Oh, calm down with your disgusted faces already. But if your squeamish, maybe grab a glass of wine for this one because I’m not sparing all the details.
As a three year committed user of the Diva Cup, I’m here to whisper advice and affirmations as you contemplate converting to a reusable menstrual cup. It’s a great tool for women in general, but it’s also a great tool in our venture to becoming more conscious consumers as well as more conscious travelers. With my advice, you’ll be able to not only survive (even whilst traveling) but come to love and advocate for these magical little devices.
Wait, so what are we talking about?
A menstrual cup is an alternative to tampons or pads. It’s literally a cup made to fit right up inside you during your period to catch anything that might be looking for an escape route. What? I’ve gone to far already? Stop your vagina shaming and suck it up.
Let’s get through Phase One, the basic questions and responses that I’m assuming have already started to explode out of your brain and onto the floor as you add a little more wine to your glass. Then we’ll move to Phase Two, the part where you’ve calmed down and are ready for me to convince you to go out and buy your first menstrual cup. Then we’ll get to Phase Three, survival.
Phase One: Don’t be a baby.
Does it hurt? Alright, I know the term ‘don’t be a pussy’ makes it sound like the female genitalia is weak, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re not sticking a metal bucket up there. A menstrual cup is a flexible silicone cup relatively close to the size of a small shot glass. (They can hold about 1oz of liquid.) You’re vagina is built to accommodate a newborn child. Calm down. After the first few times using it, you’ll forget it’s there.
*slams hands to cover eyes pretending this isn’t a real conversation* Again, suck it up. We’ve become a culture that sweeps the uncomfortable topics under the rug at any given chance. Something to do with a desire to keep our image in pristine shape for the rest of the world looking in. Your vagina is still a flower or whatever, it’s just a super badass flower and you should maybe acknowledge it’s awesomeness every now and then.
We act like we need to be ashamed about anything to do with sexuality including the parts that we were born with! I dig into this sort of topic regarding our relationships specifically in Insubordinate Lover published on Elephant Journal.
Ewwwwww! Don’t be grossed out because you can’t just throw away the evidence that you are a functioning female body. In fact, being able to actually see what your body is releasing is a good way to keep tabs on your health. Educate yourself on what your body is doing. You’ll probably be surprised at how little blood flow is actually occurring during a cycle. Nope, not the blood bath of a horror movie that it is sometimes made out to be.
Phase Two: Why it makes sense.
Cost. If you’re a budget traveler, this reason alone should be able to convince you. The initial cost of a menstrual cup seems high at first. My Diva Cup cost around $40. If you buy it on Amazon though, it’s $25. However, it’s the long term where you save money.
Quick math. Average of 4 tampons a day. Average 5 day cycle. 12 cycles in a year.
5×4=20, 20×12=240 tampons per year. (Not including the ones you lose and hand out to desperate girl in the bathroom.)
Tampax cost $6 for 18. (240/18=13.3 boxes, 13.33×6=66.66) Basically $80 per year for someone with a moderate flow and manages to use tampons in the most efficient way every day of her cycle. With the reality of life happening, the savings is probably much more.
In 6 months, the cost is equivalent to what I spent. In one year, my savings were 100%. In two years, my savings are 300%. That’s $120 in two years. Not to mention the time saved or gas money for going to the store. With the price on Amazon right now, your savings is much more!
*More extensive figure of your savings below*
Efficiency. You never have to worry about your tampon stock. Ever again. I hate having to worry about little things like that. The less ‘stuff’ in my life and in my backpack, the better.And one menstrual cup as opposed to 240 tampons in a year sounds amazing.
Plus, most menstrual cups are okay to leave in for up to 12 hours! Yup, this means that you can sleep through the night without worrying so much about leakage! Hallelujah! That comes down to 2-3 changes a day.
Oh and now you don’t have to learn how to ask for tampons in a bunch of different languages while traveling!
Health. My menstrual cup uses non-pigmented silicone, exclusively. So no leaching of chemicals and things into my body. Sorry if you were expecting something pretty and pink. I’ve heard some girls say that menstrual cups even helped to reduce their cramps.
They are easy to clean and there are also options to purchase special cleaning products if you so desire. Leaving it in for two long can result in hygiene issues but there are resolutions that I’ll discuss in the survival section.
By choosing a reusable instrument for your cycle, you are reducing your waste. Remember 1 cup to 240 tampons PER YEAR. Not including the extra cardboard for each box, plastic wrap around each individual tampon, and of course the applicator for brands that utilize it. *Don’t even get me started on the ridiculousness of applicators.
Tampon user: 1 year of using Tampax means 240 tampons, 240 individual plastic wrappers, 240 plastic applicators, 13 cardboard boxes, 13 instruction pamphlets, and 13 receipts.
Menstrual cup user: 1 menstrual cup, 1 cardboard box, 1 instruction pamphlet, and 1 receipt. Oh, and in the case of Diva Cup, one cute little bag to carry your diva cup in.
THAT’S JUST ONE YEAR.
I used two years for my example with the savings, but they can last longer than that. Companies used to say 5-10 years. But anymore, no one wants to give an exact because it does vary among women and the amount of care in keeping your menstrual cup hygienically sound. Currently, I’m at about 2.5 years and I know of other woman who are at least into year 3.
Want me to extend that waste savings a bit? Probably not, but I’m going to anyway!
Let’s say a menstrual cup lasts me 3 years.
How much waste am I reducing in 30 years?
Menstrual cup user: 10 menstrual cups, 10 cardboard boxes, 10 instruction pamphlets, and 10 receipts. Let’s throw in the cost for fun here. $400 at forty dollars. $250 at the Amazon price.
Tampax user: 7,200 tampons, 7,200 individual plastic wrappers, 7,200 plastic applicators, 400 cardboard boxes, 400 instruction pamphlets, and 400 receipts. Total cost. $2,400
Congratulations, you just managed to save somewhere around a fuck ton of waste disposal and $2,000 – $2,150. Where are those big checks?!
Phase Three: Survival.
Whew. Glad you’ve come over to the empowered, sustainable, cost efficienct side. Welcome! After that $2,000 dollar savings, you can now afford to pour yourself another glass of wine. Cheers!
In a way, you’re starting from square one again. That first tampon during your first period, remember that shit? Remember the stories your friends would tell you. Remember the hilarious scenarios of confusion and just trying to guess what the hell even is going on?
Well, you’re going to feel a little bit of that again. It’s new to your body, it will take a minute to get comfortable using your new menstrual cup. But don’t worry, you’re going to get past it, just like you did back then. And then, you’re going to convince all of your friends to give their daughters the menstrual cup from the very beginning so they only have to go through that shit once. Okay?
There’s a lot of great instructional videos already out there, so rather than make another one, check out this instructional video, here. She gives a great demonstration using a champagne glass! Disclaimer: I disagree with her tactic of only changing the cup once a day. More frequently is ideal for hygiene purposes in my experience. Additionally, the setting and details of this video are mostly intended for those who have a modern bathroom handy. Still, it’s a great video on the basic instruction of how to do it.
Now, onto the nitty gritty of surviving with your new menstrual cup. Wait a minute, survival?! *Freaks out and starts to back away slowly feeling overwhelmed with immediate regret* No, no! Stay. Just bear with me. You’ve been convinced, you know what to do, you’re already planning how to spend all the money you’re going to save, now it’s time to talk about the wild ‘what if’ situations that most female travelers are going to come across.
Why am I such an expert?
For about two years of the time I’ve been a menstrual cup user, I’ve been living on the road. I’ve had my period while camping, while on multi-day hiking trips, while living on a farm, while living out of a van, while living in a shack with no running water, and while at numerous camping music festivals.
Have you been to a camping music festival? No, not like Coachella with those fancy bathrooms that have sinks and stuff. Festivals that have only porta-pottys that literally haunt the dreams of festival goers. By nightfall, it looks like a murder scene, you can’t touch anything, there’s no toilet paper, oh and there’s no light.
Once you have entered a porta-potty late night, wearing overalls, and changed your menstrual cup in a hygiene friendly way without coming out unscathed, then you are an expert. And well, I am a fucking expert.
Have faith in my advice now? Here you go.
Nature is calling. If you’re venturing somewhere without the modern convenience of a clean washroom with a sink to even wash your hands, then bring, at the least, a water bottle with you. Ideally, you need to be able to sanitize your own hands. But to at least give them a rinse is a must. Plus, it helps to rinse out your diva cup every time. It’s ideal to clean the cup a couple times a day. But, life happens. I have been in plenty of positions where that just wasn’t an option. My method is to make up for it whenever I can and in between cycles by utilizing the boil method every time.
Boil method. This simply means to soak your cup in boiling water. I do it for about 5 minutes to really sanitize it between cycles. Some people do it a couple times a year, but since I sometimes have to skimp on washing the cup as much as I should during a cycle, I boil mine every time.
Camping Music Festivals. My prep time before heading out for the night is focused more on surviving a porta-potty while on my period than applying glitter to my face. I bring a water bottle, hand wipes, a headlamp, and a hip pack or something that allows me to be hands free. Those four items will save you.
Don’t rush. Give yourself at least time in the morning and in the evening to tend to your menstrual cup thoroughly. Even if it’s just utilizing water from your own water bottle. If you’re aware of some place that you can wash your hands but you have to go somewhere else to use the bathroom, then do that. When I worked on a food truck at music festivals, I would make sure to wash my hands at the truck, then head to do my thing, come back and wash my hands again. Extra steps, but sometimes it’s about strategy.
Lemon juice. An extra way to freshen things up if needed is using lemon juice. We’ve all heard of using lemon juice as a cleaning agent, who knew you could use it for your menstrual cup too! The reason for this alluded me at first, usually you use lemon juice because of its low pH (more acidic) properties to neutralize messes that have a high pH (more alkaline). But a healthy vaginal pH is already low. So why would you use a cleaning agent also low in pH? <—- That’s the part that confused me at first. But it’s because blood is actually high in pH! Ahh, it makes sense now, right?
Oh, you didn’t want the chemistry lesson? Well, fine. Just cut a lemon in half and rub it on your already cleaned menstrual cup to help get rid of any smells that might have developed due to leaving it in to long or whatever else. After it’s all lemony, go ahead it give it a boil as well.You shouldn’t have to do this every time. I hadn’t done it until recently when I decided at it’s two year mark, I should give my menstrual cup an extra bit of lovin’.
Soap + water mixture. So, you’re not comfortable with just rinsing with water during those times where washing things thoroughly is more difficult? Buy a 3oz travel size bottle. Mix soap and water. Then utilize that in combination with your water bottle when you go to wash your cup and hands. Rather than just bringing soap, this way you won’t have to use as much of what is probably also your drinking water to get a good wash in during your day long hike up a mountain.
Feeling confident yet? I think I’ve thrown enough at you for now. Cheers to our female health, to massive savings, and for becoming a more conscious traveler!
Have your own advice or stories about your menstrual cup? Please share in the comments below. Xo