In general, menstruation is frustrating to deal with in everyday life. Even though tampon commercials have historically tried to convince us that having your period is synonymous with gracefully sashaying across the street in a suspiciously red dress, I think we can all recall that time your tampon was awkwardly poking out halfway through a sweaty outdoor endeavour. And don’t get us started on trying to exercise with a pad. That’s the stuff nightmares are made of. All we want is to be able to forget about our period so we can focus on performing to the best of our ability, every week of the month. For female athletes and adventurers spending large amounts of time outside, sometimes overnight, often far, far away from public bathrooms and bins to dispose of pads or tampons, it can be a downright pain in the you-know-what.  But don’t despair ladies, the menstrual cup revolution is here to offer you an environmentally, economical and most importantly reliable alternative.

Health & Practicality

Our thoughts are with our cyclist and swimmer sisters who’ve probably copped the worst time from using tampons. We all know that a badly inserted tampon can be extremely painful and irritating (especially when sitting on a bicycle seat!), not to mention prone to leaking or getting wet when you go to the bathroom. One of the cup’s major attributes is that once inserted, it is impermeable. It is made of silicon that is flexible enough to adapt to the vaginal cavity but rigid enough to stay put, so once it’s in, it’s not going anywhere and you don’t have to worry about it bothering you. Depending on your flow, it can be kept in safely for up to 12 hours, without you having to slow down or stop to change, even for women practising high impact sports like powerlifting or surfing.

There is also an important health factor that comes into play. The combination of sweat, friction and high bacteria can often wreak havoc on the vagina’s PH balance. Naturopath Alice Wilson explains that “with menstrual cups, there is no unwanted absorption of allergens or toxins. They are also great for women who suffer from vaginal dryness as they are less irritating, especially when  the flow is light, and they support protective vaginal bacteria to reduce recurrent thrush, that is very common for female athletes.”

Reusable & Economic

There is no angst like realising you forgot to pack enough tampons, or having no where to dispose of your tampon in the middle of the bush or during a night hanging off a rock face! The advantage of being able to reuse the cup means no stress about packing enough supplies or having to stash a used tampon in your pack or pocket. All it takes is emptying, a quick wash with a little water and it’s ready to be used again. The cup usually comes with a small silk bag to be kept discreetly on you in times of need.

And don’t get us started on the price of menstrual products. Tampons and pads are extremely expensive, and even more so as a female athlete who will need to change it more often as a result of constant motion and sweating. The cup costs on average $30 and companies suggest renewing your cup every 2-3 years, whilst ensuring to keep it clean and sterile when not in use. Considering tampons can cost up to $10 a box, we’re talking serious savings!

Environmentally friendly

Take a second to think about it. If you’re changing your tampon every 4-5h that’s on average 5 tampons a day, for 4+ days. That’s twenty tampons PER CYCLE. Most women menstruate for about 40 years of their lives. If you do the math, that’s a lot of tampons being disposed of, and a lot of extra garbage. As unbelievable as it is that not all women have access to sanitary products, it is also ridiculous that tampons aren’t more environmentally friendly; especially given as tampons, bleached and treated, do not biodegrade in septic system. A major benefit of the cup is it replaces the ungodly amount of treated matter that we discard in tonnes throughout the years, and ends up clogging up landfills.

Downsides of the menstrual cup

As great as they may be, we can absolutely appreciate that menstrual cups might not be for everyone. Their size may be intimidating for some women, especially for young girls, and removing them can be a little daunting at first. They also can be rather messy to empty if you don’t have direct access to a sink or a little water. Since they are reusable, they also need to be thoroughly and carefully washed between uses, and take special care in keeping them bacteria-free.

Menstrual cups can be purchased from most pharmacies, natural health stores and online.

story by Celeste Botton

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