Where Logic Meets Love

10 Reasons My DivaCup Has Made Me Happier

Thursday, March 24, 2011

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How My DivaCup Has Made Me Happier | Faith Permeating Life
I'll warn you upfront: Today's post talks about menstruation. (Ooh! Yuck! Gross!)

I talked a little bit in my sex ed post about my lack of knowledge about menstrual products before I hit puberty, but now that I've been using my DivaCup for a few months, I have to say that, frankly, I'm pissed off that nobody told me about this before.

The other day I remembered with shock and a little embarrassment that just a few years ago I was seriously dreading the thought of ever having a daughter because I would have to someday talk to her about menstruation. This from someone who now has given serious consideration to writing to my old elementary school and asking if I could come in and talk about alternate menstrual products. (I opted not to only because they've already done fifth grade sex ed for the year and it's not guaranteed we'll be in the area this time next year.)

So I'll have to settle for this blog post instead -- for the time being, anyway.

I use a DivaCup, although there are a few other brands. This is the one I'd heard the most about, and from what I can tell it's the least likely to cause an allergic reaction, so I figured that was good. I did an obsessive amount of research before buying it so I could be sure what I was getting myself into.

I'll be honest, though: The primary reason I first looked into menstrual cups was financial. I figured something durable and re-usable was a better option than constantly buying (and running out of) pads, plus it was "greener" than generating lots of trash every month. I had initially wanted to switch to reusable menstrual pads (more about that in a second), but it seemed like they'd be too difficult to manage with being at work all day, and the concept grossed Mike out. So when I heard about using a menstrual cup, I decided to go for it.

So here, in no particular order, are the reasons I love it (and why it would have saved me so much grief if I'd known about it sooner):
  • Being able to go a long time without emptying it. DivaCup claims that you can use it for 12 hours without emptying it, but I found out quickly that on my heaviest day I have to empty it after 3 or it overflows. But that's just one day out of my period; the rest of the time I can put it in before I leave for work and then not worry about it until I get home. This would have been so nice in high school, when we had really short passing periods and I'd having to stop in the bathroom during practically every one to make sure I didn't need to change my pad. (I am super-paranoid about leaking.) Having to wait for a stall and then try to make it to my next class on time every time was unnecessary anxiety I wish I could have avoided.
  • Not being so wasteful. Because I tend to be really paranoid about leaking, so I tended to use too many pads because I never felt totally safe unless I'd just put a clean one on. (You can see why the financial and ecological benefits are so big for me!) I've still been using a pad on my heaviest day -- for peace of mind more than anything -- but that's only one for my whole period, plus I just ordered some reusable ones from Mother Moon Pads on Macha's recommendation. Because I know they'll just be catching leaks and not taking the brunt of the flow, I don't think Mike will mind them being in the laundry -- it's about the same as what ended up on my underwear before, anyway.
  • Not worrying about leaks. As I said, I've always been paranoid about leaking, because it's such a huge pain in the ass when you get blood on your clothes, your bed, whatever. I have way too many distinct memories of times I bled through my pants or pajamas. One time my senior year of high school I even left school at lunchtime and drove home to change pants. (We had a closed campus, and you know what a compulsive rule-follower I am, so this was a huge stressor for me.) Nighttime is the worst, because you can get the heaviest absorbency pad and still end up rolling over in your sleep and missing it completely. This is the first time in my life I've been able to go to bed while on my period and have zero worry I was going to bleed on the bed.
  • Being able to "check" as often as I want. Despite all the stress I've reduced not worrying about leaks, I still won't ever be able to keep myself from being paranoid. This is a big reason I could never stand using tampons -- because I would have no idea how "full" it was, so I either worried endlessly or would take it out "just in case" and then, well, there's another wasted tampon. If I ever get anxious about my flow, I can take the cup out, dump it, rinse it, and stick it back in again. No harm done. I can also see how full it is (literally -- it's a lot more exact that figuring out how much more a pad can take) so I can monitor my flow. If in 4 hours it's only filled up a tiny bit, I know I'm fine leaving it in for the rest of the day.
  • Avoiding the bloodiness. This is what annoys me about the Wikipedia article on menstrual cups: It seems to paint this picture of menstrual cups as being this difficult, bloody mess of a thing to deal with. You might think that having to stick something inside you would get messy, and certainly everyone pretty much agrees that when you're first learning to use it, it's going to be messy. My heaviest days notwithstanding, I quickly figured out why it wasn't messy -- if it's in properly, the blood is getting caught an inch or two before the opening, so that first inch or two is blood-free and you can adjust things without getting your fingers covered. When I do have to empty it at work, it doesn't gross me out to wipe out with TP the little bit of blood left after dumping it -- but again, that's only if you're in a situation where you have to empty it in a public bathroom, and it ended up not being as big a deal as I anticipated.
  • Avoiding the smell. You might not think about this, but this is one of the benefits I read about before trying it out. What causes menstrual blood to smell is the contact with the air, so keeping it inside avoids that air contact.
  • Not constantly having the "pad feeling." It's hard to believe I used to use pads twice the size of the ones I've been using the past five or ten years, but even the thinner pads feel like, well, pads. (I resist the diaper analogy because I haven't worn a diaper since I was a toddler and I certainly don't remember what it felt like!) Except for my paranoid heaviest days, I don't have to feel the awkward bulkiness and scratchiness of wearing a pad -- and when I switch to a reusable pad for that day, it'll be even better. Being able to do things like exercise without being constantly! aware! of something under me is a nice change.
  • Not feeling like I'm announcing to the world that I'm menstruating. Not having to take my purse into the ladies' room at work is sooooo nice. I always felt awkward, like I was making a big announcement to everyone that "I'm on my period!" And if someone stopped me on the way to the bathroom to chat, it was even more awkward. And in high school it always seemed (to my paranoid brain) like people could see or hear my pad.
  • Not worrying about running out of supplies. Is this not a source of anxiety for anyone who uses disposable menstrual products? Whether it's not having enough on hand at home or trying to shove enough for the day in your purse's "special" pocket, disposable products can only handle so much before they have to be replaced, and once your last one's full, you're out of luck. It doesn't help that my work moved all menstrual products out of the bathroom dispensers to the basement vending machines (seriously??). Even if my flow's heavier than expected and I have to dump it out at work more often, the cup is still good for using over and over again. My only fear now is that I'll accidentally drop it in an auto-flushing toilet! (Because, let's face it, I would still find something to worry about!!)
  • Reducing my health risk. Because I rarely used tampons anyway, I didn't have to worry about TSS, but I know for some people that's an issue, and because menstrual cups collect rather than absorb, there's no TSS risk. For me, the benefit has more to do with all of these things I've heard about the chemicals used in making disposable menstrual pads. Whether or not that's really something to be worried about -- it's not something I do have to worry about anymore. Also, I make sure to clean it regularly with a natural liquid soap. (Another thing annoying about the Wikipedia article: It says there are no known health risks, but cites an article saying that it could "theoretically" cause problems yet the FDA "declined" to remove it from the market, as if the FDA should have.) Women have also reported fewer cramps and shorter periods with natural menstrual products, and while I'm fully aware that could be psychological, I can't think of a time I've had really bad cramps since I started using my cup. I didn't regularly have bad ones before, but it happened occasionally. I've also realized that cramps, for me, are caused by going too long without eating, so that awareness may have something to do with any improvement as well.
I'm sure there are more reasons, but you can get the idea of how using a menstrual cup has had a direct impact on my stress level and, consequently, my happiness.

I use the origami fold (or my best attempt at it, anyway), but everyone has their preferences. Some people suggest putting it in in the shower for the first time, but I could never get that to work. It's just a matter of finding what works best for you.

If you have questions, I am more than happy to answer them! My experience is limited to a few months, but I don't imagine it will change greatly in the years to come, now that I've more or less "mastered" using it.

(By the way, before you ask, yes, I do realize that I can edit Wikipedia articles, but I don't have much experience with that and I know people can get really defensive about things on there, so until I have some great study or something to contribute, I'll just bitch about it. And steal the creative commons picture for my blog.) :)

Update: I discovered that 'Becca at The Earthling's Handbook has a great post about switching over to a menstrual cup from tampons, so check that out as well!

14 comments:

  1. Awesome post! This is the 2nd one about the cup that I've seen in as many months, but I've known about them for awhile via some friends. Personally, I don't use many products--extremely low flow for the past few years, definitely health related--but if mine ever picks up again, I will definitely be trying these out.

    I didn't get my period until 8th grade, but because my then-BFF got hers in 5th grade made me SUPER paranoid about starting, so for years I wore a pad "just in case." I had this idea in my head that when you started, it would just GUSH out of you. Finally my mother saw the light and calmed me down a bit, and offered panty liners as a compromise, haha. All those years of worry! (I still carried stuff around, and was well-equipped at all times.) And I was a frequent changer of all products because I was freaked out about any accidents! Paranoid about TSS too, but kept on using tampons...what a worrier...haha.

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  2. On the "just in case" backup subject, the lunapanties at lunapads.com are the most amazing things ever! I bought 2 pair just as back up. A week later bought 7 more pair. They are now the only underwear I wear, even when I'm not on my period, because they are so comfortable.
    I have very very sensitive skin and pads or cheap elastic in panties were actually painful on that extra sensitive vacinity and that is all a thing of the past.
    I will never use anything but the DivaCup and Lunapanties ever again! The panties can be pricey, I used almost my entire, meager, Christmas bonus stocking up but they were so worth it!

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  3. @Rabbit
    That's kind of hilarious, and I'm glad your mom was able to set you straight! That's another reason I want to educate kids--they rarely get enough practical details, which can lead to all kinds of unnecessary worry. I was terrified to get my period, and unfortunately it came very shortly after that fifth grade sex ed presentation. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who has excessive worries/paranoia around my period, and I hope you find the same thing I did, that using a menstrual cup reduces some of that anxiety!

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  4. @Erin Leigh
    Thanks for the suggestion! The Mother Moon Pads sound pretty awesome, but if they don't work out or I want something more, I'll definitely try out the lunapanties next!

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  5. I agree with everything you said! I've been using my divacup since July of last year, when I got my period the day before I ran my first 15k race ever. I can't use tampons...since having children I insert one and within 10 minutes have cold sweats, cramping and nausea. Not so good for running a race, but I couldn't imagine running one with a pad between my legs! In 95 degree heat!
    I will never ever ever go back to a pad.
    And (day 2 of using it) at the end of the race I saw a poor girl with blood dripping down her leg...she and a fellow racer were trying to find someone who was not in racing gear who might possibly be carrying a tampon or pad. Unfortunatly the race was 16000 participants strong... I hope she took my advice and googled divacup when she got home. I felt kind of snotty when I said, sorry, no I dont' have anything, but you should check out the divacup!
    Thanks for getting the word out!

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  6. I am sharing this with everyone I know. I totally agree with all your points. My Diva Cup has been going strong for 2 years now and I can't rave enough about its benefits. I too wish I had known about this much earlier than I did. Being in Australia I had to order from overseas, however tell everyone about it.

    Only down side I can see is the need to Beware the Diva Curse!!!

    Thanks for your great post!

    C X

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  7. @jesska
    Wow, that's terrible! Good for you for spreading the word, even in an awkward situation. It's amazing for me now to think back on all of the things that were problematic about using disposable menstrual products. And with a menstrual cup, even if you were to find yourself in an awkward situation, unexpectedly overflowing, all it takes is a minute to dump and re-insert, and you're good to go!

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  8. @C X
    I hadn't heard of the "Diva Curse" until your comment, so I Googled it--so apparently women get pregnant right when they're excited to try out the Diva Cup? That's pretty funny, actually. I'm pretty confident in using Natural Family Planning, so I'm not terribly worried about the "Diva Curse," but good to know! :) And thanks for sharing my post!

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  9. You've been commenting on my blog for a little while, and I finally popped over to check out your neck of the woods.

    I am amazed at our similarities. (Beyond the fact that I too am a fan of "the cup.") I know what it is like to not feel quite like yourself due to extreme exhaustion. I often wonder if I have Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus--I was told I had mono in college, but I didn't feel any more tired then than I did every other day of my life. (Depressing!) And I too consider myself a Christian who strongly supports gay rights (among many other "extremely liberal" tendencies...). I also dream of adopting one day--both because of concerns about infertility (I have PCOS) and because it's just something I've always felt very drawn to.

    I'll add you to my reader, but I am not very good at keeping up with blogs lately.

    Thanks for visiting my blog, and it was nice "meeting" you!

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  10. @Mermanda
    I love making new blog friends and finding people who have similar experiences! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll comment on things of interest to you even if it takes a while to catch up :) I know what that's like to get behind on Google Reader updates!

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  11. Ooh, I've been wanting to try the cup for awhile now. It may be time to take the plunge. I really can't stand how wasteful normal sanitary products are.

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  12. @Helena
    I can't recommend it highly enough! Now that I've been using it for a while, along with the washable pads, I wouldn't ever go back. Go for it!

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  13. I'm so excited that you use the DivaCup. I've been using Lunapads for 3 years now, and every time I read your blog, I always wondered whether you knew about these options. Also, I'm making my first serious foray into athletics, so the need for tampons has recently come up for me. They've always wierded me out (there are so many reasons for this). Once I finally had success with a tampon, I went out and bought a DivaCup. Didn't get a chance to use it last time around, but this may be the first time I'm actually excited for my next period to come. It sounds like a steeper learning curve, but I'm looking forward to getting the hang of it.

    Also, I started using natural products 3 years ago, mostly for environmental reasons. It really surprised me how my flow and my symptoms were less intense (not that mine were ever that terrible) after I started using them. It's not just psychological.

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  14. @Tracy
    I'm always happy to find fellow DivaCup users! I sincerely wish more women knew about menstrual cups, and I tip my hat to those women who are bold enough to tell every woman they meet about them. It has completely changed how I feel about my monthly period, both mentally/emotionally and, as you mentioned, physically, with fewer cramps and a shorter cycle. I love it! Good luck with getting the hang of yours; it took a few cycles for me to really get it down, but now it's just great.

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