It is a truth universally acknowledged that women have periods.
Now, the frequency, duration, intensity, etc. of said period varies greatly amongst us gals, but for a lot of us, Aunt Flo shows up once a month(ish) whether she is invited or not.
I know that I don’t exactly jump for joy when she arrives, but for the past 4-ish years (minus a pregnancy and a blessed 15-month hiatus due to breastfeeding), I have been giving myself the “Diva treatment” whenever she tries to crash the party.
I can’t promise that I’ll cut down on the euphemisms (because there are SO many–riding the crimson tide, anyone?), but I will explain more clearly what I mean. For the past several years, I have used a silicone menstrual cup during that time of the month.
Rather than rely on pads, tampons, period underwear, or cloistering in the red tent, I pull out my trusty Diva Cup* from its cute flowery drawstring pouch and get back to business.
*This is not a product endorsement for Diva Cup as there are MANY types of menstrual cups on the market. In fact, it can be so overwhelming that there is even a quiz from putacupinit.com (he he) to determine which is best for each individual; based on my results, I may be trying something new!
I know what you’re thinking…GROSS! That’s what I thought at first, too, when I initially heard that there was a container you put inside your body to collect menstrual blood that you then have to empty and use again. But, c’mon, moms, I know that you have dealt with way grosser things as a mother. Childbirth, obviously, but I’m also guessing that at the very least you have been peed on, pooped on, sneezed on, spit up on…9 years in, and my reflex is still to catch vomit with my bare hands.
There are many reasons why I have become a menstrual cup fan. My initial motivation was an attempt to reduce waste. The added bonus is that I am also saving money in addition to saving the environment. No longer am I throwing away period products–often containing irritating chemicals–that I have to re-buy every month.
Have you ever had to navigate an unfamiliar drugstore while traveling because Shark Week started early? Yeah, I don’t have to do that anymore. I guess the only drawback is that I no longer have the joy of sending my husband on that awkward errand…
Speaking of starting early (or late), another benefit of the menstrual cup is that it can be inserted in anticipation of menstruation. I tend to have somewhat irregular cycles, but since my body gives me a heads up in other ways, I can sometimes catch it (pun intended). You can’t do that with a tampon.
Something else you can’t do with a tampon is leave it in all day. Depending on how heavy your flow is, you can literally leave a menstrual cup in for hours and hours and not worry about those scary side effects and syndromes printed on the side of the tampon box.
True story: I once used a menstrual cup while tent camping at a site that only had pit toilets available. Maybe that’s TMI–although I think it’s a little late for that–but all I had to do was empty it first thing in the morning, reinsert it, and I was free to forget about it the rest of the day. (I would not recommend back woods camping in this scenario, but I’m pretty sure there are rules about that–something to do with attracting bears or something.)
The most surprising benefit to menstrual cup use, however, is that I feel like I now have a greater understanding of my body and how it works. It only took 25+ years of menstruating to get here, but I feel more in tune with my body over the course of my cycle and feel more comfortable talking/writing about it (hence this post). No longer is menstrual blood something I throw away or flush without a second thought. Because this type of period management is much more intimate than traditional methods, I have found myself being more thoughtful and aware of what’s happening each month.
I recognize that I’ve been using a lot of euphemisms here, mostly tongue in cheek, but also so I don’t keep repeating the same terms over and over again. Regardless of the terminology, however, I want to stress that menstruation doesn’t have to be taboo. The more we discuss it–or dare I say even joke about it–the more normal it becomes. My own mom was always good about answering any questions I had, but it’s not like we sat around talking about our periods on a regular basis. If I want my two girls to not feel embarrassed like I was asking about something that is completely natural, then I need to be open and honest with them.
All of this period empowerment via the menstrual cup hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, however. There is definitely a learning curve involved. If the cup isn’t placed just right, leaks are possible, and I always wear a (reusable cloth!) pantiliner as a backup. Making those necessary manual adjustments is weird at first, but it does get easier with practice. And while the cup does not need to be emptied every time you use the bathroom, having to empty it in a public bathroom (or pit toilet!) can be tricky.