This is a guest post…
With introductions now well in the past, I’d like to turn your attention to something you are likely doing very, very wrong. You see, you get this…visitor…once a month, but no one’s properly trained you on how to deal with it. It can make you quite cranky and pain you in ways you’d like to forget, but, ah…we are women, after all.
#1 – Avoid People
Pay attention to when your flow is nearly upon you and ready yourself. This includes not making plans if you suffer a change of character (quite possibly caused by pain) that includes an increase in verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of others. This may require a developed self-awareness that too few of you seem to possess, but, well…If you KNOW you hate everything and everyone, why subject others to your moods? Be kind. Stay the fuck away.
#2 – Supplement + Hydrate
Start taking supplements a few days previous, as it takes a few days for them to be absorbed. Take, in particular, Magnesium (to kill cramps), Zinc, and Vitamins C and D (because your immune system is likely to plummet), and water (because we are generally all dehydrated). I have been doing so, and, as far as anecdotal evidence from a sample size of one goes, this works. I always tended toward illness during my periods (slight fevers ALL through my formative years), and my first day delivered the worst cramps. Well. No more now. I now have no cramps, for the most part, only a mild discomfort of oddly-shifting muscles on rare occasion. The magnesium certainly worked for my body, and it may well for yours. This is not new information and, as such, there exist Period Vitamins offered by multiple companies, which are quite specific enough, wouldn’t you say? Something to look into, perhaps. Do avail yourself of ‘the Google’.
#3 – Avoid Gassy Foods
Hopefully by now you are aware what foods make you gassy. You would do well to avoid them, as changes in your body and hormones change your gut flora, which changes the smell of your emissions, which may be much worse than normal. Expect it, and prepare. Don’t subject others to more smell than you must.
#4 – Track. Everything.
Don’t be a moron (read: my sister). Always track your period. Doesn’t matter if it’s irregular as hell, and never seems to settle. YOU NEED TO KNOW. There are plenty of apps for this, and the one I use, in particular, WomanLog Pro, is fantastic as it also allows you to track your Basal Body Temp, Fertility, Moods, Symptoms, Cervical Mucous, Frequency of Intercourse, Blood Pressure, and Weight (among, I am sure, many other things I am not yet aware of). These are all good things to know about your body and habits. How, for instance, are you to know you regularly suffer a debilitating peanut butter craving two days before your flows starts if you don’t log it? Well, perhaps your mental file cabinets are less disorganised than mine. And speaking of taking inventory…
#5 – Stock Up
If you are using pads and tampons, just…stop now. Don’t stock up. Rather, use the last of it up and then switch to….you guessed it: Menstrual Cups. Why? Well…
+ No Smell—Why do we smell? Say it with me, class: Bacteria. Well done. So. Ever noticed that pads and tampons seem to possess after a while a fragrant waft of ‘period smell’ you’d rather they not? This is because the bacteria in and outside your body is suddenly exposed to warm, moist conditions with plenty of air. And, with such a good environment, bacteria cannot help but thrive. However, producing fragrant waste is the least any organism can do. Oh, no, there’s more. Just the right (wrong) sort of microscopic critters having a party in their wet, cottony home can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. Doesn’t that sound exciting? No? Well, the advantage of menstrual cups in this particular instance is that your tools (should be) are sterile, and the blood and tissue exiting you with all the grace of that runny porridge your mum makes which you secretly despise, is not exposed to air outside your cervix. Rather, the cup creates a tight seal, leaving you free of that particular disgusting and potentially dangerous situation.
[A/N: I have never noticed a smell when emptying my cup. None but ‘iron’, naturally.]
+ Leaves no Trace—Because Menstrual Cups are made of non-reactive silicone and do not leech chemicals [Seriously, does anyone know what tampon chemicals in your vagina actually do to us in the long run?], nor absorb moisture, your vagina can maintain its normal pH, humidity, and bacterial balance. Tampons dry you out (as anyone with a light flow is well aware) and remove your bacteria with that moisture. Be honest: when your body is already quite upset (seemingly), how much more are you inclined to continue upsetting it by making it overcompensate for your own mistakes?
…That’s what I thought.
+ Better than Coupons—You need only (at most) buy one menstrual cup a year, unless something particularly unexpected occurs. I needn’t explain, I don’t think, how one yearly purchase (if even THAT often) of 25$/15-20£/4,000-6,000¥ easily beats out the average cost per year of disposable land waste. Speaking of which…
+ Less Waste/Environmentally friendly—You needn’t contribute more to the planet’s main issue simply because you are female. Please stop using tampons. If you really can’t handle menstrual cups after trying them properly for (AT LEAST) two cycles, please help the world by switching to fabric pads.
+ Less Anxiety—Do I have enough tampons? Are they the right absorbency? Shit. I’ve got a fever. What if it’s TSS?! Oh, no. I’m leaking. Well, piss and sod. That’s another 20 quid in trousers gone. I loved that skirt once. Don’t ask me why I wore white; I haven’t a clue. Someone’s stolen the can in the girl’s toilet. Can’t flush it, sign says. What to do, what to do? What if the string slips out while I’m swimming? What if I leak into the pool? Ew. Shite, can they smell that? I really hope not. Seriously, why does this hurt so much? I swear, this tampon is making it worse! Oh, for the love of—This is what I get for sleeping on my side. For sleeping at all. Body, I’ve a query: ARE YOU QUITE FINISHED?!
How much less wound up would YOU like to be during your period, hmm? With menstrual cups, you only need to worry about access to soap/water 2-4x a day, and somewhere to dispose of your excess. Easy.
+ Sex, Apparently—Some brands of menstrual cups claim you can have sex without removing them. I don’t know about this, as I don’t have penetrative sex. However, I’d remove it anyway if I were to be having sex during my period, so…I suppose it’s a plus for those who’d like to leave it in?
+ No Leaks (disclaimer)—This is a lie, obviously. Everything will leak. Your body is leaking, after all. However, menstrual cups have far fewer instances of leakage than other options, given that the lip, when inserted properly, creates a seal. [A/N: My only leaking seems to happen at night, when (I suspect) the laying on my side breaks the seal, or when my flow is especially heavy. Regardless, my body seems to wake me up quickly enough that this is never a problem. In contrast, my body rarely woke me up for the same problem when I used tampons, and I refuse to even discuss sleeping in pads. Utterly useless.]
+ Less cramping—Your muscles are working hard enough as it is, trying to push out unused eggs. There’s no need to add more strain by shoving this too-small absorbent cotton stick up there. The tampon must be held in, but it also holds in your blood, absorbing it rather than dropping it, causing you to lose it more slowly—only so much can be absorbed at once. Your muscles have to work harder to force it out. With menstrual cups, gravity does half the work for you. Compare cramps amongst tampons vs pads users: it’s the same basic principle.
+ Feels ‘invisible’—The only part you really feel is the insertion and removal, whereas with tampons, you tend to feel this heavy damp thing sucking the life out of you, and pads are the cause of adult diaper rash. Fun.
+ Higher Capacity—Due to no (known) risk of TSS, you can keep your cup in for up to 12 hours. That’s a +4 on what the tampon packets say. Also, the actual cups hold, on average, 30ml, which is about 1/3 of your entire flow (averages, again). [A/N: My heaviest flow normally requires three changes a day. In tampons or pads, it would probably be closer to five.]
+ Shorter Period—Anecdotal evidence, again. Sample size: myself. With tampons, my period was about 5.5 days. With the cup (and supplements), I’m at about 3.75-4 days. Much preferred.
+ Self-Awareness/Body Acceptance—Using menstrual cups forces you to touch yourself in places you may be initially uncomfortable with. This is good. How else are you meant to accept your own body if you won’t get down and dirty with it? It’s only blood, bacteria, and tissue, and your hands—wait for it—wash. Your mouth is probably more nasty. Using the cup will also help you have a better understanding of your menstrual flow, which is always good.
There are Cons to adopting Menstrual Cups, of course, as there is with anything else. But most of these are no real issue with a bit of familiarity.
+ Learning Curve—Yes, there IS a learning curve. You WILL, after about the 4th attempt with leaks, figure out what you’re doing wrong, so just hang in there. But, well, if you are the sort of person who dislikes learning things…
…please just go away forever.
+ Anatomy—This is a legitimate problem for some people. It could be that your body really doesn’t work well with anything you insert, or it may just be that you are a tiny person trying to use a DivaCup instead of an Asian brand that is significantly smaller. Try many things, and even ask your doctor your options before giving up.
+ Messy—Given that you grasp the end of the cup and dump the contents into the toilet, then wash the cups, it IS a bit messy, yes. But there is toilet paper, water, and soap available to you in most toilets. And, again, your hands wash.
+ Sanitisation—According to the instructions in the packet, the cups will require sanitising every so often. I have literally never done this, and I have had my cup well over a year. I wash mine with warm water. I expect only those of you who have shifty, uncertain, or poor immune systems will ever run into a problem with a lack of sanitisation. ***To be fair, I am NOT suggesting you actually go against the instructions in the package. For cleanliness’ sake, you should probably use soap and water, at least, and sanitise as the package says. Just because I am irresponsible does NOT mean you should be, too!!!***
So, yeah, there are a few bad points, but most of these you will become accustomed to, and habits will form, and it will be like anything else you’ve learnt to do in your life.
Perhaps one day it will be normal for us all to use menstrual cups.
Perhaps it will be widely known that cramps are mostly due to vitamin and mineral deficiency.
And, hey, perhaps being forced to touch ourselves in ways we tend to avoid will make people more open to masturbation (since it can’t be more gross than your period) and everyone will magically be less cranky.
…I can dream, can’t I? Hah.