Girl talk: periods, pads, menstrual cups, the environment, and money
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When I first arrived in Madrid, in 2006, I opened up a door for environmental consciousness. There were so many possibilities of changing the world, so many ways to improve my daily life without harming the planet any more than I had to.
So I bought cloth nappies for my toddler and some smaller ones for my third and soon to be born child. And along with it, I bought myself some cloth pads and a Mooncup. I didn’t have my period for a year after that, but then when I started using it, my life changed.
I’ve always had terrible periods. They come in the worst moments, not caring if the last period ended 2 weeks or 3 months ago. It’s also super heavy. I never bought anything other than the night pads and I used 2 of those to sleep (one more to the front of the undie, one more to the back). I still had to wake up a few times to change them. I had horrible cramps one month, then nothing for the next periods. It’s just wild.
I’ve never really used tampons because they are uncomfortable and unhealthy.
I started using the cloth pads after delivering my baby. Yeah, it was a bit more work, but nothing horrible. I took them out and tossed into a bucket with water and when I showered, I gave them a quick rinse (OK, I usually stepped over them) and washed in the washing machine. I hang dry because we’ve never really had a dryer (except for rentals). I liked them very much but they moved around and it always ended up leaking. There’s nothing really holding them in the place like the disposable pads, so when I went out, I usually wore a disposable one.
With the menstrual cup (it was the Mooncup because it was the only one being sold there at the time), I still have to wake up to empty it one or two nights per period but other than that, it’s usually just fine.
Well, yeah, the first times were super messy, it got a bit uncomfortable sometimes, I felt it when I changed positions. But it was still way better than the pads. Way better.
I’ve been using it since 2008 (I bought a new one in 2011) but kept using both. I only tossed my old one out in 2016, when we started traveling. It was still usable, albeit a bit stained. A lot stained.
I had really no plans on trading my Mooncup, since it lasts for 10 years, but in Brazil, my cousin gave me a Fleurity, which is a Brazilian brand. I hated it. It was super soft, which is good because it’s more comfortable, and it was bigger than the Mooncup, therefore less need to wake up to empty it during the night BUT I took around 20 minutes each time to get the thing to pop open. And there were times when it just didn’t. I tossed it out after 3 periods with the same problem.
And then we arrived in Canada. I just looked on Amazon and a number of options they had were crazy. My Mooncup was getting old, with 6~7 years of usage, I decided on buying a new one. But no, the crazy menstrual cup lady couldn’t hold herself. She bought 3 different ones. THREE.
Now I’m the proud owner of a Mooncup (which I’ll replace when we get to Europe), a Sckoon cup, a Super Jennie cup, and a Diva cup. I haven’t had the chance to try them all yet, but I will and I’ll update this post.
So far, I’m a bit disappointed that all of them come with a lifespan of 1~2 years. It’s still less plastic thrown away than the pads or tampons, but it’s still a lot. That’s why I’ll buy a new Mooncup next year – to have for the rest of my menstruation life.
I’ll try to answer the questions I got asked more times about menstrual cups here:
Does it hurt?
No. It’s painless to place it, to remove it, and throughout the day. It needs a bit of practice, yes, but it should never be painful.
Can anyone use it?
I believe so. I mean, you’re unique and you’ll have a model that fits you better. Check your cervix height and read some reviews of people that are like you (yogi, runners, swimmers, dancers, sedentary, whatever). Buy one, try it. If you don’t like it, don’t give up! Try another one when you can. They’re not cheap, but they still end up cheaper than the disposable stuff. I loved the Mooncup from day one, but the softer the cup, the more comfortable it is – though the harder it is to place it correctly.
Why would I ever use that?
Well, because it’s more economical than the disposable stuff, it’s safer, it’s easy to use, it’s less trash, it’s more comfortable.
It looks so big! How does it fit?
You don’t really put it in while it’s open. You usually do some kind of fold to get it placed and then it pops open in your vagina. I use the U fold for the Mooncup and the 7 fold for the softer ones. They all work, you’ll just need to find one that works better for the combo you+your cup. It pays off the work, I promise.
What about the toxic shock syndrome?
It happens. Make sure you empty and thoroughly wash yours once every 8 hours and you should be fine. But do it.
Is it really better for the environment?
YES! One cup can last anything between 1 and 10 years. I used around 4 packages of pads every period. It IS less trash and fewer residues from the fabrication. And it takes way fewer chemicals to make a cup.
How expensive is it?
I found it anywhere from US$ 20 to US$ 50. There are many different brands, models, and prices. Make sure to shop around and choose one that fits you and your pocket. It seems expensive, but you won’t need another one for at least a year. Think about how much you spend on the disposable stuff every year.
How long does it last?
Anywhere from 1 to 10 years. It depends on the material, the cup, the care, and you. Make sure it’s clean, not damaged (holes, shape changes, burns, slight film inside, powdery stuff), and it’s fine.
Do you need to take it off and clean every time you go to the toilet?
NO! I only take off when:
a) I’m pooping – because I don’t want any fecal trace in my cup and I really don’t want it to fall into the vase
b) it’s been a long time since I last washed it.
c) I feel it’s full.
How do you feel it’s full?
This is a tough one to explain, but I feel my vagina wet (without being aroused) or I feel bubbles. Yes, bubbles. That’s when I know it’s time to empty it. It’s never leaked so much that it stained my clothes. Maybe a spot on the undie, but that’s about it. You’ll learn it too if you use it enough.
How many do you need?
One. That’s it. You can be the crazy lady and have lots, but you don’t need more than one. Seriously. I lived with only one for 3 years. Bought a second one because I thought I’d lost it. Of course, I found it a few months later then I had 2. But never really needed the second one.
How do you care for it?
You boil before you use it for the first time.
Then you wash it with water and a neutral soap before using. Repeat it every 8 hours (or less, depending on your period. Just the washing part, not the boiling!). Boil again when your period’s done. Put it somewhere sunny for a few hours, and put it away inside a cloth bag (they come with one). I placed mine in my bag because I just never knew when the period would come. Now I have one in my bag and the rest with my undies inside my packing cell.
Always rinse with cold water before using warm water, and only use warm water if you need it.
How to choose one?
Research. Or go for the middle range. Apparently, Mooncup is it. But find out your cervix height and find something that fits your body and lifestyle before you buy it! It avoids frustrations. Sometimes the first try (or tries) won’t work well, but really… keep trying. You WILL find something that fits you.
What do you do when you’re in a public toilet?
I don’t even take it out. When I absolutely need to, I try to use the disable toilet because there’s a sink inside. Make sure there’s no one waiting to use it, though. Take it off, rinse it with water, and place back. Give it a good wash at home.
If there’s no toilet with sink inside and my period is on the super heavy days, I just empty it into the toilet and put it back. Sometimes I blot it with toilet paper, sometimes I take a bottle of water with me, but most times, I just empty it!
The last tip:
When you place it in your vagina, make sure it’s open and secure. If it’s not, it’ll leak and/or be uncomfortable. You check it by running your finger around it and giving it a little tug. If it’s all open and doesn’t move, it’s fine. If it moves, you’ll need to remove and try again. With time, you’ll get to know your cup and do all this in seconds.
To remove it, gently squeeze the sides so the vacuum ends and pull it.
I think that’s about it. If you have any questions, contact me or leave a comment and I’ll try to help you as best as I can! Meanwhile, go check all the options available for menstrual cups!
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