To my lovely and cherished male readers: This post talks about female topics, but please of course feel free to read along if you’re interested or curious, and/or pass this along to any females (and especially female travelers!) in your lives!
I’ve wanted to write about switching to the Diva Cup for almost a year now, because it has truly transformed the way I manage my time-of-the-month, especially when it falls during my travels. Alas, get ready for some in-depth information in regards to how I handle my period while living abroad and traveling on the road, and why one should consider using the Diva Cup as a feminine hygiene product.
A bit of background information: My period has been taken into account for every trip I have ever taken since I began menstruating (I can assure this is true for just about every woman who menstruates). As a teen and young adult this was especially annoying- I didn’t begin to have regular, predictable cycles until I was about 21, and finally on a stable form of birth control. Needless to say, there was always a lot of guessing involved in regards to when Aunt Flo was going to make her appearance. When coming to study abroad in France and teach English in Japan, I brought 4-month and 2 month supplies of feminine hygiene products, respectively. I also brought a steady starter stash when I arrived to be a teaching assistant last year.
During all of my individual trips, I’ve always checked the calendar to see if my cycle and the trip would collide– Can we go camel trekking in the desert during these three days? Am I going to get my period during this 10-hr. bus ride? Are feminine hygiene products available in X country in case I would run out, or do I need to bring extras? Will I make it through this isolated 3-day camp in southern Japan with enough supplies? Do I need to bring a bigger purse in order to carry more supplies, especially if we were going to be out all day, or hiking, or swimming? I knew there had to be an easier, more environmentally friendly way to both menstruate and travel. A quick Google search last January led me to the Diva Cup.
So What IS the Diva Cup!? Long story short, the Diva Cup is a reusable, bell-shaped, silicone menstrual cup. It is inserted manually, and then worn very low, at the base of the inside of the vaginal canal. The Diva Cup collects, rather than absorbs, your menstrual flow. When inserted correctly, the top of the cup forms a seal with your vaginal canal, completely replacing the need for tampons or pads. You can leave it in for up to 12 hours, and then remove it, empty the contents down the toilet, wash it, and finally re-insert it. Just like a tampon, if you wear a Diva Cup correctly, you should not be able to feel it.
Wait, What? Eww! Gross! But tell me more, I’m Intrigued. The Diva Cup may sound a bit strange or off-putting at first, but that’s because many people have never heard of it, or haven’t had any desire to try it. I won’t lie, using a Diva Cup requires you to be (or become) extremely comfortable and familiar with your vagina and (something that I believe American Puritan society has done a great job of preventing women and girls from feeling comfortable doing) as well as your monthly flow (ie: How many days do I bleed? Which day does my cycle usually start or end? Which days are heavier or lighter than others?) It may sound gross because there is a lot more flow at one time, but you do get used to it! I promise, the benefits outweigh the cons! There are two cup sizes: one for women under 30 or whom have never given birth, and one for women over 30 or for women who have already given birth.
- The Diva Cup offers 12-hour leak-free protection! Most women can wear the Diva Cup from between 8-12 hours at a time (depending on your cycle) without changing it. When inserted correctly, you shouldn’t have any leaks! (As a side note, I usually always wear a panty liner just in case.) This creates a perfect situation for women who are traveling, or doing active or all-day activities while menstruating! It is designed for any activity, from biking to hiking to camping to swimming!
- The Diva Cup does not contain latex, plastic, PVC, acrylic, acrylate, BPA, phthalate, elastomer, polyethylene, colors, or dyes. Long story short, the silicone material is much safer for your lady parts, and does not negatively affect your body in the same manner as tampons, whose rayon and cotton products absorb natural vaginal fluid as well as menstrual fluid, disrupting normal pH levels and causing discomfort. Tampons also carry high risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which can be caused by leaving a tampon in one’s vagina for too long without changing it. When used correctly, the Diva Cup is actually a more sanitary feminine hygiene solution to tampons or pads. Not to mention, the Diva Cup doesn’t, erm, smell.
- The Diva Cup is reusable and eco-friendly! I always feel a twinge of guilt every time I flush a used tampon down the toilet, or roll up a used pad with toilet paper and throw it discretely in the bin or public feminine hygiene disposal (not to mention, many countries do not have an effective plumbing system, making it impossible to discreetly dispose of used products.) With the Diva Cup, all you need to do is flush what is in the cup down the toilet twice a day! Even better, using the Diva Cup makes me feel like I am lightening my eco-footprint, even though I am still guilty for taking long, hot showers!
- You save a ton of money! With the Diva Cup, you literally do not have to buy any other feminine hygiene products! I spent $25 on my Diva Cup, and have bought no other feminine hygiene products since! Not to mention, the average cup can last up to ten years! The average woman uses more than 11,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime. At approximately $6.79 per tampon box at 9 boxes of tampons per year and $7.99 per package of maxi pads at 7 packages a year, a woman is spending $117 on necessary hygienic products per year! If a woman has her period for approximately 40 years, she will spend approximately $4,681.60 on feminine hygiene products during her lifetime.
- It hardly takes up any space in your suitcase! This is it!
- You get to know your body really well! As I stated above, using the Diva Cup requires you to get to know your body and its functions quite intimately. This can only help you in life, whether it be at the doctor’s at the pharmacy, or in the bedroom!
- The Diva Cup supports LunaPads, a great option for low-income women and women & girls in developing countries. All women, no matter where they are in the world, menstruate. Yet, depending on socioeconomic status and cultural norms, not all women are given the same choices or resources. Unfortunately, over 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe sanitation. This is a problem for everyone but especially for women and girls, who are most often the targets of attacks and harassment when using the toilet in an open area, and who often miss school or work when they are menstruating because they do not have access to feminine hygiene products. Because the Diva Cup is not the safest option for women and girls without access to clean water, Diva Cup proudly supports Lunapads and their program, Pads4Girls. The program has supplied thousands of reusable cloth pads to women and girls in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia for over twelve years. (Not to mention, in homeless shelters around the US– and the world– feminine hygiene products are some of the most sought-after and needed products!)
Small things to note:
- Cleaning: You should wash your Diva Cup with a non-scented soap every time you empty its contents (the company also has special soap you can buy; I HIGHLY recommend because I have learned the hard way that my vagina is sensitive to just about any product I put down there.) You are also supposed to boil your Diva Cup after your are completely finished with your cycle for the month. To not mix and match various bowls/pots, I invested in a special menstrual cup sterilizer! I usually boil water in a kettle and then pour it into the cup to soak for 10-15 minutes, and then voilà! Even better, it’s discreet and super easy to pack when you’re traveling. Regardless of what you decide to boil your Diva Cup in, from a sanitary standpoint I recommend buying something for just your Diva Cup when you are “deep cleaning” it.
- I had a hard time using the Diva Cup at first, but now I enjoy it more than tampons and pads! The first few months of the Diva Cup were brutal. It took me awhile to get the hang of avoiding leakage, and unfortunately, while in Rome, I found myself in a situation where I needed to empty my Diva Cup in the middle of the day. Stupidly, I used the provided bathroom soap instead of just rinsing it and waiting to wash it until I got home, and as a result I had a painful yeast infection by the time I had arrived in Florence. I had to throw my Diva Cup away and order a new one. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson!
- Get used to the Diva Cup while you are not traveling or on the road! Try it out while you’re at home! This way you won’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation when you are out of your comfort zone!
Overall, I am a huge fan of the Diva Cup and would recommend it to any menstruating woman or girl, regardless if you are a frequent traveler or not. For more information on other brands of menstrual cups, check out: Lunette, Keeper, and Mooncup UK (I have read that the Lunette can work well for very petite women.)
Do you or have you ever used the Diva Cup? Do you have any more questions about it or my personal experience? Ask away!