Meditation on Menstruation 2: 2 Years, 1 Cup

Two years after publishing my first (and only) post about menstruation, I’m dusting off my Diva Cup and getting back into learning more about menstruation options.

Since Plastic Free July is almost over and I’m very passionate about reducing my own use of plastics, I wanted to write this month about a particular reusable period optionthe menstrual cup. (Not to mention, a friend documenting her menstrual product use during this eco-conscious month really made me want to put finger to keyboard and write!)

The earliest menstrual cups were actually first patented in the 1930s in the US, though they weren’t widely commercially available until 70 years later, in the early 2000s! While pad and tampon usage has been recorded throughout history, tampons became commercially available also in the 1930s and then pads in the 1970s. A brief history can be read on the website for feminine hygiene brand Maxim. Humans with uteruses (uteri?) have been menstruating for time eternal, so it’s so fascinating to see the mass development of products to manage menstrual flow as pretty recent.

I’m No Diva!

Shortly after I wrote the first Meditation on Menstruation in June 2016, I decided to try out a menstrual cup, so I purchased the Diva Cup pack with reusable Luna pads. At the time I thought, “Ew, cloth pads? I don’t need those!” But now I use them regularly for sleeping since my period is heavier. Although I had only used the cup a handful of times before this and the next happened, I’ve been hesitant to use my dormant Diva Cup for fear that the suction will painfully dislodge my newish IUD; as one gynecologist told me of that risk, another assured me that it’s rare. I’m no diva, but installing that IUD was one of the most painful experiences of my life, and I didn’t want the reverse of that to happen on accident.

Still, I’m trying to pick up where I left off and try different methods of managing my period since it’s more extreme in length, pain, and heaviness than it was before I got the copper IUD. I now use a suite of super absorbent tampons, synthetic and cotton maxi pads, and cloth pads (still feels ew!), but I want to incorporate the cup more into my routinepartly to use less resources and partly to get my money’s worth out of the cup I had already invested in to save money on pads and tampons.

diva cup

Pictured: Diva Cup in an ugly floral design pouch. Ob tampon to the right for scale.

Push It Real Good

No, don’t do that! Fold it into a U shape and gently insert it!

I’m still a cup newbie. Having used it for less than 6 periods in the past 2 years, the ovulation origami has been a struggle when inserting and removing the cup. Aside from needing to cut my nails (and for those with acrylics, how do you not slice your vagina/labia?!), I have the most issues with suction during removal. The stem at the bottom is so short, my fingers are slick from blood and other goopy goos, and I never fully break the seal so it feels like a vacuum is sucking out my insides!

When it’s in though it’s great! It’s similar to a tampon in that I don’t feel anything if it’s inserted correctlyit’s very much set it and forget it. And I can pee and poop (usually diarrhea if I’m on my period TBH) without worrying about shooting a tampon out on accident! A lot of blood can collect in that little funnel, so I only use it on lighter days and at home since I’m afraid there might be overflow/leakage when I’m out and about. Although blood and needles generally freak me out, I’m unfazed when I need to pour blood in the toilet in a mock murder scene. Maybe the Misfits were actually referring to menstrual cups in the song “Horror Business”…you don’t go in the baaaathroom with me! If anything, I feel oddly more in tune with my body and its byproducts, a witchy woman alchemizing the moon with menses and hailing the lifeblood from which we are all born (this article is WiLd).

While I’ve only used this brand of menstrual cup, there are several others on the market with different sizes and lengths, from the Ruby Cup (with a philanthropic Buy One Give One program) to MeLuna. For those having difficulty with the highly tactile nature of menstrual cups, there’s the Keela Cup with a “disability-friendly design.” Here is a list of other menstrual cups with reviews and links for purchasing. There are also several online resources about considering and using them. Make sure to clean them when you’re done, too, to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome!

Have any menstrual cup recommendations? Share them below!

Meditations on Menstruation: 120th Blood

I’m a late bloomer. I lost my first tooth in third grade, when I was 8, and had to have my last baby teeth pulled (they weren’t even loose) when I was 16.

In middle school my female friends would whisper about their periods as if they were part of some secret cult, another social clique I was excluded from. But that didn’t bother me. My mom scolded me for having Peter Pan syndrome when I refused to carry pads in my backpack for the first time I would require them, which ended up being during the summer.

You hear horror stories of period mishaps and unprepared first blood—my mom was at gym class and didn’t know what was happening (if I remember correctly)—but fortunately I was saved from this embarrassment, though going through puberty a little later than my peers. (The age ranges from 8 to 16, except in cases of precocious puberty, so I guess I’m pretty average.)

It was ten years ago this month, sometime after 6/6/06—I remember because that was when The Omen remake premiered and hysterics thought the apocalypse was upon us—and I was on summer break before freshman year of high school. We were visiting the Grand Canyon, and that’s probably the most memorable thing about this life-changing event. I guess I could have babies now and wear these absorbent vagina Band-Aids—cool.

And now I’m 120 periods later—more or less, with missed/late or blue moon periods (those rare and annoying twice-a-month ones). Many eggs have been unfertilized and uterine linings shed and I wonder how many gross diapers (a.k.a. pads), tampons, and wads of toilet paper were used to quell Aunt Flo. I like to minimize my carbon footprint in whatever way I can, recycling and using less plastic, etc., and I’m concerned about all these carcinogenic plastic things I’m putting into my body and then disposing. If the average woman throws out 250 to 300 pounds of feminine hygiene products in her lifetime, then how many dildos could I have already made with all the bloody plastic of shiny, opalescent applicators?

I’m ready to change this. I only use tampons—and I know some women can’t or don’t like using them—because I don’t like the feel of pads (I can’t stand a squeegee full of my innards resting between my butt cheeks). Compact tampons are awful; the applicator, though beautiful, is completely useless to me, so I bought a couple boxes of just the absorbent part this month. However, these are also trashed after use, require a shit-ton of energy to produce, and still are barely biodegradable—despite their claiming to be more environmentally friendly.

ob tampon.JPG

Not to mention, here’s a list of other negative effects they have on the environment:

  • “Waste production. Essentially, energy and non-renewable fuels are used while carbon emissions are created at every step of the production process and transportation of tampons. For instance, the polyester used in the formation of plastic tampon applicators is made from petrochemical substances and also requires a large amount of freshwater for cooling.
  • Harmful to wildlife. Similarly, the polyester lining and the plastic applicators from tampons on the North American market have been found to contain bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor proven to have harmful effects on aquatic wildlife. Once disposed of in either waterways or landfills, this chemical leaches out into the environment and makes its way into the nearby ecosystems, carried by precipitation overflow (Davidson, 2012). …This creates a threat to marine ecosystems where the plastic waste collects (Sheavly and Register, 2007). The wildlife can confuse plastic tampon hulls for food, consuming them and then not being able to regurgitate the plastic.
  • Water pollution from disposal. Female sanitary hygiene products, especially tampons, are the most significant product disposed of in toilets that cause problems for the water management routes. This is troublesome since “debris, and particularly debris composed of plastic, is one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems affecting our oceans and inland waterways” (Sheavly and Register, 2007).”

In this “Meditations on Menstruation” series I’ll get up close and personal with the blood we’re conditioned to gross out about and keep out of sight. My periods need peace of abdomen and peace of mind, so I’ll try more reusable and eco-friendly options and explore issues related to menstruation around the world—from the pink tax to period taboos.

What do you use? Is there anything not on the below list that you would recommend?

Green(er) products:
Sea Sponge
Glad Rags
Mooncup (silicone)
The Keeper (latex)