This costs of a period are mental, physical, and literal.
This article was created in partnership with OrganiCup.
Periods can be messy. They can be painful and debilitating. They are sometimes a bother that those of us with uteruses that still menstruate forget about, until THE day comes and we are reminded that our amazing bodies can also make us crampy, dizzy, horny, and just plain uncomfortable. Pad and tampon ads rarely share the whole story. Sex ed and health classes in middle and high school rarely discuss what periods are really like. Instead, most classes focus on the medical reasons we have periods and ways to prevent pregnancy, not tips and tricks to manage this expensive, sometimes annoying, miracle of life.
On average in the US, someone who menstruates will do so for about forty years of their life. According to HuffPost, that can be upwards of 6.25 years of that individual’s life spent having a period. While “average” can be a dividing term, in this piece, I will be using it to refer to a person with a uterus who has consistent periods and does not have endometriosis or another condition that might cause irregular periods. Additionally, while I do not believe that you must be a “woman” to have a period, research may not reflect this.
All About the Benjaminas
A HuffPost writer calculated the total cost of menstruation over a person’s lifetime as approximately $18,173, accounting for things like new underwear, pads, tampons, pain relief, acne medication, chocolate, heating pads, and birth control. That amount of money could be used toward loans, rent, food, medical bills, and so much more. A lot of these purchases are also subject to the “Pink Tax,” a form of gender discrimination where products deemed for women are priced higher than the equivalent “men’s” item. According to an NYC Department of Consumer Affairs survey, women paid more for the same items as men 42% of the time in close to 800 products studied. Whether it is for razors, a common product used by all genders, or more specific and necessary items, like pads and tampons, those who bought “women’s” items paid more on average. These taxations are unfair to all, but especially to those of a lower socioeconomic status where decisions must be made to either buy single-use menstrual products or risk health issues by keeping a tampon in for longer than the recommended amount of time.
Collect Those Coins… and Your Menses
This is where the menstrual cup comes in! A menstrual cup is… well, it’s exactly what it sounds like—a small silicone cup that can be inserted into your vagina to collect your menses. According to OrganiCup, a vegan, environmentally friendly menstrual cup brand, menstrual cups have been used for decades as an alternative to wasteful and expensive pads and tampons. For the past year, I have been using a menstrual cup after deciding that pads were too expensive and realizing how much I dislike tampons. My cup has made having my period so much easier. I studied abroad in Ghana, using my cup during the four months I was away, and therefore not contributing in that way to waste in my temporary home. I traveled to India, where having a menstrual cup meant no longer having to find places outside of my family home to throw out my used pads and tampons.
Unlike pads and tampons, the OrganiCup is made of 100% medical grade silicone and contains no BPA, latex, or dyes, which means it has no hazardous chemicals and is in many ways safer than your go-to period supplies. In fact, when it comes to menstrual cups, there have only been 2 reported cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome, and they were both due to prolonged use well above the recommended 12-hour maximum. The OrganiCup, in particular, is easy to insert, and the website even has instructions for those who are confused or nervous about it. The company provides soap and wipes for cleaning the cup and a cute cotton pouch to store your cup in-between periods. The material is 100% recyclable and compostable, using limited plastic to ensure cleanliness and protection of the environment. From marketing to care, the OrganiCup is ideal for those who want to explore alternatives to the usual period care and, of course, for those who want to save money—the OrganiCup lasts up to 10 years!
The primary challenge with my first cup was that I would have to quickly scurry from a public bathroom stall to the sink and back if I had to change it during the day. When I received my OrganiCup, I was so excited! Not only was this menstrual cup eco-friendly even in its packaging, but it even came with convenient accessories like cleaning wipes to use if I needed to empty my cup while out in public. Their soap was unscented and came in a leak-proof container.
For the first few days of my period, adjusting from my previous brand of menstrual cup to the OrganiCup was a little difficult, but after I clipped the end tip of the cup (making it a little shorter) it became easy and so simple. I knew that I had a heavier flow during the first few days, so having the option between two different cup sizes made it easier to adjust over the week from a more intense cup to a smaller one.
I really love using menstrual cups because regardless of what I am doing during the week of my period, the cup means I have one less thing to worry about. Unlike other menstrual options, I can wear whatever I want without fear of whether or not my pad is visible. I also do not have to worry about TSS like I used to when wearing a tampon. I feel clean and comfortable. I can wear the cup throughout the night, without having to wake up to change, and I can wear it in preparation for an impending period to the gym, the beach, and on long trips without feeling uncomfortable or worried.
While there are many, many options of menstrual cups and supplies, I can honestly say that the OrganiCup offered not only the comfort and safety, but also less guilt for putting more waste into the environment. Just like every person is different, every period is different so, while you may end up using a different brand, or a different method of menstrual care—I would highly recommend OrganiCup as an eco-friendlyecofriendly, safe, and easy to use menstrual cup!
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Illustrations by Leonor Carvalho
Jaya Savita Aiyer (she/her) is a recent graduate of NYU where she studied Global Public Health, Anthropology, and Social and Public Policy. She is committed to creating intersectional and equitable policy through a social justice and radical change lens. In her free time since starting her first job, likes to dance, bake, and talk about her menstrual cup whenever possible. For 2020, she's excited to eat new food, travel more, and VOTE!