An avid trekker who escapes into the mountains every now and then, Vineeta Lal shares her experience of her new found love - The menstrual cup.
The first time I had my periods while trekking gave me far more angst than I could possibly imagine. Apart from the usual pain and logistics of needing clean loos, the disposal of tampons and napkins was far more complicated than foreseen. Tampons wouldn’t flush down and I couldn’t bear to leave napkins in the pristine mountains where there was no sustainable waste disposal in sight.
All trekkers are advised against disposing off the used sanitary napkins and tampons in the nature and ask them to collect these things in a ziplock bag and bring them back to the city for disposal. I’m not sure everyone does this it’s quite a pain carrying them.
I had read about menstrual cups on trekking forums many years ago but had no clear picture of how they are actually used. Shilpi added me to the Sustainable Menstruation India forum, which cleared many doubts. Despite theoretical knowledge, I had put off actually using one till then. The following year, inspired by a chance meeting with Shilpi I decided to carry a menstrual cup (with one back-up pad!) into the mountains. Once there I simply had no choice, and all it took was a (rather tough!) couple of days, to get used to it. After that it was such an amazing feeling. No carrying around waste till I could find suitable disposal units, no guilt of messing up the beautiful Himalayas, and no more stress of planning treks around my periods.
The cup has changed my trekking experience! I’m no longer stressed about having my periods while trekking. I don’t have to pack extra – always an issue if you have to carry your own stuff! – or worry about carrying used napkins/tampons till I can safely dispose of them. I was always conscious of the waste I was creating, specially so in the pristine mountains, plus was more and more distrustful of the chemical additions to commercially produced napkins/tampons.
Almost 100% disposable free now! I still carry one napkin as a backup for day 2, and a couple of panty liners, but I find I don’t really use them. I have also largely switched to cloth panty liners.
Maintenance during travel. I get clean water and just rinse it after use. Anyway I normally boil it only at the end of my cycle, so I do that when I’m back home.
Advice to the fellow menstruators? I discovered the best way to get started is simply to throw away your tampons and pads, so you just don’t have a choice. And it won't be long before you too are a cup campaigner!