Let’s not go round the houses: a good portion of the population menstruates. Don’t be ashamed, don’t speak of it in awkward hushed tones: we bleed- and so what?
Menstruating while travelling poses its own little problems however:
1. There isn’t always a place to dispose of sanitary products and sometimes you have no choice but to carry used ones around with you until you find a bin. Don’t even think about flushing them either- the toilets in a lot of countries can’t even handle toilet paper!
2. It’s sometimes difficult to find sanitary products. Tampons aren’t easy to get hold of in some places.
3. Carrying around a couple of months’ supply adds a lot of bulk to your rucksack.
I propose an alternative: The Menstrual Cup.
Here are two popular brands: Mooncup and Divacup.
Mooncup is British, costs something like £20 and comes in two sizes: A (for women who are over 30 years of age or have given birth vaginally) and B (for women under 30 and who haven’t given birth vaginally).
Divacup is American and cost $25 on Amazon last time I checked. There are Pre-Birth and Post-Birth varieties.
There are also several other brands and disposal versions of the mentrual cup. I use a Mooncup size B, which comes with its own little cotton storage bag. Google “menstrual cup” and you’ll find a wealth of information and advice.
Basically, it’s a little cup made of medical-grade silicon which sits quietly in your vagina and collects blood for you.
They’re all used in the same way: you fold it up, place it in the vagina and then empty it when it needs emptying. No fibres get left in there if you accidentally take it out too early, and if you place it in there correctly, you won’t feel it at all. Don’t be afraid. It will fit, it won’t be uncomfortable, and you will want to spread the word.
|Menstrual Cup Pros||Menstrual Cup Cons|
|You don’t need a bin: you empty the blood into the toilet, rinse the cup (making sure to clear the little holes around the rim which help you to break the suction seal during removal) and then reinsert.||Yes, you do have to stick your fingers into your vagina to remove it.|
|You can empty it anywhere. Menstrual cups are magical when hiking. Bring a bottle of water with you if you’re outside or in a cubicle without a sink to rinse it.||Yes, you do have to confront your blood a bit more than you do with tampons and pads- but come on ladies, being afraid of your own body is an insult to your magnificence. Don’t demean your body by being uncomfortable with one of its processes.|
|No Toxic Shock Syndrome: the cup can be left in and changed as infrequently as twice a day, depending on your flow.|
|Holds 3x as much liquid as a tampon.|
|The cup weighs a few grams and takes up a tiny amount of space.|
|It’s good for the environment and reduces landfill waste.|
|Cheaper in the long run- a £20/$25 initial investment will give you many years of use.||One menstrual cup does cost a lot more than a pack of tampons- but you can reuse that one cup every month for years!|
|You can go swimming with it! No weird reddish-liquid leakage, and no string!|
|No smell, no stickiness, you can’t feel it inside you.When it’s full, you will be able to feel it and will know to change it soonish. You will only realise a tampon is full when it starts leaking!||It takes a little practice to insert and place it right- but the exact same argument can be made against tampons.Also some women’s pelvic muscles may be too strong, which can cause the cup to travel too far up the vagina and cause discomfort. I haven’t personally come across anyone with this problem though.|
I have gone cycling, running, swimming, climbed trees, hiked, danced and moved furniture around with my mooncup. I will never go back to the bush-league world of tampons and pads.
I finish with this feminist diatribe against period shame!