When I got my first period, I was too embarrassed to tell my mum. Too embarrassed to go to the shops and buy pads, and when eventually got sick of throwing out my bled on undies and bought pads, I was too embarrassed to change them at school for fear of being heard by someone in the toilets.
What the hell right?
Sadly, my experience is far from unique.
I sobbed with the collective tears of sisterhood when I read Kiran Ghandi’s piece on running London Marathon on her period. Her amazing article has since gone viral and been discussed with love and hate across the blogosphere.
This is Polkadotsi, and we are all about body love. So Kiran, you freaking ROCK woman!
You rock for so many reasons:
For de-stigmatizing periods.
For opening discussion about one of the most hushed up aspects of womanhood.
And for running 26.2 miles!
While I write from the my creature comforts of privilege, I am devastated that across the world women’s reproductive health remains silenced, shamed, and stigmatized.
Cramps? Bloated? Want to curl up with a tub of ice cream and hide in a doona fort? Yeh we hear you… Periods can suck!
When I was in high school we had to do a check box of things that women should or shouldn’t do when they were on their rag. It had things like “Make big decisions” “swim” “Exercise”
The idea of the check-box was to prove that despite bleeding from their nether regions, women were all-mighty-powerhouses of capability and were perfectly capable of menstruating and continuing on a blissful existence.
I ticked no to ALL of the boxes.
When I’m premenstrual, I’m apt to saying rash things, making regrettable decisions, and injuring myself due to some bizarre hormone induced hyper-flexibility. Unlike the panty-liner ads, I don’t go horseback riding in white jeans in a g-string…. You’re more likely to find me in my oldest tracksuit pants, nursing a cup of tea and snuggled to a hot water bottle.
My sex-ed teacher told me that exercise could ease the PMS symptoms a bit. So I tried. A gentle cycle.
As a newly menstruating teen, with a pre-childbirth uterus, going for a 10k bike ride was enough to stimulate my body into the most painful, vomit-inducing cramps I’ve ever had. I had cold sweats as I pedalled back to my house, crawled into the shower, and then tried to sleep the day off curled around a wheaty-heaty. The post exercise endorphin rush never hit. Nor did the ease up of the period symptoms.
It is possible my idea of a gentle ride, was NOT the gentle exercise my teacher had in mind.
These days it’s totally different. I love a gentle jog, using my favorite menstural cup, followed by tea, stretching and taking it easy.
Your period can most definitely affect your workout, and your workout can definitely affect how you feel throughout your period.
Exercising on your period can ease up the cramps and cranky.
Combat the PMS stabbiness with nice fluffy little post-workout-endorphins. They’re the cute little happy hormones that are all rainbows and unicorn farts after you sweat.
In all seriousness, a gentle workout can make you feel great. Or if your body is up for it, a less gentle workout, where you punch the PMS away. Whatever rings your bell.
Movin’ the bod-eh can:
Ease the cramps
Reduce the bloating
and help with the period-related-crankiness
Personally I find it helps me find a much calmer space in my mind.
Exercising on your period can make you hyper-flexible and more injury prone
Relaxin – the hormone of s-t-r-e-t-c-h. It has it’s place in childbirth, and it’s certainly in your body for a reason but many women report being more injury prone during their period and around ovulation on account of this lovely chemical cocktail.
Take it easy, and be aware of your body.
Exercising too much can stop your periods altogether
Some athletes can stimulate their body into what’s called Athletic Amenorrhoea. Basically lowering your body fat to a point where your pituitary gland stops sending signals to your reproductive system to menstruate.
In the long term it can be associated with high cholesterol, infertility, and even osteoporosis. If your cycles have become abnormal since exercising, it’s time to check in with your health care provider.
You don’t have to sweat like a piggy to get the benefits.
A nice, calm walk is enough to get the happy hormones pumping. And to be honest if that’s about as far as you feel like pushing your hot bod, then so be it. Go gently, and take the time to nurture yourself.
Do you notice your periods affecting how you work-out? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Aussie women are somewhat limited in choice for Menstrual Cups and access to great info about making healthy choices. Let’s face it, it’s not in the best interest of disposable menstrual product companies to disclose their dirty little secrets right?
Producers of menstrual cups face a $14,000+ fee to get their product certified by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administrator which is double edged sword. It means that the products available on the Aussie market have met a tight criteria in terms of safety and materials. It means that cheap, dangerous copies aren’t available on our market. That’s brilliant! You don’t want to be putting nasties in your lady garden (#sorrynotsorry). It also means that companies who are producing awesome menstrual cups are put off by the inability to make a commercial return on their investment in Australia, so they simply don’t sell their products here.
Great news -as an individual, you can order your menstrual cups from pretty much anywhere in the world. We strongly advise doing your own research and making sure the materials of your cups are medical grade silicone and or latex – and that these companies are legitimately standing behind their claims.
If you want to check out the brands that you can get in Australia, then in my personal opinion, you can’t go past JuJu cups for comfort. We also have Lunette cups and Diva Cups.
Where to buy:
Our favourite place for all things menstrual is Scarlet Eve – who make and supply the most amazing reusable menstrual pads, and cups.
OK, I suppose I should preface this article with a disclaimer (or confession…) that I’ve never owned or used a menstrual cup before. So this was my first ‘go’ as it were. That’s right – menstrual cup virgin. I’ve heard all about them, read up on them, had their merits expounded upon by my eco-friendly, chemically conscious, yoni-loving and menstrual celebrating friends, but never quite taken the plunge. So the time was ripe, menstrual cups and I were officially about to get hitched.
So first things first, got to go and buy myself one of those little suckers. So off to the chemists I go and after a fruitless wander around the aisles thought I’d better ask for some help. My request to the woman at the counter was greeted with bemusement, bordering on disgust and repulsion. “A what? A menstrual cup? She looked decidedly uncomfortable. I might as well have asked her for a silver chalice that I was going to collect my sacred drops in and drink in some bizarre, black magic ritual. Fearing that I was about to be ousted by an angry mob of villagers I made a hasty retreat. The health food store was also without said sanitary ware, so I returned home empty handed. Best go on the tinternet then and find some there I thought merrily to myself, trying desperately to feel I wasn’t being too out there. It’s not kinky? Is it? Pfftt…now why would I worry about my internet searches? So I threw caution to the wind and let fly.
“A what? A menstrual cup? She looked decidedly uncomfortable. I might as well have asked her for a silver chalice that I was going to collect my sacred drops in and drink in some bizarre, black magic ritual
Jesus, mother of God!!? You want how much?? I wasn’t planning on spending between $55 and $65, so off to Ebay I go ( I know, I know, needs to be the real deal, how do you know it’s going to be sanitary? Is it TGA or FDA approved?…). So anyways I find myself the most gorgeous cup. The LadyCup (made in the EU under Swiss management. And anything that’s Swiss must be kosher hey?) Yep, also totally swayed by the adorable drawstring bag with cherries on and the ‘Limited Edition’ ‘Wild Cherry’ red of the cup itself. Me, shallow? Nahhhh. That’s the totally cool thing about these thingy-ma-jigs, menstrual cups come in an astonishing array of capacities, colours, materials, pliability, shapes, textures and sizes.
Ok…the size thing. I’d noticed that some menstrual cup brands refer to cups being suitable for light flow or medium/heavy flow. However, the LadyCup is either S(mall) or L(arge), with the S(mall) being “suitable for a women who has not given birth to a child” (since I checked we don’t give birth to too much else, other than placentas, but hey ho) or “women up to the age of 25”. So what’s with that? Yes, I’m a woman who is most definitely over 25 years old, yes I’ve given birth vaginally (to a child last time I checked), but do I really want the L(arge) size?? Shudder…fuck I realised, I have come to that stage in my life where I’m to be measured by the girth of my loins…the ‘Does she have a fanny like a bucket?’ stage. Or maybe I’m reading too much into that very large L…Not withstanding it was all a little too much to bear.
So I girded my loins and praised sweet Jesus that I hadn’t had to go to some store and have the store assistant bellow across the counter at me and to her boss in the adjacent aisle, “Do we have a menstrual cup for this lady here? What size was it dear? Oh yes, that’s right, the mahoosive, you’ll-never-touch-the-sides, its-like-throwing-a-sausage-down-an-alleyway-mate vagina size, the L(arge). Gulp. I clicked on and ordered the L(arge). So maybe a word to the manufacturers/marketers/whoever of LadyCup on the sizing – never, I repeat , never refer to anything that’s going up a va-jayjay as ‘Large’ (unless it’s an impressive dildo). LadyCup have a little rethink about your sizing categories. And no, before you do it, don’t relabel the L(arge) as ‘mature’ or something of that ilk. Right? Right.
So casting aside my little sensitivities, let’s get on with this review huh? The LadyCup comes in two sizes, in an array of colours (transparent, lavender, wild cherry, summer plum, sweet strawberry, turquoise, green, yellow, blue, pink, orange and lilac) and is made of medical silicone. This material is smooth and hygienic and I didn’t notice any harsh chemical smells or residues either, which I thought there might be with it being such a bright colour.
After washing my dirty mitts I sterilised the new cup by boiling it a while, which is kind of weird watching a pan of water with a menstrual cup bobbing away in there. But hygiene’s important right.
It’s super squishy too, so I could easily fold it into a kind of tampon shape for easy insertion and it popped into place beautifully around my cervix. Probably a little too easily for my liking, I was kind of expecting a re-run of my first tampon experience as an adolescent (shudders just a little bit). But I suppose with many menstrual flows under your belt you are going to be a little more adept at putting these things in huh? It went in even smoother when I did as suggested and wet it a little, but I don’t feel you’d necessarily need to go the whole hog and get the lube they also sell.
I found that YouTubing ‘How to Insert a Menstrual Cup’ was helpful too. This is the one I looked at:
I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable it was, I though t it might feel heavy or suction-y, but I actually couldn’t notice it all. Then it came to that part I was a little nervous about, getting the thing out. It states in the literature that you can safely leave the cup in for 12 hours of protection, but being a vigilant three hourly tampon changer, this just didn’t sit too comfy with me. This was where the instructions on the box hadn’t been too helpful (and could possibly do with a little editing LadyCup). It read “When removing LadyCup for the first time, it is and after the pressure is relieved, pull important to remain calm and maintain the inner relaxation of your body”. I guessed the general jist was to chill out and break the suction. So I did that and, hey presto, out it come. I did the first ‘getting it out’ in the shower, as I worried that I would send showers of menses all up the wall like some horrifying horror flick. But I didn’t and it was OK!! Hooray. Loved seeing that little pool of ecologically collected menses and was pleasantly surprised that there was no offensive smell. Just smelt kind of like breast milk (which is weird, but cool at the same time).
I worried that I would send showers of menses all up the wall like some horrifying horror flick. But I didn’t and it was OK!! Hooray.
Were there any drawbacks in my LadyCup menstrual adventure? Only the one. There were a few leaks on the first couple of days when flow was a little heavier, but I’m going to give the LadyCup another go, give her the benefit of the doubt as it was my first trial run too. She’s now snugly in her little cherry print bed, happily boiled in her sterilised best, waiting for our next sorjourn. And yes, I am referring to her with a pronoun, we are intimate after all.
For the first couple of months after birthing, don’t use a cup. Your cervix is closing, your body is healing, cups and tampons aren’t vagina friendly items. For your lochia, and if you’re unlucky enough to have your cycles return right away after birth – use cloth pads. (If you’re in the market for Cloth Pads, you can’t go past www.scarleteve.com.au our personal favorites, and simply fabulous pads)
Pregnancy and birth are important and unforgettable milestones of your life. While you are beginning a new chapter of your life, some things will return to give you a glimpse into your former life. Starting your cycles again is a timely reminder of the ebb and flow of womanhood. Welcome back to the red tent!
At the same time that you are rejoicing your life and body is somewhat turning back into normalcy, there are obviously things that have changed!
Giving birth stretches your muscles, and generally weakens your pelvic floor to some degree. For some women, there might not be any noticeable difference at all, and for other women, your vagina might feel looser, and naturally your old cup might not fit like it used to.
The great news is most cup manufacturers like (Luna cup, Meluna, and Divacup) cater for weaker pelvic floors with a slightly firmer and larger cup model. If you have a favourite cup that you’re using, switching to the larger size might be all you need to do.
Or, you might have a fussy lady garden (haha yes, I’m sorry… I do sneak it in there) that no longer gets along with it’s pre-pregnancy friends, and needs to get out and meet new cups. You may need to try a different model cup to find one that suits you in terms of size, squishiness, and pop open comfort.
There is something else to consider. The changes might not be permanent. It takes a woman’s body a year to fully recover from pregnancy and birth according to most doctors (And frankly we say it takes a woman closer to THREE years to be anywhere NEAR recovered fully from childbirth).
So, whatever is happen now might not happen six months to a year from now, particularly if you’re diligent with rebuilding your pelvic floor strength, and haven’t had any birth injuries. So do not worry to much if your menstrual cups don’t fit or leak. It might be just temporarily.
Learn to love your post natal body. If you can’t get your cup to play nicely, try switching (even temporarily) to cloth pads.
Menstrual cups have a lot of advantages. They are more comfortable and less noticeable than tampons. They give out less odor than both tampons and sanitary pads. Menstrual cups are not known to be dangerous or increase the chances of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
One of the main concerns of those new to cups is how to clean them.
Traditional menstrual products provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria which can lead to infection and other diseases. Menstrual cups are made out of medical-grade silicone which is better for you than tampons and pads.
Keeping your cup clean is a cinch. It’s really easy! Different manufacturers have different instructions, with some suggesting boiling your cup, and others suggesting washing with proprietary products.
During The Menstruation Cycle
While using the menstrual cup during your cycle, there are two ways to clean it. One is to just wipe them off with toilet paper. This is good enough to insert it back in. The second way to rinse it off with water (some women carry a drink bottle in their purse for this purpose) You can also give it a daily clean with a mild, water based detergent (some women use products specifically made for cups, like Diva cups cup wash). Practise good hygiene, be sure to wash your hands before and after.
Before Or After Your Cycle Use or Once a Month
Sterilizing your menstrual cup is recommend at least once a month. There are two ways to do this, and it depends on the material of your cup. So, before you decide which method to use, be sure to check directions from the manufacturer.
The first is to boil your menstrual cup for about 10 – 15 minutes. Make sure to fill the pot up so that your cup floats. (Don’t do what a friend of ours did, and boil it in stock… oops!!)
The second method is to wash it with either feminine wash, sterilization alcohol wipes, or just diluted vinegar and warm water.
Some women put their cups through the dishwasher, although this method ISN’T recommended by the cup manufacturers.
Why You Should Buy Menstrual Cups From A Reputable Supplier
One of the many reasons why women switch from traditional menstrual products to menstrual cups is because of cost. Menstrual cups are a much better investment than pads and tampons. However, there is a line to be crossed when it comes to saving a penny or two. Safety and quality should also be put into consideration. While there are many suppliers of menstrual cups out there, there are only a handful that can give you the quality and safety that you need and are looking for. When you are dealing with something you are putting inside yourself, you should only consider getting your menstrual cups from a reputable supplier.
Safety And Quality First
Most of the reputable brands of menstrual cups make their products of medical grade silicon or thermoplastic latex. These materials are rated for sanitary and being hypoallergenic. This is to ensure when they are inserted inside us there would not be a reaction, or leach toxic chemicals into our bodies. When you buy from an untrustworthy source, the quality of the material might not sub-par thus can cause allergic reactions or even infection. It is not worth the couple bucks to risk your body like that.
In order to be sold in Australia, menstrual cups need to pass the rigorous guidelines of the Therapeutic Goods Association. In the United States, they need to comply with FDA (Food and Drug Administration guidelines). Most countries have similar governing bodies that oversee the manufacture and sale of menstrual cups.
It always pays to be knowledgeable about what you are putting in your body. At the end of the day, you are the most accountable and responsible person.
Secondly, menstrual cups from reputable brands are carefully design with every needs of every type of women. So, when you get them from a reputable source, you can be a part of a loyal community that can help you if anything goes wrong. On the other hand, there is a high possibility of your menstrual cup breaking and leaking. That is taking away some of the benefits of using an alternative menstrual product. When things go wrong, there probably is not anyone you can turn to for help. Without information, there won’t be a customer base where you can ask for suggestion and experience to refer from.