It is that time of the year when most of us have resolved to exercise more, eat better or focus on our health for the New Year. I look forward to personal growth, career growth and, as a woman, menstrual management.
2020 remains a year that goes down in history as the toughest of the 21st century due to Covid-19. For me, it has been a bittersweet year, with little sparkles of positivity amongst the difficulties. One such sparkle being when I was introduced to a menstrual hygiene product that completely changed my life: the menstrual cup.
A menstrual cup is a flexible cup made of silicone or rubber that is designed for use inside the vagina during your menstrual cycle to collect blood. You can use the cup all the way through your cycle, but you might need to change it more often on heavy flow days to guard against leaking; at least 3 to 4 times a day, preferable after 8 or 10 hours. In order to reduce period poverty around the world, every woman can use 2 to 3 menstrual cups in their lifetime, since one menstrual cup can last from 10 to 15 years.
Before I was introduced to this precious tool, I had become tired of using pads, but had no other alternative until my new job, where I learned about it since we work in sexual and reproductive health and rights. Since I was thirteen, I had only used sanitary pads and they weren’t the best product to manage my period. You know when you’re on your period, but want to wear your favourite skinny jeans and then you remember that your pad might show in between your legs. This is just one struggle women go through while wearing pads, even worse if it’s a pad with a generous amount of cotton.
With menstrual cups, you don’t have to worry about embarrassing odour wafting out at the most inopportune times, since the fluid doesn’t get exposed to air as it does with pads. You also don’t feel the flow of your period since the cup absorbs the blood inside the vagina.
A week after orientation at my new job, I went to where we store menstrual hygiene products and I asked for a menstrual cup. After reading the instructions, Mother Nature texted me to remind me that I wasn’t pregnant. I washed my hands thoroughly, then tightly folded the menstrual cup into a triangle, holding it and gently inserting the cup in my vagina, the same way you insert a tampon. It should sit a few inches below your cervix. Once the cup is in your vagina, rotate it. It will spring open to create an airtight seal that stops the leaks.
I have done this for several months now. You know when you’ve found your go-to foundation, or right lingerie. This has become my go-to menstrual hygiene product. Just recently, during the holiday season, I visited my family and I did not bring my cup. My period caught me by surprise, so I had to use a sanitary pad. The discomfort that I experienced lasted until I got home to put in my cup.
Since it is a tool that can be used for up to 15 years, poor women who find it difficult to buy sanitary pads do not have to worry about spending so much money every month. This is an effective way to fight period poverty. And of course, I can also wear my skinny jeans without worrying about who is looking at my samosa. I remember recently going rock climbing, and I was expecting my period the next day. But you know periods land at your door like Jehovah’s witnesses. The good thing is that I had brought it with me this time. I put it on and enjoyed my activity in my legging, without the fear of feeling like someone is looking at me.
I would never go back to using a pad in my life after knowing the benefits and the freedom that a menstrual cup can bring. I have two of them now (available on the Rwandan market) and they are one of my most beautiful items for my menstrual management.
The author is a feminist & women’s rights activist. She is the Director of Communication at Health Development Initiative (HDI.