I am not in the habit of blogging about menstruation and the like, but I am really rather enthused about this and if it can make a difference to other women and the environment, it is worth grossing out anyone who didn't heed my warning.
All environmentally-conscious women of child-bearing age should be made aware of the Mooncup. It can also be bought as the Keeper (here's a US site). However, it was the Mooncup I have tried so the Mooncup I am talking about.
The Mooncup is a sort of sanitary device for dealing with your period. It is soft silicone cup that you fold up and insert. It opens out and fully blocks off the canal – a bit like a diaphragm (I imagine, never used one), but not nearly so far up. Blood then collects in the cup. Every now and again you remove it, rinse it out and pop it back in. In between periods you sterilise the thing by boiling it for five minutes.
- The major advantage of the mooncup is that it is extremely effective. I tried it because of the environmental issue, but I have heavy periods which have always been difficult to deal with and this really works. It doesn't leak at all even overnight.
- It is of course, completely environmentally friendly. No waste whatsoever.
- Greatly reduced expense. £17.99 is a lot to pay for a bit of silicone, but that’s about six months of Tampax and it is supposed to last for several years. You don’t need to worry about keep tampons or towels in stock or carrying them around with you.
- It is healthy. The cup is non-absorbent so it doesn’t do you any harm when your period is light. It hasn't been bleached. It is also a much more hostile environment for things like thrush than a blood-soaked tampon or towel.
- It is comfortable and discrete. You could prance around naked if you so chose and nobody would know that you had the painters in. And whilst you’re not usually conscious of tampons or towels, there’s nothing involved with the mooncup with even the potential to irritate.
- The whole thing seems more hygienic to me. The only blood that gets on the outside is a dot or two that escapes in the process of removing the cup (which you do sat on the loo anyway). All the blood goes straight down the drain, but not accompanied by anything that’s going to block it up.
- The major disadvantage of the mooncup is the necessity for hands-on application. Apparently menstrual cups became available at the same time tampons did, only tampons were produced with cardboard applicators (yet more waste). When I told a close friend about the Mooncup, she thought the idea disgusting because of the amount of contact one would have to have with one’s own genital area. All sorts of things can be said about this, but the Mooncup is probably not the place to start to try and change such a point of view. If you were so revolted, you’d never get it inside you.
- In fairness, it is a little trickier than using tampons, especially to begin with. There’s a bit of a knack and it can take a few moments to remove and re-insert.
- It does require some co-ordination, the ability to reach down there, etc.. Long fingernails are not recommended.
- If you had to use it in a crowded public bathroom, you’d probably need to carry a bottle of water and rinse the thing out down the loo. So perhaps not altogether practical in all circumstances.
- Some people may find it more gruesome to see their partially coagulated blood as liquid in a cup than to see it absorbed into bleached white wadding. Personally, I found the opposite.
Strikes me that the only reason we're not all using these things is that this method of sanitary protection does not make great commercial sense; why encourage women to buy something as a one-off purchase when you can persuade them to buy stuff every month?
And if you think I'm a bit odd for enthusing so much about such a product, check out the Testimonials Page on the Mooncup website which includes the suggestion, "the actual moncup itself looks kind of scary and medical and we think they should come in different colours and maybe with sparkles." Hmm...