I first came across a reference to menstrual cups two years ago in a newspaper article. The lady who had written the article spoke of it with reverence- she mentioned that it had changed her life. This one line incited my curiosity about these cups. If a lady was openly talking about her menstruation in a newspaper article and deems it the finest invention of the century, I reasoned there must be some merit to her claim after all, right?
A quick search on trusty google left me in awe. One, I could not fathom how on earth someone could put that contraption inside their vaginas. The mere thought of it was overwhelming. Two, wouldn't it hurt? Three, how safe could it be?
I dug up more on the internet to find out what was the general reaction from women who were already using menstrual cups. Again, most of the women who had written blogs about these cups, or even made videos, swore by them. I read up on their pros and cons. I figured that using a cup might entail some lifestyle changes on your part, but the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages. It seemed pretty convincing even to a harsh rationalist like me.
Yet, I was hesitant. Maybe it was the fear of jumping into something so new, but I would attribute it more to the fact that no one around me was even aware of the existence of menstrual cups. In addition to that, my experience with aunt flo, as I used to refer to it as a teenager, was never good. I used to suffer from severe cramping and as a consequence, excessive pain as well. Add to that, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which would make me weak and ashen-faced by the end of my periods. I would change sanitary napkins once in two hours, for seven days at a stretch every month. My pains were akin to that of a woman in labor, sharp and crippling. I would take at least two-three days off from school and the trend continued through college. Sometimes, there have been cases where I would collapse due to the pain while I was in college and my worried friends would rush me home in an auto. Visits to the gynecologist yielded no gain - painkillers and rest were all that was prescribed to me. In short, I dreaded that week of the month when my periods would come knocking at the door.
Two years later, still unsure of whether I should make the switch, I met Mrs. Sindhu Naik at an event in my college, while she was holding an awareness session about reusable menstrual choices as part of the 'Green the Red' campaign. I jumped at the opportunity to get to know more about menstrual cups, and she was kind enough to patiently answer all my questions and dispel many doubts about them. It was then that I finally decided to buy myself a menstrual cup. After a lot of research, I finally settled on an ideal size and shape and placed the order online.
I will admit that there is an initial learning curve when it comes to menstrual cups. You have to get used to it and you need to give time to your body. The first cycle was a tad bit uncomfortable, but by my second cycle I was confident of the usage. The idea is to be patient and be understanding of your body and respond to it accordingly. There might be leaks and crime scenes in the bathroom initially! But at no point of time ladies, should you be disheartened!
My persistence in using the cup paid off and it has led me to experience so far the most comfortable periods in my lifetime! Using a cup has been liberating for me, to say the least. No more rashes, no more stench in the bathroom, no more worries about staining. I can wear whatever I want to. I can sleep on my back, dance, swim….practically continue doing anything that is normally a part of my regular routine. The best part about using menstrual cups though is that my cramping and pain have vanished! I still cannot fathom how that worked, but I am content with the fact that I am pain free and healthy, and I do not miss out on anything like I used to during my periods.
It has been three cycles since I have begun using menstrual cups and I have experienced a unique kind of freedom. As the cliché goes, with freedom comes responsibility, but if you are a cup user, responsibility comes free with the package. It is estimated that a woman menstruates over 2280 days in her reproductive lifetime. When you multiply this with say, usage of over 6 sanitary napkins per day, this amounts to over 13,680 pads per woman. If you multiply this again with the number of women who have attained puberty, living in a small locality, the magnitude of sanitary refuse that is being generated cannot be stressed enough. Disposable sanitary napkins are, true to their name, disposed off, but where? Most sanitary waste end up in landfills or are flushed out into sewage that drain into rivers, massively contributing to land and water pollution. These facts are unsettling.
In comparison, menstrual cups are a one-time solution that answers all personal and ecological questions that you might have. Is it convenient? Yes, but you have to change your outlook for the better! Is it economical? A cup is reusable, so, if maintained properly can last for 10 years. That is a win-win situation. Is it safe? It is, provided that you follow basic hygiene practices, which isn’t asking for much. It is obvious that menstrual cup is a clean, green alternative to plastic laden sanitary napkins.
I understand now why the menstrual cup is revered among cup-users. I have become a kind of cup-crusader myself, and have 'cup-verted' some of my family members to using the cup as well. If you are reading this, trust me, being a cup user is a boon that you choose for yourself. Take it, and you will not regret your decision.
Even then, I only have one regret when it comes to menstrual cups. I wish someone had introduced them to me sooner! :)
Ankita is a student who has just finished B.E. in Biotechnology and is on her way to pursue Masters in sustainable development in Germany.