Menstruation. Periods. Blood. There, I’ve said it. Now let’s all get over ourselves and acknowledge that the blood that is released every month from a woman’s ovaries is what enables her to have children; it is what has kept our species alive. So why are we all so grossed out by periods?
Perhaps it is to do with times gone by when women were not to talk of such things, when women were supposed to be seen and not heard, all in an attempt by the patriarchy that dominated for so many centuries to continue being able to assert control over us; the same reason that birth started being portrayed as a punishment and thereby inflicting upon women the notion and belief that their bodies couldn’t do what they were intended for – because it was easier for men to control women if they were scared and thought they were disgusting.
Some Christian denominations advise women not to receive communion during their menstrual period. The traditional Islamic interpretation of the Qur’an forbids intercourse, but not physical intimacy, during a woman’s menstrual period. Judaism likewise forbids intercourse, but also forbids physical intimacy.
But before the Abrahamic religions, menstruating women were seen as goddesses. ‘Menstruation’ is etymologically related to ‘moon’. The fact that in humans, the menstrual cycle quite closely approximates the moon’s 29.5-day synodic cycle, suggested to ancient cultures that women were more deeply connected to the cosmos, making them higher beings. Greek mythology suggests that on the day of the new moon, the women of Olympia walked together to the river Eleutherion – the Water of Freedom. They bathed and then gathered branches from the lygos bushes, which they laid in a circle. With the blessing of the Goddess Hera, the lygos encouraged the flow of their menstrual blood that would complete the cleansing. As evening approached, they called upon the Goddess in Her appearance as the Moon. Or as Carl Kerényi has called Her “the spellbinding moonlight of Greece”, the “origin of all things”. Gradually Hera drew forth the blood of purification and renewed fertility.
In some historic cultures, a menstruating woman was considered sacred and powerful, with increased psychic abilities, and strong enough to heal the sick. According to the Cherokee, menstrual blood was a source of feminine strength and had the power to destroy enemies. In Ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder wrote that a menstruating woman who uncovers her body can scare away hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightning. If she strips naked and walks around the field, caterpillars, worms and beetles fall off the ears of corn. Menstrual blood is viewed as especially dangerous to men’s power. Which must be where it all went wrong…
And here we are in 2019, mostly ashamed of our periods and mostly trying to hide it and grossed out by anything relating to the blood that flows from our bodies every month. Which is exactly why I want to talk about menstrual cups.
Why choose a cup
Before coming round to a more holistic way of life, I was on the contraceptive pill for 12 years, mainly because no doctor ever thought to mention that it was a pretty stupid idea and that actually, it is not safe to take for so long. It controlled my periods; I could skip one if I went on holiday (or if I just didn’t fancy having a period that month), and it made my periods lighter and easier to time.
When I started learning more about the body and about natural health, I was dismayed to discover just how dangerous the contraceptive pill actually is for us, how many of us will experience secondary health problems because of it (including thyroid and adrenal issues, as well as, in some cases, cancer) and I came off it straight away. Of course my periods got heavier. I used Tampons and thick pads and just tried to wish away that week as fast as possible.
Eventually I started realising that if I was changing my face creams, my shower gels, my kitchen surface sprays, to natural products, surely I should look into whether the Tampons I was using were toxic. Guess what? THEY ARE.
Aside from the fact that all non-organic cotton contains glyphosate – which the World Health Organisation recently ruled as “probably carcinogenic” – non-organic feminine products also contain plastic chemicals BPA and BPS which disrupt embryonic development, and Dioxin which is a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process which pads and tampons go through to get them looking white. Dioxin is listed by the US Environmental Protection Agency as THE most toxic of ALL cancer causing chemicals and is a known carcinogen. It has possible links to:
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer
- uterine cancer
- Immune system suppression
- reproductive and developmental problems
- organ failure
The vagina is a highly permeable space: anything we put inside can easily be absorbed through the mucus membrane and then into our bloodstream where it presents a toxic burden to the body. Chronic exposure increases our risk of cancer, causes oxidative stress and metabolic changes, and disrupts our endocrine system. This can contribute to adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunological effects. Conditions such as infertility, endometriosis, and thyroid disorders are all on the rise, for example, and are affected by exposures to chemicals and toxins in our environment. When we wonder why so many of us have fertility issues these days, this is just one of the many problems contributing.
So to get to the point… after much research I discovered the menstrual cup. And yes, I thought it was weird at the beginning. Only because we only think that things we are used to are ‘normal’, everything else is weird. But once I got over my fear of my own blood, the menstrual cup honestly, genuinely changed my life.
I watched some YouTube videos by an amazing girl called Bryony of Precious Stars Pads who teaches people all about reusable menstrual products and how to use them. It took about 3 months to fully get used to it but I couldn’t imagine my life without my cup now. Most of them are made from healthy, high quality and sustainable Medical Grade Silicone that can be re-used for up to 10 years. They also have a large capacity which means you don’t have to get up in the night to change (the bane of my life during period week). When I went away and I was on my period (worst thing ever), I was actually able to sit by the pool in a bikini which I never would have done with tampons, because you just don’t leak through the cup and it keeps everything in AND it’s so comfortable and snug you don’t even know it’s there. Once it’s in, you genuinely don’t feel it AT ALL.
Aside from all the benefits using a menstrual cup over tampons has for my body, I am also very happy to be doing my small bit for the environment by not contributing to the 20 billion plastic-containing pads that are put into landfill every year and are unable to be broken down.
I still use a small pad on my heavy days. The pads I use are from a company called Natracare (they also do tampons) and I get them on my Ocado shop (easy peasy).
My periods only recently came back after 9 months postpartum (and because I’m still breastfeeding, presumably) and all of a sudden my old Ruby cup no longer worked. So I took the Find Your Perfect Menstrual Cup quiz by Put A Cup In It (love those ladies!) and realised I actually needed a smaller one due to my short cervix. They even show you how to measure your cervix. So I’m now using a Meluna Shorty and I genuinely don’t know how I lived without it! Thank you Kimberly and Amanda!
I really hope this post helps you change your stance on toxic feminine products and that you switch to the cup; for yourself, for the environment and for your poor, sweet little vagina who is dying for a break from all that toxicity!
Sorry it was a long one, hopefully worth it!
Love & health,