‘Blood’, ‘pain’, ‘discomfort’, ‘natural’, ‘mood swings’. These were just some words young girls in North Delhi’s Prahladpur village used during a workshop, when asked what comes to their mind when we talk about periods. Sitting in a corner, a young girl named Prachi quietly murmured “plastic; Didi, sanitary pads are made of plastic, hai na?’’, she asked me.
According to Clean India Journal, 432 million sanitary pads are used in India annually, which amounts to 9000 tonnes of waste. The plastic component in this waste takes over 500 years to decompose. These numbers were a rude shock to me. I mean, pads cause rashes and discomfort, they are difficult to dispose of, they don’t really prevent stains (we all know even the maxi pads fail to prevent staining on the second day of the cycle!), and now it seems that they’re such a big threat to the environment as well.
But what could be the alternative to pads? An Instagram post suggested the use of ‘menstrual cups’. They’re bell-shaped and made of medical-grade silicone or rubber and are inserted inside the vagina during menstruation. They collect the blood instead of absorbing it, and can be reused for up to five years or more!
But, in a country where women hardly use tampons, and masturbation is a big ‘no-no’, the idea of putting a cup inside my vagina seemed ‘dirty’. I reasoned with myself and went to a pharmacy to buy the cup. The pharmacist hadn’t even heard of it. I explained, “it is a cup which is inserted in the vagina so that it can collect period blood”. The aunty standing next to me, who was there to buy Combiflam, started judging me. She looked at me like I had ruined her shopping experience. The pharmacist hurriedly said, “Aisa kuch nahi hai” (we don’t have anything like that).
I asked a few friends if they had used the cup. No one did. So, I turned to the all-knowing internet to find out what cup size I needed, and if it had any side effects. After two weeks of speculation, I ordered a medium-sized menstrual cup. As I received the order, my first thought was – “why is it pink in colour?” This was followed by a more important question – “how will this go inside?” I tried the different methods mentioned in the instruction leaflet. It took me 45 minutes to finally get it right. By then, my fingers had blood on them. But you know what? It did not feel dirty at all. It was my blood and I was taking a step towards improving my menstrual hygiene. It did not leak, it did not hurt, and I slept like I wasn’t even on my period. Yes, I slept on my back and woke up without a stain!
For all those women who have never heard about the cup, it’s time to research. It’s time to read up, and ask questions, and see if it can work for you. For all those women who have heard about the cup and haven’t used it, do give it a try. It’ll completely change the way you look at your periods. For all those who have tried, please talk about it. Tell your friends, tell your sisters, your brothers, and even your parents.
Besides the comfort and feasibility, the cup is cost-effective because it lasts longer. Not to forget, your period will be plastic-free.
There are articles that may help answer queries related to the cup but if you need to speak to someone who has used it, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @anubhuti.gupta