In New Territory

Content Warning: in depth discussion of periods, menstruation and blood.

Disappointment was actually rather overwhelming in my first few days of trying out the Mooncup. I was disappointed in my friends who already owned and used theirs: WHY hadn’t they told me to try it out? WHY hadn’t they persuaded me? WHY? I am not going to be that friend to you. I will be the friend who openly rants about the Mooncup and will march you to the shop to try it.Because the other feelings were absolute bliss, amazement and, well, triumph – over The System, about my bank account, anything really. I was convinced I had had a revelation and was feeling rather proud of myself for discovering it. In reality all the Mooncup is is a small cup, but it felt so much bigger than just that.

Let me first introduce the Mooncup basics:
The Mooncup is a reusable soft medical-grade silicone menstrual cup, about five centimetres long (or 2 inches for those of you who are into that). You wear it during your period just at the base of your vagina, where it collects the blood – this is different from tampons and towels that only absorb blood, and can be met with problems of overflowing. The Mooncup actually collects as much as three times more than a heavy duty night tampon. It is designed to be inserted into your vagina, where little holes in the top of it create a seal (with a funny little sucking noise) to secure it in place. The seal means there can be no leaks: smell, blood or otherwise. You change it more or less every 8 hours by releasing the seal, emptying the contents, rinsing/wiping it and reinserting it.

Now for some facts and info (if you want to skip to the excited rant, feel free to scroll down); the mooncup has, as far as I can see, just positives:

Cost – At Just £19,99, the Mooncup costs the equivalent of three months’ worth of tampons and pads for the average person. In the UK we spend over £5 billion a year on sanitary products (which are taxed, by the way) and it constitutes one of the costs which is hardest to eliminate from a budget. Meanwhile, the Mooncup will last you for years – mine has already paid back for itself.

Greener – Used sanitary products are most often disposed of in landfills or in the sea (I know.) Every year, in Britain alone, we would need to dig a hole 300 feet wide and 300 feet deep to bury our used sanitary pads and tampons. But the plastic in the majority of sanitary products mean they do not disintegrate and are harmful to the environment. Because it can be reused, the Mooncup’s only waste is the tiny cardboard box it comes in, which is recyclable. You also get a fancy little cotton bag to carry it in. In fact “Mooncup Ltd. is the first sanitary protection manufacturer in the world to be awarded Ethical Business status for its people and environmentally-friendly practices”.

Health – As well as being made from soft medical grade silicone, the Mooncup is latex-free, hypoallergenic and contains no dyes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins. (Did you know what most sanitary products contain pesticides from the cotton they’re made of? Ew!) It doesn’t have any additives, perfumes or gels – it completely respects your body’s balance. The Mooncup doesn’t absorb your natural moisture (which is 35% of the fluid tampons absorb) and unlike tampons doesn’t leave fibres behind. It also has little measurement marks so that you can keep track of your blood flow.

Comfort – Oh lordy, is it comfortable. It comes in two sizes, A and B, which depend on your age or if you have given birth vaginally. The cup will mold itself to your inner walls and is, in most cases, completely unnoticeable. Because it is worn much, much lower than a tampon, it is also a lot less invasive.

Convenient – No more packing dozens of tampons and pads for holiday, no rustling tampons in your bag, no worries about disposal when camping… The Mooncup is really discreet. Because it can contain more blood, you also have to change it less often and are less reliant on there being toilets nearby. The seal means no more leaks or overflows and less worry and stress during the heavier days of your period. It is completely safe and will stay in place during sport or other activities.

So, me and my Mooncup.
The last few months of using tampons had been increasingly painful for me, causing dryness and discomfort and really just not sitting right. I had also always had trouble dealing with my period in the first few days as it was always really heavy and would require changing up to every 2 hours. In the end it was the pain that got me: I was walking into town in absolute agony and decided it was enough. I had heard of the Mooncup from a few friends, as well as those old signs on the inside of women’s bathrooms in the library (ask a friendly librarian…?) , and was willing to try anything new. I went right into Single Step (the organic shop under The Whaletail Café in Lancaster) and searched for the Mooncup, only to find they were out of stock in my size. I resigned myself and shuffled my way over to my revision spot. A few hours later and after a near-fainting episode, I charged into Boots, grabbed the little green size B package, paid and got to meeting this new intimate companion of mine.

The Mooncup has a little stem that you can shorten to suit your comfort needs. I ended up cutting mine off almost entirely. Wearing it felt amazing, mainly because I just… couldn’t feel anything. The first day I went and checked it every hour and was astonished to find it almost empty each time, when just that morning I had gone through three tampons. Inserting it and taking it out took some getting used to but by my second period with the Mooncup I was a pro. Today I don’t even bother wearing a pad for protection – I have complete faith in my Mooncup.

Besides saving me money (SO MUCH MONEY) and rescuing me from pain, I’ve also noticed a decrease in period cramps and just generally feeling healthier down there, more natural and clean.

And speaking of clean, the biggest reaction I get when talking fangirling about my Mooncup is “ew, but isn’t it gross to see your blood like that?”. Simply put, no. I’ve found that I actually have less of an interaction with my period blood. When I overflowed using tampons I used to have to fish it out and find my fingers covered in blood (we’ve all been there!), or it would soak through the toilet paper. Because this doesn’t happen with the Mooncup, the only gesture is to twist it out, turn it upside down and slip it back in: unless you’re particularly clumsy, you won’t get any blood on you. I also find it oddly nice to be able to see and track my blood – after all, it is my blood, why should I be afraid or disgusted by it? From the very start of our periods we are told to hide it, soak it up and not talk or share about it. Why the shame? Since using the Mooncup I have had a much healthier approach to my period: I no longer suffer through it, but I experience it with my body, I am able to make sure everything is fine and almost look forward to it every month.

Those aspects are also what make the Mooncup really trans-man friendly, or anyone whose body menstruates. The packaging it comes in is really discreet and is a one-off buy, avoiding the repeated purchases of flashy tampon and/or pad packages. While it does need to be inserted into the vagina, it sits very low and is entirely unnoticeable as opposed to bulky pads or uncomfortable tampons. As mentioned above, less direct interaction with menstrual blood can help avoid feelings of dysphoria, and the measurements on the side allow you to track the amounts of blood you’re losing – this is particularly useful if you’re transitioning or taking hormone treatments since you will able to tell your doctor precisely how your blood flow is changing.

And finally, because this wouldn’t be complete with a feminist touch, it has made me think hard about the impact the sanitary tax and purchase of sanitary products has on women. On average, tampons and pads will cost you close to £100 a year, that’s £100 more than cis-men will spend. A single mother with two menstruating daughters will be dishing out £300 a year extra! On top of this, the wage gap means that we’re already starting off at a disadvantage. The Mooncup is not widely advertised because of the prohibitive costs to such a small ethical company, which ultimately serves bigger companies who don’t want you to know about the Mooncup: you need to keep spending money on potentially harmful products, not have a one-off £20 safe and healthy purchase. I wonder how different women’s financial/career position in society would be if she received equal pay and did not have to add the cost of sanitary products (repeal the tax! buy a Mooncup!)

So, dear friends, I am talking about the Mooncup. Because it could change your life, and it certainly has changed mine. If you have any questions please do comment and I’ll answer. If you need someone to come with you to buy one, just ask. I’ve asked Single Step to restock – online on www.mooncup.co.uk they are £19,99, in Boots £21,99 and in Single Step just £16,99. What are you waiting for! If it doesn’t work out, £20 is just a small drop in what you’re going to be spending on sanitary products anyway. Go ahead, convert, and when you’ve been won over, start spreading the news. Let’s change our planet, our bodies and society!

The Mooncup Enthusiast

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