While travelling in a crowded Mumbai local train today, I happened to look out the window. It wasn’t one of those rosy evenings when I had my headphones on, pretending to be an 80’s actress. Instead it was a very humbling and thought provoking one. What I saw was a young woman, not older than 25 perhaps, drying little patches of cloth. But what why should I get all riled up about patches of cloth, you ask? They were drying ‘menstrual rags,’ (pieces of old cloth used to block menstrual blood.)
In a day an age when India is capable of sending 104 satellites shooting into space, building the world’s biggest statue and claiming to be a financial epicenter; I fail to understand why are there still women in a metropolitan like Mumbai with no access to basic period products. Why did a young woman have to walk across her slum to dry a piece of unhygienic cloth? A cloth that could potentially cause irreparable health complications? A little reading told me that over 77% of women across India use this method to deal with their period, every single month. That’s when I suddenly remembered my menstrual cup. I thought that writing about it, could be my little way of helping you make better and informed decision about how you deal with your period.
I’ve used the menstrual cup last month, but I can say without a doubt that it changed my life. Nope, I’m not exaggerating. It really did. Like most women in our country, I was only told of sanitary pads and menstrual rags when I first attained puberty. For years, I used sanitary pads without knowing its harmful side- effects and the fact that were in fact other alternatives available in the market. I suffered skin darkening, rashes, infections, skin irritations, inconvenient disposal, oh, and polluted the environment thinking I had no choice. So obviously, 10 years later when I found out about tampons and menstrual cups I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that no one ever mentioned these to me!
But why didn’t anyone tell me about this? As I traced my steps backwards, I realized that there were three main reasons. One- Many women in India were themselves not aware of these alternatives, my mom being one of them. Two- Some women who knew about them were anxious to use them because of lack of free information about their usage. Three- (the most stupid reason) Most women who did know of them thought they were unnatural, vulgar and immoral, because they had to be inserted into your vagina. They believed that you would certainly lose your virginity if you used a tampon or a menstrual cup.
At the time I didn’t realize it, but now I do. What I understood was how deep-rooted this issue was. It was not just about the tampon/ menstrual cup per se. It was about the fact that a woman’s chastity could be attached to an object. Patriarchy aside, it proved that some women would rather suffer the agony of uncomfortable period all their lives than use these alternatives.
“Screw that,” I told myself one day, and got myself a pack of tampons, after reading tons of articles about it online. Unfortunately, I found it very uncomfortable. I felt that I never found the right brand with just the right absorbency, it made my insides feel dry, it was also inconvenient to replace/change it and dispose off in public and I was still polluting the environment with it.
So a few months down, I got the acclaimed menstrual cup. A friend of mine was already head over heels in love it with it, so I thought it only made sense to give it a go myself. Oh boy, was that the best decision of my life!
So here’s how I think a menstrual cup is better than all other period hygiene products-
- It is much cheaper than pads or tampons. You spend an average of Rs.100 on pads or Rs.150 on tampons, or more depending on the brand you prefer EVERY SINGLE MONTH. On the other hand, you only have to invest in a menstrual cup once every two or three YEARS. That’s a whole lotta money saved that you can rather use during your PMS binges! You can buy it here- BUY MENSTRUAL CUP
- It’s super easy to use. Doesn’t have applicators or other confusing elements like tampons.
- It gets rid of the period stench that usually lingers during ‘those days,’ of the month
- You cannot have rashes or any skin irritations since it has no contact with the outer labia
- It lasts upto 24 hours for women with a medium flow. You don’t have to change it every time you pee or poop (as long as you take precautionary measures.)
- You will had zero issues cleaning it in public toilets, because all you need to do is rinse it with water and insert it right back in.
- You can indulge all your favourite activities without hesitation without fear of leaks or discomforts.
- Finally, one product that can reduce menstrual waste and cause the most minimal damage to the environment.
But having said that, I’d also say that the first step to using a menstrual cup is for a woman to be aware and comfortable with her body. Simply put, if you don’t know the difference between the urethra and the vaginal canal, you’re not ready for it yet. But that’s no cause for alarm. You can always read up on multiple articles about the female anatomy to figure out what really goes on down there!
Also, these are a few tips I think will help your usage a lot smoother-
- Use a water based lubricant for application if you’re having issues inserting the cup. It helps in gliding the cup by reducing any friction within the vaginal canal.
- Don’t freak out about over-cleaning your cup. No, you don’t need to boil it every day of your period. No, you don’t need special soaps or disinfectants to clean it. All you need to do is thoroughly wash it with clean water to rinse it.
- Use the Punchdown Fold (also known as the Shell Fold) to make insertion easier. If you’re wondering what it looks like, here’s a picture for your reference.
- Always make sure you have a sink or commode to empty the period blood where you can flush it out. Period blood has a lot of bacteria which can go airborne if left unattended, so make sure to leave no trace of it.
- The best way to insert the cup is standing up, with your legs apart in a slight squat. It helps widen your pelvis and in turn your vaginal canal.
What I’m saying is, maybe you were one of the millions of women who didn’t know the existence of alternative period products so far. But now you do. Don’t let years of lies and wrong teachings keep you away from the better things in life. Because at the end of the day you can choose to have power over your period and not the other way around! So, you go girl!
P.S. Any questions, doubts or clarifications you need, you can reach out to me in the comments section.