Product review by What Therapy Editor, Sandra Shih Tonkinson.
I was introduced to the DivaCup this past summer when I interviewed Madeleine Shaw of Lunapads.
Actually my sister turned me onto them when she bought hers, along with reusable cotton menstrual pads from Lunapads, and hooked me up for an interview.
I have to say that the DivaCup + Lunapads combo is the single most AMAZING purchase of 2013.
Why use reusable menstrual products?
The Environmental Angle
Let’s start with these stats. An average woman throws away about 125 to 150kg (16,800 disposable pads or tampons) in their lifetime. (source: Lunapads)
In North America alone, this amounts to 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators going to landfills annually. These are staggering figures with a tremendous environmental impact.
According to Dr Mercola, the average conventional pad has as much plastic as four plastic bags. That’s pretty crazy.
The customers of Lunapads alone divert about 12 million disposable menstrual from landfills each year. It is a small dent, but a dent nonetheless.
It’s not only landfills we have to worry about. The bleaching process of tampons and the pesticides used in cotton production also affect our environment.
The Health Angle
Most women are familiar with TSS – Toxic Shock Syndrome. What many may not realize is that there are other health concerns about using tampons and even sanitary pads. In general, ingredients do not need to be disclosed and these products are not regulated.
This is important because chemicals can be easily absorbed through the vagina. Billions of dollars worth of pesticides get dumped onto cotton crops each year. It’s also most likely GMO cotton we’re getting. Do we think about something we’ve been using every month since we are in our early teens? Probably not.
You may be surprised to learn that the effects of chemicals, including pesticides, on our health have not been researched to any meaningful extent. We don’t know what long-term use of chlorine, for example, can be on our health.
I filter that out of my drinking water. Why wouldn’t I want chlorine-free products? Especially one that I stick up my vagina? Where is this chlorine coming from? It’s used to disinfect and bleach the cotton so we get pearly white tampons. When we remove a tampon, fibres with dioxin residues get left behind which can lead to bacteria overgrowth aka TSS.
Women + Menstrual Cycles
Our period is a special time of the month that carries different meaning and varying degree of anxiety for different women. For some, it’s the onset of menstrual cramps and other PMS symptoms. For others, it could be the inconvenient clash with travel plans, romantic liaisons or sporting events. Menstruation could be no big deal for some women or a complete disruption to others.
A woman’s menstrual cycle and monthly bleeding is still taboo. Have you noticed that a blue liquid is coyly used to explain the efficacy of a pad’s absorbency in television ads? Or that we call it a period (as in let’s stop talking about it) or euphemistically as Aunt Flo?
In many parts of the world, women are forbidden to enter holy places or take part in religious activities during their menses. Sexual intercourse may be disallowed. Even in the West, it is socially frowned upon to discuss our menstruation in mixed company. Even when we ask our BFF for a pad or tampon, it’s in a hushed tone. And how many of us palm our tampon from our desk to the bathroom at work like we are on some stealth mission?
The connotation is that our menses is unclean. The message is that we must hide it. And ourselves. The stigma runs deep.
Menstruation – Revisited
I haven’t thought about my period in years. Not really. It is just one part of my life. Luckily, I do not have PMS or any associated pains. That is after I eliminated dairy and cold foods and drinks before and during my period. Mom was right, after all. And unlike the early years when I was plagued by debilitating pains, which I literally passed out from, I am now happy to get my period. With all its wonderful and wondrous implications.
Interviewing Lunapad’s Madeleine Shaw brought the question and issue of our menstruation to the forefront once again. We pondered it for ourselves, the women around the world, and the girls coming of age.
We spoke about disposable products, our disposable culture, and the implications of “disposable”. The label of “disposable” is put on more than the product itself. We begin to view more and more of life as disposable, removing value and respect. We see the world as our playground, and an invisible dumpster. Because we flush or toss our menstruation products away, we can become divorced from the intimate aspects and the deeper meaning of being woman and the self-care.
This is a very first/developed world worldview, where disposable is the dominant way of life, though with a welcomed trend now towards more sustainable lifestyles. We live in a world of convenience where the range of disposable products can send me into a dizzying headache.
We know this way we’ve been living doesn’t work. It’s so ingrained and integrated – where do we start?
Madeleine was right – we still mostly use what we used when we first got our period. Having grown up in Canada, the pink, blue, and the recently black packaging on Singapore Watson or Guardian’s shelves are confusing. The many different sizes, lengths, with or without wings, different weaves are still not instantly recognizable to me. Even the easy-on-the-eyes white packaging of organic cotton products can be formidable.
I could no longer absent-mindedly grab my old favourites. I had to pause. It gave me time to reconsider what I buy and the kind of world I’m voting for with my consumer patterns.
Speaking with Madeline also re-engaged me in an important dialogue – about how our overculture inculcates social norms in ways that we are not immediately obvious. Once we are wise to it, we cannot unseen it.
Using disposable products, for example, has added to our disengagement of being. Of being female. Of being an empowered female. And of being in tune with the natural rhythms of our world. With the moon and the stars and the spin of the earth.
Even if it’s made with organic unbleached cotton.
It is not an indictment, but an indication and a reminder of where to go, from here. And how.
My Personal Experience with the DivaCup
For me, using the DivaCup and Lunapad is freedom.
DivaCup is a silicon menstrual cup that is latex-free, plastic-free, and BPA-free.
It is an internal product that can be used with or without Lunapads, which are ultra soft, comfortable, breathable reusable cloth pads and pad inserts.
Because the DivaCup can hold one full ounce or 30ml, I can enjoy its 12-hour leak-free protection, even on my heaviest days. And nights.
And once I learned how to use it properly, I trust my DivaCup. 100%.
What does this all mean? Let me share.
- I wake up in the morning, confident that I won’t be doing laundry. Because I’ve leaked. I sleep at night, without extra pads or a towel for backup.
- I am no longer a slave to an irritating and inconvenient two-hour change schedule on heavy days. This means I can avoid the less-than welcoming public bathrooms.
- I can travel light. And out the door in a jiffy. I don’t have to think ahead how many hours I will be away from home to calculate how many pads or tampons that translates into on light, medium, and heavy days to carry with me. And where is my pouch to hide it all?
- I can declutter and not have to stock my bathroom like the shelves at Watson, Guardian or even Brown Rice Paradise. Panty-liners. Overnights. Light flow. Medium flow. Wings.
- One product. The whole day. Every day.
- No more worries about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). The DivaCup is made of silicone and none of the synthetic materials in tampons like viscose rayon which produce toxins that the body would otherwise flush out. Though I still don’t leave the cup in for too long.
- No more forgetting to re-stock. No more convincing the boyfriend/husband to make a tampon run.
- I don’t have to ask my sister or a friend to check for embarrassing leaks. Or rush off to the bathroom every time I suspect one. Which is often.
- Because I now can use the DivaCup 12 hours at a time, regardless of the flow, I can enjoy my days uninterrupted. Not only do I not have to experience the pokey cardboard of an applicator or the annoying sticky bottom of a pad that invariably sticks elsewhere, I am feeling clean and odour-free.
- The DivaCup is a receptacle and not an absorbing product which means the natural pH and lubricating ability of the vagina are not disrupted as they are with tampons.
In my second month of using this combo, I was shocked to find my DivaCup empty one morning. I literally had to count to see that the “correct” number of days had passed! It was so fuss-free that my period had come and gone without incident or extra laundry.
To me, using the DivaCup has been life-altering, and in such a simple way. Very practical ways that filter through psychologically.
I remember seeing the first menstrual cup in a magazine almost a decade ago. My thoughts? No way! The whole idea just seemed so…messy. And fiddly. But it is not. The menstrual cup is not even a new idea. The predecessor of what was to be patented in 1937 was a strange and uncomfortable looking contraption. That was 1867.
Today there are many variations to the menstrual cup – DivaCup (Canada), Lunette (Finland), LadyCup (EU), SoftCup (US), MoonCup (UK) are a few examples. Google and you will find endless reviews and tips.
The DivaCup Not Your Thing?
If you are not ready to switch to a menstrual cup, Lunapads are a MUST-TRY! They are soft, comfortable, eco-friendly, and easy to clean. There’s an organic cotton option and being reusable, Lunapads and similar options makes it a better choice to make.
Some people switch because of environmental concerns; some to save money; some for health reasons…what will be your reason?
I am not only making a difference to myself, but to the planet I call home.
Being female is very special and having a monthly bleed is one of the hallmarks of a certain time span in our life. It signals our childbearing years, which directly relates to our powers of creation, whether it be a human baby or projects, adventures, and endeavours. This is a time of great growth and discovery of who we are. Being intimate and comfortable. If we are distanced from a part of ourselves, every month, we are distancing ourselves from, well, ourselves. More and more, over the years.
How can we exist completely and fully in a world where a part of who we are is suppressed and hidden, even shamed?
Make a Difference with Lunapads
Support Lunapads and their Lunapads program with Afripads” – One4Her program.
For every eligible product you purchase for yourself, Lunapads provides a girl with a Uganda-made AFRIpad. One for you. One for her.
By supporting girls in Africa with menstrual products, we can be helping change the trajectory of their lives. By giving these girls access to menstrual products, they are not forced to stay home and miss school. That’s up to 20% of their education, which means they are more likely to drop out. They are more likely to marry earlier, earn less, and even contracting HIV or dying in childbirth.
It is widely agreed that when we support the girls and the women, we are supporting entire villages. Micro loans given to women, for example, have been shown to help them re-invest in their families and communities. Empowered women is a stabilizing force in society.
Enter now to win one of two $30USD gift certificates from Lunapads and check out their products. Help spread the word!
Details of Giveaway:
Email Hello@WhatTherapy.com with the subject line “Lunapads” and stand a chance to win. The draw will be made November 10 2013. All entries will be added to our mailing list.