I’ve always been a bit of a hippie at heart. I’m not into war, I love the Beatles, and I definitely wore bellbottoms when I was a teenager (in the late ‘90s). I’m not a very good hippie though. These days, it manifests itself in the extra guilt I feel when my husband and I have to drive two cars to the same place or I throw away plastic because the city doesn’t recycle it. (And what is up with that, by the way?!)
In high school, I’d see ads for a menstrual cup in my hippie feminist magazines, and it would make me cringe every time. It’s made of silicone. You fold it up and insert it into your vagina, and then it pops open inside and catches all of your menstrual blood. You empty it periodically throughout the day and replace it to get more of the flow. You can leave it in for up to twelve hours, and it usually lasts for a year or longer.
I’m not sure how that sounds to you, but back then to me? It sounded like the most disgusting thing I’d ever heard. Sure, it was an eco-conscious way to menstruate, but I couldn’t imagine being that up close and personal with my vagina. Yes, I was grossed out by a natural part of MY OWN BODY. This is an all-too-common truth for women, and it’s a by-product of society’s view of us (most guys I meet are very fond of their penises—have you noticed?), but that’s a whole other blog post.
A lot of women are very don’t-ask-don’t-tell about their periods—and I get that. It’s hard not to feel embarrassed about a bunch of blood gushing out of you. It’s messy, it’s smelly, it’s a pretty big pain (sometimes literally so). I feel the same way about nose bleeds. If you’re a man, and you’re reading this—think about getting a nose bleed every month for five or so days. Gross, right? (Also, you’re kind of awesome for reading this. Yay, you.)
Some women have taken periods back, celebrating the menstrual cycle as an amazing feat of womanhood. I am not one of those women. While I’m not ashamed of my period, I’m not wild about it. But I like what these women are trying to do. Periods are one of the irrefutable ways that women are different from men. Like other distinguishing factors, it’s been used to stigmatize us, to say we’re weaker than men, that we can’t handle ourselves when we’re, say, moderating a presidential debate (ahem).
That is, of course, ridiculous—but the ick factor remains. And that’s why I was never, ever—no matter how much hippie guilt I felt about buying Tampons—going to try the menstrual cup. It was still too gross.
And then I had a baby. Worried about being up close and personal with your insides? Hold a baby that has just popped out of you. My son was covered with stuff that’s much worse than blood, and I didn’t care at all.
When I got to the point post-birth where I could stand to do anything that involved my nether regions, I bought a Diva Cup. I figured if I managed to push a baby out, I could manage this (a mantra that I’ve found helpful in many situations). It took me about three months to get the hang of it, but I am now a full convert. Interested in giving it a try? These are the top ten things I have learned:
- It is SO much cheaper than Tampons or pads.
- It is SO much better for the environment.
- It’s a lot more comfortable.
- There is no smell factor—menstrual blood only develops an odor when it hits the air. (Who knew?!)
- It’s sometimes hard to poop with it in there.
- You will use the same muscles to get the cup out as you used to get your baby out—on a much smaller scale. Still, the term ‘bear down’ often comes to mind.
- You will learn a lot about your period. I was shocked at both how much and how little blood there was over the course of the flow.
- You may have to use a pantyliner. I do, but only on those heavy days—usually about two during the duration.
- You can’t wear it if you have an IUD.
- If you don’t like the one you buy, there are tons of different brands out there. I do like the Diva, but I might have opted for a different one if I knew others existed. I’ve also seen people become addicted to cups, buying all kinds of shapes, colors, and brands. You really only need one, though, so once you find one you like, I’d stick with it.
Hopefully, it won’t take having a baby for most women to try a menstrual cup, but that’s what it took for me. They’re around $20-$30, so there’s not much harm in giving it a shot. It is an old-fashioned, hippie way to manage your period, but it’s also cheap, easy, and comfortable.