January 15, 2008 - 10:34am -- swingbug

This blog is geared toward women who menstruate. If this topic does not interest or relate to you, feel free to bug out now. As an aside, if you wonder why this topic comes up so much, please keep in mind that this subject applies to about 1/3 of the population on a more or less monthly basis and it’s about as normal and routine to us as grocery shopping or clipping your toe nails. No mystery, no aversion – just life. I’m going to be pretty frank in the following blog, in the interest of science. If you are squeamish about such topics, you have been warned.

I recently bought myself a book called, “AntiCraft: Knitting, Beading, and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister.” A fun little book. Good website too, incidentally. Anyway, going through the book, I found a crochet project for a menstrual cup that resembles Cthulhu. I was admiring Cthulhu’s tentacles when I thought, “A menstrual what?” Well, God bless wikipedia for yet again answering all my questions about life. A menstrual cup is a reusable alternative to a tampon.

A little reading about the menstrual cup lead me to the Diva Cup which led me to my local food co-op, which, as it turns out, carries a multitude of reusable feminine products, which I never even knew existed. The Diva Cup was about a $30 gamble, but considering what one spends on disposable products, I figured it was worth a shot. And while I was there I bought a washable cotton pad as well. For all my shouting about cloth diapers being the only sane choice in a world of ever-growing landfills, it seemed only fitting that I explored the topic as much as it pertains to me. I bought a Moon Pad for $7. Then I went home with my new purchases and awaited the appropriate time to test and review.

So let’s talk specs. The Diva Cup is a flexible silicone cup that you insert as you would a tampon. This is not like Instead, another disposable tampon alternative that fits around your cervix like a diaphragm. (I’ve used those before too and I prefer them to tampons for sure, though I know of friends who have tried them and had issues with either the logistics or the mess factor of the removal process.) A menstrual cup sits lower in your body, where a tampon would. The rim is springy and it holds the cup in place against the vaginal walls.

So I tried it and here’s my review: Go buy one.

I personally found it easy to use and comfortable to wear. I wish someone had told me that such a thing existed 15 years ago. I used it for the first 4 days of my cycle, had no leaks, no problems, and I didn’t find it difficult to deal with. It keeps its place snugly, even through battements and fouettés in ballet class. It’s significantly easier to retrieve than Instead, probably on par with tampons in that respect. After you remove it (you can wear them for 12 hours) you dump it out, wash it with mild soap if you have access to it, or give it a quick wipe out with toilet paper if you don’t, and then put it right back in. Awesome. I’ll never go back to disposables.

Now let’s talk pads. Of the options availble at my local food co-op, I chose Moon Pads because they weren’t too thick (about the regular thickness of the pads I buy, and I buy the thinnest ones I can get away with – don’t we all?). This particular company makes them out of terry cloth sandwiched between two layers of flannel, with little flannel wings that snap around the crotch of your underwear. Easy enough.

Once again, why didn’t I know about this 15 years ago?

So much more comfortable! And let me tell you, I really wish I had known about this option after I had the baby. When I was pregnant, people would say, “Well, at least you don’t have to deal with your period for 9 months.” Let me tell you what no one else will. After you deliver, you bleed for 6 weeks straight, and it’s no minor amount of blood. We’re talking lots. You are forbidden from using tampons (and trust me – the idea wouldn’t sound appealing even if you weren’t). I’m not particularly sensitive to synthetic fabrics in general, but by the end of 6 weeks, I was going nuts being itchy and uncomfortable. I actually switched to wads of toilet paper and old pairs of underwear that I didn’t care for to get some relief.

The downside of this one though is the price. $7 a pad is pretty steep when you calculate how often you’ll change them and how much laundry you want to do while your on your period. That’s why I bought one, and then went to the fabric store, where I spent $9 on similar fabrics and snaps and came out with the materials to make another half dozen. It’s not rocket science. If you know how to work a sewing machine, you can whip these babies together in 15 minutes. And here’s another fun tidbit. Flannel comes in all sorts of patterns. I now have pirate pads and space pads, pads with polka dots, stripes, and snowflakes. I might just be excited to see these next month, which I guarantee you has never happened before.

So what do you do with them when you’re done using them? Put a tiny trash can under your sink and fill it with a little water. Drop them in there and from there, into your washing machine when you’re ready. Or if you’re a new mom, throw them in the diaper pail with your kid’s cloth diapers and wash them all together. They’ll all come out clean after all.

So there you have it. These solutions may not be for you, but at least you know they exist. I recommend giving them a whirl anyway. Anything that makes it easier, right?

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