For those of you of a sensitive nature I will put out the warning that this post is going to be a frank discussion on the completely natural phenomenon that is a menstrual period, so scroll past now if you don't think you can handle it.
Right, now that's out of the way I want to introduce you to the little piece of silicone, known as a Mooncup, that has changed my life for the better. Its a silicone menstrual cup designed to be a safe, convenient and eco-friendly alternative to disposable tampons and pads.
Some info from the Mooncup website to start with:
- Made from soft medical grade silicone, the Mooncup is latex-free and contains no dyes, BPA, toxins or bleaches. It’s also great for women with sensitive skin.
- Tampons can cause dryness and leave fibres behind. The Mooncup is designed to respect your natural balance.
- On average, one woman will use over 11,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime, which will end up in landfill or in the sea.
- One woman uses up to 22 items of sanitary protection every period.
- Regardless of your flow, you only need one Mooncup, and it lasts for years and years, making it the most economical sanitary product you can buy.
Sounds pretty impressive huh? I'll admit that when I first encountered the idea of re-usable sanitary items I kind of dismissed it as a bit gross, but after realising I had definitely developed an allergy to cotton tampons I went through my last uncomfortable period sometime last year and purchased a Mooncup. The cup is around two inches long and made from soft-grade medical silicone, you might be surprised at how big it looks compared to tampons but its designed to sit a lot lower inside you than a them, it forms a seal inside against your vaginal walls and collects your menstrual fluid as opposed to absorbing it, meaning you won't get any dryness or irritation. When you really think about it sticking a piece of bleached cotton inside you to sit there for a few hours and absorb your blood seems a whole lot more gross than collecting it and simply flushing it down the toilet!
It wasn't all plain sailing though, and reading testimonial's on the website will tell you the same. A lot of people have struggles with how you insert the Mooncup and it can take a few months to get the technique right, personally it took me till my third period using it to get the technique right so that it would seal properly and prevent leakage. What I would recommend is to have a few dry runs before your period is due so your used to the technique, and to bear in mind that you may experience a bit of leakage the first few times because of inserting it wrong. Don't worry though practise makes perfect and there is loads of help online should you need extra instructions. The general technique is to fold the cup, I find folding it in half is best for me.
The things I like most about my Mooncup are that it collects three times the amount of blood that even super-absorbent tampons and pads can, and because its made from medical-grade silicone, is latex-free, hypoallergenic and contains no dyes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins its totally safe to leave inside you for way longer than a tampon! I find that even on my heaviest period I only have to change it every 4 to 6 hours, and I experience no problem with leaving it in overnight, this has freed up a lot of time for me and I genuinely can have a 'happy period' because I'm not worrying about having to get to a toilet ever hour or waking up in the night. It's also totally comfortable for me, and once I got the positioning right and trimmed the stem to the right length I could completely forget it was in there! (something Mooncup go into here). Another tip from me regarding this is to practise inserting and removing with the stem intact first, it can be a little tricky because of the tight seal it forms and the stem helped me to get used to where the cup sits. I've completely removed the stem on mine now because I noticed that if I sit in certain positions I got a little bit of discomfort from the stem rubbing.
There isn't any more mess than what you would get inserting a tampon, as long as you wash your hands with warm soap and water you'll not notice any difference. As far as cleaning goes Mooncup have a few recommendations: During your period and when you change the cup rinsing it water and/or a non-perfumed soap will suffice, however there are times when getting access to a sink may not be possible (in public toilets for example) if you're happy to leave the cubicle to rinse your cup then that's totally fine some people may be a little less blase about it and my tip here is to try and have a small bottle of water with you which you can rinse the cup with, if that's not possible then simply emptying it and re-inserting is actually fine, your vagina is pretty cool in that it has its own self-cleansing mechanism so you won't die I promise! After your period you can sterilise the cup by boiling it in a pan of water for 5 minutes, or in a microwave as long as the cup is totally submerged. I've also read about using baby sterilising tablets such as Milton which can help remove smells or discolouration (which are totally natural anyway.)
I honestly totally recommend looking into menstrual cups for all people who have periods, they're not only safe and comfortable but you only need to buy one as opposed to the boxes and boxes of tampons or pads that you would need for just one period, I bought mine from Boots for £21 which may seem like a lot but they last years and years so the cost per-wear is absolute pennies. It's really helped me stop stressing out about periods, I used to really hate coming on because I was constantly worrying about leakage or being uncomfortable but now I'm totally at peace with my cycle, it actually amazed me getting up close and personal with the blood that my cup collected and its not as horrible as you might think, we're pretty awesome creatures and its helped me get more in touch with my body and the amazing things it does every day to keep me alive and thriving.
There are loads of different types of menstrual cups with slightly different designs, after all every vagina is different! So if you don't feel like you'll get on with Mooncup check out the other suppliers:
Mooncup (10% off when you buy online with code XMAS2012)
Ladycup (available in Europe)
Softcup (which actually claims to be OK to wear during sex, interesting!)
And that's just a few of them, search for menstrual cups online and I'm certain you'll be able to find one that fits your needs. For any extra information there's a really great LJ community that I came across whilst researching for this post, with real life experiences of cup users and all of the tips and tricks you'll ever need!