Until recently, I was using only traditional means for menstrual management.

Before the 12th standard , while I was living with parents, I used clothes pads during my menses. Then I started using disposable pads , after I shifted to a hostel in Pune for my further studies. Then I continued with pads alone and was satisfied with pads of different sizes and shapes for different days of my menses; I never had a reason to think about any other means for it.

Then things started changing recently. With a new awareness about the environment and my consciously thinking about what I could do to minimize pollution and potential hazards to the environment from my side, I suddenly understood that I was causing environmental waste every month by using chemical – containing pads, made up of non biodegradable material, even when I had other choices like clothes pads and menstrual cups that I could have used.

Then, when I was travelling and staying in an NGO campus in Gadchiroli and Uttarakhand, there I had to burn my used pads after each cycle to dispose of them. That time, I understood how difficult it was to burn those pads. I needed to collect some dry leaves and paper to burn along with the pads. Even then, the pads used to half burn only and then again I would have to make a fire and try to burn the remaining pads until every last bit of them got burnt. I was very anxious that if some bits of the pads remained, then they would get dispersed here and there along with the winds, or the dogs could pick them up and spread them about in the campus. This entire process used to consume about half an hour to one hour of my time, along with giving me a lot of anxiety. Then again, another stress was to find a distant place for doing it and to do it in odd hours like very early in the morning or late in the evening, just to avoid other people finding out that I was doing something embarrassing like this. And what’s more, I was a gynecologist! I felt, why did I need to feel shameful about my menstrual pads? Why did I need to dispose of my pads with so much distress? Was I strengthening the stigma associated with menses by following these things? I felt that this was an act of hiding them away from other people, almost as if I was destroying evidence of some crime I had committed.

So all of this really made me think about searching for environment – friendly alternatives.

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At the same time, I also started having itching and rashes over my vulva during my periods. On the first day it was fine. But even with the use of my regular brand of sanitary pads, I had started having severe itching around my vaginal opening. I focused on maintaining my hygiene and changing my pads frequently, but still it continued for the next three cycles.

Then I finally had a red alarm for me to stop using these toxins – containing pads at all and to shift to vagina – friendly alternatives. Also, being a gynecologist, I needed to have real practical knowledge about these different kinds of menstrual tools, to answer queries about them.

The first thing I did was to order cloth menstrual pads online. While waiting to receive the order, I read online about the experiences of women using menstrual cups. Actually, I was very anxious about inserting some foreign thing inside my vagina. I totally disliked tampons.  But as a menstrual cup is made up of silicone and only collects menstrual blood and does not soak the vagina dry, like in the case of tampons, I was a little bit in favor of the cup. After reading a lot of online material, I was watching YouTube videos about insertion and removal of menstrual cups and my initial apprehension disappeared. Then I met a friend who was actually using the cup and gave me very positive feedback. (This is the only woman I know who uses menstrual cups among my quite large friends’ circle.) Husshhhh…! After doing a thorough study, I finally ordered a menstrual cup online.

So with cloth pads and a menstrual cup in hand, I was ready for my upcoming menstrual cycle. I decided to use the cup as my primary option and cloth pads as my secondary one.

Although I am a gynecologist and very well acquainted with the anatomy of the vagina, I had a lot of trouble inserting the cup in there. I tried it in a squatting position, I tried pinching the cup and holding it at the base and after much trial and error, I finally could put it in there. Husshhhh!  After 8 hours, I tried to remove it and to my horror, I couldn’t do it initially. I tried it in the toilet. Then I rushed to the bathroom, and tried again but couldn’t get it out at all and then I became very tensed. I planned to take my gynecological instruments out and to apply one of them to the cup to pull it out. Also meanwhile, I decided to go to my relative who is also a gynecologist and to ask her to take that thing out. I swore never ever again to put this creepy thing called a menstrual cup inside my vagina. Hmmmm…Then I realized that I was just exaggerating things and making them worse. So I calmed myself down and replaced my negative thoughts and fear with positive thoughts. With new-found confidence, I again re-entered the bathroom, sat down over the floor, relaxed my muscles and then slowly forced my muscles downwards, holding the stem of the cup with alternate hands, and pulled it out after which it finally came out. Oh my! I felt so relieved!That night, I decided to forget about the cup, use the cloth pad and sleep without stress.

But the next day, I tried it again while showering and it was a lot less scary and now easier than before. With repeated use of the cup, I mastered the act of insertion and removal. Actually,it is more about overcoming your fears and anxiety about it, than the actual act of doing it. I had no leakage at all with the use of a cup. Also, there were no problems with urination or defecation. Now, I don’t feel any tension in there and I enjoy my newfound freedom: freedom from sanitary pads inside the panty, from that constant feel of a napkin sticking in there making you conscious of your menses. I feel free like I do, the other days of the month.

And I felt so happy that for the first time in my post – school life, that my menstrual cycle was not creating any environmentally hazardous  waste!All thanks to my menstrual cup and my cloth menstrual pads.

There are lots of videos and material available online about how to sew your own pads from clothes at home. My next plan is to sew them by myself. And  now, I can confidently promote use of menstrual cup to my friends, relatives and patients , from my own experience.

dr-ayshwarya-revadkarAuthor: Dr. Ayshwarya Revadkar

Dr. Ayshwarya  is Obstetrician & Gynecologist who is an avid traveler. She loves to read and write. She dreams to achieve freedom for women from taboos, age old  traditions and ignorance. Dr. Ayshwarya also takes Menstrual education and MHM sessions for adolescent girls .

Editor: Divya Rosaline

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