Menstrual cups : A review

The lunette menstrual cup: a review

With your favourite receptionist, Elly.

 

If you have indeed had what I can only assume is the immense pleasure of chatting to me recently, you may be aware that I have found a product that I am raving about: The Lunette menstrual cup. If the thought of this is too much for you, I ask you to hold your opinion a little while longer, as I myself turned up my nose upon first hearing the words “Menstrual cup” uttered. How glad I am that I kept an open mind!

We’ll start by describing just what a menstrual cup is. Made as early as the 1930’s, Menstrual cups have been popular in the US and Europe for many decades. The cup itself is made from medical grade silicon, and because it is not porous (like a tampon); it works with the natural anti-bacterial environment of your vagina to keep clean. It will not promote bacterial growth the way a tampon does, so the risk of TSS (toxic Shock Syndrome) is greatly reduced. In fact, there has never been a reported case of TSS being linked to a menstrual cup.  You can wear the cup up to 12 hours, if your flow permits.

It is thought that the push for a reusable, earth friendly cup has not been popular due to the obvious lack of profit to be made – I’ve read blogs from women who have had their cup 10 years. What tampon or menstrual pad company wants you to buy a product once and not 16 products every period?

And this brings us to one of the biggest selling points of the cup: You only need one. Cups will set you back in the region of $60, and I can tell you that being a sufferer of abnormal, heavy, and long periods it has already made its money back, and then some. I haven’t had to purchase bulky, uncomfortable pads in 3 cycles, and I cannot explain how happy this has made me. Because you only need one, your impact on the earth is so much less than using disposable, one use cotton (or other substances) products. There is no packaging, no plastic coatings, no plastic backing, no strips to pull off that get stuck to your shoe or cling to your skirt (we’ve all had that happen at work, right? A nice little piece of paper basically saying “I CAME FROM A PAD!” statically clinging to our thigh?). No strings. No wings. No discomfort.

 

I should also add in here that a lot of menstrual products come complete with a nice helping of chemicals like bleach. And we put these in one of the most sensitive and permeable areas of our body. Treated cotton tampons, full of plastic are sold without much in the way of testing as to levels of chemical absorption. Medical grade silicone, used in the cups, is the same material they make various surgical implants out of (pacemakers, heart valves etc) and can stay in your body pretty much forever without being broken down.

So, how do you use a cup? Imagine what it’s like to put in a tampon, and you’re pretty close. There are a variety of videos on YouTube showing how to fold your cup for insertion: the method will depend on the individual. Personally, I fold down two sides in on itself to create a kind of point – feel free to ask and I will show you on the display models in store (The ‘push down’ fold in the diagram). Because the material is so pliable, you essentially fold it down to the size of about a super tampon or so. You fold it, insert it, wait for the ‘opening’ feeling (One of the only negatives about the cup I can say is sometimes it opens as you’re trying to insert. Annoying!) And you’re good to go! After a few hours (this will vary depending on the heaviness of your flow:  I tend to change it every 4 at my heaviest and about 7 or 8 at my lightest) you use your pelvic muscles to gently push down until you can feel the bottom of the cup: Pinch and pull. You then empty your cup, rinse, and re-insert. Too easy!

Some people may be grossed out by the fact that you can see your blood in the cup. I have to say that I was a bit dubious about how this would feel, after reading on blogs that it made some people feel so much more connected with their bodies, their cycles, and empowered their femininity. I would totally agree now. The cup is less ‘gross’ than a tampon – if any clots are present they are discreetly captured with the rest of the blood, not stuck on the outside of the tampon or pad. There is no mess in public restrooms, no reaching for the sanitary bin and no blood spatters on the inside of the toilet bowl or bin. I find that seeing the amount you are bleeding is a really good indication of how your cycle is going – You know exactly how much blood you’re losing, and it gives you a much more personal feel for your menses. (Although that sounds strange, it is actually somewhat comforting.)

The cups are also perfect for women trying to conceive or are having gynaecological problems. Because the cup is smooth sided and doesn’t suck any of the precious moisture from your vagina, you can wear it when you’re not bleeding – so women who need to measure other vaginal secretions can use the cup without any discomfort. In this same way it’s also fine toward the end of your period, while you may start to bleed less or spot. If you wear the cup whilst spotting then you will never leak or spot on yourself when you think you’ve got nothing left. This reason right here is why I personally cannot live without my cup.

You may be a bit worried about having to put a cup all the way in the way you would a tampon. Truth is, the cup sits so much lower in your vagina it’s nothing like inserting a tampon. I personally hate tampons, I find them uncomfortable and all ‘round icky – the mere thought of them is like nails on a chalkboard. The cup, however, is nothing like a tampon on insertion. If you want to demonstrate to yourself where the cup sits, make an “o” with your thumb and second finger. This is your vaginal opening. Now, from the bottom put your other index finger into the hole. This is generally how far up you need to push a tampon. Now, imagine the cup sitting right at the opening of the hole. See the difference? Instead of  pushing in as far as your uterus, extending from the top of the finger, the cup sits comfortably just over the opening of the vagina. I’ll show you some pictures to help illustrate.

(pictures won’t work in the blog: Contact us on Facebook to ask for the article)

 

I think I’ve covered most of the basics here, and as you can see, every point I make is another reason I love my cup. Not only do I feel I’m doing the environment a favour, but I’m doing myself a favour too. ONE NOTE OF CAUTION: Don’t wash your cup in anti-bacterial wash. Don’t do it. You’ll get thrush. I learned the hard way, and I even made sure to rinse what I thought was any trace of any wash off. Best thing is to rinse it between insertion and re-insertion and boil it for a few minutes between your cycles. I’ve read blogs of women who have been using their cup for 10 years or more; if you look after it, it will surely last a while. If you don’t feel that you want to use a cup for 10 years, changing it every 1-3 years will still save you a bucket load of cash, not to mention the earth.

Do yourself a favour. I promise you won’t regret it.

For any other questions, tips or tricks please don’t hesitate to ask Elly at reception at anytime. You can reach me by email if you like, at Rosalba@albatherapies.com.au – just put “for Elly” in the title. There is also HEAPS of information on the net – blogs, product websites and youtube videos.

“It is not normal! We do not have to put up with it!” Period Pain or Dysmenorrhoea

Louise Bennett brings us some relief from the dreaded monthly “cramps”. As the titles suggests, we don’t need to let the suffering continue! See what Chinese medicine and acupuncture can do for you.

Pain that occurs in the lower abdomen or lower back region before, during or after a period is termed dysmenorrhoea by the medical profession. Primary or functional dysmenorrhoea occurs for no obvious reason and investigations reveal the presence of no other disease. Secondary dysmenorrhoea however, occurs with diseases such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.Menstruation depends on the smooth flow of qi (energy) and blood around the body. Anything which impedes the flow of qi and blood can cause dysmenorrhoea. Some of the usual suspects which impede the flow of qi and blood include emotional strain, exposure to cold, overwork, chronic illness and excessive sexual activity or too many childbirths close together.Many of you may have forgotten what a normal period (menstrual cycle) looks and feels like. Your cycle should last around 28 days, give or take a couple either way. The flow should last from 3 to 7 days and you should lose between 50 to 100 ml of blood. The colour of the flow should start off slightly dark red for a couple of days and then fade to a lighter red, with no clots, pain, or unusual odour.

To Chinese Medical practitioners, the menstrual cycle is an amazing diagnostic gift – giving us clues that reflect changes in the whole body. According to Giovanni Maciacia (2000) a well respected Acupuncturist and academic, Chinese Medicine can diagnose dysmenorrhoea in 8 different ways, depending on the presenting symptoms. Questions asked during the consultation to arrive at a diagnosis include:

  1. Pain*?
  2. How long is your cycle?
  3. What colour is your flow?
  4. How many days does your flow last?
  5. Do you have clots?
  6. Do you suffer headaches?
  7. Premenstrual tension?
  8. Constipation/diarrhoea with period?

During the period, treatment concentrates on relieving the symptom. However between cycles, the treatment is aimed at treating the root cause of the dysmenorrhoea. Regular treatments over a 3 month period with acupuncture and Chinese herbs are required to regulate the menstrual cycle. Primary dysmenorrhoea responds well to treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs over this time frame. There will be initial improvements in secondary dysmenorrhoea however significant changes will require a longer commitment to treatment.

HRT Alternatives

So you’re a woman at a change over point in your life and instead of celebrating the liberation from the monthly bleed; you are suffering hot flushes, sweating, sleeplessness, anxiety and a host of other symptoms you weren’t expecting or wanting. You’re not too enthused about the prospect of HRT and you’ve tried all the off-the-shelf products and have had little or no relief.

Thchinese-herbsen its time for a herbal prescription tailored to your needs. We (at Alba Therapies) don’t use Black Cohosh in any of our successful individualised herbal prescriptions. Why? There is a herb called Black Cohosh in Chinese herbal medicine but is a different species to those used in pre-packaged preparations. It too reduces heat, but it is recommended not to be used long term in cases of Yin deficiency, which is the main syndrome in menopause. Notice I said “main” not only.  Perhaps once or twice in over ten years of practice has anyone walked into the clinic with only one syndrome. Menopause is hardly ever only one syndrome but a complex interactions of various systems in the body. It all depends on how you have treated your body in the last 20-30 years on how many syndromes present themselves. Our herbs are in a convenient granule format, no boiling required. Add acupuncture to your treatment plan and speed up the whole process.  Herb preparations equate to the cost of your daily capuccino. So you can be free of your symptoms and truly celebrating this part of your life.