Are You Ready to Make The Switch to a Menstrual Cup?
In a world of fast fashion, palm oil and David Attenborough, I’m a typical millennial – swinging between being a vego-leaning reusable coffee cup owner and that drunk ordering chicken nuggets. But the news that the plastic in a packet of sanitary pads is equivalent to four single-use bags is sobering, even when it isn’t being delivered in Dave’s dulcet tones. Enter: the menstrual cup.
You probably remember it as the menstruation solution that elicited the loudest chorus of ‘eww’ during sex ed. Popularised around 20 years ago, the silicone ‘cup’ is designed to sit in your vaginal canal and collect, rather than absorb, your period blood. Presented with a solution that swerves the huge environmental impact, I decide to give it a go and start with a menstrual cup.
My first impression is along the lines of ‘square peg; round hole’ – next to a tampon, it looks huge. I study diagrams before I feel confident enough to try it. The first time, I put it in too high. Since it works by forming a seal on your canal wall, this can lead to leaks.
I discover my error after a workout first thing and leaking all over my leggings (inserted correctly, a menstrual cup can be worn while you exercise). To be fair, the instructions specifically state not to put it in too high – it sits much lower than a tampon – and, with the help of an online tutorial, I get it right second time (I know because I can’t feel it at all). After a few bathroom checks, I feel pretty confident and leave it in all day at work, removing the need for a tampon-up-the-sleeve situation entirely. How often you empty it depends on your period – four hours for heavy, up to eight for light – and while I preferred to change it at home, it’s doable on the move – just empty it into the toilet and rinse before putting it back in.
The estimated average lifetime cost of your monthly cycle: R40 000
According to a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Medicine & Medical Research, the average woman will use up to 17 000 sanitary pads or tampons in her lifetime.
Bhekisisa states that if the average sanitary pad you get at the store costs about R2.33 each, meaning you could spend up to R40 000 on sanitary pads in your lifetime. And that’s not to mention all the other things you use to get through that time of the month.
Mastering the Cup
Having almost mastered the menstrual cup, I give the Intimina Lily Cup One a try. This cup is designed for beginners; a handle helps with removal and it concertinas into a discreet disc shape so it can be stored in a carry case. Having got to grips (ahem) with the insertion process, I thought removal would be a doddle. But even once you’ve got your head around the concept, you’ve got to break the seal to get the thing out. Then there’s the collapsible element – a convenience that becomes less so when said collapsing happens inside you. Instead of shifting down into position, it shimmied along my vaginal walls. The scenes that followed may have put a first-timer off for life; luckily for me, I have priors, and I know that, just as every vagina is different, so, too, are menstrual cups.
For all my whining, I’m willing to put up with a bit of wiggling once a month in the name of having a sustainable period. While it takes practice, no one’s nailing tampons first time, either. Try it and you’ll be saving more than the planet: the average lifetime cost of your monthly cycle is estimated to be up to R40 000. Until next month.
Greener Ways to Manage Aunt Flo
There are many ways to go period eco, like with these ace products.
Reusable Menstrual Cups
These menstrual cups are made with medical grade silicone. They make going green that much easier.
Picture the scene… You, washing and reusing your pads instead of chucking them in landfill. Dave Atty would be mad proud. We like Safepad because they’re pretty.
With so many brands of period undies to choose from, we suggest thinking about what your flow and lifestyle is like to find the right ones. We’re partial to Tom Organic X Body because they have a different styles and different flow options. See the whole range here.
Just can’t let go of disposables? At least go organic with Lill-lets Organic which are 100 percent cotton. Even the main players are getting involved.
This article was originally published on Women’s Health AU