Even though getting your period can be messy and inconvenient, it gives women a beautiful superpower to create life, and that is pretty amazing! Unfortunately, it comes with a financial and an environmental cost.
Check out these numbers, they will blow your mind!
- A woman will spend about $6,000 on menstrual hygiene products over the life of her menstrual cycle (the Canadian Public Health Association).
- Using three tampons or pads a day over the course of one-week results in using 21 pads a week, 252 per year and about 10,080 sanitary napkins over a lifetime! Wow!
Plastic in menstrual hygiene products.
The majority of tampons and pads on the market today contain some forms of plastic in order to make the products more comfortable, easier to use, discrete and marketable. Whether it’s the wings on pads for a leakproof period, the sticky stuff that helps panty liners stay in one place or the tampon applicators that promise an easy and mess-free application, it’s difficult to escape plastic when it comes to your period. Eventually, the plastic bits will end up in the landfill and take 500 to 800 years to decompose. Even applicators that claim to be biodegradable are an issue because biodegradable materials can only be broken down properly under the right conditions. If, however, there is an absence of oxygen, this “eco-friendly alternative” will turn into methane. Yikes!
Tampons without an applicator have become a popular alternative to those trying to steer away from plastic applicators and considering environmentally friendly options. Unfortunately, even these little guys are individually wrapped in plastic and may contain harmful chemicals. Unless you buy scent-free, unbleached, organic cotton tampons, you are risking toxins entering your body and, potentially affecting your health. You see, since you insert a tampon through the vaginal canal, your body doesn’t get a chance to rid itself from the toxic substances. Instead, these chemical are absorbed through the vaginal mucosa and are able to directly enter your bloodstream.
What is the cup?
A menstrual cup is a great option if you are looking for a low-waste alternative. Most menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup, are made from 100% medical grade silicone and are biocompatible and this is one thing you must ensure before purchasing one. What this means is that it will not produce a toxic reaction within the body, making it safe to use for up to 12 hours during your menstruation. The average cup holds about 30 ml of liquid before it needs to be emptied. How long you can keep the cup in before emptying will depend on your flow.
Using a menstrual cup for the first time will take some adjusting, but don’t despair. After some practice, it’s really worth all of the trial and error. It will save you a lot of money and drastically reduce waste associated with menstrual hygiene products. There are many tutorials on proper insertion, and I recommend watching videos as they will illustrate the process best.
Some things to keep in mind are:
- The cup is not inserted as high as a tampon. It should sit just below the cervix.
- There are different ways of folding prior to inserting and what works for some won’t work for others so try them all.
- Gently tug on the stem after inserting to ensure a good seal and prevent leaking.
- Always wash your hands before and after inserting the menstrual cup.
- If inserted correctly, it should not leak during exercise or while sleeping.
- To remove, you need to let some air in by pinching the cup in order to break the seal.
Since the cup is made from medical grade silicone, it is heat resistant. This means that you can sterilize the cup in boiling water at the beginning and end of each cycle. I usually boil some water in a small pot. Once boiled, I usually pour the water into a ceramic or glass bowl and immerse the cup into the boiling water for 5 minutes. Sometimes, I add some baking soda for that extra TLC. With proper care, your menstrual cup can last up to 6 years. It will become discoloured due to the potency of your period, but that will not affect its functionality.
The big picture.
It can be a little intimidating at first and will require the three P’s – patience, practice and perseverance! I recommend practicing between cycles to get a good feel for it. It’s no walk in the park but once you master it, you will never look back. I’ve been using the cup for over 6 years and I love it! Regardless of the path you take, if you decide the cup is not for you, try sticking to unbleached, organic cotton tampons and pad. Your body will thank you!