by Dr. Hilary Booth
Many women have heard about the DivaCup, and I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical when I first caught wind of the idea. So, I want to clear up some misconceptions about menstrual cups so that you can make informed decisions about your period, without the confusion surrounding the DivaCup.
The Economic and Environmental Impact of Hygiene Products
Tampons and pads are convenient, easy to use, readily available and socially accepted. Most women have been using these for most of their lives, and it can be intimidating to think about changing your routine. However, it is interesting to think about how much money women spend each year on feminine hygiene products, not to mention the amount of waste that’s being produced. In contrast, one DivaCup lasts for a full year, costs about $40, and it is eco-friendly.
The Toxic Effects of Hygiene Products
Tampons and pads are made with bleached rayon, cotton, and plastics. Tampons and pads undergo chemical processing, part of which is to ensure they are safe, but in the process they are exposed to sulfuric acid, chlorine, caustic soda, and carbon disulphide. The bleaching process also results in the production of dioxin, which is linked to breast cancer, endometriosis, and other hormonal conditions. That being said, no direct causative connection has been made between hygiene products and these conditions. However, I think it’s important to have all the information about the products we use so that we can make informed decisions about our bodies.
Infection and The Vaginal Flora
Tampon and pad use can negatively affect the natural, healthy vaginal flora, which can make you more susceptible to infection. Most women are aware of a potentially fatal condition called Toxic Shock Syndrome that can occur with prolonged tampon use. The plastic in pads does not allow sufficient airflow to the vaginal area, which can promote vaginal colonization with bad bacteria and yeast.
What is a DivaCup?
The DivaCup is a reusable menstrual cup that’s worn internally to collect menstrual flow. It’s made of healthcare grade silicone, and doesn’t contain latex, plastic, acrylic, BPA, phthalate, polyethylene, colours or dyes. It is the only menstrual cup that has been approved for use by Health Canada.
The DivaCup is actually larger than most women realize, and is about 6 cm long. When inserted, it sits in low in the vaginal canal. This bottom tip reaches to the introitus, or opening of the vagina, so that it can be easily inserted and removed. There are 2 sizes: one for women under 30 and who have not had a c-section or vaginal birth, and one for women over 30 and/or who have had a c-section or vaginal birth.
The DivaCup can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time, meaning you don’t have to worry about finding time to change hygiene products during your busy day. It also lasts for one year, depending wear-and tear, and should be replaced if there are any tears or signs of deterioration.
Will the DivaCup overflow?
The DivaCup is 1 oz, and most women’s menstrual periods are only 1-2 oz in total. If you have a very heavy flow, you may need to empty the contents of the DivaCup more frequently than every 12 hours, but it would still be less often than you’re used to changing a tampon or pad. The DivaCup also fits securely inside the vaginal canal so that it cannot tip over or spill.
Is it uncomfortable or painful?
If the DivaCup is inserted correctly, you can’t tell it’s there, and you don’t experience feelings of fullness or sudden flooding that you get with tampons or pads. The silicone material softens at body temperature to fit the form of your body, so it fits comfortably and moves with you during physical activity.
What about the “gross” factor?
As with anything new, it takes a bit of getting used to. However, because the menstrual flow doesn’t come into contact with oxygen when it’s in the cup, it doesn’t oxidize, so it doesn’t have a foul odor. The DivaCup also gives you the opportunity to learn about your monthly flow: Does it have large clots? Is it brown or bright red? How heavy is it? Knowing the answers to these questions can help your Naturopathic Doctor to balance and regulate your hormones.
The DivaCup website has lots of great information if you would like to find out more at www.DivaCup.com. I would encourage you try the DivaCup for three months to decide if it is right for you. In my opinion, it provides a healthy, simple, eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to other feminine hygiene products.