Natural Cycles: Hormone-free Birth Control

I don’t know that I ever anticipated being as open about my contraception use as I am. But after over a decade of using one method or another (and feeling a bit like a guinea pig along the way) I decided to stop all hormonal birth control back in 2017. I had my IUD removed, I didn’t fulfill a prescription for birth control pills (that I hadn’t asked for, my doc just wrote the script assuming I would want them).

A few months after said removal I downloaded Natural Cycles, a birth control app that tracks my cycle and ovulation through daily BBT analysis. Truthfully, I’m not sure what I anticipated, but what I did know if that I wanted to let my body come back to its homeostasis. I started hormonal birth control when I was 16, which means that I started at a time when my body was still figuring out its hormonal levels. I wanted to start to work with my body again, to know who she really was and what it felt like to ride my menstrual ebbs and flows with her.

After two years, I know my body better than I ever have. I listen to her and what she tells me. Regardless of the calendar, I can anticipate the moment I will get my period, down to the hour. I know exactly how long my PMS cramps will last, and when they will end. I know when I’m ovulating and that my right ovary tends to be more active than my left. All based on feel.

Transitioning into hormone-free birth control was the best move I ever made. While it did come with an adjustment period (read: teenage-style acne for a few months) I wouldn’t go back for anything. I wanted to share this with all of you because, as womxn, it’s important that we embrace this dialogue — with ourselves, our care teams, our partners, and each other — so we can learn from each other and about what will make us feel most empowered and nourished in our bodies. The more we know, the more we know.

Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use for ages 18+ and doesn’t protect against STIs.

 

#DifferentKindOfBirthcontrol #NaturalCycles

Sustain: women-led period care & sexual wellness

scroll down for more info on how you can get everything in this photo!

 

Back in October, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Sustain (the newest addition to the Grove Collaborative marketplace), a sexual wellness company that makes shame-free products for periods, sex and body. I was fascinated by what their founder, Meika Hollender, said about the current industry standard (or lack thereof) in feminine care.

Immediately following that dinner Sustain became the only period care I used. Several months later, and they have become my all-time favorite. Tampons, pads, menstrual cups, are all used on the most sensitive parts of your body. You deserve to know what’s in them and Sustain thinks so too. Tampon manufacturers are not federally required to disclose the products’ ingredients on the packaging, so many don’t. The result is that the majority of tampons that contain bleach, dyes, rayons, and synthetic perfumes. 

The exception? Sustain.

Here is the complete list of ingredients for Sustain’s tampons, pads, and liners: 100% Organic, Fair-Trade Cotton.

That’s it.

That’s all.

And that’s the way it should be. You deserve the right to know what is going in and around one of the most sensitive, absorbent, and intimate places on your body. In addition to organic cotton, their tampon applicators are made of plant-based bioplastic (90% sugarcane)!

 

 

Not only is Sustain working to provide you an array of period care products that are safe for you to use, but they also have a sexual wellness line complete with condoms, lubricants, and massage oils that are better for you and your pleasure. 50% of condoms are made with natural latex. When forming latex condoms many brands use money-saving accelerators (ZDEC, ZDBC, ZMBT, and dialkylamines).  A byproduct of this process is carcinogenic nitrosamines. This is such a large issue that the World Health Organization (WHO) has been encouraging condom companies to remove nitrosamines since 2010 as they serve no purpose in the condom’s function.

Sustain is the only brand that has no detectable levels of nitrosamines.

Sustain has also reduced the protein level in its condoms by 75%. Meaning they are less likely to cause irritation or sensitivity.

You deserve a company that cares about you at the individual level and that’s what I’ve found with Sustain. At their core, Sustain believes that gender equality starts with sexual equality and that ethos is evident in all their products and I highly suggest you check them out.

 

All new customers will receive the following in their first order of $20 or more:  Sustain Tampons (Box of 12), Sustain Pads (Box of 10), Sustain Ultra Thin Liners (Box of 24), Grove Hydrating Bar Soap, 60 day VIP trial

 

Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

* this post was sponsored by Grove Collaborative & Sustain *

When I was 21, I Donated my Eggs {Full Egg Donation Story}

April 2015

As I wake up and try to blink my eyes open, I realize that I can’t, because after crying for about an hour they’ve been welded shut. It’s the same story every time I go under anesthesia. I cry as I get put under, I cry during, I cry after. I’m so thankful I warned the nurse that this would happen because as I finally get my eyes open I can see she nervously watching me, anticipating that I’m in serious pain. She tenderly hands me a saltine and encourages nibble after nibble.

He handles a few of the discharge aspects, sits with me as I get my bearings, helps me get dressed, and drives me home. And just like that a chapter of my life, something I’ve been participating in for about nine months, ends. A few weeks later I’ll get a call, be told that everything went well and asked if I would like to donate my eggs again.

 

Several Month Prior … Fall 2014

I knew I wanted to be an egg donor since I first learned it was a possibility. I had seen the commercials, explored the website, and found that I needed to be 21 to be eligible. A few weeks before my 21st birthday, in September of 2014, I submitted all the information to get started. I listed information about my background, height/weight/etc, birth control I was on, lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking, etc), and whether or not I had a history of pregnancy, STDs, etc. I noted that I would be 21 at the end of October and asked to be contacted at that time.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 I was notified that I had been accepted into the pre-screening process. The pre-screening is a three-step process that covers the medical and psychological aspects of donating your eggs. It’s also very educational and keeps you well-informed of the process and what it looks like.

 

 

I went in one day to get my baselines. It was a quick blood draw and vaginal ultrasound. They were checking on my bodily health and the health of my ovaries. I was compensated $50 and went home to wait and see if I was cleared for Donor Day.

About two weeks after I went in for baselines I was scheduled to attend Donor Day. Three other women in their 20s and myself spent the day together and learned about all the ins and outs of the donor process. Broadly that day can be broken into two facets: psychological and medical. Psychologically we took a MMPI test and briefly reviewed what the process would look like (in terms of length and mental strain). Medically we learned a ton about our cycles, short-term effects of the hormonal injections, and gave ourselves an injection of saline. Throughout the donation process we would need to inject ourselves daily with a hormone mixture so the clinic needed to be sure we weren’t squeamish about administering the injection.

The final stage of pre-screening was meeting with a social worker for a psychological consult to ensure that we understood that while this is a “genetic offspring” it was not our child and that we would be releasing any claims to the child. We also agreed to disclose to the facility if our medical history changed in the future (to keep the receiving family informed about their child’s future health). They reviewed all aspects of our MMPI test and pressed on certain answers, asking me to defend or explain an answer. The psychological review took about two and half hours for me. At its conclusion, I was compensated $450 and told that only about 3% of applicants advance past this stage.

 

December 2014

On Tuesday, Dec 30, 2014, I was notified that I was approved by my social worker and officially in the program. This meant that my profile went live on their database. Similar to a dating profile, families could sort through and “match” with me if they would like to receive my eggs. My profile included non-identifying information about my appearance, family medical history, psychological information, and a personal note that I could include. You had the option of including a photo and I chose to include several photos of myself as a baby, four-year-old, and adult. While this does remove a layer of confidentiality for myself I felt that it was important for the receiving family to have a chance to visualize their potential child.

Remembering how unruly my hair was as a child I included a joke about several detanglers they would need to purchase. I’m fairly sure that my humor (along with my age and photos) is what helped my profile get chosen so rapidly. Once I had three family matches I would be notified and then the actual donation process would begin. Typically this can take about four to six weeks, I received all my matches by the end of January. Once you are selected the next several processes (pills to injections to retrieval) move extremely quickly.

Once I was matched I started the stimulation cycle, in which I was given new birth control pills to take and a specific start date to begin the pack. This lasted about four weeks (February 2014) and synchronized my cycle with the women receiving.

 

March 2015

After completing cycle synchronization I started injections. These can last for 10-12 days, mine lasted 14. Each day I had to mix and administer an injection of hormones to my abdomen. The needle was tiny and it didn’t hurt, but I was dotted with smile-like pattern of bruises about my belly button. The hormones I was injecting were designed to stimulate my ovaries to mature a larger quantity of eggs than I typically would for a period. During each of your menstrual cycles, your body matures about 15-20 eggs within the follicles in your ovaries. Then your body chooses one egg to reach maturity and be released for ovulation. The other eggs stop growing and are discarded during your period. When you go through egg donation the injections you are administering tell your body to mature all the eggs in your follicles (15-20 instead of just one) and those eggs are then retrieved. In short, you are losing no more eggs than your body would typically put out and lose in a cycle.

There were a few side effects, similar to PMS. I had some cramping and a few mood swings (not atypical for me) and a lot of fatigue. I was exhausted every single day, most likely because my body was working in over-drive and I was in the midst of my college senior year, final semester, mid-terms.

 

Mid-February 2015 in the midst of my donation process. I was still training and performing with my dance team on a daily basis in addition to running 40 miles a week, studying for mid-terms, and writing a 100-page Philosophical thesis.

 

Throughout the process, I was getting nearly daily blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds that measured the size of my ovaries. They were to monitor the medications and confirm that they were working well, dosing was accurate, and to maintain my wellbeing as a donor. Because my ovaries were getting so large during this process I was told to stop running as it would heighten my risk for ovarian torsion. Initially, the visits were every other day. As my body got closer to a potential retrieval date the visits became every day.

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Tuesday, April 21 I was told that my eggs were ready for retrieval and that tomorrow would be the day. Because I was going to be put under I had to stop eating and drinking at midnight (like any anesthesia procedure). My retrieval time was 6:45 am. All the retrieval times are early morning and the receiving women are scheduled later in the day. That day was a bit of blur.

I went in super early, was seen immediately, had my blood test and ultrasound. Once it was confirmed that I was at the proper part in my cycle I was called back into a room that strongly resembled a surgery room, put under and woke up about an hour later, process completed. To retrieve the eggs a physician used a transvaginal ultrasound probe to guide a needle into each ovary and remove the egg in each follicle. The retrieval itself lasted only 20-30 minutes and at its conclusion I was told they were able to retrieve 31 eggs. In-facility recovery lasted about an hour, I got a little anti-nausea medication (my stomach is not a fan of anesthesia) and sent home. In its entirety, I spent about three hours at the retrieval facility that day. I received a check that day for $6,500 and a small gift: a bracelet with a charm that read simply, “Give”.

The retrieval itself doesn’t leave a mark (aside from the bruises from my injections) as there aren’t any incisions, but my body definitely knew that something had happened. I went home and slept for most of the day with moderate cramping. It just felt like a day you’d want to spend in bed with a heating pad. I emailed my professor for an extension for my sculpture (it was due the next day, April 23rd), which was denied, and at 11 pm drove myself back to college. At 2 am on Thursday I was in the studio, up to my elbows in plaster, completing the project for my 8 am class. Definitely not the ideal 24 hours post-retrieval, but a good example of how resilient your body can be and how low-stress donating was for me.

 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I decided not to donate my eggs again. The timing didn’t work out for me later in life and it was the right decision for me to be a one-time donor. That being said, being a donor was an incredibly special and fulfilling experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Knowing that a family or families out there have a special little someone (who is turning five this year!) is incredibly rewarding.

I get a lot of questions about why I decided to do it and I don’t know how else to explain it but a calling, like I had a duty to do it. I have friends who utilized donor services, friends who had trouble conceiving, friend born of egg donation, and I’ve watched families want a baby so badly. I could help, so I did. I’m not a martyr, it just seemed like the right thing to do, I had a gift that I could give.

 

 

FAQs

How much were you paid for the retrieval?

I was compensated a total of $7,000, prior to taxes (totaling approximately $1,100).

 

How did the hormones affect you?

Truthfully, they didn’t affect me very much on an emotional level. Throughout the hormone injection process, I was dating someone and we didn’t have any major arguments or issues. I would have expected to see an emotional issue show up in the relationship, but nada. The hormones we take are the same that your body naturally produces, just at a different ratio to sync your cycle with the women receiving the eggs and mature more eggs. After the retrieval, my period was irregular for two months and then everything normalized. Within eight to ten weeks it was just a memory and I didn’t feel any different.

 

Will you be able to have your own kids someday?

Yes, there is no evidence that donating your eggs will have an adverse effect on your fertility. However, there isn’t enough research to say there are no long-term side effects.

 

Do you know your kids from the donation? Or can you meet them someday?

No, this is done similar to a closed adoption. Once I donate I relinquish all rights to my eggs and any children that come from them. This is something that I want to make super clear: these are not my kids. Genetically they have my DNA, but that’s where our “connection” ends. The only time we would have a channel of communication in the future would be through the agency and only if there was pertinent medical information. For example, earlier this year I went through testing for Celiacs. If those tests had come back positive I would have reported to the agency that I tested positive and they would have communicated this to the receiving families. There would never be direct communication between myself and the families.

 

How long until you felt “normal” again?

Pretty much the next day! I was back at college and in class like nothing had happened. Actually, no one at college knew I was even going through this process. Aside from some lingering PMS-like symptoms (for about two days) and an irregular period, I felt like myself.

 

Will you run out of eggs earlier now? Like, hit menopause sooner?

No. It’s a common misconception that egg donation=losing eggs. The reality is that every period you are losing multiple eggs, this was all reviewed on Donor Day to keep us fully informed of the process. Quick science lesson, as a woman you are born with your lifetime supply of eggs (about one to two million). When you reach puberty you have closer to 400,000 eggs. During each of your menstrual cycles, your body matures about 15-20 eggs within the follicles in your ovaries. Then your body chooses one egg to reach maturity and be released for ovulation. This is how you get pregnant. If your body releases two and both are fertilized this is how you would have fraternal twins. The other eggs stop growing and are discarded during your period. When you go through egg donation the medication you receive tells your body to mature all the eggs in your follicles (15-20 instead of just one) and those eggs are then retrieved. The retrieval itself fits nicely into your natural cycle and (in short) you are losing no more eggs than your body would typically put out and lose in a cycle.

 

Let’s Chat: How You All Care For Yourselves During PMS

 

A few weeks ago I asked you all what your go-to methods are for when PMS strikes. I got responses from women between 16-36 and in that 20 years of menstruation experience, we have some seriously great ways of dealing with the cramps, headaches, breakouts, etc that come with your crimson wave.

Without further ado…

 

‘I focus on healthy foods that help me mentally feel better which is half the battle when I’m PMSing.’

‘I prefer curling up with a hottie than a heating pad because they don’t have to worry about cords, falling asleep with it on, and because a hottie tends to be “squishier” and more comfortable.’

‘I start detox and clay face masks 1-2 days before PMS to battle any breakouts. Not sure this one is dermo approved, but it’s my holy grail.’

‘Sending my boyfriend out for nearly everything is the best way I get feel supported. I have PMDD and on my worst days my boyfriend shines. He’s constantly fetching snacks, a heating pad, giving me back rubs, checking in with me, anything I need.’

‘Pain relievers. Midol, Advil, Tylenol. Anything.’

‘Taking a half-day at work on days the cramps are the worst so I can couch surf and focus on me.’

On Why: You Should Know More About Condoms

With more than 18 billion condoms used each year, it’s time you knew what’s in them.

 

 

Quick history lesson

Please grant my degree in Anthropology a moment to shine…

Homo Sapiens, the only extant hominids, are dated as far back as 150,000 years ago. Condoms have been around nearly 13,000 years. The most common materials for condoms (pre 19th century) were linen or animal intestines. During the Bronze Age (c. 3100–300 B.C.E. in Asia Minor) wealthy men wore gilded condoms made of tortoise shells, gold, silver, and silk. In 1000 C.E., Ancient Egyptians protected themselves from diseases like bilharzia by using linen sheaths. With the rise of syphilis in Europe in the 16th-century, the first chemical-soaked condom emerged. (Shout out to Gabriele Falloppio for creating the first condom known to prevent STDs!) It was a linen sheath, tied with a ribbon, and used to combat the spread of disease rather than to prevent pregnancy.

Ironic that while the first known use of chemicals in condoms was to prevent disease, modern condoms now contain chemicals that are known to cause disease.

 

What’s a modern condom made of?

Ask just about anyone what a condom is made of and the first thing they’ll probably say is “latex” or “rubber”. Okay, great … but what is in the latex and rubber? Charles Goodyear (yep, the tire man) vulcanized rubber in 1839 and the first rubber condoms were on the market by 1855. Creating these rubber condoms relied on the use of gasoline and benzene to suspend the rubber and bind it with sulfur.

Latex condoms came a little later, in 1920. Their popularity is attributed to two main factors: creating them didn’t involve the use of gasoline and benzene which removed the fire hazard for factory workers and the stretch made them *essentially* one size fits all.

As condoms have developed and gained in popularity there are four major components of them that can harm a woman’s health. I’d like to acknowledge that, yes, the exposure to these chemicals via condoms is minimal. But it’s exposure nonetheless, in an incredibly absorbant, sensitive, intimate place and that deserves notice and prevention. It should also be noted that many scientists believe that while small levels of chemicals are able to be processed by the body, it’s the cumulative exposure from multiple points that causes the greatest risk, which is why they should be regulated at all levels.

 

… where is the list of ingredients?

 

The ingredients to avoid and why –

  • Nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are a byproduct of creating synthetic latex. They have been linked to tumor growth (specifically both stomach and colon cancer). The World Health Organization (WHO) has been encouraging condom companies to remove Nitrosamines since 2010 as they serve no purpose in the condom’s function and are known carcinogens. They are used to accelerate the latex forming process and save companies money.
  • Nonoxynol-9. Nonoxynol-9 or N-9 is a chemical included in condoms as a spermicide and lubricant. While effective for killing sperm cells and STDs the issue comes with the fact that N-9 cannot distinguish between sperm cells and cells along the vagina and rectal wall. Ironically, in the long-term, the destruction of these cells (vagina and rectal) can increase the chance of contracting an STD or urinary tract infection. *Please note that N-9 is the only spermicide available in the U.S.*
  • Glycerine (or Glycerol). When left in the body too long Glycerine breaks down into Glycerol (sugar). This can throw off the vagina’s pH, increasing the chances of contracting a yeast infection. Flavored condoms have a higher likelihood of containing Glycerine to sweeten them and are not meant to be used vaginally.
  • Parabens. Parabens are mostly used as a chemical preservative to prevent bacterial growth. You can find them across the board in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals (again, only in the U.S. as they are banned in the EU). Parabens are believed to be an endocrine disrupter and have been linked to breast cancer and lowering sperm count in men. This is likely because they have a chemical structure similar to estrogen and can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.

 

All condoms are not made equal

Research your options when it comes to condoms and feel comfortable saying “No” to any that don’t disclose their ingredients or contain the chemicals listed above. The choice should never be between sex without a condom v sex with a condom that contains ingredients you aren’t comfortable with. There are great companies, like Sustain and Maude (aff code: WITHMOLLY for 10% off), that list their ingredients so you can check if they contain nitrosamines, glycerin, N-9, etc.

  • Common Argument #1: Specialty condoms are too expensive.
  • Common Argument #2: It’s just more convenient to buy condoms from the pharmacy.
    • I agreed with you, it definitely is. But it doesn’t have to be. Backing companies that promote safe, female-centric products is how those companies grow. And if you are truly a forgetful person and worry about forgetting to order more Maude has a subscription service that can automatically send you new condoms every 30, 60, or 90 days depending on your needs. And utilizing that service lowers the cost to $10.80. And using my code WITHMOLLY will get you an additional 10% off.

 

And as always

  • Practice safe-sex methods. This article is not meant to scare or deter you from using condoms. Condoms are an important part of safe-sex practices and should absolutely be used.
  • Be mindful of your condoms expiration date and do not use expired condoms.
  • Store your condoms away from direct sunlight and avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures at this can degrade the latex.

 

Simple Loving: A Modern, Sexual Wellness Company

A few months ago I did a mini-review of maude and their modern ethos of “sex made simple”. I touched on their condoms, massage candle, and (most importantly) vibrator. Today we’re going to dive a little deeper and I’ll give you my final thoughts after playing around with their products for a little while.

 

The blog

The first thing I want to highlight about maude is my favorite part, which is how accessible they make difficult sex-centric conversations through their blog, the maudern. Not only do they cover the fun topics (like camping sex and talking dirty), but they also have topics about the important (like consent and insecurities) and the more difficult to discuss (like open relationships and sexual fantasies). I think they do a fantastic job offering detailed insights on each post and highly encourage you to check it out.

 

The products

vibe

Small and incredibly powerful, but still quiet? Dream combination. There are three speeds, it’s latex-free, and completely water-proof (so you can get as adventurous as you’d like). The best part of the vibe is, in addition to it’s intensity, the ease of use. This makes it an ideal partner tool as the learning curve is super low. It’s very “point and shoot” if you know what I mean. If you’ve never brought a toy into the bedroom with your partner, make this the first one. The last thing I will note is that because it has such a strong vibration you may want to start slow if it’s your first vibe.

 

 

burn

Think that a little romance and kink don’t go together? Guess again. Why I ever thought that a massage candle would go to waste is beyond me. I love this little guy. Light it, wait a few minutes, and you have a brand new way to mix things up. The scent is unreal. The oil is soft, a little slippery, and is absorbed at a nice pace. You won’t need to constantly relight the candle to get more oil and you also won’t end up covered in a film. You can use it as a massage oil before sex or during sex for a little temperature play. And if dripping hot oil on your partner isn’t your thing it will still set the mood with it’s “warming notes of amber, cedar leaf, lemongrass, tonka bean and medjool date”.

 

 

shine – organic  /  shine – silicone

It’s time to upgrade your lube. If you still think that picking up lube from CVS is hot, that a snap-open top is helping the mood, or that using lube means your partner isn’t turned on enough, it’s time to wake up. Lube should be in everyone’s sex drawer. High-quality* lube. I absolutely love Shine, the product and design. Design is everything and when the mood strikes no one likes to be fumbling with a little snap-open tube. Shine comes in both siliconeand organic so you can opt for the slippier silicone option or organic to use with toys (remember that silicone lubes can degrade silicone products).

 

 

rise

The is the most perfect packaging I have ever seen for a condom. With their buttercup style opening you don’t have to rip them open with your teeth and I think we all know how irritating it can be, in the heat of the moment, to sit there and watch him fumble with the little foil packet.

The condoms themselves are FDA-approved, fragrance-free, latex-free and incredibly smooth. They have a velvety, second-skin feel and are lubricated with a silicone lubricant. The only drawback I found was that the size is not ideal for your more well-endowed partners. If you typically shop for Magnums XL condoms you may find them a little too constricting.

 

Final thoughts

maude is one of the first sex companies I’ve seen that feels like they are here for you and your sexual experience, not just to sell you a product. They offer a subscription service so you don’t need to worry about remembering to pick up more condoms, have tons of sex-positive resources on the maudern, and are sincerely simplifying sex.

 

maude generously sent me the products reviewed, however, they did not sponsor this post and all thoughts are my own.

all images courtesy of getmaude.com

Mess-Free Period Sex? A Review of Intimina’s Ziggy Cup

A few weeks ago I published my experience using menstrual cups. They are my favorite method for when I’m on my period and when I heard about another Intimina product, the Ziggy cup, I was very excited to try it out. This is a menstrual disk worn just below your cervix, tucked behind your pubic bone and because of it’s placement can be worn during sex. MESS. FREE. PERIOD. SEX. There are about zero reasons to avoid sex when on your period, but some people are very squeamish about blood and it can definitely be a mental hurdle for the woman menstruating. A disk can alleviate these obstacles and make period sex more accessible for many couples.

 

 

 

The second mine arrived I was psyched. Putting it in was a different process than with a menstrual cup. I’m very comfortable putting in a cup and initially wasn’t worried about the process, especially since these disks are worn just under the cervix and I typically tuck my cup high around my cervix in a very similar position. However, I found that because it’s a different angle, it’s much larger, it’s placed deeper. It also only comes in one size and I found that it was a little too long for my anatomy. I did manage to shift it into position (tucked up behind my pubic bone) and couldn’t feel it at all (a good sign!).

 

 

One, it was definitely noticeable when he was fingering me, it blocked my A spot and put pressure on my G spot in a way that did not add to the experience. Two, we quickly found that the ability to have sex with it is highly dependent on the size of your partner. We both agree that if you need larger condoms you will be able to feel the disk during sex. I will note if your partner doesn’t typically get deep enough to hit your cervix you may be fine with the Ziggy cup! Three, the stress of getting the disk in and out doesn’t add to the sex appeal of it. With the size of my anatomy, I don’t anticipate it getting much easier. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this if you are newer to cups as getting it into place is less intuitive than placing a cup. When putting in a cup you can place it in a similar position to a tampon, but a disk sits in a very different position.

While I can still see myself reaching for the Ziggy cup as an occasional alternative to my Lily Compact, I don’t see myself relying on it for period sex. I would have rather have sex normally and done the classic “lay-down a towel” method.

 

*photos courtesy of Intimina.com, Flex.com*

On Why: I Switched to A Menstrual Cup

The average woman will have her period for 40 years and have approximately 13 cycles per year. Totaling approximately 520 periods over her life. Within each period she’ll use about 20 tampons (5 tampons per day for a 4 day period). This totals 10,400 tampons in a lifetime. These often end up in landfills (or worse, the ocean) and have detrimental environmental impacts. I am absolutely NOT here to place the blame of environmental issues on women, but I do believe if everyone did a little more we, as a planet, would be much better off.

Using a menstrual cup is the “little more” that you, as a woman, can do. It’s one change to your life, that if enough women replicate, will have concrete and lastly environmental benefits. Additionally, most tampons include chemicals, such as dioxin, chlorine, and rayon, that can be harmful if absorbed into your body. Ladies, if you wouldn’t eat, don’t put it into your delicate area. We’ve known as far back as the 80s that chemicals, proteins, etc can be absorbed through the vaginal wall and yet those dangerous chemicals have yet to be banned from tampons.

The cup I’m going to talk about today is made with medical grade silicone – safe! I’ve used Intimina‘s Lily Cup Compact for over 2 years and cannot imagine going back to tampons or pads for several reasons. Not only for the environmental and biological reasons I just listed, but also because using a cup is so much easier and has made me more in tune with my body. I’m much more aware of the heaviness of my period, the days that will be heavier, and am always prepared with exactly what I need. The case for the Lily Compact is so small it’s easy (and discrete) to have it with me at all times.

 

the Lily Cup Compact collapses onto itself to fit in the convenient travel case it comes with

 

So the big question is typically a “how to” about the insertion. While it does require a certain comfortability with yourself, putting in a cup quickly becomes second nature. If you can check the strings of your IUD or chase a tampon that’s wandered too high you can absolutely insert a cup with ease. If that sentence made you nervous I would suggest starting with a cup like the standard Lily Cup. This one doesn’t collapse so you can actually push on the cup itself a little to adjust it (doing this to the Lily compact results on it collapsing on itself).

Below are several fold techniques for inserting the cup. I recommend trying each 2-3 times in your own bathroom to find which one works best for you! Ex: I cannot get the C-fold to work, but the Half-V fold is super easy and makes insertion just as easy as a tampon for me.

 

your cup will come with directions and diagrams to help guide you. there are also several online resources – particularly on YT

 

One of the important things to remember with insertion is that once it’s in place you want to double check the seal. Personally, I like to run my finger all the way around the cup to ensure it’s fully opened and then give the stem a small tug to make sure it’s has a small suction. It’s a mini, post-insertion ritual that mentally puts me at ease knowing that I’m “covered”.

Earlier I mentioned that using a menstrual cup meant I was always prepared because the Lily Compact is so small and discrete. Not only is it easy to have with you prior to the start of your period, but it also alleviates the need to stock your clutch or bag with tampons and do the “hours math” where you figure how long you’ll be out and therefore how many tampons you need to carry with you – and maybe one or two extra, just in case! 😅 With the Lily Compact, you don’t even need to carry the case with you throughout your period because instead of “changing” you’re “emptying”. I think this (emptying the cup) is one of the largest hurdles for people who want to switch to the cup so here are a few FAQs…

 

Isn’t it super messy?
  • Not at all. Part of inserting the cup is a gentle “tug” to ensure that there is a strong seal, which will prevent any leaking. However, for peace of mind, you may want to wear a liner your first few times.  When you remove the cup it’s at an upright angle and the contents don’t “spill” until you dump it.
How often do you change it?
  • Personally, I can wear a cup for 10-12 hours. For reference, I would normally use regular or super tampons (depending on the day). I typically change it once in the morning and once in the evening. Occasionally (on the heaviest day of my period) I’ll throw in a mid-day change for peace of mind, but I’ve never actually needed this or had issues with leaking.
What do you do if you need to change it in public?
  • Probably the most nerve-wracking part of wearing a cup is the “What happens if I can’t wash it in public?” question. Don’t stress, it’s easier than you think. You don’t need to rinse the cup every time you change it, all you need to do is dump it and give it a wipe down with bathroom tissue. If you have bottled water you can give it a little rinse in the privacy of the bathroom stall, but you never have to rinse it publicly if you don’t want to 🙂 Another option is to use these wipes from Bloomi (code MOLLY10 will get you 10% your entire order!)

 

We’ve covered why it’s safer and the logistics, but why is it sexier?

Using a menstrual cup requires you to get up close and personal with yourself. There’s nothing sexier than being incredibly in tune with your body and your anatomy. Remember when your health teacher recommended using a mirror to meet your vulva or insert a tampon? Well, class is back in session and this time you’ll be learning by touch. When figuring out your menstrual cup and where you like to wear it (high or low in the vaginal canal) there will be lots of shifting and adjusting that help you learn about the nuances of yourself. Additionally, throughout use, you’ll be learning more about your period, daily menstruation, heavy v light days, etc.

While I hope you do try out (and fall in love with) a menstrual cup, remember that the choice is your own. For plenty of women (especially those with Endometriosis), a cup may not be an option. What I hope and want for you is that no matter how you choose to address your period that you 1. have access to all the medical and hygienic resources you need and 2. you remember that your period is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed by. It’s a beautiful and radiant piece of you.

 

*photos courtesy of Intimina.com*