Managing menstruation

After I got my first period during art class in 7th grade (I was twelve), I went home and apologized to my wall of JTT posters. For what, exactly? I’m not really sure anymore; I think that I just felt like, as a new “woman,” my childhood heartthrob crush could no longer be cute and innocent. I thought that crushing on a celebrity, even one only two years older than me, would somehow become more complicated. It was, incidentally, shortly after that monumental occasion that I stopped having celebrity crushes.

Menstruating then was annoying. I wasn’t allowed to wear tampons when I was that young, so my then 8-day long periods were managed with giant maxi pads, which I was constantly afraid would leak (and they often did), and which felt like wearing a diaper. They restricted the clothing I wore, and even if their bulk didn’t show through my pants, I was always paranoid that they would. They made swimming, one of my favorite summer activities, hygienically impossible. By the time I was old enough for my mom to deem me appropriately aged for tampon use (I think this was around fifteen), because she didn’t use them herself, I didn’t have much in the way of instruction, and wound up waddling around like a penguin because I didn’t know to stick the thing in far enough so as to not be physically felt.

Once I got that figured out, and ever since, I’ve been using tampons to manage the monthly blood flow. I’ve never really had a problem with them, per se, but I’ve certainly had some annoyances… like forgetting to take one out on the last day of my period, and having it become stuck beyond my reach inside of me. I’ll never forget the Urgent Care experience:

Receptionist: “Why are you here?”

Me, in a very low voice: “I, um, have a tampon stuck inside of me.”

Receptionist: “What are your symptoms?”

Me: “…The, uh, tampon inside of me…”

Receptionist: “OH! Right! Okay, um, insurance?”

I then went to take my seat in the waiting area, when a nurse came out and called, “April?” I started to get up, when another young woman did so first and walked toward her. I thought it was odd that she, having come in after me, was called first, but I didn’t think much of it, and continued perusing the Time magazine I was holding. Shortly after, I saw her companion reach for his phone to presumably read a text, and chuckle. I got a weird feeling, and looked up. The other April walked back out into the waiting area, smiling as if amused. I was then immediately summoned into the doctor’s office area. I can only imagine the confusion the Other April probably encountered when asked what my own doctor immediately asked me upon entering the office: “So, you have a tampon stuck inside of you?”

This has happened to me twice. If it hasn’t happened to you, I’d advise you to make sure it doesn’t. It’s… gross.

I currently use tampons because I hate pads. Pads are thick, they’re smelly, and they make their presence known at all times. Sleeping with them is uncomfortable and distracting, and they limit physical activity. Tampons, though, while small and unnoticeable for the most part, are not without their share of flaws, even beyond the horrors and embarrassment of getting them lodged inside of you. They are associated with toxic shock syndrome, which is a rare but potentially deadly infection. They can also cause vaginal dryness (ouch), contain cancer-causing substances like dioxins, and some people have raised concerns about the potentially negative impact that they, along with sanitary napkins, can have on the environment. Plus, they’re expensive, and certain brands are leaky, while the better ones are pricier, and the non-bleached, organic tampons are just absurdly high in price.

What do we do, then? Well, I’m considering getting myself a DivaCup. While the process of removing and cleaning it will surely prove to be a challenge in public restrooms, or at work, I think the benefit will outweigh the inconveniences. And one of the best parts? No more buying a box of tampons once a month! The cost of one DivaCup pays for itself before the end of the year, if you’re a 28-day-cycle kinda gal. And the company is run by a mother-daughter team, which I love– considering that the majority of owners/manufactures of feminine hygiene products are men. While men can certainly be capable of making and selling products made for women (there are, for example, perfectly competent and great male gynecologists out there), it feels reassuring to know that the product was designed by people who are intimately familiar with women’s bodies and the experience of menstruation, and managing menstruation.

Any women out there use the DivaCup? I’ve heard good reviews so far, and am looking forward to trying it out.

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6 Responses to Managing menstruation

  1. Melissa says:

    I haven’t tried the Diva Cup, but I have used Instead cups (basically like the Diva Cup, but they’re not reusable, so they’re not as environmentally friendly). I like them. They’re not bulky and annoying like pads, but they don’t hurt to take out late in your cycle like tampons. (Do you have that problem? For me, if the tampon isn’t “full,” it feels like scratching a chalkboard to take it out. Too dry. Youch.) Plus you can have sex with ’em in without your partner ever being any the wiser. (Although since you’re married, I suppose the whole menstruation thing no longer has to be a secret in your relationship, lol)
    If you’re looking for something else healthy for you and the environment, I’ve heard good things about menstrual sponges, too.

    • April says:

      they don’t hurt to take out late in your cycle like tampons. (Do you have that problem? For me, if the tampon isn’t “full,” it feels like scratching a chalkboard to take it out. Too dry. Youch.)

      YES! That’s the worst feeling ever. I feel like I’m leaving behind a bunch of the tampon fibers, too, as a result. It hurts.

      I’ve also been thinking about sponges, although I’m skeptical of how messy they’d be. I’ll have to look deeper into it.

      Menstruation isn’t a secret ’round here anymore, but doing it during that time of the month without getting blood all over the place sounds great. You obviously can’t do it with a tampon in… which I actually think is exactly how I got the one I talked about it in the post stuck (not realizing it was still in there) :/

  2. kathleen says:

    I love the idea of the Diva Cup so, so much. I hate paying for tampons, I hate removing one to see it was only partly full (yes, I’m that thrifty), I don’t use the applicator so I buy o.b. and those are wrapped in plastic (and I hate things that are individually wrapped, although I guess with tampons it’s a good idea), and I hate the Dry Vagina that comes with tampon use…
    SO I was really excited when the hippie grocery store started carrying Diva Cups, and I was singing its praise before I ever used one, and the $15 or whatever price was cool cause I figured it would last for years…
    And my Diva Cup has joined tampon applicators and bloody pads in the landfill now, after 2 yrs of using it. Here’s why:
    Endless yeast infections. Even though I washed it well in hot water and soap. Every month or two I was getting a yeast infection. And it didn’t matter how much yoghurt I ate or how much PB8 I took.
    I’ve been using tampons again for 6 months and I miss the grooviness of the Diva Cup, but I haven’t had a yeast infection since I tossed it.

  3. Flutterby says:

    I tried Instead a few times, but it’s apparently not the best option for those of us with unusually small (or perhaps not as well-muscled?) vaginas. I could feel the thing constantly straining against my innards, to the point where I was sore after a few hours of wear.

    Let us know how the DivaCup works out!

  4. Aydan says:

    I use a DivaCup, and I really like it! There’s a learning curve at first, but in my opinion it’s worth it. Do you know about http://community.livejournal.com/menstrual_cups/?

  5. Pingback: Happy blogoversary, ethecofem! | ethecofem

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