves and go through traumatic experiences with insertion.
With tampons and menstrual cups, the issue with not wanting to introduce it to young girls is that there still might be a hymen in place, even though girls can lose their hymens through various activities not limited to sex.
Another position is that of the well-meaning mothers, who may feel resistant to encourage their daughters to be involved in seemingly sexual acts in order to keep them ‘innocent’ for as long as possible.
We also can’t forget that many cultures of the world have not yet opened up conversations about periods because of the fact that they may not be as forward as first world countries in terms of women’s rights and proper health care. This is why it’s so important for those of us who do have a voice and who are privileged enough, to come and start more conversations.
We’re told that periods are a sign of womanhood. If that is the case, why not encourage this little woman to ask questions and trust her enough to expose her to all of her options so she can decide for herself and try what works for her. It’s not about ruining her innocence, it’s about teaching her not to fear the things her body is and will go through, in order to prepare her for what’s to come.
This will instil in her an openness to talk about and stand up for her body. It will avoid her trying things on her own and feeling alone if she doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. Later on, she’ll carry on this curiosity with her to the world of womanhood and she’ll never be coy when it comes to asserting her rights and demanding the respect her body deserves.
Teach her that periods are not scary, they’re not disgusting, and that her body is a magical life-giving treasure that she can strive to understand and have full control over.
What is a menstrual cup?
Most people have heard of pads and tampons because they’re sold in most convenience stores.
A menstrual cup is a 100% soft silicone-based cup that is inserted into the vagina in a similar way one would a tampon. It then collects the blood and can be left in for up to 12 hours, after which you simply remove the cup, empty its contents into the toilet, give it a rinse, and pop it back in.
When your cycle is over, you sterilise the cup in a bowl of boiling water and store it in your little cup bag until Aunt Flow comes back next month.
The cup has actually been around since 1937 but it’s been hidden under a veil for a long time because of the taboo and undiscussed nature of periods in the previous century.
Why are menstrual cups better than other sanitary products
❀ Unlike pads and tampons, menstrual cups are better for your health and better for the environment
❀ You’ll only have to ever purchase between 2-3, maybe 4 cups your entire life because one will last you almost 10 years. This means they have the least impact on the environment because it uses less landfill space. It also means you’re saving money and time from not having to buy pads or tampons every month.
❀ Tampons can feel a bit uncomfortable when inserted because of the material. The cup softens with body heat and forms to your body so you don’t even feel that it’s there.
❀ Tampons also carry the risk of bacterial infections and higher risks of toxic shock syndrome.
❀ Tampons tend to absorb all of the good natural fluids in the vagina as well as the period blood, which can lead to dryness. Pads can be uncomfortable and cause chafing and rashes. Summarily, the cup avoids all of those.
❀ They’re guaranteed to be leak free once you’ve mastered the insertion. It should take up to 2 cycles to get the hang of it but everyone is different and you can always wear a liner just in case when you’re just starting out.
❀ It’s not as messy as it first sounds. When you remove the cup, you just have to be gentle and it won’t splatter all over the place. If you’re at home, just give yourself a wash. If you’re on the go and want to empty in a bathroom, bring some wipes and a small bottle of water to rinse the cup in the stall before you pop it back in. Seeing the blood in the cup is nothing to get worked up over, it’s your body and your fluids, don’t freak out.
❀ Menstrual fluid on tampons and pads is exposed to air which creates odour throughout the day. Since the cup is internal when inserted properly, it creates a vacuum, the blood is not exposed to air so there are zero odours to worry about.
❀ You’ll never again have to go through the arduous process of explaining to a man which products to buy and that pads must never be bought without wings.
❀ They come in different sizes and for women at different stages in life (new period starters, under 30s who haven’t had a baby, those who have had babies etc).
The possible (teeny tiny) disadvantage of menstrual cups
❀ Insertion may take some getting used to. You have to learn how to fold the cup and how to insert it and you may have to cut the stem of the cup until it feels most comfortable. But don’t worry it’s not as bad as it sounds! Once you get the hang of it, you’re set for life. I watched a video on youtube that was so helpful with how to insert menstrual cups, hopefully, it’ll help you too: Check it out here!
Here are two ways you can fold the cup to make insertion easiest:
❀ Risks of toxic shock syndrome are not at zero. There’s a much lower risk than with tampons and only 2 cases in the world have been reported but this was because the cup was left in for 7 days as opposed to the recommended 12 hours.
❀ When you first start, especially in the evenings when you got to bed, you may want to wear a liner as well just in case.
❀ Be careful not to buy cups which are coloured, the chemicals that they put to make the pigment may not be what you want in the delicate chemistry of your vagina
Where does that leave you?
I like to encourage curiosity about trying new things especially when it comes to your health, wellness and the environment. Not to mention when there are so few negatives and so many positives.
If it doesn’t work out after the first cycle, don’t give up, give it a few runs and you might come to love it. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason after a few runs, then that’s completely ok.
Very soon, you’ll see, you’ll be the one preaching menstrual cups to anyone who’ll listen!
Sending you all lots of love and positivity!
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next.