This post will talk about non-toxic feminine care products, specifically alternatives to tampons. I won't just be talking about feminine care products, I will be sharing details of MY monthly cycle, MY experience with "traditional" feminine care products, and MY experience with the Diva Cup.
In short, I'm going to be talking about my lady bits.
So I thought it would be a good idea to start off this post with a warning.
If you personally know me (friend, family, etc) and think that reading about my experiences with my lady bits will cause you to be too embarrassed to look at me the next time you see me at the grocery store, the elementary school, the local park, or the next family holiday dinner....you should probably stop reading now.
I'll give you a minute to close out of my post.
Ok, let's get down to business.
Until the last few years, I thought that feminine care products meant only what you can find at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Basically, tampons and pads. I went through puberty at a very early age and had very irregular cycles. Sometimes a cycle would last 3-4 days and the next one would not start for 8 weeks. Other times a cycle would last 8-10 days and the next one would start 2 weeks later. So needless to say, I had a LOT of experience with tampons and pads in the 10 years before Sassy was born. Ironically, after Monkey's birth, my cycles have actually been MORE regular than they have been for my entire life. Go figure.
I also have very heavy cycles. For this reason, I hated pads and preferred tampons, but would often find myself changing a "super plus" tampon every 2-3 hours. Not exactly discreet, running off to the bathroom every few hours with my purse. And if I was going to be gone the entire day, I would often find myself carrying 6-7 tampons in my purse. That takes up a lot of space and is also not very discreet.
To top it all off, I would have debilitating cramps during my cycles when I was younger. So severe that I would stay in bed with the heating pad and take pain medicine. As the children were born, the cramps thankfully lessened in severity, but it was still no walk in the park.
To sum it up, I have had almost 19 years of experience with various pads and tampons. Heavy, irregular cycles with severe cramps. I've always loved being pregnant because it means that I do not have to deal with my cycles.
What? There's Other Options?
While pregnant with Monkey, I heard about non-toxic feminine care products for the first time. I heard that there are actually cloth pads that some women use, such as Lunapads. This did not seem like it was for me though. I have always been a tampon girl. I hated the feel of pads and have never liked the way pads handled my heavy cycles. After I switched to using tampons after puberty, the only time I have used pads consistently has been postpartum.
Then my friend from The Eco-Friendly Family told me about the Diva Cup. Diva Cup is a specific brand of a menstrual cup. A menstrual cup is usually a silicone cup that is very flexible. Because of the flexibility, it can easily be inserted into the vagina. It then reverts to its original shape and is held in place by the vaginal muscles, creating a seal that will not leak if inserted correctly.
You heard me right.
WILL NOT LEAK IF INSERTED CORRECTLY.
That is a very important feature to me with my heavy cycles.
It can be worn for up to 12 hours and can be used while sleeping, swimming, exercising, etc. It is easy to empty the contents of the cup into the toilet, wash it with mild soap in warm water, dry, and reinsert. If you are in a public restroom and need to empty it, you would empty the contents, use a dry or damp tissue to wipe the Diva Cup, then reinsert it. Most people do not need to do this unless they have a heavy flow or will be away from home for an extended period of time.
Now, when I first heard this, I thought it was so gross. I mean, who shoves what is essentially a silicone dixie cup up in their vagina to collect their menstrual flow, then washes it and reuses it. Gross, right?
Wrong. Let's put this into perspective. I was already using tampons and pads that are made with toxic chemicals. I was already using my hands to change tampons. I was already washing my hands after changing tampons. The used tampons were already going into the toilet with my menstrual flow. So really, I was just changing out a chemical-laden tampon for a reusable menstrual cup. The "gross" factor was really the same no matter what feminine product I used.
Diary of a Diva Cup Newbie
So I decided to take the plunge. After Monkey's birth, my cycle did take a long time to come back thanks to breastfeeding. My first cycle didn't hit until 7 months postpartum. I made the decision to wait until my cycle had regulated a little, then ordered my very own Diva Cup.
I recently just made it through my first cycle with the Diva Cup. Let me share my thoughts on my experience:
Day 1: Surprise! My cycle showed up. Thankfully it was the weekend, so that gave me a day to try out the Diva cup at home before taking it mobile. I was very concerned about how it would handle heavy flow, so I can honestly say that I changed it WAY more often than it needed to be. It took a few tries to insert it correctly and comfortably, but I learned that I couldn't even really feel it if it was inserted correctly. I probably emptied it every 3 hours out of habit. And while I had originally thought it was gross to take the cup out, see my menstrual flow while emptying it, then reinserting it, it honestly was not any more gross than removing a tampon, seeing it with my menstrual flow in the toilet, then inserting a new tampon.
Day 2: Can I just say that it was awesome to not have to wear a tampon and pad to bed? I wore the Diva Cup all night long and didn't have any issues. This was also my first day using it away from home. I went to work and emptied it every 3 hours, still out of habit. I was able to easily empty it, wipe it out with toilet paper, and reinsert it. It honestly did not take any more time than changing a tampon. Super easy.
Day 3: Finally felt comfortable enough to not check the Diva Cup and empty it every time I went to the bathroom. I actually only emptied it once this day at work. I also went to the gym that evening and didn't have any issues while working out.
Day 4: Finally realized that I had not had any real cramps. WOW. I'd heard that many people's cramps can be caused by all the toxins in tampons, but did not believe that I would notice much of a difference. I did have a few cramps during my cycle, but nothing like my normal level of cramps. That was a nice surprise.
Day 5: At this point, I feel like a pro. No issues with wearing it overnight, easy to empty, easy to clean, easy to use out in public, easy to position. I'd made it up to emptying every 6 hrs at this point, then wearing it overnight.
Day 6: This was the last day of this cycle. I actually wore the Diva Cup almost a full 12 hrs. When I was sure that my cycle was over, I washed the Diva Cup, let it dry, then put it in the storage bag that comes with it. I will be sure to carry it with me in my purse as my next cycles draws near. It is MUCH easier to carry one small discreet bag instead of half a dozen tampons in my purse.
In closing, my life has been changed. No leaks. Minimal cramps. Easy to use. Easy to wash. No toxins. Discreet. No more "hands-on" than using tampons. And I was able to use it with everything that I did in my daily life. Can't beat that.
If you want to know more about non-toxic feminine care products, check out the Diva Cup or Lunapads websites, or any other brand of menstrual cups or reusable pads. Or head on over to The Eco-Friendly Blog for more information on Non-Toxic Periods.
I now look forward to seeing how many people I know blush the next time the see me...