Periods are a private and delicate subject and I'm usually not one to share intimate details publicly.
But since feminine hygiene can be an important source of waste (and social injustice), I thought I'd share my insights on the subject.
First, let's have a look at the various options available:
A small, flexible cup that is worn internally and sits low in the vaginal canal, collecting rather than absorbing menstrual flow.
Reusable Pads or Liners
Similar to "regular" pads or liners, they usually have wings that fasten around the underwear (some feature a removable insert made from absorbent material).
These look like regular underwear, except that they can absorb a day's worth of menstrual blood.
The last two can be used as a backup for menstrual cups or (organic) tampons or to completely replace disposable feminine hygiene products.
- Free / instinctive bleeding
I do not know whether this is a hoax or just the latest woo-woo trend, but I just wanted to put this here. Has any of you heard of it? It consists in learning to know your body, controlling it, and then letting yourself bleed freely when you go to the toilet...
Why I chose the menstrual cup
I first heard of menstrual cups close to 15 years ago when I was working as a hostess during my studies. One of the girls on my team was actually the first menstrual cup salesperson in Switzerland and introduced us to this new product. Most of us were grossed out and I never heard of the menstrual cup for the next 10 years, until I finally decided to make the switch close to 5 years ago!
As far as periods go, I've always been an advocate of the less is more approach. My mom and I went to the supermarket on the first day of my period and got all the options available. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted one product for any type of situation (swimming, sleeping, camping, traveling). Pads were too uncomfortable and bulky, swimming) and tampons with applicators took up too much space in my bag. I've never really been introduced to any other product so my choice was easy: tampons. No applicator, no liner.
Everything went smoothly and I would have never had to change my routine until the eco-activist living in my head told me it was time to rethink this aspect of my life.
I remember the day I purchased my menstrual cup. Octave was actually there with me. I was visiting him (or had just moved in with him, I'm not really sure). We had not been together for a very long time and I felt a little weird telling him I had to stop by the pharmacy to "get something". I remember him asking what it was, and ultimately decided to tell him about menstrual cups.
My experience with a menstrual cup
Having used tampons without applicators for many years, I had no apprehension to insert the cup and got the hang of it pretty quickly (fold and insert).
After 4+ years of using the cup, I can report that I've never felt freer. Here are a couple of reasons why I love my cup.
It's zero waste. Duh! This is good for me, good for the environment, good for future generations (Am I exaggerating?). Oh and it's convenient for when I go hiking and camping (no bloody trash bag to haul back to the nearest trash container). I just carry a squirt bottle to rinse it and clean myself up.
It's inexpensive and saves me money. Considering I got mine more than 4 years ago and have not spent one dollar on feminine hygiene products ever since, you do the math!
It's discrete. I remember looking for my badge in my pocket as I was approaching my office building one day and heard something else fall on the floor. Yep, a tampon. I'm pretty sure none of my coworkers who were standing outside smoking a cigarette (boo!) saw it, but I did blush for a second. The only time I have to carry the cup with me is when I travel and know I'm gonna have my period. It usually comes in a small fabric pouch, very cute!
It's comfortable. Is it just me or have you ever felt your tampon inside of you when you were sitting (a little TMI, but I'm pretty sure some of you know what I mean). Well, this never happened with a cup, it's lightweight, it's flexible. You pretty much put it in place and forget it's even there. Cups usually come with a stem at the bottom. Keep it as is for the first couple days you use your cup, as the stem makes it easier to remove the cup. But know that you can trim this stem. I personally totally trimmed mine as the stem was a source of irritation.
It's efficient. The only accidents that happened with my cup are pretty recent. And now that I'm writing this article and doing a little research, I just realize that it might be time to retire my first cup and get a new one.
It's easy to use. You might want to lock the door of a clean and well-lit bathroom with easy access to a sink the first couple times you use a cup and practice insertion and removal. After a while, you'll become an expert and master the single-handed gesture (or not, this is not a competition). Personal tip, we recently installed a bidet on our toilet. I love that it helps me feel extra fresh during that time of the month.
It's easy to clean and maintain. I usually empty my cup 3 times a day according to my flow (morning, noon, evening). I simply empty and rinse it during the day and clean it with soap once a day when I'm in the shower. At the end of my cycle, I scrub it with baking soda (check the manufacturer's cleaning recommendations) and a dedicated brush (an old bamboo toothbrush), clean the suction holes with a dedicated toothpick, boil it in water, dry it completely and store it in its pouch until the next month.
It makes periods real. Ads want to make you believe that menstrual blood is either gross (it should never be seen) or nonexistent (or turquoise blue). But it's a great indicator of your health and of how your body works and should not be disregarded. I love to be able to see and "study" it. What shade of red is it, what's the texture like, is it abundant? Of course, you can also just dump the content of your cup in the toilet and never have to look at it.
A couple more things
Feminine hygiene is definitely a very personal subject. There is no right or wrong way to take care of yourself during this time of the month.
Just know that some of us are lucky enough to have that many options to choose from and be aware that many brands actually donate a portion of their proceeds to women who are not as lucky as us.
I compiled a little selection here.
Do you have questions about menstrual cups? Feel free to ask me anything! I'll be happy to share a little more about my experience.
Picture by Jola Kokoszka for Conscious by Chloé. This post is not sponsored but when you shop via some of the links above I may make a small commission from a sale. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Conscious by Chloé!