I wrote a posting earlier about ditching disposable paper products, with a promise to dedicate an entire posting to this topic in the future. Here we go…
Whenever anyone talks about reducing landfill trash, there’s one area that I think doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Probably because people don’t like to talk about it. But the fact is, this kind of trash accounts for a lot of landfill space. And it needs to be addressed. I realize this is a topic that can make people squeamish. But this is a fact of life that half of our world’s population personally deals with, so lets all be grown-ups and talk about eco-conscious ways of dealing with this common fact of life.
This discussion is the first half of a two-part series, and today, the topic is the menstrual cup. What is a menstrual cup, you might ask? It’s a reusable silicone or rubber cup inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual flow.
What’s so great about it?
The first thing that’s cool about it is the reuse factor. You buy one once and can use it for up to 10 years. That cuts down on a lot of trash. Unlike tampons, it does not absorb flow, does not leave fibers behind, and does not absorb other moisturizing and necessary secretions that help keep the vagina healthy. It also carrys a much-reduced risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (like almost non-existent). Additionally, it has a higher hold capacity than tampons, so you only need to empty it about every 12 hours, depending on your flow. Also, it does not give off any odors. Menstrual blood only begins to have an odor when it comes in contact with the air. Since it’s all contained in the cup, there’s no smell. When inserted properly, a menstrual cup should not leak at all, should not be painful, and you should not be able to feel it at all when it’s in. You can get one for about $20-40, and that saves a lot of money too, even if you don’t end up using it for 10 years.
As great as they sound, there are some cons to note as well. Instead of rewriting all of the same stuff, I highly recommend checking out this great blog post addressing reasons why women might reject a menstrual cup and how to get used to the thought of using it.
Some women do find they can be difficult to insert or remove, and every woman is shaped differently, so it’s hard to give advice as to what exactly might be reasons for leakage, insertion/removal troubles, or other problems. Also, there’s about a 3-6 cycle learning curve. It does take time to get used to using it and to master techniques of insertion and removal.
Ok, I’m willing to give it a try: What now?
There’s lots of different brands to consider, and you’ll need to choose carefully to find the right one for you. Things such as vaginal length, width, flow level, and cup shape are all important things to consider. Here’s a great site to help you with all the details.
On a personal note, I have had my cup for about 3 months now. When I decided to try it, I didn’t know anything about the different brands available. I just got the only one I had heard of at the time: divacup. I was lucky that I happened to arbitrarily pick one that works pretty well for me. Honestly, when I first tried it, I wanted to chop it up into little pieces and send it down the garbage disposal. I hated it. I couldn’t get it in, but when I got it in, I couldn’t get it out. It hurt, it leaked, and if it wasn’t leaking I still needed to check on it all the time, to make sure it wasn’t leaking.
But over time, I gradually figured out all the things I had been doing wrong. I learned more about the many different ways you can fold it to insert (the directions that came with my cup only gave one way, and not the best one, at that). Here is a great site that shows how to do all the different folds and what they look like. Once I tried a different fold, it went in just fine. I learned I have a tipped uterus, so I have to put my cup in almost sideways (that made it stop leaking). I learned that because of this, I should have picked a cup without such a long stem. I also learned you can cut the stem down if its too long. Or you can just turn your cup inside out to eliminate the stem altogether.
As far as cleanliness, I had been using either pads or tampons all my life, and even though the cup seems initially more gross, I’ve found that I actually come in contact with fluids LESS now than I did before. Tampons always leaked for me, which always meant messy removal, and needing a pad paired with a tampon, which doubled my trash. When I went to just pads, they shift, are messy, peel up, rub funny, and leak at night. Now, it all stays in the cup, and I just dump it into the toilet twice a day. No mess, no leaks, no smell, no icky trash, and no extra monthly costs. I still wear a small cloth reusable pad (more on this in part 2), just in case of a few stray drips, but more often than not it will stay clean and dry. I’m still not quite sure if I’m technically getting my cup put in right, but even if it leaks a few drops, it still works way better than anything else I’ve ever used, so I’m sticking with it.
I hope I’ve given enough information and that it is helpful for you to consider. At the end of the day, you should decide what works for you. I’m just adding another option that I think deserves some attention.