Returning to Tampons - The Time I Lost My Menstrual Cup | #ACupaDay

Monday 19 November 2018

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Over the past year and a bit, I have become reliant on my menstrual cup. Not only that, but I seem to have formed a bit of an emotional attachment to it – I know, that sounds extremely weird, but it’s true. 
My relationship to my period however, changed in October as I started on the combined pill. Yes, I decided to screw with my hormones and see what the results were. My reasons for going on the pill and my experiences of it so far aren’t the main aim of this post, but I’m sure I’ll come back to it at some point. In relation to my cup, the pill added another element of uncertainty to my period – I knew it would start at any moment but had no idea how my body would react, meaning I was on edge for half a week. Because of my constant anticipation and stress, I carried my menstrual cup around in my bag (in its little cotton pouch it came in) for several days. It came with me everywhere – to uni, the library, shopping, society events – and all the time I was paranoid it would fall out of my overpacked bag, as I normally won’t carry it around with me. It seems inevitable almost, that my paranoid checking up on my cup turned out to be not quite so paranoid, and a bit more, well, common sense. 

Yep. That’s right. I’ve officially lost my menstrual cup.

I realized when I got back to my flat later on, when I thought my period might have started, I went to look for my cup in my bag, and it wasn’t there. Obviously, panic ensued. 

Luckily, my period hadn’t actually started (thank you again, paranoia), but I was now almost certainly without cup. So, trying to avoid further panic, I decided to retrace my steps the next day. I went to each place I went (the student bar, Sainsbury’s local, etc.) and asked whether a menstrual cup had been found or handed in. So, that was fun. To be honest with you, once I’d asked one person it was easier asking the rest. As much as I’m used to chatting about my vagina, my period and my menstrual cup on my blog, on Twitter and with friends, or at least people I am comfortable with, it was definitely a different experience talking to total strangers about it. It made me realise that I still have some trepidation about talking about periods – the taboo still remains even in someone like me who talks about my cup at every given chance possible. But along with that realization, it forced me to tackle that and get over whatever barriers I had left. 

In the end, I didn’t find my cup – and as my period was due literally any second, I had to buy a pack of tampons for the first time in over a year. Having to use tampons again simply reminded me of how much I hate them in comparison to my cup (let’s just say my morning yoga was not as comfortable as if I’d been using my cup). They felt uncomfortable and unsanitary (even though they are technically ‘sanitary’ products). I couldn’t ignore everything that I know about them now – the microplastics and toxins... I felt guilty every time I put one in the bin. But I had no choice. I had to relearn how to use tampons again – something I never thought I’d have to again not something I’d actually initially forget how to do.

As soon as I’d lost hope of finding my first menstrual cup, I ordered a new one which I now have safely in one of my drawers. It was odd seeing it there – it still is a bit actually. It’s completely unstained, the bag it came in has different colour strings and the stickers I got with it have different branding. I do miss my old one. I have feel bad whenever I think about it, lying somewhere unused, for years as it gradually degrades. It was in use for a year, so I got some decent use out of it – I saved a decent amount of money and saved a lot of waste – but I nevertheless can’t help the twinge in my stomach when I think about it. 

RIP to my first cup. October 2017 – October 2018. 

If you liked this post you might like: Sustainable Alternatives to the Menstrual Cup

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Sustainable Alternatives to Menstrual Cups | #ACupaDay

Friday 9 November 2018

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I shout about how much I freakin' love menstrual cups all the time – oversharing about my menstrual cycle has kind of become part of my brand by now if we’re honest – and sometimes that can get a little overwhelming. I can make it seem like the only sustainable option for menstrual hygiene is a menstrual cup. But for many people, a menstrual cup just isn’t them – for the same reason people use pads over tampons, or pads with wings over without, it’s personal preference. I haven’t tried any of these, but I’ve heard lots of good things about all of them, and it’s all about finding what’s right for you. So, what are your options?

Reusable Pads

When I first heard about reusable pads, I have to admit I wasn’t convinced. They seemed to me to be a bit, well, unhygienic. How many do you need? How often do they need to be changed? It didn’t seem to work to me. However, I am more converted having heard many people talking about them

There are several options for reusable pads: you can make your own or buy some pre-made. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, making your own will tend to be cheaper as you can use old material from clothes, towels, flannels, etc. There are lots of DIY tutorials on YouTube – one I would recommend is on one of my favourite YouTube channels, Sustainably Vegan. 

If you don’t want to make your own, then you can get some from several brands, such as ACALA, which will be more specialised and less bulky than the ones you may make yourself, as they use microfibers rather than the bulkier materials I mentioned earlier. 

Katy Gilroy, a fellow blogger, uses pads by Earthwise Girls and Silly Panda and told me that ‘they’re revolutionary!’ As I have never used them before, she helped me understand a lot about how they work and how affordable they can be: 

‘They range in price but you can get a pack of three for under a fiver, which I don’t think is bad at all! They’re so easy to use, too, with poppers keeping them secure – and when it’s time to change your pad all you need to do is rinse it until the water runs clear, and then chuck it in with your regular washing to make sure it’s completely clean and ready for your next period.’

Period Underwear

Period underwear fascinate me. Ever since I first saw one of those THINX adverts on YouTube I have been intrigued. I assume that they work in a similar way to reusable pads in the way they absorb the blood. Period underwear are super convenient, especially for the beginning or ending of your period, where a menstrual cup, tampon or pad can kind of seem a bit pointless – like a sustainable panty liner almost, although it can definitely hold a lot more than a panty liner. 

Edit: Since the publication of this post, I have bought my own pair of period underwear and absolutely love them! While a lot more work needs to be done to make them more accessible, I would highly recommend them to anyone who can afford them. Other brands include Wuka and Modi Bodi

Period underwear are currently excluded from the tax removal on period products (specifically pads and tampons) in the UK in January 2021. This means they will continue to be taxed at 20%, a significant cause for their inaccessible price tag. To help change this, please sign the petition promoted by Wuka to make period underwear more affordable. 

Organic Tampons

You may not want to give up tampons, and that’s fair enough, but you may still want to reduce your plastic consumption, and most tampons contain a hell of a lot of plastic (from any applicators, wrappings, to even the tampon itself) so you’re not sure here to go. Organic tampons are still single use, however, as they don’t contain any plastic or chemicals, they’re much healthier for both the environment and vaginas. This means you won’t get any extra micro-plastics or chemical in your body, and reducing the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, and that the biodegradable nature of the tampons means they’ll have a less significant impact on the environment – OHNE have also completely scrapped the plastic applicators, you can opt for or against cardboard applicators and are even developing biodegradable plastic applicators!

Organic tampons are gaining prominence. Brands such as OHNE and TOTM are gaining popularity - in fact Tesco have recently announced that they are starting to stock the brand TOTM in their stores, making them much more accessible and visible to the general public. 

However, there are issues with organic tampons still. Most are 100% or mostly cotton - a material which requires a lot of water to grow and produce. Similarly, this is not an option which reduces waste overall. Yes, they will reduce your plastic consumption, but these are still spreading into our environment. So, if possible, I would recommend one of the other options mentioned over these.

If you liked this post you might like: My First Thoughts on the Menstrual Cup

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