I know what you’re thinking; “Sigh, another hippie telling me to ditch tampons.” But, this isn’t going to be a guilt trip about how your continuous tampon use is killing the planet one period at a time. Yes, tampons are bad for the environment, but the reality is, if it’s convenient most people will take the ‘ignorance is bliss’ route and continue on with their lives. Today I’m going to skip all the happy bunny hugging stuff and just tell you how using a menstrual cup has changed my life. Because like you, dear reader I cringed and puckered up my nose when I first saw a picture of a menstrual cup. I too looked at my girlfriends and said; “Uggh, how gross is that?” But now, after 2 years of using a menstrual cup I can safely say that it is the best thing since sliced bread. Switching to a menstrual cup for good has been an eye-opening experience of note and I can honestly say I will never, ever go back to tampons. Here’s why.
I have an annoying tendency to want to try everything once. I think it’s the journalist in me. If I see something new or get the opportunity to try something out of the ordinary then I will. As I said, when I first saw menstrual cups online, I thought it looked a little odd and never imagine that I would try something so ‘gross’ – everyone has their limits. But then an interesting opportunity arose and those journalistic instincts kicked in yet again (damn you curious spirit!) I was introduced to a menstrual cup company at a ladies-only toy party (*wink wink*) and I was quickly persuaded to buy one for just R50. I knew that all the menstrual cups I had seen retailed for at least R200 and the nice lady selling them sold me on the fact that the money would be going to a charity that helped give disadvantaged school girls access to menstrual cups. If it wasn’t for that women and her charity angle I would probably never have tried a menstrual cup – ever.
Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that my first time using a menstrual cup was like having a troupe of cutesy woodland creatures singing a Disney song in my lady business. The first time was a bit of a nightmare. My first time made me feel like a teenager again – and not in a good way. There was spillage, there was lots of tying my jersey around my waist to disguise said spillage, and there was a moment of absolute terror when I thought that I would never get this blasted thing out of me and was going to die with it floating around inside me.
But then, 3 days into my period I got the hang of it, and it was like being liberated. It was like being told that I would never be a slave to my period again. I did a little jig and started telling everyone about it (ok, not everyone just my female friends) because I wanted them to be liberated too. But what about those first 3 days, wasn’t I angry about all the spillage and torment? No, because when I think about it, that is exactly what happened to me when I tried tampons for the first time and for the longest time I thought those were the best thing ever.
But all that has changed and now I will never use another tampon again. I tried wearing one again a few months ago, and it felt like I was walking around with a stick up there all day long. The reason I love my menstrual cup so much is because it’s much safer for my body (cups don’t contain latex, BPA, dye or any other creepy additives), I can keep it in for longer (12 hours of freedom people!), I experience less leaks (now that I have it figured out of course), I save money (menstrual cups can last as long as 10 years!) and I can use it at any stage in my period (no need to worry about different absorbencies for different days).
In fact, my menstrual cup is so comfortable and convenient that I often forget I have my period when I’m wearing it. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s super easy to insert and remove. I can go a whole day without worrying about changing it, even when I’m on my heaviest flow day so in fact it’s less gross than tampons since I usually put it in first thing in the morning and empty it when I get home from work in the evening. Menstrual cups are also the best option for dealing with your period during concerts, hikes or any other time you won’t be near a bathroom for long periods at a time.
But what about the cleaning? I know that’s the part most women worry about. Cleaning your menstrual cup is super easy. If you’re in a public bathroom then you can easily clean it by tossing the contents into the loo and then wiping it out with a wet a paper towel (just take one into the stall with you – wet wipes also work well). Trust me it’s not as gross as it seems. When I’m at home I usually just tip mine out in the loo and then wash it under warm water from the bathroom sink. And, once you’re done with it for the month then you simply sterilize it with boiling water and some sterilization tablets (I use Milton bottle sterilizing tablets – R59 for 32 tablets) and then put it away until you need it again. Simple as that.
I use the locally made, My Own Cup Menstrual cup. The are available from Wellness Warehouse at R299 or online from B-Healthy at R240, Green Goods at R210, or Faithful to Nature at R235. My Own Cup also educates disadvantaged learners about the menstrual cycle and donates menstrual cups to girls from disadvantaged schools in South Africa so it’s a great company to support. Find out more here.