As a natural women’s health expert and acupuncturist, I’m usually all for trying different health alternatives — whether it’s yoga poses, cupping or castor oil. The more unusual the medical solution, the more my interest is usually piqued.
And yet for almost all my life, I’ve been thoroughly intimidated by the idea of using a menstrual cup.
It simply seemed large, painful and unpleasant. And the idea of the blood just sitting there in a cup? Yuck! (Why this was any different to me than a tampon staying inside my body, for hours at a time, I really don’t know.)
So from day one, just shy of turning 14, I used standard tampons like everyone else.
And yet over the years, some concerns about tampons started to bother me. I'd remember reading about toxic shock syndrome when I was an early teen and being scared to death. And then, a friend of my sister did actually end up dying of toxic shock syndrome after using tampons postpartum.
It was a real wake-up call: this seemingly rare condition happens and it can kill people. This haunted me.
Plus, on a personal note, like many middle-aged women my menstrual flow started to get heavier around this time — a lot heavier. We're talking change-your-ultra-tampon-every-hour heavy.
Not only was this level of bleeding an incredible inconvenience for my career, but my workouts during this time had to cease. It was just too stressful playing in a tennis league praying that the match wouldn’t go on longer than an hour.
No matter how miniscule, I don’t want chemicals in the tender areas of my body if I can help it.
Nights were even worse — I had to double up on enormous pads and sleep over crumpled-up towels for fear of ruining my expensive sheets and mattress. Eventually I even started waking up mid-sleep to change the pads. It was a laborious, messy, expensive, exhausting routine.
When I paid a visit to my OB-GYN it was suggested that I have an endometrial ablation, a procedure where the lining of the uterus is removed, which can help with abnormal bleeding.
Little was mentioned about the dangerous side effects of this procedure. But from my expertise I knew all too well the devastation that endometrial ablation can cause women, including increased risk of needing a hysterectomy later on. I so wanted to avoid that procedure at all costs — but my condition was becoming increasingly hard to deal with.
Even though herbal medicine and acupuncture had helped to reduce my flow by half, I still needed to change my ultra tampon every two or three hours. It was hard to live a normal life this way, and I was missing out on crucial sleep.
Plus, my conscious was getting to me as well. The number of tampons and pads I personally was sending to landfills (upwards of 10,000 over my lifetime) simply astounded me. It was also hard to stomach the level of toxins the tampons were bringing into my body.
But what choice did I have? I had tried organic tampons and had found them to be less reliable, and quite uncomfortable.
And then I thought about menstrual cups again. I’ve birthed two children, conquered my lofty professional goals and married the man of my dreams. Why should I be afraid to try a menstrual cup?
So I decided to take a chance on the Diva Cup — and have loved them ever since.
Sure, there are some downsides to using the cup. For one, it requires patience. It took me time to practice inserting the cup until I was routinely able to do so correctly. It also requires getting used to a little more maintenance. It’s about as messy as using tampons without an applicator, but I do find it to be manageable: I always carry wipes with me, and bought two cups so that I can easily change in public and wash one at home. (I bring a small Ziploc bag in my purse to store the cup, after I’ve thrown the contents into the toilet.)
But I definitely find them to be more comfortable than tampons or pads, and they can handle my heavy flow much longer than any tampon I've ever tried — meaning I no longer have to devote so much time to worrying about my period.
I also enjoy that they’re more eco-friendly, and that no toxic chemicals are being absorbed by my body — because no matter how miniscule, I don’t want chemicals in the tender areas of my body if I can help it. And although there was an upfront expense of around $70 for two cups, it's certainly less than what I'd been shelling out on the tampons, liners, pads and ruined underwear.
Another added benefit: I always assumed menstrual blood smelled bad. But after switching over to cups, I realized that it’s tampons and the synthetic pads mixing with your blood that actually creates the odor. Switch over to the cup and you'll also realize that it's not you — it's the products.
Over all, I'm so happy I finally found an option that's non-toxic, eco-friendly, and doesn’t require me to wake up mid-sleep to clean up a mess — or sleep on old towels.
And best of all? I no longer have to consider having that endometrial ablation.
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