Thursday, April 26, 2012

Diva, Luna, Mama

      . . . as in Diva Cups, Luna Pads, and Mama Cloth.  Yes, this is a post about menstruation.  You have been warned.  If you can't handle it, don't like it, or simply aren't interested, please check out some of my less scary posts about flowers and growing veggies from food scraps.  However, if you're a big girl, or a particularly secure and daring big boy, and recognize that menstruation is just another part of life, please read on.  I promise this post really isn't at all graphic.  Actually, given what a routine part of life this is, it's a little silly that I feel the need to include a disclaimer at all...

      This was not going to be my next blog post, but it is a post I've been thinking about for a while, was thinking about even more earlier today, and then, coincidentally, someone recently searched the blog for "Diva Cup."  So I thought I should jump this one up in line.

      It seems to me that a large portion of women discover mama cloth and menstrual cups (both explained in greater detail later in this post) through research on cloth diapering.  That wasn't at all how I discovered them.  As a matter of fact, I wasn't even sure I would ever have kids when I first found out about them.  I was introduced to reusable menstrual products like menstrual cups and cloth pads by the wonderful women of the POWER - the Purdue Organization for Women's Equality and Rights

      Mama cloth and menstrual cups are re-usable menstrual hygene products, and they are wonderful.  Mama cloth is any re-usable, cloth variation of maxi-pads.  They come in all sorts of fabrics, designs, and absorbancies.  You can get regular pads or full underwear with the pads built in (and/or with optional inserts).



      Menstrual cups are an excellent substitute for tampons.  They do not absorb like tampons, but rather collect, and can be emptied and re-used. 

      There are also natrual, re-usable sponges that can also be substituted for tampons, but I have no experience with these and can't really speak much about them other than to say I have one friend who swears by them in the same way I swear by my DivaCup (as you'll see).

      It doesn't really matter from what perspective you look at it, these products just make sense.  Whether you're concerned about your own health, the environment, or your finances, these products are a good thing. 

      Women, on average, experience a lifetime menstruation span of 41 years (11-52). From use of disposable feminine hygiene, an estimated 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons are dumped into the North American environment each year (1998). More than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.  If a woman is using about 20 pads and/or tampons per cycle, that one woman is throwing away over 10,000 pads/tampons in her lifetime.  Switching to re-usable products is a BIG change, and can have a massive positive effect on our environment.

      Add to that the fact that most women in the US spend an average of $200 on disposable feminine hygiene products a year, for a total of about $8,200 in a lifetime (before inflation!), and you have some pretty head turning statistics.  A menstrual cup and some cloth pads will cost a little more at the outset (I started with a Diva cup, two LunaPads, and a wash/storage bags for each for just under $60.00), but then you won’t have to spend another cent on this stuff for years.  And as far as the pads go, many women make them themselves.

      If the money and the environment aren’t enough to convince you, there’s also your own health to take into account.  The DivaCup is made from healthcare grade silicone free of BPA and other harmful chemicals that may leach into your body.  Tampons and pads often contain a laundry list of undesirable chemicals such as chlorine and dioxin that can be absorbed into your body and damage your skin (not to mention the environment when you throw them away!).  High quality menstrual cups are extremely safe to use, do not in any way disrupt your body’s natural balances, and present a significantly lower risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome than typical disposable products. 

      Menstrual cups are easy to clean and disinfect since they do not absorb anything, and they can be left in for up to 12 hours!  There are always a few caveats and warnings, for which you should check with the distributer, but the most common concern is for IUD users.  There are warnings against the possibility of dislodging the IUD.  I have an IUD (which I also LOVE), and have used a DivaCup the whole time I’ve had an IUD with no problems.  I’m careful to break any seal that may have been created before removing the cup, as per the detailed directions it came with.  I have had two IUDs, one before I chose to have Flintstone, and another inserted after, and I’ve had the same DivaCup for both with no complaints or concerns.  Every situation is different, so check with your own doc, but that’s my story.

      Ultimately, I think most people who have issues or concerns about re-usable menstrual products are focused on one thing: the ick factor.

      Well first let me tell you I understand.  I had the same concern.  I mean, changing pads and tampons is gross.  The thought of having actual contact with them and having to wash them – and washing pads with my laundry?  I wasn’t thrilled with the idea.  Honestly, though, as soon as I made the switch I was surprised by just how little ick there was to it, especially with the cloth pads.  Most of them come with their own little bag to put them in so they don’t come into contact with the other laundry in your hamper (or washer/dryer since you can wash them in the bag), so there’s really not much more to changing them than a regular pad – and, trust me on this, they look MUCH LESS GROSS than a saturated white cotton pad.  You can even carry the little bag in your purse to change pad on the go.

       Now, I’ll be honest, the cup takes a little more getting used to in this department – in the same way that tampons take more getting used to than pads.  There is a technique to inserting a cup (as shown in drawings here) that is a little more complicated than using a tampon applicator, and you will have to wash your hands afterward, but it’s really, really not a big deal.  And it is so worth it.

      I know some women who gave up on their menstrual cups after just one cycle because they couldn't get the hang of insertion.  It wasn't any sort of "ick" factor, it was just figuring out the best method for them.  It took me a while, but one day it just clicked for me, and I'm very glad I didn't give up.

      If you're a woman with cycles, I really, really encourage you to check these products out.  They are a great decision for both yourself and the world around you.  Plus, you can help out self-employed women by purchasing mama cloth from Etsy.

      Have you ever tried any of these?  What were your experiences like?