Menstrual Monday: Menstrual Cups

I’ve been using a Diva Cup since my second year of university some five years ago… I started using one when I did a seminar on the politics of menstruation and had a booth in the school’s main atrium about menstrual health. It was the first big Women and Gender Studies project that I did with a bunch of other like-minded people. It was such a life changing project for me, I stopped taking the birth control pill, discarded all my conventional menstrual products, and actually sparked my first interest in midwifery.

So why I stopped taking the pill and using conventional tampons and pads was because of all the negative research my group found on the products… In short, based on the research we found, I decided that these products weren’t the best for me or my body. I started using a diaphragm for contraception and using a Diva Cup and cloth pads for menstruation. I also started syncing my cycles with the moon through lunaception. I must say that since I’ve made these changes, my relationship with my menstrual cycle has been much better.

I thought for the month of August (and possibly beyond!), I would write posts on Mondays about menstrual health and the topics above. Today let’s talk menstrual products, specifically the menstrual cup.

Conventional menstrual products include pads and tampons like the ones that Always and Tampax produce. The ingredients on these products aren’t fully disclosed and can contain harsh chemicals and dyes. Tampons specifically also have a risk of causing (rare) toxic shock syndrome (so do many other products you put up there, so make sure to read all inserts!). I decided that I didn’t want to put a product with harsh chemicals on my underwear to rub on my vulva, let alone inside of me.

So including the potential negative health factors associated with tampons, there are also some major financial and environmental factors to consider when using pads and tampons. Did you know that the average woman can use over 11,000 tampons in their lifetime? Can you imagine all the pads and tampons in the water and landfills? In addition, you need to buy the damn things. Every. Month. They aren’t cheap either – especially if you’re having a hard time financially and you need to choose between menstrual products and food or whatever. We sometimes forget what a privilege it is to be able to afford these products – many women can’t afford them here in Canada and several other women don’t have access to them around the world. Menstrual products were just deemed a necessary item and tax is no longer charged on those products, but it was for a very long time. Thanks, NDP!

Okay, so I didn’t mean to rant incessantly about pads and tampons but I did want to tell you that there are lots of alternatives that are cost effective and good for the environment. Today I’m mostly just going to talk about menstrual cups.

So, cups. One word: amazing. I’ve been using mine for the past five years, like I said before. I bought it for about $35. It’s cost me 58 cents per period since I bought it. Cost effective. There is also no risk of TSS. Menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone, meaning they aren’t going to break down inside the body and cause you harm. It also puts into perspective how much you actually bleed. With the measurement lines on the sides you can tell how much you’ve bled and can predict the end of your period more accurately. Bonus: you can wear them for literally 12 hours without leaking. This means overnight, swimming, in a dress, playing sports, long shifts, whatever. One potential con: you have to touch the blood and stick your fingers inside to fetch it in order clean it out. Not a con for me, I’m not squeamish. It’s also very empowering to get to know the inner workings of your body, so I urge you to check it out and get “dirty”. Extra bonus: You can carry your menstrual cup in this super cute crocheted uterus! I made one today with this amazing crocheted uterus pattern found through Ravelry.

Look at those adorable tubes!
Look at those adorable tubes!

You can purchase the Diva Cup at Shopper’s Drug Mart and most pharmacies. You can also buy them at natural food stores and sexual health stores. They come in two sizes: a smaller cup and a larger cup; made for over/under 30 and non-chilbearing/childbearing but you may find that you don’t fit the size that describes your age or childbearing status and that’s okay!

There are a lot of other products that you can use such as sea sponges, organic pads and tampons (containing zero chemicals). I’m going to talk about cloth pads on another Menstrual Monday and include a pattern for you to make them yourself.

What’s your favourite menstrual health product and why do you choose to use it? Please comment if there’s anything you’d like me to cover on a Menstrual Monday and we can make it happen!

And seriously, isn’t that crocheted uterus the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?!

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