Posted in June 2016, menstrual cup, Uncategorized

Menstrual Cup and my experience

It was the summer of 2016 when I was enlightened with an innovation that had already acquainted itself with many of my friends. This innovation was a rescue from stinky, rash-causing, cloth-staining sanitary pads. I can allege this product has been stolen right from my dreams.

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In my college some people from the NGO Vatavaran had come. They were promoting the idea of menstrual cups. Their interests were not economical but environmental. Sanitary pads generate a lot of waste which is not even recyclable. Menstrual cups on the other hand generate zero waste. These cups are made of silicon and can be used for up to 10 years. This has to be inserted inside the body, and this is also the part with which many people do not agree. But there is no hygiene-related adversities that the menstrual cup sports. It is extremely easy to use, once you get a hang of it. The first tries may be a bit difficult. It is definitely easier if you know your body well.

I talked to the volunteers of Vaatavaran about the pros and cons, and they were extremely honest and uncompromising on the truth. A WhatsApp group was created and I was added on it. There were other girls besides me and we had some discussions, blogs elaborating on the cup were posted here. Then, Katja (one of the volunteers) contacted me personally. I had just recently talked to my mother about the idea, and she completely disapproved. She was of the opinion that nothing should be inserted inside the body. Indians are also extremely sensitive about the issue of virginity, and that might have been one of the reasons of resentment. So,I told Katja my mother’s opinion. She was extremely sympathetic and told me that my case was not unique. People from all different economic backgrounds had certain superstitions attached to the use of a cup. But none of that is true. Various developed countries like U.S., U.K. have been endorsing this inovation for quite a long time now.

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Image from: 1millionwomen.com

Before my actual menstrual cycle came I had wanted to give the menstrual cup a dry run, just to see if I felt comfortable or not. But that wasn’t helpful. It is important that while insertion, the body should be relaxed. Mine was not at all relaxed, in fact I was a bit panicky because I had no prior experience. I tried to insert the cup, but it was all in vain. I turned on YouTube videos for help. Using a water-based lubricant for dry runs had been recommended, but I didn’t go for that. Instead, I just put my cup in my drawer (after sterilisation) and forgot all about it. Then on my period, I offered the cup another chance. This time it went smoothly in, because my blood acted as a natural lubricant. I was so extremely happy. I immediately called up Katja and told her all about it. She asked me to remain calm, and note my flow and experience. So I did. But then I faced another problem. I wanted to be prepared for any leaks, and was using both the cup and pad together. It was leaking. So I called up Katja again. This time she advised me to experiment with a different fold. I had been using the punch-down fold, but then acting on her advice I switched to the seven fold. Thankfully it helped, and the leaks stopped. It is important to make sure that the cup is completely open after insertion, to prevent leaks.

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Also, when I was unsuccessful in inserting the cup the first time, I was afraid that I had got the wrong size. That can be terrifying. So, to prevent such a mistake you should first measure your cervix, and get the right size. Some websites which can help in solving this issue are:

http://www.hygieneandyou.com/feminine-hygiene

https://youtu.be/zpVd3ZWNWc40

Though I faced some problems in the beginning, it has all worked out to be good in the end. The menstrual cup has not only given me relief from pads but also a dear friend. A big thank you to all the people who supported me and helped me in this journey.

 

Mahima Bobin, Vatavaran intern

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Posted in May 2016, menstrual cup, Uncategorized

The word of mouth – Spread the word about menstrual cup!

I clearly remember the first time I used the menstrual cup. It was a year ago when I came to India and I was just simply unhappy with my trash bin. I have segregated recyclables, but there was always sanitary waste, for which I knew that it would end in the land field. On top of that, I just hated the feeling of sanitary pads during my sport activities. A friend told me few months ago about the menstrual cup and how it is the best thing for the women during the menstruation. Still, I needed some time to actually decide and buy it.

menstrual-cup-pinterest                                          Image from: http://empoweredsustenance.com/

So I was searching online and I didn’t know which one to buy in terms of brand as well the size. But I found very good instructions online and I finally decided that it cannot be so difficult and I should at least give it a try. I read some articles on experiences of users and watched some videos and I was ready to go. I order my first menstrual cup.

I was just looking at the cup and I was still a little uncertain. Initially, I had few questions in my mind like: How do you actually insert it? All right, there are instructions, but in practice, is it possible? I tried on my second day of my month cycle at home. First time I spent 10 minutes in the bathroom following the instruction and I made it! I laughed as well!  I was kind of proud and I felt the cup for 20 minutes, but after that I totally forgot that I am actually wearing it. Since it was my first time that made me scared. Oh, what if I will not be able to remove it? Sometimes fear scares us so much and we forget about anatomy of our bodies – of course it cannot get lost in the stomach. Women cervix is to short that we actually could lose the cup. Honestly, it was easier to remove the cup than inserting it. I remember how I was afraid to use it during the night but after two monthly periods everything became just a habit. Many people compare the use of this cup with using the contact lenses. For both we need a little bit of practice, but after that is just the most normal thing to do. And more importantly, it has so many benefits that it is really worth to try. There is no unpleasant smell; I can wear the cup up to 6-8 hours and do not feel anything and it is the best thing to use during my work time, sport activities as well during the night.

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Diferent ways to fold the cup before inserting. Image from: lenacup.com

As more months past, I became happier with the use of the cup and more I wanted to spread the word. We started with workshops in colleges and different women institutions in Delhi NCR. And it is not an easy work, because it is so personal that mostly people are not comfortable talking about it and of course we are sceptical. Menstrual cup is quite different compared to the usual sanitary napkins.

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Different cups in India. Image from: hygieneandyou.com

Definitely the word of mouth is the most important mechanism. We can organize as many workshops as we want, but without action there will be no change. It is on us, users of menstrual cups to spread the word, share our experiences and present the reasons why the switch to the reusable menstrual products is so important. Overtime I have seen that girls make this switch after hearing or seeing their friends/family use it. If you are one of the girls who are thinking about using the menstrual cup, you are probably don’t have a person to guide you through this process of change. Now days there are many different cups available in the market, with different designs, sizes, materials, qualities, prices and it makes our decision to choose complicated and confusing. However, it is  very simple – our bodies are so unique and different cups suit different women. The key is to know your body and to do some research. The brand is more of a personal choice, but it is definitely important to choose the right size. There are many comparisons out there, but I found this table the most efficient. It was made by Priyanka Jain, a happy user of menstrual cup for the last 10 year and a founder of online store Hygiene and you. Simply go through the chart, calculate your points and you will see which cups are the most suitable for you. . Here is the link to the table:

http://www.hygieneandyou.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=13

I would invite you to also join our  facebook group “Menstrual cups, cloth pads India” where  women are sharing their experiences as well as they are not afraid to ask and answer any questions.

Personally I believe menstrual cups are  the future of women menstrual hygiene. Sanitary napkins have become such a huge health and environmental problem that even government wants to eliminate it. It will be a long path and it will take time, but it starts with you.

I told you, you tell all your friends and relatives, they will tell theirs and slowly we can reach the goal. The word of mouth can have such a beautiful domino effect. Join us in women menstrual revolution!

 

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Do you want to host a workshop on sanitary waste and solutions for it? Do you want to know more about eco-friendly menstrual solutions for women?  Write to us: info@vatavaran.org

 

Katja Polc, member of Vatavaran team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in January 2016, menstrual cup, Uncategorized

Green your period!

We all have every day habits. Some of them have more or less environmental impact than others. But monthly, these impacts can be very high – in this context, especially for the women. Sadly, public discussion about menstruation seems to be still a taboo and that works pretty well for the companies which are getting a profit out of it. It is not a daily topic and most of the women will keep their traditional and used practice to be hidden from the society. But today, we will talk about female hygienic products: pads, tampons and the whole deal about them. Fact is- it is a big issue. It is economically expensive, can have serious health effects and produces a lot of waste.

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Image from http://www.valcomelton.com/

Looking back to the history, disposable pads became known in 1890s. Especially doctors started to encourage women to use a protection during their menstruation. Before that, many women were already using different cloths pads. Earlier, they simply used the materials which were available – Egyptian women for example, used the papyrus.  After the discovery of disposable pads, many women did not use them, because it was too expensive.  But with the years and improvements disposable pads became the most commonly used female hygienic product.

The first disposable pads were made of cotton wool. This material was not as absorbent and effective as compared to materials used nowadays and that is why disposable pads changed a lot over the decades. Companies started to utilise materials with sphagnum and polyacrylate superabsorbent gels derived from petroleum. The materials used to manufacture most pads today, are derived from the petroleum industry and forestry. Typically, pads are made with a combination of plastic, cotton, synthetic fibres and wood pulp. So many chemicals for a better effect.

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Image from http://www.simplelifemom.com

 

Many women heard the alarm. These materials, used in disposable pads not only stay in the environment, but also remain in our bodies for decades. With the mix of these chemicals we got the recipe for side effects like allergic reactions, hormone disruption, reproductive disorders and others.

In 1980′s the cloth pads returned back. For many years, using cloth pads was considered old fashioned and unhygienic. But some women saw the real economical cost, effects and environmental issues of the disposable pads. Quite the same happened with the tampons, which became even better sort of protection for women, but didn’t not change the environmental impact and health issues. The processing to manufacture these tampons is resource intensive as the farming of cotton requires large amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizers. We have to understand that each of these tampons and pads has an environmental impact of the waste not only the product itself, but the packaging, , as well as the less visible cost of transportation and production.

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Image from http://www.newindianexpress.com

In India, there are around 355 million menstruating women but only 12 per cent use sanitary napkins. More than 70% of women said that they are unable to afford them. But that is still a huge issue. In an article published in 2013, Down to Earth calculated that 36 million Indian women use sanitary napkins every month.  Assuming average usage of 12 napkins per month, this adds up to 432 million solid pads, weighing 9000 mega tones, enough to cover a landfill of 24 hectares.

Any disposable products in the market have only one goal. Companies want to sell and earn. Definitely disposable sanitary pads and tampons have a huge market all around the world. I haven’t seen television advertisements on reusable cloth pads. I agree that disposable pads and tampons are extremely easy to use and available everywhere. But nobody talks or advertises about some other options!  There is at least one – Menstrual Cup!

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Image from parent.guide

The menstrual cup was invented in 1937 but never truly came into the market. This is an option without waste and without any health effects. A lot of women think it is pretty much the best option available today. You insert it like a tampon, empty out as needed and clean with hot water. It is reusable, contains no dioxin, no rayon and is easy to maintain. It is made of natural latex or silicon. It is not only the most eco – friendly but also the most affordable and healthy of all options in the market.

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Image from http://www.1millionwomen.com

But what is a menstrual cup? Why most of us have never heard about it?  It is a reusable protection during the menstruation and works similar as tampons. There are quite many companies out there, who are providing menstrual cups. In India we already have 3 companies, which you can find under the names – Silky cup based in Delhi, She cup in Mumbai and V cup in Kerala.  Their price for the cup will be between 600 -1000 rupees, but you can use this cup for more than 10 years. It is a very good investment since you can cover its cost in couple of months, compared to the usual disposable pads. Outside of India, there are many other brands of menstrual cups, but their cost might be a bit higher.

Here are the links to the websites of the Indian companies mentioned company’s above where you can learn more about the product itself.  http://www.silkycup.com/       http://www.shecup.com/                   http://www.vcup.co.in/

 

For those who prefer external –use products, there are greener options too. Reusable cloth pads are one of these options. Unfortunately they require some energy, water and soup but they do save on overall resource use, avoid plastic production and create minimal waste.

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Image from http://www.ecofluffymama.com

I know that changing habits like these is particularly difficult. Marketing studies show that often women will buy the same brand of pads as their mothers.  But to those of us who know that there are more important elements to our consumer choices than brand loyalty, it is worth it to give the alternatives a try!

 

In the future we want to share more guidance and reference from the people who have already used the menstrual cups. It is definitely an alternative which women aren’t aware of. We are inviting you to share your opinion, ideas and experiences with us! Already using menstrual cup? Help us to spread the word! (info@vatavaran.org)

 

Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team