Men, you might want to move along now. But that said, you also may find this menstrual cup review helpful for your girlfriend or wife. Certainly every traveling lady should read it—so forward it your travel-loving female friends.
Let’s get started with the beginnings. I was in the throes of planning my round the world trip when my cousin implored me to immediately buy a Diva Cup to handle my period while traveling. She said I needed to but it immediately so that I could practice with it before I started traveling long-term. I was skeptical. I had assumed that I would just use tampons on the road since that’s what I had used for years. But, her endorsement was enthusiastic and her reasoning sound. She said it is the best way to handle your period while you travel.
The Diva Cup is the most useful thing I pack when I travel. It gives me the confidence to go straight from a long bus ride to an epic hiking adventures. It never leaks. I’m never forced to schlep bags of tampons. It just works.
I bought one from my local health food store. Then, I had a rough start to using the menstrual cup and almost gave up entirely. Within just one period, I had figured it out. It started working after I spent a couple of days practicing. Since then, nearly a decade later, I’ve never looked back to the days of schlepping around pads and tampons.
A menstrual cup is an eco-friendly “natural feminine hygiene alternative” that sits inside (like a tampon, but lower) and collects your menstrual fluid. Basically, these cups are medical-grade silicone, each about the size of a shot glass. When a menstrual cup is inserted correctly, the rim of the cup forms a seal against your vaginal canal. Once sealed, it takes care of business. The menstrual fluid flows into the cup, then you just pull it gently and dump the liquid into the toilet or sink. These cups fully replace tampons and pads. In fact, I have never bought a package of pads since I switched over. Well… except that one time when my best friend’s dog ate my Diva Cup. Keep ’em tucked somewhere safe!
The Diva Cup, specifically, falls under the larger umbrella of silicone menstrual cups (yup, there are several different brands of these things). Every menstrual cup brand represents a different aspect of sizing, shape, and color, but they all work the same way.
At its most basic, each menstrual cup is a small rounded cup made of pliable, foldable, and soft medical-grade silicon. The cup holds about an ounce of liquid—more or less depending on the brand and size that you select. It’s about the size of a shot glass. The premise of the entire thing is that you fold the cup in half and insert it much like you would a tampon. Once inserted, the cup opens into the full circle again and then forms a seal. With a tampon, the cotton absorbs the blood. In this case, the seal insures that your blood is collected in the cup (which again, is about the size of a shot glass, so you are simply collecting it in there like you would a small flexible cup).
Then you tug the base of the cup while you are over a toilet, then you tip the cup into the toilet and flush. You wipe or rinse it out and reinsert. In this way, you actually have only one thing that you need. You don’t need a new pad or tampon, and you don’t have something to dispose of afterwards. Your period is disposed of into the toilet.
So, lots of women are different shapes and sizes, but the nature of the silicon means that the various brands tend to work for most women. Some cups have a wider circular rim to ensure that you can form a strong seal if you’ve had birthed a child. Some cups are shorter for women with shorter vaginal canals. But generally, they all tend to be very similar in size, shape, and they all work on the same exact premise of creating a seal so that the blood flows into the cup and can then be dumped into a toilet or down a sink.
If you need more information, the buying instructions for the Diva Cup outline the nitty-gritty details on if you need the A or B size, it has pictures of the cup, and instructions too. And stick around to the the end of the post where I share the hilarious and helpful reviews women have posted, as well as outine the other brands that work well for women of differing statures.
Traveling on a budget and in developing countries meant a lot of time on public transportation, with my Diva Cup I was safe for the never-ending 10+ hour bus rides. And when I was trekking, the last thing I wanted to do was deal with tampons during all-day treks—hooray for my Diva Cup! Unlike reports, you can actually get TSS, but it’s incredibly rare. Most menstrual cup brands are safe to have in for up to 12 hours (unless I am on very tail end of my period, however, I would never leave it in for more than 10).
2. You can wear it before your period.
If I knew that I might start my period in the middle of a 10+ hour bus ride, I could use my Diva Cup before my period even started because it’s not drying like a tampon (and drying out can be a big issue with those, so menstrual cups are just nicer for your vagina). Bottom line, it saved me from potentially embarrassing situations on treks like bleeding through clothes or wild animals finding my bloody materials.
3. It’s designed for any activity.
The site touts that you can do any of the following: swimming, aerobics, cycling, traveling, dancing, hiking, biking, running, camping. You can. Each and everyone without a worry. It liberated me from trying to plan major outdoor activities on non-period days—I knew I could head out on a six-hour bike ride without searching for a bathroom or wondering all day if I was leaking.
4. You never have to buy other hygiene products.
I read horror stories about the availability of menstrual products before leaving on my round the world trip—some women even resort to bringing a full supply for their travels (hard to do when you’re on the road for a year!). This is the only thing I had to bring (well, soap too) and I knew I was never going to find myself hunting for sanitary products in a remote village in Nepal. (And note that you can find Kotex or Always in many/most major hub cities, so no need to pack a year’s supply either way!)
So many of the countries I visited don’t have effective waste management systems in place; it made me feel good to not contribute to that problem. One memorable time that sticks with me was a nine hour boat on the Mekong River in Laos—after diligently placing all trash in the marked bags all day, including my tampons (since the toilets have you do your business directly into the river… #facepalm), locals dumped every trash bag over the side of the boat 30 minutes before we reached Luang Prabang. Or that time camping in a National Park in Asia when locals burned our trash each evening. In the west, we sometimes overlook that pads and tampons are hard to dispose of properly outside of our own infrastructure. For travelers, the cup allows you to lighten your eco-footprint just a tad—your period business won’t linger in faraway rivers and forests long after you leave. It’s reusable for a decade (unless your dog eats it) and there is nothing else you have to buy to use with it. Plus the non-BPA medical-grade silicone is far safer for your lady-parts than the surfactants, adhesives, and additives used in tampons and pads.
I love this product and I have no shame in touting the fabulous qualities of the product. But, be warned, there is a learning curve to using the Diva Cup. It took me until my third period of using it to have no leaking and messiness… and I cursed it the whole time during my first two months. This hilarious Hairpin article is a good read. Or you can check out the many, many thousands of often frank and sometimes wince-worthy reviews on Amazon. Though it was rough going at first, now I’m converted. I truly, wholly believe that menstrual cups are one of the best investments for female travelers.
Best Menstrual Cup Brands:
Diva Cups are brilliant and anyone comfortable with their body should give it a try. But beyond anyone, I consider it essential for women travelers, truly :-)
And don’t take my word for it—look around online. There many women have gone on the record about their love (and learning curve) with menstrual cups. And very important is that once you get a Diva Cup, check out these links below for extra tips from women who have figured it out, they’re normally right on with their suggestions and the cup comes with some very explicit tips and pictorial instructions too! There are tricks to help it work better, and some brands are better for petite women.
Shoot me an email if you have any other questions, or better yet, leave a comment. And if you’ve tried the Diva Cup, share your experience in the comments! If you haven’t tried it yet, just go poke around the Diva Cup page, read the reviews, see what it’s all about.
This post was last modified on June 23, 2018, 9:28 am