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Eco Blog

To Cup or not to cup.... Adventures 'Down There'

Posted by Lisa Madarasz on

natural options for your period

I have always been a tampon girl, the easiest, least intrusive solution to a messy problem. I never really thought twice about it until the supermarket ran out of my usual brand and I had to grab another one. Now this one used plastic applicators individually wrapped in …you guessed it…plastic. I was absolutely horrified at the amount of plastic this equated to over a lifetime…or several lifetimes if you count everyone who uses this brand. It triggered a bit of a mini revolution and even though my usual brand uses cardboard and paper packaging it is still at the end of the day a whole heap of single use waste.

This got me thinking….

Menstrual cups had been on the periphery of my mind for a wee while but always in the ‘they are a bit pricey – maybe next month’ category - so now was the time to have a better look. They are a bit pricey ($50 - $65) but when you consider a box of tampons is around $8 and I use one + boxes a month (endometriosis and non-cauterizing blood vessels – hello anaemia but that is another story) so you break even in about 6 months. A good quality cup will last you around ten years so you don’t need to be a mathematician to work out the cost benefit. The environmental benefit is even bigger since there is absolutely no waste. If you are really keen you can also empty your cup in the compost bin – it is apparently an excellent fertiliser. But I haven’t quite made that step – I’ll settle for healthier and greener, I can’t see myself running down the garden with my knickers round my ankles.

Being an information junkie I went on a fact finding mission and was surprised to find out that while I was super vigilant about what chemicals went on my body and in my body; I hadn’t even thought about up it.

period waste

Conventional tampons are made from cotton which is produced with an alarming array of pesticides and chemicals. Conventionally grown cotton is the ‘dirtiest’ crop using I forget how much more pesticides and herbicides than your average crop. It is also bleached and contains Dioxin which is a commonly known cancerogen. When you use tampons fibres are left on the vaginal wall as well.

Worst of all we place these in an area where the walls are very thin and these toxins are easily absorbed eeek.

It didn’t take much convincing after that. I researched brands and though there is a good selection of good brands (NEVER EVER grab a cheap one – more on that later) I chose the Lunette.

A good cup is made from 100% medical grade silicone (the same grade as for hospital catheters and heart valves) it is hypoallergenic and should be guaranteed for ten years. The colours have been rigorously tested as non-toxic and non-leaching. The Lunette is also TGA listed which means it has gone through rigorous medical testing.

Reputable brands do not use cheap fillers (made of heavens know what) and they are guaranteed to be safe. There are some cheap imports available in the market but to be honest I wouldn’t be using a menstrual cup that wasn’t backed up by some safety accreditation. Tests have found that some of these cheaper imports have dyes that leached and found the seams were not very strong.

So my Cup arrives and with my next period I sterilised it in boiling water (do this initially and then between each period) I followed the instructions for insertion – this takes a bit of practice but once you get it right you don’t feel anything and there are no tell-tale strings to worry about.

The first few days I kept pulling it out to check the level but you soon get a handle on it. The fabulous thing about these is that they hold 20-25ml compared to a super tampon which holds 18 grams so you don’t have to empty it as often.

Because there is no risk of TSS you can leave it in all night and if you are worried about leakage you can use a pad as well on heavy days.

Once you have mastered insertion you then need to trim the stalk to a comfortable length – again you shouldn’t feel anything so you can play around with this. Everyone is shaped differently and I ended up cutting the stalk off completely so I now just remove the cup by grabbing the base.

My biggest question was how do I change it in public toilets? Well you can either remove it using a clean piece of toilet paper and then rinse it out with a little water bottle or I generally use the disabled toilets since they always have a sink you can use to wash your hands in.

When folded for insertion it is about the same size as a super tampon and it is no messier than using non-applicator tampons.

I will concede it is a bit of a mind shift and the idea takes a bit of getting used to so if you have any questions just drop me a line, I am more than happy to share my experiences.

I’ll leave it up to you to make up your mind but I love my cup, I love that there is no waste, that when I go away I only need to take it in its little baggie and that you can never be caught short when you are out. It is even less obtrusive than a tampon and there is no risk of toxic chemicals leaching into your body. The perfect solution!

natural menstrual solutions