My love affair with the Mooncup started about 4 years ago and my love remains strong to this day. For those who don’t know what it is…it’s a medical-grade silicone menstrual cup and an alternative to disposable tampons and sanitary pads. Menstrual cups that look like the ones used today were the invention of Leona Chalmers an American woman, who patented the latex rubber menstrual cup in 1937 . The first medical grade silicone menstrual cup, the Mooncup, was invented in 2002 by a British woman called Su, and is what I use.
So what made me want to start catching my blood in a little cup?
Well firstly, I HATE sanitary pads and hate is not a word I use lightly. I remember my first ever period, I was 13 years old, it was a school day and my mum gave me some pads to wear. I sat next to a boy in my maths class convinced that he KNEW I was on my period, that he could smell it, he could see the giant sanitary pad through all of my school uniform and he could even hear it (I have been accused of being an over-thinker and dramatic, I’ll take it). 13 year old me thought, NEVER AGAIN.
I quickly moved on to using tampons. At the time I was part of a swim club and training 5 or 6 times a week and didn’t plan on letting my period get in the way of things. My mum had tried to convince me that the water would stop my period and no-one would know. I was not prepared to test this theory poolside and risk a horror story. I chose the less risky option of having a tampon string poking out of my costume. Tampons and I had a good few years together and I never cast a thought to what they were actually made of (there’s stuff in them you don’t want in your body), where they went once binned (nowhere good) or that they were taxed as a luxury item by the UK government (damn the patriarchy).
I had no periods for almost four years (hallelujah) due to the contraceptive implant, which meant buying no sanitary products. When I stopped using the implant and my periods came back I started using tampons again and was super unimpressed with them. They were kind of awful – uncomfortable and expensive. I also became more aware of their environmental impact. This all led me to the Mooncup, which costs a one-off £19.99 and lasts for years (I should probably be a sales rep for them).
Tampons and pads are largely single use and disposable. Where do they all go after you pop them in those sanitary bins? My sister’s fear is that there are dolphins swimming the sea with tampons stuck in their blow holes. She’s probably not entirely wrong – in Bali after a storm I was surrounded in the sea by pretty much everything disposable you can think of – sanitary towels, nappies, plastic bags, tampons, that fucking dead chicken which will probably keep coming up). It was a real shock to the system to see all this rubbish floating in the sea. The stuff that ends up in landfill will take years and years and years to breakdown. Like I will have died before those tampons I used in my teenage years have broken down. That is kind of hideous when you think of how many women there are in the world who have periods and who use disposable sanitary products.
The geek in me loves the Mooncup because it has a little measure on the side, so if you feel like it you can measure the volume to ml. This means that when it feels like I am having the life force sucked out of me , I know that really I lose a very average amount of blood during my period and I’m totally fine. I’ve had accidents with it where I’ve removed it and dropped it and covered a bathroom floor with blood. If any poor soul were ever to witness this screams of MUUUURDER would probably follow. It also sometimes makes a weird squelchy sound when the suction is released as you remove it, which can be a teeny bit embarrasing in public loos for self-conscious dweebs like me. Aside from all that, I can never feel it when it’s in and it is way more comfortable for me than anything disposable I’ve ever used.
I can’t write about this without acknowledging that I live in a country where access to menstrual products of any kind is easy and that this in itself is a privilege. Period privilege. I have never been in the situation where I couldn’t afford to buy sanitary products. We need to ensure that globally women have access to any type of sanitary products they choose to use, because at the moment that isn’t the case. There are some companies, like Lunapad, who donate reusable sanitary products to women in Uganda when one of their own products is bought, which is great. I’m sure there are other schemes like this that I don’t know about yet! In my utopian menstrual world there would be reusable products easily available for all women, I’d like them to be talked about at school as way of both normalising periods AND getting people to think about their individual impact on the environment. The topic of period privilege needs to be a whole other blog post and I hope I don’t sound like a dick.
Periods are here to stay and I think people who can should start looking at what sanitary products they’re using and the impact this is having on the environment. The world is ours to look after and us humans are not doing an excellent job at the moment. This post isn’t intended to be having a go at women who choose to use disposable products.You have to make the choice that works for you, but it would be great if that was an informed choice. Some people don’t even know they have other options and the companies that make disposable sanitary products would like to keep it that way so they can keep making money. Start the conversation with the girls and the women in your life and be informed about what you’re putting in your body and the impact it has on the planet.