On International’s Womens Day, let’s work together to destigmatize and debunk some myths surrounding reusable menstrual products and save countless disposables from ending up in the landfill or in our oceans!
Please enjoy this humorous take on Life With Menstrual Cups by my very good friend, who was kind enough to write this for the Life Unplastic blog even in one of the most trying periods of her life (time period, not period – period).
Many thanks, Stephanie!
“Reduce, reuse, and reimagine your period. It’s not as scary as you might think.”
By: Stephanie Woody Vernon
Ah, the menstrual cup. Whether you use one or not, you probably have an opinion about them.
I’m no expert, but I do have a long history of being very open with friends or near strangers about what goes into my vagina, so naturally this is a topic that has come up once or twice.
And for me, it was a simple transition from tampons to this more eco-friendly, waste reducing product, and the next step in a path I was already on. Just trying to do my part, ya know?
Talking openly with folks about it has sparked some interesting conversations for sure, and there are plenty of people who still have their doubts. Here are a few of the most memorable cup fears I have encountered:
-“The thought of putting my fingers in there super grosses me out.”
-“I just CAN’T with the boiling it to clean it.”
-“There’s no way you can’t feel that thing. I don’t believe you. You’re just lying to convert other chicks to your weird hippy sh*t.”(It’s worth noting that this last sentiment came from a man. With a penis. Not a vagina… I’ll get back to these in a minute.)
I am not a doctor and as I said before, I’m not an expert. But I am a person with the correct anatomy to use these products, and who has been actively doing so for the last 4 years (for those of you counting that is roughly 48 cycles), so I feel I have a well informed opinion. I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I will share a little of mine.
My desire to change the way I dealt with my monthly cycle originally stemmed from a general passion surrounding knowing what we put into our bodies on a daily basis.
The obsession started slowly, with me combing through the ingredients in the food I ate, branching out into the household and beauty products I used, and naturally I ended up at the horrible realization: that a tampon isn’t a harmless piece of cotton and that I should use the same discretion with what goes “down there” as I do with what I put in my mouth.
Also, during this time, I became increasingly aware of the fact that the things I was trying to avoid because they are bad for my body were almost always just as bad for our planet.
I have read tampon ingredients I can hardly pronounce (ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, carbon disulfide, toluene, etc) and though again, not a doctor, I would just feel better if they stayed far away from my most natural area. Call me crazy, but the thought of deliberately inserting a carcinogen laced, genetically modified, bleached piece of “maybe cotton” into my body no longer appealed to me. Just as unappealing is the not-so-farm-to-feminine-hygiene production process that deliver these to a bathroom vanity near you, and the vision in my head of mountains of non degradable plastic applicators that have to go somewhere and that somewhere is just back out into nature, our oceans and landfills. **Deep breath, back to the point**
I was unsure about the prospect of this new-to-me product, so I started with a cheap disposable brand, as a $30 commitment for a reusable cup was more than I was ready for right away.
The one I chose came in a pack of five, and it was a silicone ring with what looked like a small plastic bag attached to it. Think tiny fishing net, sans mesh. There was a learning curve for the insertion and removal, but once I got the hang of it, it was really quite simple. This product, however, had its down sides. The most obvious problem was that it was still creating the waste I was trying to eliminate. Another issue was that although I couldn’t feel the cup, I could hear it.
I discovered that if I opened and closed my legs at the right angle, I could hear the sound of a plastic bag crunching, and did so over and over again until my husband and I were in tears from laughing so hard. As humorous as this was, it was time to move on.
Enter the Lunette Cup. It was love at first (er….third?) use. Again, there is a learning curve. Inserting it is something that takes some getting used to, but practice makes perfect. By my second cycle with it, I was a pro. You pop it in and go, and honestly do not have to fuss with it for the rest of the day. I cannot feel it, and don’t need to worry about emptying it for another 12 hours.
There is a little stem on the bottom of it with little ridges for grip that allows you to just pull it right out when the time comes, dump, give it a good rinse, repeat. The end.
So what are we so afraid of? Well, lets talk about that. In my experience, these two situations are the worst that can happen…
First, trying to empty them in a public restroom without a sink in the stall with you is not my favorite situation. That being said, I haven’t really run into the need to do this because of the amount of time you can actually wear these without needing to empty them. This has only been an issue for me ONE time, when I was surprised by a heavier than usual period and a poorly planned day.
Second, dogs LOVE these. Listen, dogs are gross and some eat their own poop. Mine ate my cup and also my replacement cup. She also used to raid the trash for tampons, so this is not surprising. Lesson learned. This is totally preventable and totally my fault as these creatures do not even have thumbs. Moral of the story, maybe don’t leave your cup out on the counter.
Third, you may have to shop around to find the one that you love. I know many woman who love the Diva cup brand, but this wasn’t the best choice for me. I found the stem to be too short and thick for me to get a hold of and it made removal more challenging and I just didn’t like it.
“The path to self discovery is liberating.”
Now, getting back to the actual fears people have shared with me.
Let’s start with “putting my fingers in there….gross”. I get it. I was raised by a woman born in the 50’s and we mostly pretended we didn’t have vaginas. We didn’t say the word. We didn’t discuss what went in or out.
I learned about my body from my subscription to YM (Young and Modern) magazine and my first tampons were a bonus gift from said magazine.
Real talk: you are a woman. You have a vagina.
It would benefit you greatly to take some time to become comfortable enough with your body so that the idea of your own fingertips inserted into your vagina is more appealing than a foreign object with uncertain origins and ingredients. The path to self discovery is liberating.
The “boiling” issue- it is suggested by the manufacturer that you boil your cup before your first use. That means before it has ever seen its first drop of blood. After that, a thorough cleaning with unscented soap, or soap specifically made for your cup, is all you have to do. If you would like another round of super sanitation, go ahead and boil that baby again, but no one says you have to.
I’d also like to add that you probably have boiled an egg once or twice in your lifetime and those come from a chicken’s multi-purpose hole that I don’t think many of us understand all that well, and then you EAT those.. and the pot you use even survives!
Point being: It’s not that weird.
Lastly, guys: if you do not have a vagina, you do not get to have an opinion on what we can or cannot feel in there. Despite what your girlfriend said. (HA!)
Ladies, if you have worn tampons comfortably your whole menstruating life, then you can do this too. If your cup is inserted properly, you can not feel it. That is the truth. I’m sure since all of our bodies are different there is always going to be an exception to this rule, but for most of us you can wear it all day without ever noticing anything different. This is so true that it is almost a con, because it’s easy to forget you have it in.
At the end of the day, what you choose for your body is deeply personal. Perhaps next month you might consider trying something new that is better for your body and the future of this planet.
Reduce, reuse, and reimagine your period. It’s not as scary as you might think.