I am in a revelation. I am on the third day of my periods and I am not wearing a pad! I haven’t been wearing one for this entire period, and I am ecstatic. I don’t have an annoying sandwich-like wad of tissue and plastic in between my legs and I do not even feel like I am on my periods (save for the usual cramps that announce my monthly flower). Before you gag and call me an unhealthy heretic, hear me out because this, my dear, may as well change your life as a woman forever.
When I was in India last year September (a trip I cannot stop talking about because it changed who I am as a person) I met a feisty young woman named Sonal. Sonal is from Chennai and she is travelling across India exploring her beautiful country AND trying to push a cup inside every woman’s body. Literally. She is the co-founder of Boondh Cup, a social enterprise in India that is trying really hard to cupvert as much of it’s female population as possible (That’s 623.72 million women which is 51.5% of the whole population as of 2011). How she does it I have no idea, (a lot of meetings and convincing I suspect) but the fact that she introduced me to the menstrual cup has changed who I am and how I look at myself as a woman forever.
Sonal casually brought up the idea and the product itself from her depths and just talked about it. I was curious at first, as in “What is that thing and does it go up in my vajajay?” and “Why the heck should I bother with yet another thing that goes up my vagina?”. She spoke about something that is close to my heart; the environment and the waste we create as menstruating women. I had never thought of it before. I always brought pads, used them and burnt/buried/flushed them. I didn’t think of me leaving such a big mess for mother earth to clean up after. I was horrified to find that baby’s disposable nappies cannot even be burnt because of the material in them (according to my aunt who is looking after her granddaughter and ends up throwing it away from the garbage folks to collect) but I never thought of the impact on the environment that I made.
I began by ripping the pads up (cotton and plastic separately, mind you) and flushing it down the loo. Bad idea because it clogs the drain. I then started wrapping the pad in paper and storing it in a bin to dispose of later. But I had to wait until my whole period was over so that I can do it all in one go. And then this pile would start smelling and attract flies and worms. And then I try burying it only for my dog (or the neighbourhood thalagoya) to sniff it out and bring it to the front yard and make a massive mess on the lawn for me to clean up the next day before rushing to work!? Finally, I tried burning it because What the absolute frick!!?! But no, the material in it would only half burn (and the dog and the damn thalagoya happens anyway) so I had to put thinner on it to make it burn but that would also still leave some waste. And I just repeat to myself “It’s just once a month, don’t stress over it, just get it over it, and don’t think about it too much.” Since I moved, I don’t have a backyard and I wondered how the women who live in apartments / don’t have backyards dispose of it. I have never let anyone else apart from myself touch my own pads so no, throwing it out on to the garbage truck is not happening.
Since I was interested in the cup, Sonal was keen on sending me a cup somehow all the way from India. It was only this year, in March too, that I finally stuck it in. -pun- Following is an IG post on the day I received the package including the breakdown of the cost involved in menstruating in Sri Lanka. You might detect a hint of uncertainty in my voice. But now that I have used it, my confidence and faith in this magical instrument evidently blows up in your face.
View this post on Instagram
This Women's Day, I want to divert your attention not to 'a woman' or 'a group of women', but something that all women at one point of their life -for almost 50 years on average- experience. And that is periods. . When I was in India, I was introduced to the menstrual cup. I've heard about this, but never really paid any attention bcs it didn't matter to me either way. I LOVE getting my period (I picture "this is Sparta" happening down there, & I feel empowered & alive and shit) and pads get it done, so why bother? But I was talking to Sonal Jain (sweetheart, adventure lover and tree hugger. Also co-founder of @boondhcups ) & I realised that all these DISPOSABLE tampons & pads actually make up a LOT of waste.. . Here's the math. Min 3 pads a day x 4 days = 12, & 12×12 makes 144 and 144 x 50 years (lets say i bleed for roughly that amount) makes 7200 pads in my entire life! Multiply that by the number of women who have access to pads (population is roughly 52% women & atleast half of it is menstruating) & that's just a LOT OF waste. I used to burn mine, but it would still leave some residue behind. Can everyone burn their pads after they use it? People living in apartments etc probably can't. Stuffing it down the loo just ends up clogging your drainage & that's just a 🤦. . A packet of pad in Sri Lanka is about 120 bucks (that's the cheapest brand) we use atleast 11 packs a year. That's 1320 LKR a year and how many years do you bleed? 😁 (Say roughly 50 years, that's 60k) Dude, that's a lot of money. Also, what about the women who don't have access? My aunt speaks of an age where they used cloth folded and stuffed in their panty, which often leaks out too. I'm assuming that's what people do. But there is a question of hygiene when reusing cloth. A menstrual cup can range from LKR 400 – 2500 (depending on where you buy it on eBay or @boondhcups) but considering you can use this your whole life, I'd say that was an investment.. . I'm yet to try this miracle device, and March 2018 is the year. It sounds a little scary to be honest, but my friends who use it say I have nothing to worry.. ♥️😁 so hear goes. 🌷 #bleeding #periods #boondhcup #womensday
My personal journey with the menstrual cup
I have been transformed. I have transformed from that woman who chases after her dog and walks around the humid tropical Sri Lankan climate baking a period soaked pad between her legs. I am now free.
- I can swim, an activity I avoided although periods do tend to pause while you’re submerged in water because of the pressure difference. I didn’t want trails of blood following me and any wondering sharks to eat me while I was swimming in the ocean. Since I backpack a lot, I need this kind of magic because I just cannot deal with a pad when I’m hiking a mountain.
- I bachata and kizomba, another activity I avoid when I have periods because it somehow made me very insecure to be with a man, most of the times a stranger within that level of proximity to be comfortable enough to dance during my period.
- No leaks; once the cup is inside you, it creates a vacuum and seals the hole preventing leaks. When I looked at the pad, I felt I bled gallons. But actually, it is not a lot of bleeding. I don’t even bleed a half cup on the slow flow days and just less than a full cup on a heavy day. The blood is spread out on the pad and also leaks when it’s saturated, which is why we “think” we bleed such a lot. I used to wear pads for four days but now I only bleed three with the cup! I assume it’s because it collected the blood from the inside. Saw that!? Periods even reduced by a day! Whoever heard of a three days period?! 😮
- I don’t have to spend on pads, battle with my dog to dispose of it. In essence, I am never sighting a pad ever again in my life. (A moment of silence to a sanitary napkin manufacturer who just lost a customer who would have otherwise paid over 60k during her entire lifetime).
- I reduce my carbon footprint by a significant amount.
- I can sleep without waking up on the Japanese flag.
- I can pee/poop normally, without messing with pads/tampons. If you haven’t noticed, (and one of my dear friends actually went and counted) we have three holes to do three different things. I initially felt worried that the cup would plop out, so I took it out and did it. See, it’s the same motion of bearing down or ‘thatamanawa’ that you have to do when you shit too. But later on the 2nd day and so on, I just pooped with it and it wasn’t an issue. I read this article about pooping with a menstrual cup just to ease the tension. -tee hee-
In short – it feels insane. I am never ever bothering with pads or tampons ever again.
Even though I now sound like I bloody invented this cup, to be very honest, I was scared at first. It felt weird to even consider doing this thing. Here are a few of the questions that I found myself asking.
- What if it gets lost in there? It will not because only liquids go past your cervix. This cup will come out, the same way a small human being pops out of you, or a dick, or a dildo, or your fingers.
- What if something goes wrong and something like “American Pie” happens? The worst thing that could happen with a cup is that it might leak due to incorrect placement but no, it is not going to get stuck in there.
- What if it hurts when I stick it in? Personally, it didn’t hurt, just a slight “pressured” sensation for the first few seconds which is also rather pleasant when the cup is warm after sterilisation till I push it past the flappy bits at the vagina opening. I did a little standing up/ squatting ritual till the rim of the cup was inside and just pushed it and –floop- it slides into place and opens up. And after that, I don’t even feel it. I am not exaggerating. You don’t even feel it inside you.
And ehem, darling, to keep things in perspective, it’s going to hurt way more when you push a human being out of your fanny for far longer time frame, so a slight discomfort for a few seconds is nothing compared to that. Even if you won’t be pushing a human being out of your fanny, these few seconds of uneasiness is still worth it to eliminate all your period woes. It also feels like inserting a finger or two in there, first, it’s slightly uncomfortable and -floop- then it’s in. Also much like a dick. Or a dildo.
When you’re removing it, you have to pinch the cup and break the suction or vacuum created by it. Then it’s just a matter of pulling it out. Don’t worry though, you will get it right when you use it a few times.
- Is it safe? Very much so. The only hiccup would be an infection that gets into your vee vee during the inserting process. This we avoid by washing our hands very well before using the cup and sterilising the cup with hot/boiling water between cycles. I try to sterilise between uses too just to be on the safe side. It’s also safer than having a chemical induced wad of cotton and plastic wedged up against your vagina.
I cook in the morning so I had to wait until all the spicy-ness goes away from my fingers before I handled the cup. Also I noticed that my nail polish was flaking so I removed it because I didn’t want any bits going in there.
- What if I lose my virginity? *Takes a deep breath* If by virginity you mean the first time you have sex, the answer is a strict no, you cannot have sex with a menstrual cup for the first time. If at all, virginity is not something you lose. We need to move away from that mindset.
- What about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)? TSS (which mimics flu symptoms) occurs when bacteria grows. This can be avoided by sterilising the cup before you use + only having it inside you for 8 – 12 hours at a stretch.
- What if I can’t sterilise it before I use it? If you don’t have the facility to sterilise the cup right before you insert it (travelling etc) you can sterilise the cup, store it in a clean, dry place and insert the cup within 24 hours. Reason being, not everything you stick up there, isn’t sterilised.
If you have any more questions, please ask me and I would be happy to help you out with it! 🙂
Why do you need a menstrual cup?
I don’t have to specifically jot down the woes of periods. It’s different for everyone. I personally love getting mine because a) I know I am not pregnant and b) it feels ridiculously empowering somehow to gush human blood out of me for several days and not die. It’s not as easy or pleasant for 99.9% of my friends. (I literally know only ONE other human being who LOVES getting her period, she know who she be when she read this cuz we connect over that ish 😀 )
It could be for different reasons for everyone. For me personally, it’s the following three.
- Convenience: A tampon can be worn for maximum 3 or 4 hours. A pad can be worn maybe 5 or 6 hours. A menstrual cup can be even worn for 12 hours at a stretch. Sonal said she tested hers for 50 hours, i.e. two whole days. I personally only change my cup maybe twice on the one heavy flow day and once during the rest of the days.
- Cost: Bro, need I even begin? You calculate how much you spend on sanitary towels and you tell me. (Or just refer to the above Instagram post) At the minimum, LKR 100,000 per lifetime. The menstruation cup is 1600 for a single cup and 3200 for a Together Cup where with each cup you by, you donate a cup to a rural menstruator in India. It is also lifetime investment. You just need ONE for your entire lifetime.
- Comfort: DUUUUUUUUDE. You cannot feel it. You cannot. (If you can feel it, you might be wearing it wrong.) No more feeling of a sandwich stuck between your legs. No more diaper rashes. No more sweaty and overcrowded groins in this hectic heat. It’s as though you are just you, no periods. Just you.
Here is a video about the things we don’t know about sanitary napkins. And the truth is quite shocking.
Another short video about what the menstrual cup is done by Boondh.
Finally, why am I orchestrating around writing these lengthy blogs and texting my friends like I suddenly found the solution to all of the problems of women? Because I feel like this is it. I feel like this is the answer. Not to all the problems of all womenkind in the world, by God no, but the solution to some of it.
I think this menstrual cup magic should just spread like the bloody bubonic plague until it reaches all women across the globe. Sometimes we forget that bleeding for you and I is not the same for another woman somewhere else. Women who do not have access to safe menstrual health, girls who have trouble going to school because of various socio-cultural and emotional aspects of menstruating and as a result, lag behind in school work and education thereby further reducing their ability to work and create wealth, women and girls who cannot afford the heavy cost of sanitary napkins, women who are not confident or comfortable enough to do sports or go to school or go about their day because they are bleeding. It is enough that bleeding is painful to many, but to deal with all the other complications of it is just too much.
Bleeding does not mean that you are weak or dirty, it means that you are functioning and beautiful and courageous and powerful.
I also feel that I want to share this new found experience with all my lady friends, the same way I heard about it from one of my lady friends, thereby creating a chain of support and awareness, and hopefully positive change. A huge shout it to Sonal and Bharti who founded Boondh and are pioneering a movement to move away from the stigma of menstruating and to promote safe sanitary options for bleeding women in India, and now Sri Lanka and recently I heard they sent ten cups to the Netherlands so the happiness is spreading!
One thing I wanted to do this year, was to push myself. I promised myself in January that I would push myself to do what I am afraid of doing, to do things that I would not have otherwise done out of fear of failing or ridicule. It is not that I am not afraid. Oh, I am very very afraid. But I choose to overcome it. Because it is always the choice.
If by reading this blog, you felt that this intrigued you by 1%, please don’t be shy. Talk to me and we can discuss how this magical menstrual cup can change your life. We can arrange for a menstrual cup to be delivered to you too. Do a lot of reading on it to get an idea of it, talk to people who use it, watch videos and do your research and just bleed happily!
This is me yammering on about the cup to lifeonline after one of the cupverts wanted to really get the word out there. ❤
How to get your own magic menstrual cup?
There are two types of cups sold by Boondh. As it is a social enterprise, the profits of each sale will go to fund their campaigns and make available cups to women in low-income communities. With each cup you purchase, you will sponsor 10+ years of someone’s menstrual product! Price per cup is 3200 LKR. And with each cup you purchase, another cup will be sent to a menstruator in a low-income community in India.
If you’re in India, place an order here to get it delivered right to you. Yay!
If you’re in Sri Lanka, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details and I will get one delivered to you from Boondh. I will keep you on the list and try to get it before your next period! 😀
You can also buy a cup online too. Brands such as moon cup, diva cup and juju are all good. Prices range from $2 to 50$. Just check if they have the relevant certifications. Since I haven’t tested any of those, I can’t comment on it. I feel the design and size (12 ml) of the boondh cup are ideal for me, so I recommend it to you also. The cup has to be made of medical grade silicone that doesn’t react with the body. Read some reviews too.
View this post on Instagram
Hello lovelies! 👋😊 I'm Nadeesha and I want to talk to you about your period.. . This March, I switched to the period cup aka menstrual cup and it has changed the way I feel about being a woman and even myself as an individual. And I just want to tell anyone who listens, about it! 😂 . The menstrual cup is a re-usable sanitary product that you can use instead of a pad or a tampon. It's this tiny thing I'm holding in my hand. I'll be posting about it more so stay tuned and share this page with your lady friends so that everyone can bleed free, bleed happy. 😘 . #menstrualcups #periods #srilanka #periodcup #bleedinginsrilanka
How to take care of your menstrual cup?
- Store it in a cool, dry box/pouch when you’re not using it
- Before every cycle, wash it well and sterilise it using boiled water. I don’t sometimes boil it on the stove as seen in the video, but just plonk it in a cup with boiling water at office/home/ travelling.
- Wash thoroughly with soap and water after your cycle is over. There are small holes near the rim of the cup that you need to make sure to unclog and clean well. I’ve highlighted the holes in yellow in this pic. >
- I don’t usually use soap to wash the cup before or during my period because I try to be as chemical-free as I can. I use soap only after every cycle before I store it away to get rid of any odours and grease. But it’s up to you. A gentle baby soap is fine.
- Your cup will generally be odour-free if it is washed and cleaned well.
Here’s to all the women who bleed proud, bleed blessed and bleed just fucking bleed. ❤