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Menstrual cups and older women: Never too late to go green!

“Why should I switch to a menstrual cup now? I am already above 45 and I am approaching my menopause! I have very heavy periods. How will a cup hold it?” These are some of the arguments I hear when I am talking about “cupverting” my friends in the age-group 45-50.

I grew up in Mumbai with probably the first generation of Carefree and Stayfree users. At that time, my mother who was in her forties was using cloth to save money for my pads. At that time, disposables were marketed as the convenient and healthy way. No one really bothered to worry about the harmful chemicals or the trash that was being generated.

I switched to a cup about two years back and I belong to the same age-group. I can vouch that this is the best time to make the switch. Even if you learn to use a cup just before your menopause, you can guide several younger women including your daughters, nieces and daughters-in-law to adopt a healthier, sustainable life style.

This is also the golden hour when you have been menstruating for at least three decades, you have had children and you know your body very well. This is a transitional period between your productive years and menopause. If you have not had any periods for 12 consecutive months, you have reached menopause. In the period leading up to this, your body goes through many changes. You may have heavy, irregular periods and hot flashes and sweaty nights.

These 3-4 years in a woman’s life can be very stressful, especially if she has a busy career and a demanding family. However, a little “cup” can ease your perimenopausal woes to a great extent.

One major symptom of perimenopause is irregular periods. The aunt flow may visit unexpectedly. A cup is so small that you can fit it in easily into a small purse or handbag! You don’t need to worry about packing your entire stock of sanitary napkins before traveling or going to work.

If you have abnormally heavy flow, use a firmer, larger cup and you are all set! I have been speaking to several women in this age bracket who have menorrhagia or heavy flow. They say that they soil large pads in 2-3 hours. When I spoke to cup-users with this condition, they said that only on one or two days, they have to empty their cups every 2-3 hours.

Another helpful tip is to have two types of cups with you. You may want to use a firm cup for heavy flow and a softer cup for the light days. You can wear a cloth panty-liner or light cloth pad with a cup if you feel that your cup may leak.

Tampons and pads can soak up excess moisture and cause vaginal dryness and itchiness. A cup does not dry up because it is designed to collect the menstrual flow. As a result your vagina stays moist. Even when you have a long period, over a week or more, you can continue to use a soft cup. You almost forget that you are having a period. The only thing to remember is that you should still remove it at least three times in a day and rinse it properly. This will ensure that you do not have any infection.

Sometimes, women describe how heavy their periods are to the doctors in terms of the number of pads they are using. But this does not ensure the correct measure of your flow because some pads may soak more than the others, or poor women may wait till it soils more. A cup has got markings in millilitres which can help you track the flow properly and you will know when to approach the doctor.

As per one research the amount of blood lost is around 10 ml to 35 ml per cycle, which is the equivalent of seven pads. However, the amount of blood varies from woman to woman. It may go up to 540 ml. The task of changing pads can be daunting. Also the recurring cost can be tough for women from the low income group.

Another major problem is of hot flashes! These are sudden bursts of heat in the body. When you use a menstrual cup, you do not have the bulky feeling and you can dress in lighter colours and comfortable clothes. This will cheer you up even when you are feeling low! If you are happy and composed, you can create a positive impact on others around you.

Disposable sanitary napkins and tampons were for 20th-century women. Most young cup-users I have spoken to often regret that they did not switch earlier. In fact, I spoke to many women who are past their menopause about the option of cups. Some of them said that they feel like reversing the flow of time and getting back a period at least once to check out a menstrual cup. They feel… “Oh, I would have saved so much…how much trash I have generated in my life!”

If you don’t try this ultra-modern, sustainable and comfortable way of handling your hygiene now, you may lose your last chance to experience cash free, rash free and trash free periods forever.

This was first published on Citizen Matters, an online magazine published with the support of Oorvani Foundation. The original article can be viewed here

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