Illustration by Natasha Thompson
The Mooncup is a menstrual cup. Yep, a rubber cup that collects period blood. To the uninitiated I accept that this sounds a little gag-worthy – but before you slam your laptop shut in disgust, allow me to explain why I, and thousands of other women like me, have fallen in love with the Mooncup.
Firstly, a few facts about sanitary waste. Did you know that 200,000 tons of sanitary towels, panty liners and tampons are thrown and flushed away, ultimately ending up in landfill every year? Normal tampons and pads are pumped full of pesticides, bleach and toxins which have been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome and all sorts of health related nasties too. The Mooncup eliminates all sanitary waste, and it’s made from medical grade silicone rubber. It is latex-free, hypoallergenic and contains no dyes, bleaches or toxins…but…
I’ll get back to waxing lyrical about the benefits a little later but, for now, I’m going to get right to the ‘but’. The biggest challenge of the Mooncup is getting to grips with your own blood, your own bodily fluids. Bodily fluids. It even sounds gross. In fact, lots of women (and most men) are pretty grossed out by periods. Stiff upper lip. The less said the better. But this slightly squeamish automatic gag reaction does nothing to help women develop a healthy view of their period and does a very good job of lining the pockets of the sanitary protection manufacturers. Periods are a totally normal, actually quite amazing, occurrence that half of the population deal with at some point. I’m not saying it makes them easy. Or pleasant. Try telling me about the beauty of periods when I’m curled in the fetal position in the throes of bad cramps wishing to rip my own womb out. No, they are not easy. But I have to remind myself sometimes that periods are in fact a brilliant thing, part of a miracle of human biology, and I think lots of women would do well to occasionally remember that.
Illustration by June Champoomidole
It may sound odd but the Mooncup has helped me feel better about my period. You see what it actually looks like. How much there is. And it’s not so bad. It makes periods more comfortable and cleaner too. I don’t feel as grossed out by it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I actually feel more empowered. And the language I use when I talk about it has improved as a result. When I talk about language I don’t mean the euphemisms for period (Aunt Flo, jam rags, etc,), I mean women who are on their periods referring to themselves as ‘crazy’ and ‘mental’. Most women who refer to themselves as ‘mental’ are perfectly sane, thankyouverymuch. Hormones increase, yes, making feelings more intense, but the large majority of women are not ‘mental’. Women have been peddling back from being labelled as crazy for the last 100 years, and likening period- related hormonal changes to a serious psychological illness reinforces the ‘crazy’ stereotype and, along with the squeamish period-related gag reaction, is yet another way that women put themselves down. I know that when women say these things most don’t actually mean that they are having a mental breakdown, or want to section themselves. I’m just not sure about the latent, or not so latent, message that this language portrays, and I wish that there was some more positive, self affirming views in the mix too.
Illustration by Faye West
So, in summary:
• The Mooncup helps lots of women feel better about their periods.
• Its cleaner. More hygienic…there are no pee-soaked strings hanging down to deal with. Its neater too – all tucked away inside until you’re ready to empty it.
• Less chance of DEATH. Not that I’m scaremongering or anything…but there is much lower risk of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome.
• It’s greener. It saves 200,000 tons of sanitary waste from going to landfill every year.
• It’s more comfortable. More attuned to your actual vagina: inserting a wad of dry cotton in a soft, moist vagina is pretty counter-intuitive. Rubber is a much more normal material associated with your nether regions. Rubber + vagina= happy vagina, less likelihood of dryness and thrush etc.
• It’s cheaper. Its costs £21 and lasts for years. The average woman spends £90 a year on sanitary protection.
• It forces you to get to grips and understand your own bodily fluids – in a good way. Don’t gag. Be a grown up.
• The Mooncup people were responsible for the recent brilliant ‘Love your vagina’ ads that caused a bit of stir recently (pro vagina but not in a porno way, hurrah!).
For those still uninitiated, here are some FAQs that I’ve received from friends in the past.
How often do you empty it?
Depends on your flow. Some women are fine emptying it twice a day, some four times a day. It doesn’t need changing as often as a tampon.
What do you do with the blood?
You empty it down the loo, wash the Mooncup under the tap with soap and water then put it back in.
What if I’m in a public loo?
Washing your Mooncup in a public sink might not go down too well, but if you really need too you can wipe it with toilet roll or use a bottle of water to rinse it instead.
Um, isn’t it gross?
It sounds gross but, trust me, you get used to it very quickly and the benefits FAR outweigh any perceived grossness.
How do you put it in, it looks enormous?
You fold it up to about a third of the size to insert it. Yes your fingers go inside a bit. It’s not that bad. To pull it out there is a little tail attached to make it easier (which you can trim to a length that works for you). You can use your pelvic floors to push it down a bit first if that makes it easier. Just a word of warning: when pulling it out, be sure to bend it in at the side to break the suction and then it slides out easily. The first time I tried to use it I didn’t bend it in at the side. Panic ensued and I swear I nearly sucked my insides out. Never. Again.
How do you clean it?
You wash it with soap most times you take it out, and then every couple of periods you boil it in a pan of boiling water or, yes, you can even stick it in the dishwasher (boils any germs away, very hygienic). Another word of warning though, don’t forget about your Mooncup boiling in the pan, or it will explode all over your kitchen, as tweeted by Amelia!
What does it look like?
It looks like this, which is pretty frightening, but once you’ve folded it, it’s about a third of that, not much bigger than a tampon and much smaller than the average penis. Once in it opens up inside it forms a vacuum meaning that leakage is vastly reduced.
So in summary, I’d say that yes, the Mooncup is worth any initial gagging. It really is good.
I may live to regret this, but if you’ve any passionate thoughts (love, hatred, bemusement) do share below…
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