History of the Menstrual Cup
Commercial tampons and menstrual cups were first developed in the 1930's. In that early post-Victorian era it was not considered "proper" for women to touch their vaginal area. Then the applicator tampon was invented to allow women to "plug" their vagina without getting their hands dirty.
The menstrual cup was only used by radical non-conformists who were very opened minded. 80 years later, it doesn't look as if much has changed. Menstrual cups are still very far from the mainstream psyche and women using them are often stereotyped and labelled negatively. So feeling very intrigued, I decided to find out more.
The Mooncup-Eco friendly and economical
The Mooncup is a reuseable menstrual cup made with medical grade non allergic soft silicone rubber. The cup holds 30ml of fluid which is roughly one third of the total amount produced each period.
What attracted me to the Mooncup was the fact that it will last for several years, saving me hundreds of euro on disposable tampons and sanitary towels. One woman uses at least 10,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime! I know that I would personally spend at least €15 a month on different sized tampons and pads.
For ethically minded women, it's great to know that the Mooncup is made with Silica, one of the most abundant minerals on earth. A lot of women have bad reactions to the idea of a menstrual cup and think that "it's gross". We never really think about how disgusting sanitary towels and tampons are. Most of our tampons and pads end up in a landfill or polluting our water.
I found it shocking to discover that the traditional cotton used in tampons has been grown using as many as 35 different pesticides, herbicides and fungacides. It makes you think.
The Mooncup Vs Tampons
I have used tampons for the last ten years and have never been entirely happy with using them for several reasons. I am quite keen about recycling but found that I had a bit of a dilemma with used tampons. Tampons should not be flushed down the toilet and if they are put into a bin, the rubbish has to be sent to a landfill or burned. I didn't even know that there was an alternative until I discovered the Mooncup.
For women with heavy periods, tampons can often be insufficient as an absorbent for blood clots. For women with light periods, tampons can often feel too dry, causing pain and irritation as well as thrush. I have always found that on the last two days of my period I would get a dryness and irritation. I had no idea that tampons were causing this. Approximately one third of what the tampon absorbs is the protective secretions that prevent thrush and other infections from happening. These secretions maintain the pH balance of the vagina. Since I have been using the Mooncup, I have not had any dryness or irritation, even on the last days of my period. This is because the Mooncup does not interfere with natural vaginal secretions.
Unlike tampons, the Mooncup is not associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome. It contains no bleaches, deodorisers or absorbency gels and will not deposit fibres on your vagina wall. I found all of these facts really fascinating and I was open minded enough to give it a shot.
How to use the Mooncup
The Mooncup comes in two sizes. Size A is recommended for women who have given birth vaginally or who have had a caesarean section and are aged 30 or above. Size B is recommended for women who have not given birth or who have had a caesarean section and are aged 30 or below. This varies if you do dance, yoga, pilates or other toning sports as your muscles will be firmer.
When you purchase a Mooncup, it comes with an organic cotton drawstring bag. It is important to keep this bag for hygiene purposes. It is also imperative that you sterilise your Mooncup before using it for the first time. There is a stem attached to the cup which can be trimmed to avoid chafing. Be very careful trimming the stem, as the shorter that you trim it, the harder it is to get the Mooncup out. It's best to take out the Mooncup and trim a little bit off at a time and then reinsert to check for comfort. Some women like to cut off the entire stem but I think that this would make getting the cup out quite awkward.
The Mooncup sits lower than a tampon so it doesn't interfere with the natural flow. This has made my period less painful and by researching menstrual cup forums, this seems to be a common positive side effect of using a menstrual cup as opposed to tampons. According to the instructions pamphlet, it may take a little practice to find the angle and position that is right for you. I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it felt once inserted and there was no odour or leakage at all.
As the diameter of the Mooncup is a lot wider than a tampon it is necessary to fold your Mooncup before insertion. There are two techniques described in the pamphlet as well as a trouble shooting section. The Mooncup company also offers a free advice line run by a qualified nurse to support women with any usage queries or problems.
Every 4-8 hours you should empty, rinse and reinsert your Mooncup. In public toilets you could rinse your Mooncup with bottled water or wipe with tissue before reinserting. The Mooncup can be safely used overnight and while swimming. I had no leakage or movement from the Mooncup while horseriding, sneezing or with bowel movements(which a lot of women worry about when they first use a menstrual cup).
One important tip is to relax when you are inserting and removing your Mooncup as your muscles are holding it in place.
This a slightly edited version of an article that Jennifer O' Sullivan wrote for Holistic Health magazine in 2008
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