Long time, no post!
I came out of posting retirement to tell you about a new thing I tried. Guys! I don’t know why I have been sleeping on this.
A bit of history – I have had very very very heavy periods since I gave birth to my daughter, ~13 years ago. It has gotten progressively heavier over the years, to the extent that I progressed from using just sanitary pads to using them alongside tampons. Then even this combination couldn’t cut it. I moved from normal tampons to super and even then, it was a challenge. I needed something more. I thought I had found it when I went into a Target (in the US) and found ultra. However, I was not happy with the price. Safeway proved to have a better price so I stocked up. I would then ask even male friends to bring back these tampons for me from the States.
Another thing to know about me is that I hate invasive vaginal products. Going for a pap smear takes a lot of psyching because I detest that cold metal (the plastic ones are better). I am convinced that the speculum was invented by a man. I mean, look at it. Looks like an object of torture.
Douching was also never a thing for me. Apart from the fact that it is very unnecessary, I considered this uncomfortable as well. As long as it needs to go into the vagina, my first reaction is NO.
I’ve shared all this so that you would see why I thought I was not a good fit for a menstrual cup. I thought that with my ultra heavy flow, it would be too messy, too uncomfortable and would not hold it all properly.
The first time I heard about a menstrual cup was when I met with the owner of a menstrual cup company (Luv Ur Body) at a Naturals in The City event. This was about 5-6 years ago. Yes, all the way back then, imagine! She took some time to tell me about it but I was not comfortable with the idea of inserting anything much bigger than a tampon so I pushed it to the back of my mind.
However, this year I decided to try the menstrual cup.
- I reconnected with that owner again and remembered our conversation.
- It had bothered me for years that as a self-professed tree hugging, love the environment individual, I wasn’t doing the best I could do for the environment.
I posted this on Instagram a few days ago and that quick poll showed that most Nigerian women are binners rather than flushers.
I am writing a blog post about my new decisions regarding menstrual health and tools but wanted to ask you first, are you are flusher or a binner? . . . You flush if you use a menstrual cup and you bin if you use the other two. . . . #naturalnigerian #menstruation #menstrualcup #sanitarypads #tampons #womenshealth
That is, they throw out their used sanitary products. It is an environmental nightmare. Especially in a country like Nigeria that lacks infrastructure. The damage to the environment is so much that one must reconsider their menstrual product of choice.
I couldn’t find Nigerian statistics but here are some from countries that collect this kind of information.
~Over 50% of the world’s population menstruates*
~Close to 20 billion sanitary napkins, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year. When wrapped in plastic bags, feminine hygiene waste can take centuries to biodegrade. The average woman uses over 11,000 tampons over her lifetime, leaving behind residue far beyond her lifespan.*
~Approximately 20 pads/tampons per month, equating to 240 per year which over the average lifespan of a menstruating female (approximately 40 years worth of periods) gives us the grand total of 9,600 feminine hygiene products used during one womans lifetime. Now multiply that by the 3.5 billion women on the planet and we have a considerable amount of potentially avoidable waste!**
As you can see, using pads, tampons e.t.c puts the envirnoment at risk. And to think that 50% of the world menstruates and a great number of them throw away their used pads and tampons. If you are flushing your tampons, it is just as bad, if not worse.
My journey to menstrual cups and freedom!
A few weeks ago, after looking at my, yet again, dwindling supply of o.b ultra tampons, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the menstrual cup. It is a flexible silicone cup that looks like this.
There were several sizes so I read the criteria for the size to see which one would be a good fit. The Large size stated this as criteria
- recommended to women over 30 years ☑
- those who had a vaginal or C-section birth ☑
- for heavy or very heavy flow ☑
Age-wise, birth wise and flow wise, I was represented so that made me happy to go on.
For those that asked on Instagram, the luvurbody menstrual cup is made of “biocompatible hypoallergenic medical grade silicone“.
Then it was a matter of choosing color. My first choice was not to choose anything colored because while the cup may be medical grade silicon, the color may be toxic. However, I found that what they had done was to fuse two silicon materials together, rather than paint it. That dealt with my concern of toxic colors.
the small cup is made entirely of 2 separate colors of medical grade silicone fused together & not paint or dye. The colors cannot come off even if scrubbed or soaked.
I ordered from the Luv Your body website. They have one for Nigerian buyers and another for international buyers. The purchase was easy and straightforward. At just under N2,000 it is a very affordable product.
I paid online and it was delivered within 2 days.
The cup came in a resealable plastic bag. That bag also held printed instructions (in many many many international languages) and a fabric drawstring bag to hold the menstrual cup in when not in use.
Sterilization and Usage of Menstrual cups
Before I started using the menstrual cup, I sterilized it by boiling it for 10minutes. I then followed their instructions (as well as that of the OrganiCup video – see below) to insert it. I had no problems. At all. When it was in, I felt the stem as I moved around and thought that it was going to be a problem. That was not to be, though, as within, a few minutes I had completely forgotten about it.
For years now, waking up on the very heavy days meant making a dash for the bathroom and sometimes leaving a trail of blood as I made my way (yes, my period is that heavy). With the cup, there was no such thing. When I took it out the next morning (about 8 hours later) , it was about 3/4 full and all I had to do was flush the contents. (please note that this was a low flow day)
UPDATE: On heavy days, I need to set an alarm to empty my menstrual cup every 1-2 hours. If not, it will get full and leak. At night, it is a little slower so 2 – 2.5 hours works. The more you use it, the more you will figure out how it can work for you.
Pros of using a menstrual cup
- I am a lot more confident now. I went out the other day with just the menstrual cup on. No sanitary pads as back up. And I was just fine. Could NEVER happen before. I was out for about 6 hours (another low flow day).
- The price. Can we please talk about the price? It is so affordable. The cost of a pack of sanitary pads is N340. I use 1.5 -2 packs on average alongside my imported ultra tampons so that is quite expensive. Nothing less than N1500 per period. And this menstrual cup, which can be used for 3 years, costs N1999. Go figure!
- Smell. There is no blood making contact with air so no oxidation = no smell.
- Although I typically do not have cramps, I have noticed that when I use a tampon, my body feels agitated and there is a sense of relief when I take it out. I have no way to explain this in a more eloquent way, sorry. With the menstrual cup, I forget I have it on and that feeling of relief doesn’t come when I do take it out which means that my body is not agitated at all.
- I feel like I can reclaim my tree-hugging title. In my own way, I am helping the environment. How scary is it to think that what each female disposes of in the way of sanitary products long outlasts her? This way, I am reducing my footprint and ensuring that my descendants have a fighting chance of enjoying their world after I am gone.
Cons of using of menstrual cup
- I have only used it for one period so this may no longer be a thing after several uses – I don’t like how the rim feels as I take it out. I can feel it. And I don’t like that.
- My first cup fell in the toilet when I was doing a number 2. I researched it afterwards and found several accounts of this happening with Menstrual cups. In the OrganiCup video you are asked to use your stomach muscles when pulling it out – by bearing down. When you do a number 2, you automatically bear down. I didn’t think of this and plonk! I lost my menstrual cup to the toilet. And no, I didn’t go fishing for it. Eeeewww!
- If you absolutely do not like seeing blood, this might not be for you as you literally have to pour out the blood in your menstrual cup when you retrieve it from you.
- I am a bit of a germophobe and it will be interesting to need to change in a Nigerian public toilet. It hasn’t happened yet and I will delay it forever if I can.
How to use a menstrual cup
Luv Ur Body has detailed instructions and pictures on how to insert, remove, sterilize and even store your menstrual cup.
They also have a video with instructions.
Another good video I followed was for another brand, OrganiCup. They have an in-depth instructions video on how to use a menstrual cup.
It contains a lot of information, including:
- How to Sterilize the menstrual cup
- How to Clean the menstrual cup
- Disposing of the contents of your menstrual cup
- Inserting a menstrual cup
- How much liquid does a menstrual cup hold?
So, do you think this is something you could use? What misgivings do you have that could stop you?