Why should you switch to menstrual cups or reusable pads?
We have heard fights against plastic bags, bottles, and straws but what about disposable pads or tampons which women use for about 450 weeks in their lifetime; a huge mountain of plastic waste?
8 years ago, I had my period. My mother gave me a sanitary pad and taught me how to use it. Since then, pads were my salvation and I wore them religiously until last year. I had changed the brands and sizes of the pad but switching to a new product never crossed my mind. To be honest, I was scared to try an alternative.
Almost every female uses some methods to sanitize herself during her menstrual cycle every month, but some might not even have that privilege. If I were to talk about my grandmother or even my mother, they had a pretty difficult in those times during their periods. In addition, the physical and mental discomforts they went through can still be witnessed in the Western part of Nepal.
Nevertheless, women like me who are settled in comparatively progressive societies and who are dependent upon some modern methods like pads or tampons for sanitation in their monthly cycle can put a joint effort individually by switching to some modern and sustainable products.
I started using a menstrual cup last year and that is by far one of the wisest decisions I have ever made. It launched me on a journey I could not have predicted, but which could not have felt more natural.
Many of us might feel unpleasant by just visualizing how to use the cup. However, as someone who had never used a tampon before using a menstrual cup, I can testify that it gets easy and efficient.
What is a menstrual cup?
Menstrual cups are small, reusable, and flexible medical-grade silicone cups that fit inside the vagina and collect blood. Unlike tampons and pads which absorb blood, cups collect them. They can be changed every 10-12 hours and can be washed and reused. They are eco-friendly, economical, and can be used for several years, reducing the amount of waste and expenditure.
How did it all begin?
I despised the idea of collecting used pads in a plastic bag for five days inside the bathroom or sometimes in the corner of my room. I, as well, hated the discomfort after sleep leakage, period stain, waking leakage, pad wedgies which added more to my pre-existing horrible pain and mood swings.
I wanted to try a change but did not even have the guts to try a tampon let alone period cups. One day, out of nowhere my mom told me if I knew about the menstrual cup and encouraged me to give it a try. Her encouragement was all I needed and I bought the cup.
The learning curve
It can take some practice and time to figure out how to use, remove, and adjust the cup. Some of us might as well find it infuriating. However, you probably remember the time when you learned how to use pads for the first time. It was all pretty startling, embarrassing, and not fun. But eventually, you got over it.
Think of yourself as someone who wears glasses and is trying to replace them with contact lenses. The lenses might feel uncomfortable, even foreign, at first. However, eventually, your eyes adjust to the new normal and it becomes as easy as breathing and smiling. This exact learning curve can be applied to the cup.
Taboo about Menstruation
In a stereotypical society like ours, a girl, more often than not, faces many difficulties during her menstrual cycle. Many cultures and religions attribute negativity to menstruation giving the impression that a menstruating woman is committing a sin, which, in itself, is bogus.
Periods can be a big mess but there is nothing inherently ‘dirty’ about them.– Arju Palikhey
It took years for Nepali society to switch to pads from napkins. Likewise, it might be difficult for our society to even shift to tampons. When my relatives got to know me using a menstrual cup, the unease they felt was apparent in their expression. Moreover, they complained about how I sterilized the cup inside the kitchen. Periods can be a big mess but there is nothing inherently ‘dirty’ about them.
We all feel uncomfortable during our cycles physically and emotionally. We cannot be carefree and are restricted to do certain activities. I mostly used to cancel my plans and take leave during my periods, but after switching to a menstrual cup, my life has become less complicated.
Now, I need not care about the stain or the leakage, and what’s more beneficial is it also has reduced my cramps somewhat. Moreover, I have to know more about my body like the position of my cervix and the amount of my flow. The cup has strangely given me more confidence and it feels like I have taken matters of menstruation into my own hands.
How did it become the best choice?
There is already a lot going on in our bodies during our menstrual cycle. And, complications like cultural stigmas make it even worse. One of them involves the disposal and changing of pads. Even if we can cope up with our cramps and mood swings, the anxiety that engulfs us when we think about the disposal takes a separate toll on our head.
Whatever the cons of using a cup are, I strongly believe that the pros completely outweigh them. Now, I have saved much with the use of the cup as it can last for almost 10 years. I also have not had a stain on sheets since using the cup, and feel genuinely happy about reducing waste from disposable period products and to divest from products that pollute the environment as well as our bodies. Moreover, it has become more comfortable over time, and most of the time, I do not even feel that I am using a cup.
There is no right or wrong way to manage your period.
It is not easy switching from something you have used habitually for years to put an unfamiliar object into your body. However, while we are still working hard to break down the shame and taboo surrounding our periods, there may be one-step we can make to this part of our life eco-sustainable.
Taking reference to the example given above, a glass-wearer need not wear contact lenses all the time, he can swap glasses and lenses depending upon his situation and need. Likewise, we can switch between period products like reusable pads or menstrual cups or even disposable products sometimes. As all products have their advantages and disadvantages, ultimately, it is about figuring out which best meets your needs based on things like your flow, budget, schedule, and lifestyle.
To be a part of an eco-friendly environment, one of the crucial steps in reducing waste. If you will have trouble coping with a new period product, do not force it, give yourself plenty of time to get comfortable. There is no rush and you can always try again tomorrow.
At least you can try a cup or reusable pad for a cycle or two because you never know what suits you best. In addition, just imagine never spending money on disposable pads ever again. What could be better than that?