cupWhen I first heard of menstrual cups, my immediate reaction was, “Ewww, gross!” Everything about it sounded unpleasant: it was a silicone or latex “cup” which you inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual blood. At the time, it brought up memories from a scene in Mutant Message Down Under in which the author observes aborigine women collecting their menstrual blood in little vials then drying it out and using it for some strange secret purpose. I wasn’t sure I was ready to get that intimate with my period, which just seemed like a huge hassle in my life. 

However, every time I went to buy my organic cotton tampons, I remembered how outrageously expensive they are and the more the menstrual cup started to sound like a good idea. I thought about switching to reusable pads but have never been a fan of bulky, uncomfortable pads anyway, so I nixed that idea. (Oh, don’t we ladies get to suffer in so many different ways when it comes to our periods?) The menstrual cup sounded a lot better from an environmental point of view too, being non-disposable and reusable. I decided to give it a try.

And was quite surprised! Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to insert and remove it, but remember your first time inserting a tampon? That also required a bit of practice. One of the biggest advantages in using a menstrual cup vs tampons is that the menstrual cup respects your body’s natural lubrication. Tampons absorb blood, but they also absorb the natural lubrication present in the vagina – and which is there for a purpose! Why would you want to let a tampon ruin your happy vibe down there? Menstrual cups don’t affect your natural moisture, they just catch and hold menstrual blood, which you then empty as needed.

Apparently a menstrual cup can hold more blood than a tampon, so there is also a measure of liberation involved, with less worrying about leakage. I’ve been using one for a couple of years now and would never go back to tampons! And though this type of statement use to make me roll my eyes, meanwhile I have come to get more acquainted with my feminine cycle. I no longer cringe at the idea of facing a tablespoon of my own menstrual blood.

If you aren’t quite ready to make the leap toward a menstrual cup, make sure that you are using organic cotton tampons and pads. Conventional tampons contain pesticides such as glyphosate and dioxins from the bleaching process. Since the vaginal lining is highly absorptive, there is a much higher risk of exposure to chemicals. Synthetic fibers in conventional tampons also alter your vaginal microbiome in an unhealthy manner, which is just another reason to avoid using them.

Our lives are full of health risks and sometimes these seem overwhelming. On the positive side, though, there are many alternatives out there when you do want to make health-conscious and conscientious decisions. I wanted to share my experience with this because it is an often overlooked area of chemical exposure. I also find that we women can learn a lot from each other’s experiences dealing with our cycles –  but this is not always an area that we feel comfortable talking about amongst ourselves, perhaps because we are often uncomfortable thinking about our periods and cycles, period! I’ve come to understand that being aware of one’s cyclical hormonal fluctuations is actually extremely empowering. But more on that next time!

Here’s wishing you much chocolate to assuage your PMS, and a healthy low-pain period!