My dad at dinner one night: “So people who are natural and healthy and stuff are called crunchy, right?”
Dad: “So, if someone is just transitioning to natural living, then they are chewy!”
Me: “Ha ha, I guess so!”
Dad: “Well, I think our family is chewy but you, Lauren, are completely burned.”
Yeah, that would probably be accurate. I use tallow as a moisturizer, I brush my teeth with clay, I wash my face with honey… and I have vehemently renounced tampons and pads from my life. Instead, I use a reusable menstrual cup.
Yes, a menstrual cup. It sounds medieval and frightening, but this thing changed my periods forever. So, without further ado, here is my menstrual cup review and experience with it!
Why switch to a menstrual cup?
I’ve now been using a menstrual cup for about a year and I am never going back! My adoration for my menstrual cup has two faces. First, convenience, which I discuss below. Second, wellbeing. Conventional pads and tampons pose a toxic hazard to both our health and the health of our environment.
First, chemical residue from tampons can be absorbed through the thin tissues of the vaginal walls. Even chemicals from pads can be absorbed through the skin contact. One big concern is dioxin. The FDA recently banned the use of dioxin, a carcinogen, in the use of bleaching sanitary products. Now, chlorine dioxide gas is frequently used for bleaching, but this can still produce dioxin residue in the finished item. A 2005 study in the Journal of Women’s Health found that seven brands of tampons had measurable levels of dioxin. Besides being a carcinogen, dioxin has been shown to induce endometriosis in an animal study with monkeys. The widespread use of toxic tampons may be a significant factor in the skyrocketing rates of endometriosis in young women today.
Pesticides and genetically modified (GM) cotton also threaten our health and environment. As the most highly sprayed crop, cotton accounts for more than 10% of total pesticide use. Pesticide residue on feminine products can be absorbed through the skin. Further, GM cotton makes up about half of the cotton worldwide (source).
Here’s why I’m in love with my cup:
1. Clean sheets
Waking up to blood-stained sheets is the exact opposite of waking up on Christmas morning. I have ruined far more sheets than I would like to admit, but I have not blemished a single item of bed linen since switching to the cup! Unlike pads, I can go the whole night without leaks or feeling like I’m sleeping in a wet diaper.
There’s one caveat: on my heaviest day, I need to empty my menstrual cup right before bed and then it will last me about 9 hours. (On lighter days, it will be fine for 10-12 hours). If you have very heavy days, I recommend you sleep with a backup pad until you know how long your cup can get you through.
2. No surprises
Period surprises are the worst surprises. Especially when you are in ballet class, in WHITE tights, extending your leg a la second when you see the surprise all over your tights in the wall-to-wall mirror. Yeah, that *might* have happened to me.
Perhaps the #1 reason I love my menstrual cup is that I can put it in a day or two before the scheduled arrival. If it is later than expected, I just keep it in to catch the late arrival. This is totally safe to do! You can leave the cup in for a whole day during the “just in case” time but I wash it out at night.
Upfront, a cup appears pricey at around $30. But a cup lasts for at least a year, and many women say they upgrade to a new one every two years. If you buy 8 boxes of tampons per year, you are at $56… so the cup is already saving you money.
4. Minimal Changes
A cup holds much more than either a pad or a tampon. Like me, many women need to empty it once in the morning and once in the evening. If it is your first time with a cup, I recommend checking it more often because it does vary from person to person.
5. No chemicals
Unlike pads and tampons, cups present no risk of absorbing toxins. I’ve heard some women say that they did not feel safe putting plastic in their body. I get it: silicone isn’t exactly a product of the earth. But I feel safe since silicone does not leach and no safety issues have been reported, even with silicone bakeware when it is subjected to very high temperatures. But for those who would prefer an alternative to silicone, there is a brand made from natural gum rubber (latex).
Also, cups do not carry the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) associated with tampon use. You can safely leave your cup in for 24 hours, but it is recommended to empty and wash it every 12 hours at least.
6. It works for all activities
My cup has taken me through ballet classes, yoga, and swimming. It works for all activities and it doesn’t slip or leak. And, just like a tampon, it works under a bathing suit or leotard.
7. Saves room in the landfills
Purchasing organic tampons and pads sidesteps the problems of chemicals, pesticides and GM cotton. But still leaves the question of waste… Each year, more than 20 billion disposable feminine hygiene products are dumped in landfills or flushed down drains! (Source)
Menstrual Cup Crash Course
- Get yourself a menstrual cup. Two popular choices are the Diva Cup and The Moon Cup. They each offer two sizes: one for pre-birth and one for post-birth. And I haven’t tried it but like I said, there is also a natural gum rubber option.
- Try the ways to fold and insert it. (I prefer the folding in half version). Try the different ways and you will know what you like best. You may wish to trim or completely cut off the stem of the cup if it feels like it pinches.
- Expect a learning curve with getting it in there in a comfortable position. You know when you first tried a tampon and camped out in the bathroom for two hours trying to get that thing in at the right angle? It won’t take you two hours, but it will entail a couple of tries.
- The stem of the cup helps you remove it. You can cut off the stem of the menstrual cup to make it shorter. Some women feel like the stem “pinches” so they cut it off. You will still be able to easily remove the cup by pinching the base of the cup and taking it out.
- When the cup is in, rotate it fully to create a suction and to prevent leaks. This is very important – do not skip this step! Rotating it ensures the cup is fully open. You will usually feel it open after turning it. This creates the suction against the skin to prevent anything from leaking out around the sides of the menstrual cup.
- To empty the cup, remove it over the toilet and empty in the toilet. Wash the cup with soap and hot water and re-insert. It is not necessary to boil it after each cycle, although some women prefer to do this (it will wear down the cup faster). A really thorough washing with soap and water each time you use it is all you need.
- It is recommended to replace your cup once a year.
This is a great menstrual cup review and overview video by the people at Mooncup!
Where to find a menstrual cup
You can find DivaCups or MoonCups in most health food stores. Otherwise, here’s the links to them from Amazon (click the words above the picture):
I changed my life by changing my period
My periods used to be horrible, horrendous, unbearable days of cramps, bloating, acne, headaches and cravings. But because I already knew the healing power of food for addressing my autoimmune disease, I decided that food, lifestyle and supplements could change my periods. So I threw myself into research and accomplished the task of revolutionizing my periods.
Never in my life did I think I would write a whole book about periods and how to calm the hormonal chaos during that time of the month. But I did. This period product post wouldn’t be complete without pointing you to my book for information on how to make dietary, lifestyle, and supplemental changes for a happier period. Take a look at it if you want to end your menstrual misery naturally!
Do you use a menstrual cup or other natural feminine hygiene options?