Monday, March 01, 2010

Give Menstrual Cups a Try

So I was looking over one of my new juvenile non-fiction purchases today. I always do that when the books come in, just to familiarize myself with the collection, remind myself what I ordered, and to check for cataloguing errors. The book in question was a puberty book for girls. I was leafing through the section on menstruation, and I realized that there was a glaring omission. The book talked about pads and tampons, but no mention was made of another option: menstrual cups.

This really upset me, although I guess maybe I shouldn't be too hard on the author/publishers of the book as there are probably lots of people out there who haven't heard of a menstrual cup. But the job of those puberty books is to let girls know what options are available, to inform them so they can make a decision. And the book left out the best option out there. So now, thanks to that book, you're going to hear all about menstrual cups.

What is a menstrual cup? Well, this blog gives a good description and has lots of pics so you'll see what I am talking about. But basically, it's a latex or silicone cup that's worn inside the vagina like a tampon during your period to catch the flow. But, it's sooo much better than a tampon. Here's why:

  1. It's healthier. It's made of a material that is resistant to bacteria, and has much less actual surface area, so unlike tampons, there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome.

  2. It's reusable. Oh, that's right, you heard me. After your period's done, you give it a thorough washing, let it dry, and put it away until next time. That's HUGE in terms of:

    1. Cost. Think about how much you spend on pads or tampons in a year. How often do you go through a box of those? The menstrual cup can cost quite a bit when you first get it (I don't quite remember how much it was exactly, but $50.00 or more is not out of the question), but then you can reuse it over and over again for years. And yes, it's perfectly safe to do so. Another nice thing about the menstrual cup is that you'll never run out of supplies. No more emergency midnight trips to Shoppers. Going on a long vacation when you expect to get your period? Don't worry about packing boxes of pads or tampons. Just pop your little cup in your bag.

    2. Saving the Environment. Think about all the pads in the garbage, the tampons flushed down the toilet. Thousands of plastic tampon applicators wash up on beaches around the world every day. Your cup you just reuse, month after month, year after year. This is actually the primary reason I switched. I was trying to be better about recycling and cutting down on waste, and I couldn't stand how much waste one woman could produce every month just from dealing with her period.

So, how does it work exactly? You fold it into quarters, making the top part small enough to slide in, then basically insert it like you would a tampon without an applicator. Once you've gotten the top part inside, you can let it pop back into shape. The top part will unfold, pressing against the walls of the vagina so it will catch everything. You empty a couple or few times a day, depending on your flow. To get it out, you can use the little loop or stick at the bottom, or for the ones that don't have them, just use your muscles to push out the bottom, then pinch the bottom to release suction, pull out, empty, reinsert. No messier than dealing with a tampon and you can do any activity with it in, swim, exercise, whatever.

I started using a cup about a year ago, mostly for the environmental reasons cited above. My personal brand is The Keeper. I have the rubber latex one, size B. Now I will confess that it took a little bit of getting used to. I tried it one month, and didn't like it. I couldn't get it to feel right, and the stupid stick kept poking me in the wrong spot. But I decided to try it again. So I cut the stick off completely (you're actually supposed to trim it to the size you want), and now I'm used to it, and like it very much. Once it's inside, you pretty much forget it's there.

So if it's so great, why don't we hear about it more? Where are all the tv ads, etc.? Well, the thing is, the companies that make the cups are usually very small operations, and they don't make a lot of money. Why? Because, once you buy a cup, you don't buy another one for years. Sometimes never. So it's not a great way to make money in our consumption driven economy. And those big brands, like playtex, tampax, and always, they really, really don't want you to find out about menstrual cups. They'd much rather you continue to purchase their disposable products which are an environmental disaster.

So, spread the word, tell your friends, and if you know anyone who's writing a puberty book for girls, don't let them leave this out! At least give it a try. You may not like it, and that's fine. Periods are annoying enough without having to use a product you're not happy with. But seriously, the environment, your wallet, and even your vagina will thank you.

Edit: Looking at the Keeper website, I realize that they don't ship to Canada. I got my Keeper through my sister, so I'm not sure how she got a hold of it. Possibly some sort of shady, backroom deal... ;) Anyway, never fear, because for all of us Canucks, there is an alternative. I give you, the Diva Cup.


Anonymous said...

I got my keeper through the women's centre at the University of Saskatchewan. If you have a large enough group of people ordering, the company will ship in bulk to Canada. The trick it to get enough people together to order (I think it might be 20 or something?). The reason I preferred the Keeper is because it is natural rubber, whereas the Diva Cup is silicone (but therefore great for people with rubber allergies!). I've been using mine for over four years now and never had a it feels great to get those polluting companies' corporate philosophy off my biology! Whoo hoo for women taking charge of their own bodies! Thanks for posting this.

Violette said...

Ah. So that's how I got mine. So mundane. I was imagining a cross-border menstrual cup smuggling ring...