Ladies, are you sitting down and comfortable? Let’s talk about Aunt Flo. Crimson Tide. Shark Week. The Time of the Month. Do you know you’re flushing money away by using tampons and pads? An average woman spends $50 a year to keep the floodgates at bay. Instead, you could make a one-time investment of $20-$40 for something that can last you up to 10 years. TEN YEARS. It’s called a menstrual cup. I know even the words “menstrual cup” might skeeve you out. Maybe you associate them with Birkenstocks or hairy armpits. I sure did — at first.
HOW IT WORKS
A menstrual cup is a bell or cone shaped piece of plastic, latex, or rubber that you put in your vadge to catch your period blood.
You fold it in half, then insert it like a tampon without the applicator. The cup fits against your vaginal walls, just below your cervix. When it’s up there, it unfolds and creates a suction mechanism that keeps it in place. When you remove it, you just have to twist it counterclockwise to release the suction and grab the stem to pull it out, sort of like a tampon. (If you are a visual learner, a good demonstration is here.)
Because menstrual cups catch your flow rather than absorb it, menstrual cups don’t cause TSS, which means (drumroll please) you can leave it in for about 12 hours, less if you have a heavy flow, more if you don’t.
To empty it, you sit on the toilet, take it out, then dump it in. You can use TP to help you out if you need to, but once you have the technique mastered, you’ll rarely even get blood on your hands. And if you do, it’s just blood. It’s not like poop or anything. To clean it, you throw it into the sink next to the toilet and wash it with non-harsh soap. If I’m in a public restroom, I usually just empty it and put it back in after cleaning with TP or a wet paper towel, or I’ll try to get a bathroom with a sink in it. Totally easy!
IS IT GROSS?
I’ll be honest, like a lot of new things, it’s weird at first. It’s a lot of direct contact with your lady parts, but once you get used to that it’s no big deal. The idea of using a menstrual cup may sound weird to you because American women are skeeved out by their periods. Seriously, 95 percent of European women prefer the tampon without an applicator, while less than five percent of American women do.
SAVE THE PLANET TOO
The Keeper’s website claims that 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of annually, and that 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along the US coastal areas between 1998 and 1999. That’s A LOT. Now imagine the amount of space that stuff takes up in a landfill biodegrading for years and years. And those are the ones that do biodegrade: Many pads and plastic applicator tampons don’t.
Assuming the average menstrual cycle uses 12 tampons and four to five pads, that’s roughly $50 per year. By switching to a $25 menstrual cup, you could save $475 over ten years. That’s $1,187.50 over the next 25 years.
Here are some things you could do with that money: buy a 1997 Cadillac Deville, go to Space Camp for grownups, or buy me two of the Marc Jacobs handbag I really want and then take me on an extravagant 16 Handles friend date.
You can buy the Keeper and the Diva Cup in almost any natural foods store in Brooklyn. However, there are way better deals online. When buying, keep in mind that these little guys usually come in two sizes: A for “after child birth”and B for “before child birth.” Larger selections and variety (like the Lunette and the MoonCup) can be harder to find because menstrual cups are still considered a neo-hippie thing.
Keeper: Though it may have a creepy name, it’s the grandaddy of menstrual cups and was the first one introduced to the market in 1987 (and it’s FDA approved!). It’s easy to insert and unfurls right away for great suction. The packaging is environmentally friendly and it’s made in the USA, probably by a coven of witches in the Midwest. The only drawback to the Keeper is that, because it’s gum rubber based instead of silicone like the other cups, it can get a little, um, smelly, but sunlight removes the smell, so set it on the windowsill for a few hours (Gross, I know). Available for $35 at Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen Street in the LES or online for $22.
Diva Cup: This is the cup to get if you feel sassy. It’s larger than most of the others, so it might feel a little unwieldy, and it’s super, duper extra suctiony. Available for $40 at Northside Pharmacy, 182 Bedford Ave at N7th St. or online for $23.75.
MoonCup UK: $27. The Moon Cup is shorter than all of the others, and depending on your body shape, potentially more comfortable. The packaging and website are really cute, which sells us.
Only available online for $29.88.
Moon Cup by Keeper: Controversy arose in the menstrual cup community, (yes there’s a community and it’s made up of the same women who Livejournal about ren faires and goddess circles) when Keeper named its silicone, non-latex version the same name as a menstrual cup from the UK. Scandal! This is exactly the same as a regular Keeper but made from a different material, which will eliminate that icky smell.
Available online for $27.17
Lunette: $34.99. The thing about the Lunette, is that yes, it’s super expensive, but you can buy them in blue and green! SOLD! It’s firmer than the Diva Cup, but not as firm as the Keeper, so it stays in place pretty will without being uncomfortable. But it’s not available in stores in New York, from what I gather, so you can only get it online.