Hello my little deathlings.
Welcome to the gynaecological equivalent of a Simpsons Halloween Special. Ye be warned, this particular post is read at your own peril. Seriously, there will be many an English pound put in the Vagina Jar here. (May numerous tributes be made to the imminent extinction of said English pound, whenever Spandau Ballet’s Gold is drunkenly bellowed at a karaoke. You’re indestructible.) Back to the horror story though…
THIS IS ABOUT PERIODS.
Though in all Hallows honesty, for a modern culture prone to fetishizing blood in cinema, games, Autumnal décor and I daresay lipsticks, you would think that a completely natural and healthy procedure of monthly bloodloss would be a perfectly acceptable topic of discussion. To be thrown around a dinner table as casually as a debate over the merits of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. (Particularly if the main course is pie, haha cannibalism.)
So what in blazes am I talking about? Basically, consider this TMI of the Month a declaration of independence: I, Rosie, have given up tampons. BYE BITCHES. As a follow up to my previous post (a review of the UK ‘Mooncup’) it is with the lightest of hearts and the heaviest of flows that I relinquish my need to subscribe to a product that is, in my opinion, a very woman-unfriendly product. That might be an ugly phrase but I honestly don’t know how else to put it…tampons are just, not nice. The fact that they absorb everything in their path, not just blood but your own natural fluids. The vagina has an incredible self-maintaining eco system that does not in any way benefit from shoving inside something highly absorbent and laden with bleach and chemicals. Said chemicals which don’t have to be explicitly stated by the likes of Procter & Gamble, as we’re dealing with a ‘medical’ product here, so don’t worry guys. Except about the TSS thing. Let’s get real menstruating people, Toxic Shock Syndrome continues to be this spectre of horror that governs the frequency of our tampon changes. Incidentally, removing a BASICALLY DRY tampon happens to be one of the most appalling moments in an average female day…it’s like you’re dragging a stiff pillowcase out of there, just no. ‘Luxury’ items should feel like silk. To me, this feels like abuse. Which I have tolerated for the majority of my menstruating life. So why not wear a pad? For me, remarkably, disposable pads feel worse, just immensely uncomfortable. It’s the idea as well that everything is so virginally white and labelled as sanitary as if it has been completely cleansed of bacteria (it hasn’t), or merely propagated in a supermarket aisle as feminine wear as if it were a collection of dusky pashminas nestled in a dwindling orchard. The constant euphemisms, the avoidance of discussing what is actually happening to our bodies, the extract-of-Smurf liquid that is delicately poured onto towels in Bodyform adverts…it does not sit right with me. It does not a jot. So I made the transition…to MENSTRUAL CUPS!
The Mooncup was a very logical solution to this discomfort, and I am so incredibly happy that I persevered with it, and have now settled into a routine that is infinitely better for my body and my current level of cynicism. I can say with confidence that I will not go back to tampons, unless perhaps under very rare circumstances I am in a situation where cleanliness is compromised. Even then, there are ways around it. What I hope to achieve from this declaration of independence, is discussion. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT PERIODS. They need to be talked about, not hushhushed into submission so that the stigma of shame and uncleanliness continues to be circulated worldwide. Periods are here to stay, and they may not be particularly enjoyable, lawd knows the pain can be unbearable at times, but they are a completely normal, safe, clean procedure. If you can handle Episode 9 of the third season of Game of Thrones, you can cope with this discussion. So here you go, if this in any way interests you – and I think if you’ve read this far you must be at least morbidly curious – this is my updated period routine, in all its bloody glory.
*Vincent Price laughter fades into the ominous slam of a creaking door*
Here we have it, the contents of my Period Drawer. Utterly terrifying, isn’t it? How can you look at those penguins with their scarves and not feel like you’re looking into the face of the bubonic plague of 1356? In all honesty, this feels like I am merely sharing a photo of quite adorable underwear, which in reality, is what it is. This is my reusable stash, everything I need for the next 5-10 years of periods. (I should state at this moment that because I am on the combined pill, currently I do not have periods in the technical sense, but rather ‘withdrawal bleeds’. But because of the consistent change of hormones in my break week, the physical effects are nigh-on identical. So for the purposes of this post, I will refer to them as periods.)
I imagine that if you are not experienced with reusable menstrual products, you probably have some questions. You may think this idea strange and unusual.
Realistically I feel it would be impossible for me to condense everything about this transition to RUMPs (reusable menstrual products) into one neat post – therefore I invite you all to ask me anything, anything at all, I promise I will answer honestly. I want to promote this concept as much as possible, mainly because I simply was not aware of this idea at all, until a couple of years ago. That it is possible to have a sustainable period. That it’s possible to save yourself from drastically buying tampons each month, and constantly worrying that there might not be a bin in a bathroom when you have to chain-shove onto the next one. That I can look after my body and be in control of what comes into contact with my vagina. I still have the option to protect myself internally (menstrual cups) and externally (cloth menstrual pads)…the only difference is that I clean these products, and then use them again the next month. They are not being hastily shipped off to landfill in frilly perfumed plastic bags to rot for the next hundred years. They are mine to look after, and I can take them anywhere I go. Still sounds scary?
Well folks, meet my Mooncup.
Yes this has been in my vagina. But then again, so have a lot of things, so let’s not discriminate on that basis. (Joke.) As an object, yes it looks a little odd, but it has completely changed the experience of my periods. Everything feels so much cleaner, more natural, more manageable. It’s made of medical-grade silicone, therefore resistant to the growth of bacteria. You don’t have to change it anywhere near as often as a tampon – you can even wear it for up to 12 hours! You just insert it (I would recommend using lube but it’s by no means essential), go about your day as normal, then take it out, rinse it out, use a scent-free natural soap or a specifically designed menstrual cup wash to give it a more thorough cleanse if you so wish, then you pop it back in and you’re good to go. At the end of your period, boil it in a designated pan for 6 minutes, leave it to dry, preferably on a sunny windowsill if possible to reduce staining, and that’s it. There is, as previously stated, a learning curve with this procedure. But on reflection, there was definitely a learning curve with using tampons and pads…this is just a more worthwhile cause, in my humble opinion. If anything, you become so much more familiar with your body. Until I used a Mooncup, I had no idea how high my cervix was, I had never checked. I mean it’s not a measurement I necessarily want tattooed on my wrist, but it’s nonetheless interesting to learn new things about a body you’ve lived with your entire existence. Definitely give this a go.
Everything else you see, is merely to accessorise for extra comfort. For several periods I managed perfectly well with just my Mooncup, literally just that. Lubeless and linerless in most instances, it was an almost Instagrammably minimalist period experience. The initial investment was around £21.99 – you can buy Mooncups in Boots, but there is a veritable rainbow of product variations out there, I will link some below and hopefully you can find one that suits you. With minimal comparison but much research I would say that the Mooncup has a rather prominent rim, and is maybe not the easiest option for someone who does not want to get down & dirty with the inner workings of their vagina. I still managed it though, and now I absolutely love it.
(Well not that much.) There are softer cups out there, along with different lengths, shapes, stems, colours etc. The extras that I own are merely for ‘back-up’, as I used to wear a tampon with a pantyliner in days of yore in case of leakage – damn that grim length of string that collected blood on an otherwise dry tampon – nowadays I will opt for a menstrual cup, with a light cloth liner just in case. During the night I will either wear my Mooncup alone, or just wear a night cloth pad, as they all come in different lengths and core absorbencies. (Did I mention they just clip around your underwear with little poppers? The fleece backing stops them from sliding around. And when you want to store them for cleaning, you can fold them up into tiny discreet squares. Piece of cake. Red Velvet Cake?) I cannot express at this point, just how comfortable these things are. Just the softest material, and they feel no different to my underwear. Period underwear is also an option, I would be very intrigued to try sometime in the future – I do have something along these lines, which is the green checked shorts you see above – they have a thin absorbent backing which stops any potential leakages in their tracks, and they honestly just feel like pyjama shorts. The level of period comfort may have peaked here. As well as the sheer damned satisfaction of feeling in utter control of the bloodflow.
Other additions to my collection, which have built up comfortably over the past few months, include delicate little ‘cup spots’, which are simply little rounds of cloth to keep your menstrual cup on by the sink post-cleaning, perhaps while leaving it overnight. The blue pouch is from EcoFemme, a wonderful company that specialises in organic materials and a ‘Pad for Pad’ ethic, involving supplying a pad for a person in need whenever one is purchased. The pouch is simply for transporting clean pads around if I think I will need to change one in public, which is extremely rare. I also keep a couple of wet bags for storage of used pads until I go to clean them (I will go into cleaning procedures in a separate post, though that’s not to suggest they are in any way difficult or unmanageable!) The lube was an additional purchase, but I mean it’s never a bad thing to have lying around the house is it? Lube it up, baby. I would recommend to be sparing with it, however, as it can be a slippery procedure and a tad messy sometimes.
In essence, all of my cutesy accessories can be boiled down into one very eco-friendly product, which is the menstrual cup. The beautiful simplicity of merely collecting your blood in a tiny cup and flushing it away, could not be more appealing to me. In no way do I find it disgusting, or unsanitary. On the contrary, this awakening has opened my eyes to the grimness of disposable products. I remember reading a statistic that between 10,000-15,000 tampons/pads are used in the average woman’s menstruating lifetime. Where are they now? In our oceans, on our beaches, in our landfill. This can’t go on. You must be thinking that I have been possessed by some hippy spirit. All I can say is that, sometimes we should listen to the hippies, because they care about the Earth, and their bodies. I don’t believe I can start a revolution, but I really hope that if you have read this then you will at least consider trying it out. Please ask me any questions you may have. The grimmer, the better! Doesn’t everyone love a bit of gore, deep down? The art of the menstrual cup may be one that takes a few cycles to adapt to, but once it’s mastered it is definitely worth it. Don’t be perturbed when you have the inevitable scare of not being able to reach the stem upon removal and considering all manner of tools to attempt to retrieve it manually.
I expect a reasonable amount of backlash to my declarations here, but I welcome them. I also welcome the idea of battling taboos, and rethinking our own social stigmas in an effort to reach for the greater good. To those who may think that reusable products are disgusting or unsanitary, I will simply say this. Look at your underwear. Surely I cannot be the only person who has had to hastily shove them back on post-sex? So what do I do with said underwear, covered in all manner of joyful substances? I wash them, and I wear them again. If you get a little blood on your underwear in an underestimated-flow scenario, and heaven forbid a stain, what do you do? You wash them, and wear them again. Sex toys, you cannot tell me you only use them once and then dispose of them? Obviously there are exceptions to this theme (before anyone mentions condoms) but the fact is, there are all of these wonderful products out there that are designed to be reused, over and over, for up to 10 years. They do involve an initial investment, but think about how much your body and the environment will benefit from it. Can you not even deem it possible to give this idea ago?
Now this blog has become much longer than I ever intended, and I haven’t even scratched the surface…but I will close here, and I hope it has at least made you think about your options. If discretion is your utmost priority, there are ways of going about it that still involve reusable products. Don’t doubt yourself, you can do it! As a final farewell to my disposables, I will leave my trusty box of tampons in the bathroom at work – as I said before, I still don’t think they are a very friendly product, but nevertheless I don’t wish to just throw them away, and hopefully someone in need will be able to use them. Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend.
If you’ve made it this far, I congratulate you for your interest. I will leave a few links below to more information on the subject, and sites to buy products from if you want to give them a go. And if you do decide to give them a go, tell people about it!! Think of it as one of the amazing hurdles you will conquer in 2017. (Incidentally if you are my boyfriend and have read this in its entirety, I salute you.)
Until the next divulgence of intimate details!