How will it go in? It’s huge, my vagina is tiny. What if I get an allergy? Periods are already painful, I don’t want to inflict more pain on myself!
These are all the things I have heard from my friends and acquaintances when I suggest that they switch to menstrual cups. All fair concerns, and I am here to ease your mind about them.
Shifting to menstrual cups seems like a gigantic decision, and in all honesty, it doesn’t have to be. Most of us, especially in India, grew up wearing some form of pads – whether it’s made of cloth or plastic. While cloth pads are more environmentally friendly and budget-friendly than the plastic ones, cleaning them can be a bitch.
And that is the reason most of us resort to plastic, is it not? The accountability of cleaning is near absent because of the use and throw nature of it. If we weren’t confronted with the facts about how difficult it actually is to clear plastic waste, we wouldn’t be talking about alternatives to these products.
Switching to a menstrual cup, which is made of silicone, has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. Not only do I get off on the fact that I’m being environment friendly, but masturbation has never been easier during periods. Trust me when I say there is absolutely no mess – unless you’re clumsy!
The only regret I have is the amount of time I spent contemplating the switch, worrying about the pain and the inconvenience. Despite wanting to make the environmentally conscious choice for a couple of years, the fear of overflow and having to actually see my blood in its gory bloodiness lend themselves as hindrances.
However, once I remembered that this is actually my own blood, which I can just pour out and wash the cup before inserting it right back in, I got over myself. Of course, the constant reminder that the world is dying thanks to us, gave me a nudge in the right direction as well.
What are plastic sanitary pads and tampons doing to the environment?
Every woman, transgender, and nonbinary person who menstruates will be on their periods for approximately 6.25 years during their lifetime, equaling 2,280 days. This translates to approximately 11,000 disposable pads and/or tampons in one lifetime.
The use and throw pads are made with cotton – the world’s “thirstiest crop” – which requires close to three liters of water to grow one little bud. Further, the adhesive which holds your pads to your panties is more often than not, polyethylene plastic, which is primarily manufactured from petroleum or natural gas, and is not readily biodegradable.
This is not the kind of legacy that we can afford to leave behind. Of course, some of us switch to tampons, and because they look smaller, we pat our backs. But, in reality they house villainous chemicals like dioxin, chlorine and rayon which end up as pollutants that enter groundwater and air.
How do you use a menstrual cup?
Even if I keep aside the environmental impact these period products have, I don’t want these chemicals anywhere near my vagina. What about a menstrual cup, you ask? Is it safe? Sure is, if you sanitize it properly. So yes, you will spend some time sterilizing it at the beginning and end of your menstrual cycles – which requires you to wash the cup in boiling water.
But, during the cycle, you can just drain out the blood and wash the cup with whatever form of soap is right in front of you. Yes, even a hand wash. Ensure that you rinse it out properly before putting it back inside your body.
Also, do not forget to pour the blood out mid-day on the days you have heavy flow. You may already know when that happens or you may realize that on your first cycle using the cup. But by the second cycle you will definitely know how often it needs to be poured out.
The first purchase would require you to shell out a lot more than a pack of pads or tampons, but in the long run, your menstrual cups will save you a lot of money. You can use the same cup for many years, and most importantly, don’t forget that they are biodegradable. Menstrual cups are made of silicone, which is derived from silica, a type of sand, and when it degrades it goes back to its original state.
I often forget that I am on my periods or wearing the cup, but I recognize that I am one of the lucky few with mild flow. I have the luxury of a private space to clean the cup at home, at my place of work, and most other arenas I frequent. If you too, share the same privileges as I do, I urge you to bid goodbye to pads and tampons, and embrace the menstrual cup instead.