Friday, 16 January 2015

Save your vagina!

While it's not Tuesday, I want to review something. As a female, I statistically spend 25% of my time walking around with my knees clenched together because it's That Time of the Month. At my age I also need to think about contraception, and I chose the Implanon implant, because I'm forgetful. It's a small implant embedded under the skin of your inner arm. After the first week my arm had recovered from the implant, and now you can feel the rod under the skin but otherwise it doesn't effect my arm movement, or hurt if you press on it. However, reading the side of the box is pretty off-putting because the possible side effects of Implanon are listed as:
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Headache
  • Depressed mood
  • Headache
  • Vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina)
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Breast pain
  • Viral infections such as sore throats or flu-like symptoms
  • Stomach pain
  • Painful periods
  • Mood swings, nervousness, or depressed mood
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • Pain at the site of insertion

Let's be honest, I have had most of these although I haven't gained any weight or suffered any (more) Acne. I'm on to my third Implanon implant (each on lasts three years) and because I'm so forgetful I would never switch to the pill, or a monthly injection (which has been shown to weaken your bones).

Supposedly women bleed for 7 days, every 28 days on a 'regular' menstrual cycle. Firstly that's bollocks. Candid conversations with women I have know throughout my life put the 'regular' menstrual cycle as less than half of people. And then you add in stress, diet, sex, and people's cycles start to get less predictable. Secondly, before I started on this implant I didn't fit the norm. The number one side effect of Implanon is completely screwing up your cycle.

For example, two or three times a year I will panic that my implant has failed because I have gone so long between periods. On the other hand, my period doesn't last for a week, the shortest is about 10 days. My last period was a full month. It sucks, but this is the price I willingly pay for contraception.

(Off topic - why are women responsible for contraception? There are pills and procedures men can take that are 100% effective, completely reversible and significantly cheaper than women's contraceptives. Maybe we should fund them?)

This is a long way around to my point, but if at least 25% of my life is 'that time of the month' then it's a huge damper on my life. I know women who use pads, and women who use tampons. I was a tampon user, and it sucked. For all the men who have stuck with us, and the women who don't use tampons, it is bleached cotton that comes wrapped in plastic. The entire assembly is thrown away when you are done with it. On a light day you might use three or four a day, worse case you're changing that thing every couple of hours. It is massively wasteful. Not only that but a tampon doesn't just soak up menstrual fluids, it also soaks up all your natural fluids and throws off your chemical balance. By the end of a period it becomes pretty damn uncomfortable to get that piece of cotton in the right place.

A quick search of Coles online shopping tells me that the cheapest you can get tampons is 11cents each. Assuming that 'normal' cycle of 7 days, and roughly 5 tampons a day, that's roughly $4 per cycle. That's at the low end of usage, with the cheapest tampons you can buy. If you've ever used the cheapies, you know they don't work - midnight underwear changes are not cool. So my cost was always $10+ per month

A Mooncup is made of medical grade silicon. A friend of mine has been using hers for seven years, and they currently sell for £20 plus shipping (or 37.80AUD). This means that her period has been costing her 45cents Australian per month. Pretty amazing step up from $10. It's not just the money though, here's some more reasons that a Mooncup can Save Your Vagina.

The Mooncup doesn't rely on soaking up your menstrual fluid, but catching it. The cup creates a seal inside you that doesn't leak. Not just 'it will maybe keep you safe for a couple of hours' like a tampon but you can comfortably wear white underwear overnight, or go for a run, play roller derby, go swimming. If the cup is properly inserted it doesn't leak. Oh and because it's medical grade it doesn't need washing. You should rinse it every time you take it out and empty it, but that's all that is needed. If you want to sterilise it, or give it a quick scrub that is going above and beyond.

One Mooncup can last you upwards of seven years. Tampons go to landfill. Pads go to landfill. Soiled underwear goes to landfill. Sure, your Mooncup will eventually end up in landfill too, but in seven years you'll probably use over four thousand disposable products, or one Mooncup.

This is a picture of the East Pacific Garbage Patch, a
stretch of ocean filled with improperly disposed of waste.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is the big scary from tampons. It is caused by a variety of factors, some of the bacteria are on your hands, other chemicals are found in tampons themselves. TSS is far too complicated for me to explain, but using a Mooncup does not put you at more risk than tampons. A Mooncup can be safely worn for eight hours, while tampons advise much more regular changes to prevent TSS.

When I was first considering buying one, I hit the same complaint again and again when I was researching - Eww it's gross! Stop that. Stop it right now. Yes, as a fertile female you bleed from the vagina once a month - it's normal! And if you are a straight man your partner is going to bleed once a month, stop hiding from it. I'm not saying you have to be comfortable having sex while she's bleeding, but if your girl can't complain about her cramps without you getting squeamish you need to go back to primary school where you belong. And ladies, stop being afraid of your own bodies! Sheesh.

Using a cup is incredibly liberating. I need to repeat my earlier point, A properly inserted Mooncup does not leak. It's also so comfortable that you forget you are 'wearing' it. The Mooncup has marking so you can keep track of how much fluid you are losing. When I first got my cup I was obsessed with checking it at regular intervals so I could see at what rate I was bleeding, and how much it was slowing down.

You also become very familiar with yourself. This is a good thing! A Mooncup looks really big when you first pull it out of the bag, the cup has a 4.3cm diameter at it's widest point. But to insert it, you simply fold it in half. The company recommends using a water based lubricant if you have any trouble, but remember that most women will (one day) give birth. You're designed for much worse.

Here is my number one favourite thing about Mooncups. Thanks to my implanon implant, I have a very unreliable period. I might go a two or three months without one, I might got three weeks. My only real signs are a bit of discomfort in the lower belly that can be confused with having eaten something funny, and being a little crankier than usual. Inserting a tampon when you don't need one is really uncomfortable, and as I said before, messes with your natural chemical balance. On the other hand, if you think it might be your time soon, you can preempt it with a Mooncup. You can also use it 'just in case'. Going swimming? Five hour hike with no plumbed toilets? Some kind of sports event, playing or watching? Night on the town? You can use a Mooncup, and you won't even notice. Safety is sexy!

Mooncup's are £20 plus shipping from this link - At todays conversion rates that is $37.80AUD. I'll be honest, it's an affiliate link, so I get a 20% commission, BUT it only pays out above £20, so I'd have to convince five of you to buy one each before I got a kickback.

You can also buy local through Juju cup - they are an Australian company, selling cups for $55 each. I can't vouch for the quality, or comfort because I have never used one, but they are the local option. They also aren't paying me for the referred sales (yet!)

Update: Juju shipped me a free blogger sample pack today. Once it hits my mailbox I'll be able to review them, if you want to shop local, hold out for then. I'll have a discount code for everyone :)

Update the second:  The code is "reviewsramblings15" for 15% off. I'll be highlighting the difference between Juju and Mooncup on Friday 30th January.

And if you think dealing with your period sucks, try living in East Africa. Without access to proper supplies, and the cost of a packet of pads equal to 60% of the daily wage, women in East Africa resort to using things like twigs, leaves, mud and mattress stuffing. These substitutes are ineffective, and lead to infections and long-term damage. Young girls in East Africa miss up to 20% of their school year because they cannot afford sanitary products. If this blog was preaching to the converted, or you want to change someones life, you can donate reusable pads ($10 Canadian) or a menstrual cup ($12 Canadian) via Femme International.

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