Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My First Menstrual Cup (The Moon Cup) Experience

If you read my Mama Cloth Demystified post, you know that I LOVE my cloth menstrual pads. I love them so much I was hesitant to try anything else for fear I would want to ditch my mama cloth. I have been curious about menstrual cups for some time, and I finally decided it was time to give one a go since I will be carrying them in my store and always like to be able to offer my customers help that comes from personal experience. You may have noticed that carrying products Made in the USA is very important to me, which led me to The Moon Cup. It's from the makers of The Keeper Cup, and it's made of medical-grade silicon (The Keeper Cup is made of gum rubber). The Moon Cup comes in two sizes, A and B. Size A is for women who have given birth vaginally, size B is for those who have not. The cups are the same size as far as volume, but size A has a slightly larger diameter. Both sizes are suitable for normal to heavy flow. Since I have given birth vaginally four times, I went with size A.

I waited quite impatiently for my cup to get here and ripped opened the box before my mail carrier could even get back to his truck. In the box were the cup, a cotton fabric carrying pouch with drawstring (color/patterns will vary on these) and an instruction booklet. I read the directions, washed my hands and the cup thoroughly and gave it a go.

Insertion was much easier than I thought it would be, especially considering the positioning of my uterus/cervix that makes tampon-wearing impossible and exams very painful. The directions have you smoosh the sides together and fold it in half again so that it looks sort of like a very odd fortune cookie (see pics below, courtesy of GladRags). I have to say when I first folded it, I thought it looked big and bulky and really awkward, but I was pleasantly surprised it was none of those. Once you insert it and have it in the position you desire, you simply release the sides so it opens up and stays in place. I was even able to easily push it up a little after I'd let go of the sides. As easy as it was for me, I can see that insertion could take a few tries for some women to get comfortable with. You can wet the rim with water or a water-based lubricant to ease insertion if necessary.

I had only one slight issue on my first try--the stem at the bottom used for removal. It should sit just inside the vaginal opening, but I could feel it was too long, and it was slightly uncomfortable. It was a super easy fix though--I simply trimmed a little off, tried it, then trimmed a little more off so it was half as long as when I started (it's stated in the directions you should not cut more than half of it off). Since women (and their vaginas) come in all shapes and sizes, it's quite common to have to trim the stem length, so I wouldn't call it an "issue" as much as a "need for customization." If you feel the stem is too long, I would first make sure that the cup is sitting up under the cervix where it should be, and then resort to trimming from there. Once the stem was trimmed, I couldn't feel anything at all, which is of course what you're going for.

Removal was a bit awkward at first compared to insertion. You pull on the stem and push in on the cup with your finger/s so that the suction breaks. It was a little uncomfortable until I figured out a method that worked for me. I found removal quicker and much easier if I channeled giving birth for a moment and sort of let my body help push it out as I pulled on it. You then empty the cup into the toilet, rinse and reinsert.

You can safely wear The Moon Cup for up to eight hours, but of course how often you need to change it depends on your flow. The beauty of a menstrual cup is that when you change it, you can clearly see if you need to change it more or less often. I changed mine approximately every 3-4 hours during the day.

Rinsing your cup between uses and then washing with a natural soap (and rinsing well) when you're done with it until the next cycle is sufficient for most cups, though you should check the manufacturer's instructions on the cup you choose. Boiling is not necessary and not recommended for some cups/materials (don't let the chemically-bleached bright white color of a tampon fool you into thinking it's remotely sterile!).

I am sure you're wondering about leaks. The only time I experienced leaking was overnight. My flow has been freakishly heavy lately, overnight especially. The leaking could have been due to the super heavy flow, and/or my bladder could have been full and pushed the cup slightly out of alignment. Either way, the leaking was very minimal, and I always wore a backup pad or pantyliner anyway.

Pointing out the obvious here, but when you insert and remove a menstrual cup, you will get blood on your fingers. You wash your hands well afterward as you would anytime you use the bathroom, no big deal. I can see how emptying/washing your cup in a public bathroom might be intimidating though. I haven't had to so it yet, but should the need arise, I plan to keep wet cloth wipes in my purse to wipe the cup and my hands off with. If you don't do cloth wipes, a travel pack of wet wipes would work great (thanks to one of my awesome Facebook fans for this suggestion!). I've also seen women suggest small bottles/spray bottles of water stashed in a purse/bag.

So, am I ready to ditch my beloved mama cloth? Well, not completely anyway. I love The Moon Cup, and I most definitely plan to keep using it. I will use it for swimming and exercising, and probably overnight as well since my flow has been such a nightmare then (terrible pun not intended). When I wear cloth pads, I don't really notice their presence much like I did with disposable pads, but I do have to say that the absence of the occasional "damp" feeling was really nice while using the cup. I might still wear my mama cloth around the house,  and I will for certain use it as backup for the cup. As much as I love my mama cloth, I am really happy I finally tried the cup and found something that will provide me with a little bit more comfort and convenience in certain situations!

I am happy to answer any questions you might have, either here or via e-mail (tinyowlshop at gmail dot com)! :)


Monday, February 6, 2012

Mama Cloth Pre-Order/Free Gift Extravaganza!

I am stocking minky cloth pads from Talulah Bean and organic cotton cloth pads from GladRags in the store, but this is something I would also like to take pre-orders for this first time around. I want to make sure everyone gets exactly what they want, and I am also hoping that keeping it open for two weeks will allow those who want to save up/wait for payday to do so. I'm including The Moon Cup Menstrual Cup in there as well (though I won't actually be trying and blogging about The Moon Cup myself for another couple weeks). Coupon codes may be used, so don't forget to check our Giveaways & Discounts tab to see what's active!

GladRags Organic Cotton Day Pad
Talulah Bean Minky Bean Slim

Here's the fun part: spend $30 or more on Talulah Bean, GladRags or The Moon Cup, get a FREE small Planet Wise wet bag (a $9.50 value)! Spend $40 or more on Talulah Bean, GladRags and/or The Moon Cup, and you can choose to stick with the FREE small Planet Wise wet bag, or you can upgrade to a FREE Planet Wise Mini Wet/Dry Bag (a $12.99 value)! No coupon code necessary, when you make a qualifying purchase, just let me know in the notes at checkout which bag you want (if your purchase is $40 or over) and at least your top two choices for the color/print. There are links in the listings to the full line of Planet Wise Prints--you can choose ANY they have in stock!
Small Planet Wise Wet Bag in Peace on Earth
Planet Wise Mini Wet/Dry Bag in Love Forever 

Mama Cloth Demystified

This is about 1/5 of my beloved mama cloth stash!

If you knew me in person, you might find it surprising, to say the least, that I am writing publicly about my personal menstrual care. However, I know there are many people out there wondering about mama cloth (the term I find that is most commonly used to refer to cloth menstrual pads in the various online communities I frequent), and while I am far from an expert of any kind on the subject, I would love to share some of my own thoughts and experiences.

When I first got my period, my mom didn't want me to use tampons. I hated disposable pads so much that I "practiced" using a tampon one night when she and my dad were out bowling. I used disposable tampons exclusively after that night, but sometime between children #2 and  #3, my uterus tilted severely, and tampons became very uncomfortable for me and leaked terribly. When it was apparent during exams when I was pregnant with child #4 that the tilting had gotten worse, I knew I was going to have to switch to pads permanently, but the thought of using disposable pads regularly was not at all appealing. I always despised that period of postpartum bleeding when pads had to be used. I don't find them at all comfortable, I am constantly aware of their presence, I hate the adhesive sticking to things it shouldn't stick to, I hate that they could be full of harmful chemicals my body might absorb, and I hate it's yet another disposable product (as I was already hating about tampons too) that we mindlessly toss into the garbage can, and subsequently, landfills. I had already been cloth diapering for some time at that point and was aware of cloth pads, so I made the decision that as soon as I got out of the hospital and brought baby home, I would start using mama cloth.

If you cloth diaper and are familiar with the excitement and downright giddiness that can come with "fluffy mail," yep, you can get that with cloth pads too! I had so much fun ordering beautiful hand dyed bamboo velour pads, ripping open the packages and then looking at my beautiful, growing stash! If you can believe it, I absolutely could not wait to be able to use them after baby was born!

I was not disappointed. I can vividly remember the very first time I put a cloth pad on. I had just taken off a disposable pad the hospital had given me. As soon as I put the cloth pad on, and I am not exaggerating here, my entire body breathed a gigantic sigh of relief and nearly melted in comfort. I was immediately in love and haven't looked back.

If you have looked into cloth pads, you may have seen it often said by many that their periods are shorter and less intense than with disposable products, and that has been absolutely true for me. My periods are 2-3 days shorter than they used to be (two cycles ago, it was only three days long!), and my cramping is far less intense. I have not looked deeply into the science behind this, but I have seen it said that tampons especially have a negative effect on vaginal health and have been shown to make periods heavier and even more uncomfortable. I shudder thinking about what I was putting in my body all those years.

Mama cloth is available in many different fabrics. I have bamboo velour, cotton (woven and flannel) and minky (a poly fabric with a bit of a nap to it). I love them all for different reasons. My bamboo velour pads are beautifully hand dyed, and it offers a bit more absorbency right on top. The bamboo does not stay quite as soft as some of my other fabrics, especially if I line dry it. I like the cotton woven fabrics because of all the fun prints, and it seems a bit "lighter" to me, so I like it for when I am working out, walking/running, etc., though they are the ones I have to really watch, as they seem to stain easily if not rinsed well after use (though a stain wouldn't be the end of the world, of course). The flannel stays fairly soft, but it shows wash wear right away, and I can see it being the first needing to be replaced. I like my minky because of the fun prints it comes in, and some of mine is hand dyed too. Minky does not stain or show much wash wear, so the tops stay super soft and looking like new.

I have never had a leak with my cloth pads. I also have never had a problem with bunching, slipping, etc., save for the one time I wore a pantyliner that was way too short to a high-energy Zumba class, and it traveled upward several inches in the back (I was fine with a longer one the next session that week)! Almost all of my pads are backed with fleece, which helps keep it in place and offers leak-resistance. They all have tabs/wings that snap around my undies, and a snug but comfortably-fitting pair of undies can help keep it in place as well.

While you certainly have to invest more in a stash of mama cloth than you would grabbing a package of disposable pads or tampons from the store, there are ways to build your stash economically. Purchase just one or two pads each payday or when you have some extra money to spare. Watch for sales and discounts. And if you take good care of your mama cloth, it will last for several years. I have been using the bulk of my stash for almost two years, and none of them are anywhere near needing to be replaced! I have to admit I have many more pads in my stash than I need, but I enjoy picking up a fun print/colorway here and there.

My mama cloth has been very easy to care for. Always check your pad manufacturer's care instructions to see what they recommend for the specific fabrics your pads are made of. I prefer not to soak mine, as I fear it will be hard on the fibers, but there are those who keep a lidded bucket/container in the bathroom and throw the pads in there after changing and before laundering. I prefer less fuss and wear on my pads and simply give mine a quick rinse in cold water and throw them in a small wet bag (a zippered waterproof bag) I keep in a cabinet under the sink in the bathroom, and I wash them with either a load of cloth diapers or towels in warm water (most manufacturers recommend not using hot water, and never a "sanitize" cycle). You could of course wash them in a small load alone as well. I often hang mine to dry, though I machine dry them on a warm/medium heat setting too. You should never use chlorine bleach or fabric softener on any of your mama cloth. Chlorine bleach is not only harmful to the environment, it's incredibly hard on fabrics and can shorten their life. Fabric softeners are usually full of perfumes, dyes and chemicals, and they can compromise the absorbency of your pads. You don't want any of that stuff near your nether regions anyway!

I have been asked several times about the cost of laundering my mama cloth. I am already doing several loads of laundry a week, so it's easy to throw the pads in with towels or diapers as I mentioned, and it doesn't affect our water/gas/electric bill at all. After rinsing them, I would have no qualms about even throwing them in with a load of my clothes. I imagine that even doing a couple separate small loads once a month would add no real noticeable cost (we have our own washer and dryer, and I do laundry for a family of six). It might take some elbow grease/persistence, but I see no reason why mama cloth couldn't be safely hand washed if necessary.

Worried about what to do when you're out? It's a cinch! I have a mini wet/dry bag that I keep in my purse-- a couple clean pads go in one compartment, the used pads go in a separate compartment. It's small and discreet, very convenient (there will be an opportunity to earn a free mini wet/dry bag as well as a small wet bag, so say tuned for that). All of my pads also lend themselves to being rolled up and then the wings/tabs snapped around it so it forms a nice little "package" that can easily be placed in a purse, diaper bag, desk drawer, etc.

When it comes to using, transporting, laundering, etc. my mama cloth, there has honestly never been the slightest bit of an "ick factor" for me. In fact, I find my routine now FAR less "icky" than letting all the waste from disposables pile up in the trash. It immediately became second nature, and I don't even give it a thought anymore, it's become much more normal to me than using disposable products. Menstruation is a normal, healthy, natural bodily function, and I am really amazed at how caring for myself as naturally as possible during that time has made such a huge difference in how comfortable I am, both physically and emotionally. Really.

I hope I have answered some of the questions some of you might have about cloth pads, though I am sure there are things I didn't even think to touch on. If you have questions, feel free to ask them here or e-mail me at nissa@tinyowlmarket.com. Again, I am certainly not an expert, and what works for one might not work for another, but I use them and love them and enjoy answering questions that might help encourage someone to try mama cloth!