Last time in the menstruation series, I talked about the difficulties girls and women encounter in the developing world. I particularly concern myself with this issue because in 38 days, I will start my journey as a Peace Corps volunteer (YAY!!). Living in a developing country with no plumbing, waste management facilities, or electricity makes dealing with menstruation a much greater challenge. So, I started trying out different period products that I could use in country. Today’s post: the menstrual cup.
All female volunteers, or all menstruating volunteers, are given Diva Cups when they enter service. In case you don’t know, these are one company of many that makes menstrual cups. These cups are reusable and made of medical grade silicone, and are inserted much like a tampon. You can wear it for up to 12 hours, and save tons of money on tampons and pads, as one cup can last years. When you are a menstruating human living in a developing country with little to no pads or tampons available, cups are your best friend.
Now obviously these little guys don’t work for all bodies, and I certainly did not want to wait until I got in-country to figure out my period situation. I ordered a cup from Lena (great customer service and products, BTW) for about $20 in the smaller size and in turquoise. Period fact: menstrual cups are not readily available outside most developed countries, which is why the Peace Corps provides them. Any menstrual insertion method is highly taboo in the developing world. While they are a great solution for people traveling in the developing world, they don’t necessarily solve the problem in country.
When I first got my cup, it looked much smaller than I imagined it would be. I’d done some research, but any and all cups looked giant to me and impossible to use. But, I knew that this was the easiest way for volunteers to period, or at least most available through medical staff. I had to go for it. I stayed in the entire first day of trying it out so that I could comfortable readjust and position until I got it right. Honestly, by the end of day one, I had it just about right!
So, my first worries were assuaged–I could get through a few hours at a time with this thing in and not leak. However, the first night I had some trouble, because I leaked everywhere upon waking up. Oh god, I thought to myself, and ran to the bathroom. I am not sure what I did wrong, but… it never leaked again after that.
My first thoughts from using a menstrual cup: I can see why people are turned off by the concept. It is messy (which, my mom mentioned, seems counterintuitive to maintaining hygiene in a developing country). But, it also takes like five minutes out of your day to maintain, once you’ve got the hang of it. Hygiene is my top concern, as in-country I will be drinking boiled water and bottled water. No water is safe for consumption alone, which means I shouldn’t use it to clean a menstrual cup that goes inside me.
It is a privilege to come from a culture with so many options in terms of women’s health, and great systems for hygiene as well. It is a serious advantage to have grown up in the United States, and I cannot wait to learn more while serving abroad.
Until next time, dear menstruating readers,