I got my period when I was in ninth grade.
It was hard to be one of the last, if not the last girl, in my entire grade to get it. All the other girls seemed so in tune with their bodies.
They were the ones who always looked great, and when you watched them walk down the street with confidence and ease, you’d think to yourself: “I want that.”
At first, I used pads because I had no idea how to use tampons. I felt mortified having to use them, but obviously I had to start somewhere. Once I figured out tampons, thanks to my saint of a mother, I’d hide them up my sleeve or in my pencil bag at school when I needed to go to the bathroom. Having a painful and heavy flow, I also needed something to help with the cramps and discomfort. Taking Midol helped my symptoms, but I always wondered what the bright pink pills were actually doing to me.
Looking back now, I realize how limited my options were when it came to menstrual products. I was filling my body with poison from the same products that were meant to help my symptoms.
Heath class taught us the basics of using pads and tampons, using condoms for safe sex, and the mechanics of sex. They never dove into how hormones affect our entire body or how, as women, we might be able to keep our hormones from kicking our butt every single month if we change up our diet and use safer means of menstrual tools.
If I had known and learned about the menstrual cup in high school, I would have never used tampons or started taking a low dose of birth control for a year and a half to “help” ease my cramps. Sound familiar?
A few years ago, I probably would have been too shy and mortified to share my story or to discuss menstrual cycles in general. I grew up in a very small town with limited access to a holistic approach to health.
My parents were amazing, and we lived out in the country on a small farm where we grew a lot of our own food. My sweet mom was very into health and taught me a lot, but she never even knew about the cup—probably due to being raised in a strict Catholic family with 13 brothers and sisters. When we talk about it now, she says she wishes she’d known it was an option back then. I can only imagine how uncomfortable options were for teenage girls like her growing up in the 60s! We’ve come a long way.
Now that I feel more confident in my own knowledge of women’s health and hormones, I’m hoping to help other women with similar stories.
How many of you have gone to your doctor with symptoms of hormone imbalance, horrible cramps, or even acne issues and been given a prescription for birth control to help?
It’s just a piece of tape slapped on a leaky faucet. Eventually, it’s going to burst and the problem will be even worse, because we’re not getting to the root of the issue. So often, doctors fail to dive into how our bodies are unique and might be suffering from hormonal issues due to a thyroid imbalance, or the fact that we have acne because our diet is lacking certain nutrients and we may need to stop eating dairy.
I wish someone had told me these things when I started using birth control to manage my menstrual symptoms. When I went off the pill, there was a war within my body that caused water retention and the skin around my cheeks seemed like it was oozing out poison that was still stuck inside of me. Now I know that my case was different and everyone has a choice about how they want to care for their bodies. I’m not knocking using birth control to manage our symptoms, but I am saying do your research. We deserve to feel relief from cramps and hormones, but there are other options out there.
Three years ago, I took charge of my health. I got off the pill and really dove into why my body was reacting the way it was. I cleaned up my diet and drank a lot less than I had in college. I immediately began to feel better and see a change, which is when I realized that I needed to decrease my stress and anxiety level by doing yoga. Being a registered yoga teacher, you’d think I’d take the advice I give my students, but I hadn’t been. Cortisol and elevated hormone levels really mess with how your body functions and in turn can cause you to hold that “bloated and inflamed” look, so I also decided to tackle my poor gut health. Since making these changes, I’ve been sick less often, my inflammation is almost nonexistent (unless I get my hands on sweets or other food weaknesses), and my skin has never felt or looked this good.
You’re probably wondering how the menstrual cup fits into all of this. Well, I first heard about it three years ago, when I started this health journey, but I wasn’t sure how to make the transition. I went online to order one, but I had no clue what size to get, how it would feel, or if I was ready for it. It took another year and a half before I walked into Whole Foods and nervously looked around at the different cups. I read the packaging for a few of them, which was helpful because size options depend on how heavy your flow is. I didn’t purchase a cup, but I took pictures and notes about what I needed.
I drove home that night knowing my period was coming soon and ultimately found myself back in a Whole Foods parking lot by my house. It was late, so there was less of a crowd, and I finally felt ready to purchase my first cup. That night I took my Luna menstrual cup home and unwrapped the tiny package, which even came with a handy silk drawstring bag to store when I wasn’t using it.
Reading the directions and looking at the cup, I was confused about how this silicone cup was going to become my new best friend. The first time I used it, I felt a little weird but noticed immediately how using one would force me to get to know my cycle. If you are like me and have a heavy flow, it’s a good plan to use an eco-friendly pad at night (especially the first few days) to avoid leaks. Now that I’m used to the cup, I know exactly when my period is coming and when my flow is going to get lighter; and I carry an emergency pad with me just in case. Since switching to the cup, my period cramps are minimal, my bloating is much less (partly from the cup and partly from my diet changes), and I feel more confident and even lucky that I’m able to have my period.
Here’s why I made the switch:
1. They are safer for your body. There are no chemicals, bleach, or chlorine in them. The chemicals in tampons can lead to TSS (toxic shock syndrome), which is foreign to our bodies and can cause sepsis or even kill you.
2. The cup is eco-friendly and reusable for years. If you still aren’t convinced, think about this: the average woman will use roughly 9,600 tampons in her lifetime. On top of that amount of waste, the cost will range between $100-$225 per year. That money could go toward a plane ticket or buy you a lot of coffee dates!
And while I still deal with cramps, it’s on a much smaller scale. Using CBD salve has been a tremendous help, as well as seeing my chiropractor during my cycle, since there can be a significant shift in your pelvis around this time. It’s great to say I no longer rely on the bright pink poison pills to alleviate my cramps.
I want women to know that there are options. There is hope for you to figure out what is going on with your body, whether it be hormonal changes, acne, chronic inflammation, or pain and discomfort. You are not alone on this journey! I am still figuring out my body, but I will say I have never felt happier and more confident in my own body.
My menstrual cup is my best friend. She doesn’t poison my body and has helped me learn to celebrate my cycle rather than dread it.
Sure, our periods can be painful but they are what make us the powerful women we are.