Ladies and gentlemen, the day has finally come.
A few months ago (four, to be exact) I decided to finally take the plunge and purchase a DivaCup. While I have been dying to share my thoughts on it, I toyed with the idea of whether or not it would be appropriate for fear that it might make some readers feel uncomfortable. Ultimately I’ve decided that it has been an important step in my journey towards living a more sustainable lifestyle, so I have decided to share my experience with and a review of the DivaCup.
That said, before we go any further, a gentle warning/disclaimer for those of you who feel uncomfortable reading about menstrual periods, feminine hygiene, and ladyparts. If you are at all squeamish, or frankly even just uninterested in the topic, then this post is not for you.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.
First thing’s first, if you don’t know what a menstrual cup is, it is a type of feminine hygiene product, typically made from medical grade silicone and shaped like a bell. Menstrual cups are flexible and are worn inside the vagina during menstruation to collect menstrual fluid rather than absorb it, unlike conventional feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons. Depending on the amount of flow, most manufacturers advise that the cup should be removed and emptied every 4-12 hours, washed and then re-inserted. Once the period ends, the cup can be sterilized by boiling in water and stored in a dry and clean container until the next cycle.
As you may have guessed, the DivaCup is just a brand of menstrual cup, albeit a fairly popular one being one of the first companies to start manufacturing them. I first came across the DivaCup years ago when I found it on sale at a local organic foods store here in Bahrain, and my initial reaction was…not positive. I’ll admit, I thought it sounded “hippy dippy”, didn’t understand how it worked, and while incredibly curious, felt too embarrassed to pick up the packaging and read the instructions. Little did I know, I walked out of the store blissfully unaware of what I was missing out on.
Fast forward to April of this year, when falling down the rabbit hole that is watching one Youtube video after another, I stumbled upon this incredibly informative video from DivaCup. Suddenly, something just clicked. A re-usable, safe and medically sound, comfortable and long-wear feminine hygiene product that meant I would never have to buy a tampon or a pad again? Yes please.
Of course, as with any new product (particularly one that lurks “down there”) I had my reservations. What if I can’t insert it properly? What if it’s not comfortable or irritates me? What if it leaks? You get the picture. Cue a ton more research in an attempt to dispel my worries before finally placing an order via iHerb.
I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully used it for four cycles to date. And I must say, that despite initial trepidation, the DivaCup has completely revolutionised not just my period care routine, but even the way I feel about my menstrual cycle.
It’s incredibly easy to use. Because it’s made from medical grade silicone (which is the kind used for replacement heart valves and joints, FYI) it is very flexible and easy to insert. It was a little bit tricky at first to ensure that the cup unfolded following insertion to create a “seal” that prevents menstrual fluid from leaking, but I was able to get the hang of it fairly quickly. One thing that helped was running it under hot water and doing a practice insertion before I started my period. It took a couple of tries, but once inserted I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and almost non-existent it felt. While the first couple of cycles presented a slight learning curve of how to use the DivaCup, with time I have become much more comfortable and adept at using it, hardly ever having to re-insert or adjust.
It makes my period stress-free. When inserted properly and emptied out at the right intervals, the DivaCup doesn’t leak the way a tampon or a pad sometimes does. I never have to worry about running out of tampons or pads, or having to awkwardly borrow one from a colleague at the office. I can exercise comfortably with it on and it doesn’t budge. It also works wonders while I’m asleep, which, as someone with all white bedsheets and a history of sanitary pad mishaps, I appreciate greatly. How long you can get away with wearing it is something you will discover with time – I’ve found that on heavier flow days I do need to empty it out every 4-6 hours, whereas on regular days I can go the full 12 without any issues.
It’s greener. Let’s do a little math, shall we? Most women get their periods between the ages of 9-13, I myself “became a woman” at the age of 12. If my average period lasted say, 5 days, and I used 3 sanitary pads per day, then at 15 pads per cycle, and 12 cycles per year, then by the age of 25 I’ve already used around 2,340 sanitary pads. Are you picturing a landfill steeped to the brim with disposable feminine hygiene products? Because I am, and my stomach is turning.
Research shows that the average woman will use roughly 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, but the time it takes for a tampon or pad to degrade in a landfill is centuries longer than the lifespan of the woman who used it. Not to mention, the process of manufacturing these products to begin with (which entails turning wood pulp into soft, cotton-like fibres) is both resource and chemical intensive. Conventional period care products are just plain unsustainable, and if something like a menstrual cup means not having to contribute to the damage caused by them, then it’s a no brainer for me.
It’s cleaner and safer, too. Ladies, I have news for you and you may not believe me, but thats okay: period blood is actually odourless. I know, I was shocked too. While this may vary from person to person, I can guarantee you that even if your menstrual fluid does have a slight odor, it is nowhere near as bad as you probably think it is, based on how your used tampons and pads smell. The reason for this is that conventional feminine hygiene products contain a flurry of toxic ingredients and synthetic materials which restrict air flow, trap heat and dampness. Upon contact with natural bacteria expelled with your period, this can promote yeast and bacteria growth both in the product and in your vaginal area, which needless to say, doesn’t smell too great.
Worse yet, these chemicals also have severe detrimental effects. Plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS disrupt embryonic development and are linked to heart disease and cancer. Odor neutralisers, fragrances and chlorine bleach (for that ultra-white look) can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection by-products such as trihalomethane. These chemicals have been shown to contribute to abnormal tissue growth and hormonal and endocrine system disruption, among many other unfavourable side effects.
As for drawbacks, the single small con I can identify is that while the DivaCup is great at collecting and trapping menstrual blood, on some days I did have some light brown discharge. A quick Google search confirmed that this is indeed common, as the vaginal walls also release discharge during a menstrual period. My temporary solution to this was to use a natural panty liner (the Natracare brand is great), but ultimately I do want to look into buying some reusable cloth liners.
There is also the mental hurdle, which is not to be dismissed. Inserting something foreign into your body, no matter how safe or clean, can be unnerving and uncomfortable to grapple with. With time and a little patience, however, you’ll be able to manoeuvre the entire process with ease.
Apologies for the length of this review, but I do hope you found it helpful! Until next time, dear readers.