A few weeks ago, I broadcast an episode of my radio show titled: “Fashion that Makes You Go, Hmm?” and featured fashion and beauty products that, at first glance, would make the average person stop, wonder and maybe even squirm. The guests we had on were men who wear pantyhose (major hmm factor), inventor of the As Seen on TV product, ‘My Booty Belt’ and The DivaCup, which is a menstrual cup and new way to handle “that time of the month.” While, this particular radio show aired a few weeks ago, I have held off blogging about The DivaCup until I actually could speak from personal experience of what it is like to use it.
In addition to being guests on my show, the DivaCup also sent me one to try out. More out of curiosity, than a real desire to use it, I agreed. Truthfully, I’d come to be perfectly happy with using tampons and I wasn’t all that thrilled by the idea of putting anything resembling a cup into my hoo-ha.
When I opened the box containing the DivaCup, I have to admit, I was freaked out beyond belief. I wasn’t expecting it to be so large. The DivaCup comes in two sizes (a smaller if you are under 30 and have never given birth, and a larger size if you are over 30 or if you’ve given birth vaginally) and, being 38 (albeit sans children), I received the larger size. Looking at the DivaCup all I thought was, “You want me to put this there??” I packed my new DivaCup away promising I’d at least give it a try at the start of my next cycle.
While the DivaCup may seem like a new fangled invention for period management, the menstrual cup actually has a long history. As I found out while interviewing Carinne Chambers, the daughter of DivaCup inventor Francine Chambers, the menstrual cup was first developed in the 1930’s and was made of rubber latex (an allergen for many.) While it was very popular, menstrual cup use went by the wayside when more disposable sanitary napkins, followed by tampons, were introduced into the market.
Yet, in an effort to find an alternative to unreliable disposable tampons and pads, Francine Chambers found a company offering menstrual cups and she and her daughter, Carinne, singlehandedly resurrected the 75 year old menstrual cup concept. In 2003, wanting to modernize the menstrual cup, drawing on their knowledge and experience, they developed an updated redesign made of soft top quality silicone called The DivaCup.
So why use a DivaCup? Well if you can get past the initial “ick factor” there are actually lots of good reasons to at least give it a shot. First, do you know how many sanitary products (not to mention the packaging) make it to the landfill? According to the DivaCup’s website: an estimated 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons are dumped into the North American environment each year (1998). More than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999. In addition, I also found out through DivaCup’s site, most tampons and pads contain surfactants, adhesives and additives and most pads contain polyethylene plastic whose production is a pollutant. Also, dioxin, a known carcinogen, is a by-product of the bleaching process of tampons containing rayon. Assuming that most women wouldn’t want these sorts of things anywhere near their lady parts, it should be also known that many of these substances can leach into the environment (groundwater, streams and lakes) causing serious pollution and health concerns. In addition, DivaCup estimates that a woman will use about 10,000 pads/tampons in her lifetime and spend about$150-$200 on pads and tampons a year. That’s a lot of money spent on feminine hygiene products.
Now, the upfront cost of a DivaCup isn’t cheap, costing around $35. However, in time, the DivaCup pays for itself because it is reusable and only needs to be replaced once a year. In addition, you can wear a DivaCup up to 12 hours a day before you remove it, empty the contents, wash it, and re-insert it. Also, there haven’t been any links to TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrom) with use of the DivaCup and some users have cited less bloating and less cramping when they made the switch. I also read that menstrual cups do not allow for excessive bacterial growth and are healthier for vaginal self-cleaning as opposed tampons that disrupt PH balance causing things like infections and odor.
Yet, you still may be wondering what is it like to actually use this product? Well, this is why I waited until I had actual experience with the DivaCup before I blogged about it. Continuing on with my story from earlier: After I packed it away promising to at least try it when my next period arrived, that time came and I reluctantly decided to just get it over with and try it already. In my mind, I would try it, hate it and quickly go back to my trusty tampons.
The directions included in the package were very explanatory yet it still didn’t completely put me at ease. The thing looked like a silicone shot glass that I was expected to fold and insert. “Are you kidding me?”, I thought as I stared at it. I was totally intimidated and mildly grossed out. And, I wasn’t just afraid of putting it in, I was nervous about getting the darn thing out. I had panicked thoughts that an embarrassing trip to the ER later than night would surely be to follow.
However, while insertion of the DivaCup is definitely new and awkward at first (hey, so was the first time you inserted a tampon, I would imagine), shortly after I put mine in I realized that it was okay. I didn’t feel it once it was adjusted properly, it was comfortable and, heck, I even kind of liked it. Prepared to hate it, this shocked me and, in no time, I started to think that this could actually become my new way of managing my period. I loved the idea of never having to go out and buy tampons again or ruining my favorite underwear because of leaks. Plus, the fact that I could forget about it for 12 hours before I had to empty, clean it and reinsert it again was really appealing.
Yes, the product does force you to become a bit more intimately involved with your vagina which, for some, may be too much to deal with. However, the problem with many feminine hygiene products today is just that; they keep us from connecting with ourselves as women and from our natural cycles. We’ve been taught to associate shame around having our periods. The DivaCup is a whole new way to look at that “time of the month”, for sure…but in a better and healthier way.