Hello! Yes, this is a post about zero waste periods. No, this isn’t your typical topic of conversation, but you’ll be surprised by the number of women who are interested in this but don’t know how to broach the topic, so we are here to hopefully make that conversation easier.
Now, I’m not reporting on this from my own perspective. I have wanted to try a menstrual cup for a while but as I have the Mirena IUD I don’t get my period, therefore I don’t have the need for one. So, I convinced my friend to share her experience with me.
What is a Menstrual cup? A menstrual cup is known as an environmentally friendly alternative to tampons and pads. It is a flexible bell-shaped cup that collects your menstrual blood rather than absorbing it. It is also been recognised as being better for your body with a far lower risk of getting toxic shock syndrome, plus they are free of bleaches and other nasties. The other bonus, they can last between 5 to 10 years depending on which one you get.
My friend Nicola and I had been talking about menstrual cups for months, I kept sharing links to different brands and reminded her that she had to share her story with me. One day I came across TheHello cup – Nic, a designer and me, a sucker for great packaging, were immediately sold. They have beautiful packaging and clever marketing, one that makes periods more comical and less serious, with awesome taglines like ‘no strings attached’ and ‘bloody brilliant’. My personal favourite is the ‘The Vagina Switcheroo’ over on their website - every lady refers to their vagina by different names. The vagina switcheroo allows you to enter the name you call your lady bits and then makes this change across the whole website.
The Hello Cup and all its pretty packaging
The Hello cup is designed and made here in New Zealand by some lovely ladies in Hawkes Bay (my hometown). It’s made from medical-grade TPE plastic from Germany, with no nasty chemicals, as well as no silicone and latex. And my fave part – it is recyclable at the end of its lifecycle.
A few months after starting to use the Hello cup, I sat down with my friend Nicola with a cup of tea and started the semi-awkward interview about periods, starting with a few giggles of course.
So, why did you start using a Menstrual cup? Other than the fact I have this thing called a period? Well, there were two main reasons really, there is the fact that it reduces waste and is better for you, but there is also the cost perspective. I did some caculations based on Nics average use of 15 tampons and 5 pads a month costing roughly NZ$20, which works out to be about $9,600 in a lifetime (average of 40 years), while also sending about 9,600 female hygiene products to landfill over this time. A menstrual cup costs about $50 and lasts 5-10 years, which is only $200 - $400 over the same period, with very little to no waste.
Probably the first question most people would ask, how does this work? Using the “Punch down” fold technique outlined in the Hello Cup instructions, you push one side down. Then you insert it making sure it creates a seal. This was hard in the beginning due to the uncertainty of what a seal means/feels like. It was a long first process and I definitely questioned if I was doing it right. The only way to get it in properly at first was by lying on the bed. Which made going to work interesting. Using the accessible toilets to reduce the pressure of other people waiting for you made it easier. If you are trying this for the first time it could be a good idea to try it at home so you get used to it.
This is quite an unusual concept to start with, so how did it feel initially? The good thing about The Hello Cup are the instructions, they make it seem less scary and less intimidating about putting this strange thing in your body. The technique is somewhat similar to using a tampon, but with a few extra steps, so it definitely feels different from using a tampon or pad. It does take a little bit to get used to, like anything new, but before you know it, it will become the new norm.
Talking periods over tea and biscuits.
What do you do when you empty it, is it messy? It was very confronting when you first pull it out, you become much more aware of your period which is probably somewhat refreshing. The whole concept of it gathering the blood and magically coming out in this cup can be a bit overwhelming. But when you get past the initial ‘oh, hello!’ it’s not so bad. Once you pull it out you can empty it straight into the toilet and it's gone. Make sure the seal is broken by pushing in one side, like when you insert it, otherwise it can hurt. But it isn’t any more upsetting than using a tampon.
What does it feel like wearing it? Wearing a menstrual cup is actually more comfortable than wearing a tampon, even though you may be more aware of it for the first few months. It is reassuring to know that it will definitely not leak (as long as the seal is in place).
How do you clean it? If you are out and about and you can’t get to a sink you can just wipe it with some toilet paper. You just rinse it when you are at home or have access to a basin. Once you have finished with it for the month, sterilise it in boiling water and put it away for next month.
Before we finish up, would you recommend this product and do you have any tips? Yes, it’s really good and you should try it. It can be hard the first time and a little confronting, but you should persist with it. The cup works throughout your light and heavy cycles without any worries. On the heaviest days, it can be changed 3 times a day (morning, lunch and evening).
Well there you go, a great insight into zero waste periods. I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sold on this product! Yes, it might take you a few times to get used to it but it’s good for you, the planet and your pocket. It ticks all my boxes. What would stop you from using this?
Thanks to Nicola for her time and being so open about this topic xo