I'm a little embarrassed about this post. It's not because I'm going to be talking about my period, the female anatomy, possibly my anatomy, and blood (I am going to be talking about those things so if any of this makes you uncomfortable you are now forewarned) but because this review of The DivaCup should have been written months ago. MONTHS AGO.
In March 2015 I attended the Women In Travel Summit in Boston. Two days of meeting some inspiring travellers, entrepreneurs and bloggers, incredible educational sessions, and some kick-ass swag including this Samsonite bag and We Travel Far organizer. A few days after the conference I received an email from the folks at The DivaCup with the headline 'The DivaCup = The Perfect Travel Companion!' offering the chance to test their product out and oh boy was I excited! I hadn't thought about a menstrual cup for travel but I had been considering making the shift from tampons for the following reasons, so I jumped at the chance to try it.
- Environmental Impact. Tampons and pads produce a lot of waste that ends up in the landfill, from the packaging (Do pads really need to be individually wrapped in plastic then put into a box or plastic?) to the product itself. I can't vouch for the accuracy of this calculator but it give it a whirl to get an idea of the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products.
- Chemicals. The components of tampons and pads are not always disclosed by the manufacturer, citing trade secrets. We know that cotton is often used and that cotton is a crop highly sprayed with pesticides and also bleached. I do not want the residue of pesticides and bleach going into my vagina.
- More chemicals. Often times feminine hygiene products have deodorants and fragrances added. According to the Environmental Working Group, fragrance is "an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients uses as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system." Yeah, I don't want any of that up in my vagina either.
- In a report by the Women’s Voices for the Earth, feminine hygiene products may use suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), carcinogens, or allergens.
There are many options for natural feminine hygiene products that you can read about here - the only one I've tried is The DivaCup.
- The DivaCup covers all of my concerns. Reduced waste - in the box you get: instructions, the DivaCup and a small cloth storage/carrying pouch. No fragrances or chemicals to worry about and it is made of a grade of silicone approved for healthcare without latex, plastic, PVC, acrylic, BPA, phthalates, colours, fragrances or dyes.
- It is amazing for travel, especially those long days of wandering without a proper toilet in sight. I've had to deal with many squat toilets, no available running water and filthy floors forcing me to wear my backpack or daypack while urinating. Thankfully I've never had to attempt to remove or insert a tampon at the same time, and now I never will. The DivaCup can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time.
- It doesn't take up much space which means I can easily toss it into a my luggage for travel or a small purse.
- Budget-friendly. One DivaCup can last a year or more if you take care of it properly.
- Inserting the DivaCup can be tricky because you have to fold it, get the angle just right and do a little twist thing to get a proper seal to avoid leakage. The first few times I tried it I was certain I had the wrong size because it was uncomfortable to insert. It was fine when it was in but left me feeling a bit sore.
- The turn thing. Oh man, the first few times I could not get the darn thing to turn. I could barely get a proper grip on it much less try to turn it. Listen, not only do you have this DivaCup taking up space now you have to get your finger and thumb in there to grip the end of the cup and try to turn it when it's likely already a bit bloody and slippery. It gets much easier once you learn the technique but in the meantime you may end up pinching yourself in a place you don't want to be pinched and/or ready to throw it across the room.
- Emptying the cup can cause squeamishness. This one I'm a little embarrassed to admit but yes, I was squeamish having to remove and empty the cup. It's easy but it can get messy. Your fingers are going to get bloody. That's just the way it is. I prefer to remove it in the shower as it minimizes the need for cleanup.
There is a learning curve to using The DivaCup, no doubt about it. You may need to insert and remove a couple times before it sits correctly, and it can take a few cycles to get the hang of it (or in my case, several cycles and sometimes I still don't get it right the first time). You'll get very familiar with your vagina if you aren't already. In my opinion it's worth it. The lack of waste, no scary chemicals or fragrances and the convenience of wearing it for up to 12 hours. Do I recommend a menstrual cup? Yes!