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What is a menstrual cup?
Unlike pads and tampons, the menstrual cup is a menstruation management technique which collects menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it. The menstrual cup is made from medical-grade silicone which is long-lasting and hypoallergenic. Menstrual cups, like tampons, are placed inside the vagina during one’s menstrual cycle to collect menstrual fluid. The contents (menstrual discharge) are then washed out with water, the cup is dried and then it can be reused. Menstrual cups, if sanitized properly, can last for up to 10 years.
Common fears women have during periods while using various methods include:
- Leakage – Women are concerned that their pads/cloths might leak. A menstrual cup, when positioned correctly, is completely leak-free.
- Discomfort – Women report that menstrual cups are so comfortable that they forget about having placed a cup inside because they cannot feel it.
- Odour – When using cloths or pads, the blood comes in contact with the air, which creates a foul smell. When using menstrual cups, the blood is collected inside the body and never comes in contact with the air, which is why there is no odour.
- Falling out – Most women are conscious that their cloth or pad might get out of position or fall out. When the menstrual cup is being used, the cup remains inside the body, forming a seal, and does not come out until the user willingly removes it.
- Cost – Cloth can be a very cheap option, since women can use a variety of cloths available at home. In the case of disposable pads, women spend roughly Rs. 70 on their periods in every cycle and this can be a burden for many. The menstrual cup is a one-time investment for a total of 10 years.
We held our session on menstrual hygiene management with a focus on menstrual cups at Sirsa, Unnao. Sirsa is a village in the interior of Unnao, where still almost all the women are illiterate, mostly walk barefoot, get married at a really young age and use different types of cloths to absorb their menstrual blood. The situation is similar for most of the rural women in the villages around Lucknow area. The previous session that we had held in Hargoan, which is also a village, was a different experience because we had invited Asha Bahu who are in charge of 1000 people in their village, have some level of education and are connected to health sector in some way. Therefore, the acceptance rate at Hargoan was much better.
We held our seminar on menstrual hygiene management with a focus on Menstrual Cups at Golden Jubilee Hostel in the Lucknow university. This was the most educated group that we have spoken to yet with all students pursuing their doctoral work. With this level of education, the questions we received were also very critical and the young women here were a little hard to convince. They were not able to trust the menstrual cups as much as the other audience, therefore, they had unique questions for which we were not prepared.
We held our session on menstrual hygiene with a focus on menstrual cups in the Management Girls Hostel at the University of Lucknow. Some were familiar with the concept but did not have such a detailed understanding. Some accepted it, some rejected it and some kept the knowledge for the future use. Nevertheless, we have made them aware enough to atleast consider the use menstrual cups in their future to better manage their menstrual cycles.
Today we held our session at Ashwini Girls Hostel, Indira Nagar, which consisted of young women who are in high school or preparing for their undergraduate studies and all of them have an intention of becoming doctors and are preparing for that. The best part about them was their undivided intention throughout the whole session. Credits to Harpreet ji and Anita ji for creating such an environment. 18 of these young women bought 20 menstrual cups today.
As always, there is some hesitance and shyness to share personal experiences at the beginning, however, that barrier breaks very soon. In our society, women don’t speak about this topic, but somewhere they know they can share. We know that every woman can relate to the next one if they start sharing. In our setting, we make it easy enough for the attendees to open up. Sometimes, it is the first time that person may be opening up about it. We are hoping that our initiative will open conversations in their respective social circles.
We held our session at Hargoan, Sitapur. Around 70-75 women attended the session today from various villages around Sitapur. Our discussion is not solely focused on menstrual cups. It is also on becoming more open about talking about menstruation. We talk about common problems women face, and myths and tabboos that women believe in or have to follow due to household or societal pressures. We provide an environment for them to openly discuss such issues and practices.
How do you feel about periods? What about saving the environment? Have you ever thought about menstrual byproducts and how they contribute to environmental degradation?
Personally, I did not have a positive relationship with periods growing up, but I did want to help take care of the environment. Interestingly, I had not made the connection between menstruation and the environment until very recently.
Would you believe me if I told you that approximately 11,000 pads and or tampons per woman are thrown away to landfills throughout her lifetime? This amounts to roughly 300 pounds of trash which is accumulated including pads, tampons and applicators.
Menstruation is something that is not frequently discussed in general, and certainly not enough as a cause of this amount of trash and environmental degradation. However, this is a major aspect which impacts each of our lives- as human animals living on planet Earth, we experience the impact of increased trash to our ecosystem. Harm to the habitats of nonhuman animals and surrounding biodiversity as well as those in more impoverished areas is the crux of this issue. Pads and tampons with their high absorbency materials, can clog drains and disrupt marine habitats. Regardless if you menstruate or not, this is an issue which concerns us.