You probably know that using a menstrual cup will save anywhere between 10,000-15,000 pads and tampons from ending up in landfills over the course of a woman’s menstruating life. You might also know that if you switched to a menstrual cup, you could save around $4,000 over the course of your own period and pms-filled years. But let’s be honest: You’re a bit grossed out by the idea of a reusable menstrual product, or you’re freaked out by how to use menstrual cups. So I’m here to motivate you to switch over to a cup, and I’m not going to use any of that data to persuade you.
Full disclosure: about a year ago, I switched from hormonal birth control to the copper IUD. So I went from a light, controlled, entirely predictable period to one that made me feel like the floodgates had been opened. (Sorry, but I’m not sorry for that intentional pun.) The switch back to my natural cycle was nothing short of overwhelming, from the heavier flow, increased cramps and pms symptoms, to figuring out what my natural cycle was anymore.
As my hormones re-adjusted, I was never quite sure when my period would arrive, my cycles swinging wildly between 23 and 35 days. That’s to say nothing of the number of tampons I would go through on a heavy flow day. I was battling my period. And the way I was fighting, I was losing. There were cycles that I gave up going out for a whole weekend, instead feeling more comfortable in my sweatpants and wallowing in period induced self-pity. I felt like a cliché, in all of the worst ways.
Enter: The Menstrual Cup
My own reasoning for switching to a menstrual cup went along the lines of, “Well, this can’t get any worse and at least I won’t be adding any more to landfills.” I thought a change, any change, would be more likely for good than not. But I got an unexpected bonus to switching to a menstrual cup— the mental switch that happened was immeasurable, in terms of the way I began to understand my period and my body.
Menstrual cup users, if not fanatics, are proselytizers. They’ve set up a whole forum, for everyone from new users to veterans. They have comparative charts on every menstrual cup out there— and I mean every menstrual cup— and detailed instructions of the eight different folds that can be used for cup insertion. The sheer volume of information should have been overwhelming, but for me it never was.
These women, who pour out their knowledge on subjects from how to deal with your period overnight to finding your cervix, gave me a totally new perspective on my period. Reading the way they understood their cycles, the way they knew how the position of their cervix changed dependent on where they were in their cycles, the way they understood their bodies, made me feel empowered. I wanted that knowledge and that understanding.
Here was a group of women who found a space to discuss their bodies with one another in a safe, unashamed space. The topics on the forum range all over from cervix position, cramps, IUDs, postpartum periods, UTIs, and tilted uteruses. It wasn’t that I hadn’t gotten sex-ed before. It wasn’t that I had never been informed about my body. It was that I hadn’t before seen women so open to engaging with other women about their bodies, their cycles, and their sexual health in such a visible, amazing way.
The more I delved into the site, the more I wanted to be like these women. So, armed with my Diva Cup, I took the plunge. Excepting my one heavy flow day, I only have to change my cup twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. I’m more aware of my body and my cycle without being constantly reminded by it by a four-hour tampon changing cycle for six days straight. Cups make my cycle easier to deal with and using them also gave me the tools to understand my body rather than fight it.
The one caveat I’ll make for cup use is the initial learning curve. Just try not to beat yourself up as you’re getting the hang of it, and don’t throw out all your disposable products until you feel super comfortable changing out your cup. The extra benefit for me is that using a menstrual cup reduces my cramps. I’m not sure if this is a proven, scientific side effect, but from reading the forums I’m not the only woman to experience this phenomena. Maybe it’s just a placebo effect from feeling good about what I’m using in my body during my period.
Instead of my period being a great evil that befell me once a month, it became a process my body regularly goes through. I became the subject, not the object of that sentence. I’m not saying I love my period, but having it just isn’t a big deal anymore. I’m going with the flow and the only thing better than that is getting to make period puns.
Photo: flickr user Piperkins