April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What is a Diva Cup?

April here. Ok, I am hoping that all of you will stick with me on this post - even you men. I am writing this post because I firmly feel that it can have positive effects on the amounts of trash each woman produces while also creating positive quality of life impacts. Remember, I am a Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) volunteer in Peace Corps and you are a part of my community - distant, but part of my community.

When we think of menstration (which we would rather not think about I know...but stick with me for a minute)...we think about PMS, cramps, chocolate and wish that it was over already. In a couple of days it is over and we forget about it again for 20 some days. But we never think of how long our week long menstral cycle really impacts our environment.

Did you know:

  • In a woman's lifetime, she is likely to use 15,000 sanitary pads or tampons....this is 250-300lbs of trash.
  • According to the National Women's Health Network, annually more than twelve billion pads and seven million tampons are used once and disposed of. (Yes, there are reusable pads.)

  • Plastic parts of pads and tampons (like tampon applicators) may not biodegrade for several hundred years.

  • Most of this trash dwells in our trash dumps, but not all. Plastic tampon applicators from sewage outfalls are one of the most common forms of trash on beaches. According to the Center for Marine Conservation, more than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.

So, I am not using pads or tampons anymore. Nope...no more.

No pads, no tampons....what are you using?

I have switched over to using a menstral cup. It is a soft silicon or natural rubber cup that is inserted into the vagina much like a tampon or diaphram. Menstral cups have been around since the 1930s and are used in many parts of the world...but they are not widely known in the USA. They do exist in the USA; for example, the female scientists of Biosphere 2 chose a menstral cup as their form of feminine hygiene while in their enclosed environment in Arizona in 1992.

I switched over to a menstral cup about a year before coming to Peace Corps. I figured at the time that tampons would be hard to find while in Peace Corps (I was right...they are much harder to find here in Panama.) I liked the idea of something reusable that I didn´t have to worry about running out of.

At the time I didn´t know anyone else who used one (I now know one other woman who uses them and feels as positive as I do). I was out and experimenting on my own without knowing if I was crazy to try this. I had to order it through the mail. Later, our local health food store started to stock them...so getting a second backup one to bring to Peace Corps was easier (thus I don´t have to worry about getting another if I drop one down a laterine). After not knowing anyone who used one I was suprised to feel that the switch to using a menstral cup was the best thing I ever did (menstrally anyway).

Even if the trash was not an important issue to my enviromentalist's heart I would still be using the Diva Cup that I own...I like it better than any other option. Beyond being reusable, I find that menstral cups have many advantages over pads or tampons including:

  • Less leaking and fear of leaks
  • Less need to change, fiddle with, or deal with menstral issues (cups are emptied typically 1-2 times a day)
  • Less need to deal with menstral issues in public bathrooms (because the cup is emptied only 1-2 times a day I have the power to pick when and where I deal with it)
  • Less odor
  • Comfortable...like a tampon but without the dry feeling.
  • Less risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome - there is currently no known link of TSS to menstral cups
  • No trash to carry around the bathroom (or woods -important to a hiker)
    or flush (less chance of plumbing problems)
  • No menstral supplies in my pocket or purse
  • No tampons accidently going through the washer
  • No more running out of tampons or wondering if I should carry more with me

For those of you out there who are not swayed by any of the above, here is another thought for you. Money. The average menstral cup should last years with only minimal care. Imagine 5 or more years not going down the pad isle in the supermarket (or having to talk your guy into going down it for you)!

If you spend $4.00 a month on pads/tampons now X 60 months = $240.00

If you just buy (for $35) and use a menstral cup $240.00 - $35.00 = $205.00 Savings!

As far as I can tell, there are two companies making menstral cups for the USA market: The Keeper and Diva Cup. I own one from each company and they are more or less the same (Diva cups are a little easier to find and what I would recommend). I would recommend a silicon cup over a natural rubber one though (looks and smells cleaner).

More information, including FAQs and testimonials, can be found at:




If you are thinking of trying one and have specific questions about them you want answered first just ask. I would be happy to answer honestly and completly. I know that menstral cups are not the answer for everyone. Like tampons, they do take a certain amount of comfort with your own body...but I think that the vast majority of us women are capable of that (if we can just stop listening to all the companies that make money by convicing us that menstration is icky).

I know that you might think that I am a bit weird for writing this post, but for me it is the environmental message that will give me the courage to click "publish post". I hope you too will find the courage to talk to your friends about this subject (even if you have to start off by telling them how far off the deep end your friend in Peace Corps has gone as the starter for the conversation). If this gets even one woman to try a menstral cup the embarassment I feel in sharing this will be worth it.

Thanks for reading.


m said...

This was extra funny when I thought it was Kevin writing it!!! LOL :) M

April Cropper said...

Ha, that is funny. I added a clarification. Well, knowing that you read it makes me pretty sure that at least a couple of new women will discuss these issues...you and your friends are just the type to gab without PENA (embarassment) about these issues.

Tabassum said...

This post just adds another reason to my very long list of why you are one of my most favorite people ever. <3 :) Tabassum

Linda said...

Oh April, did I tell you that you are wonderful? I must give you extra hugs for your sincere dedication to ecofriendliness the next time I see you. By the way, when my school newspaper ran a column on the Diva Cup, some random guy wrote a letter to the editor calling the column's author a Hippie Chick. I believe that even if she was a Hippie Chick, the world needs more people who speak up for environmentalism and live it too. Love you loads, April!

and m's comment greatly amuses me too! Kevin, I can't imagine you writing about this!

Ah, love you both and miss you both extra loads. Loads even greater than my laundry that I take home from college to get done ;)

Amber said...

Hi April (and Kevin)!
I haven't been keeping up with your blog (Shame on me, I know!)
I did want to mention here that I've considered using the diva cup. I haven't, mostly because I can't get used to the idea of using it....I have a hard time with tampons and only use them when I absolutely have to. I may revisit the idea in the future, however in the meantime, I tried using luna pads. I really like them for the most part, although that too takes getting used to, particularly cleaning them. I still use disposable pads sometimes, but both because I care about my impact on the environment, and because I dislike the industry that sells "sanitary products" (what, are women "dirty" 1/4 of every month?), I do my best to use the environmentally friendlier products.

This was a far longer post than I intended, so I'll wrap it up now.

It's wonderful to read about your and Kevin's adventures in Panama. I look forward to reading more!

Catherine said...

Hi! I am a soon to be PC volunteer in Panama and I happened upon your blog since I am considering getting a diva cup before leaving. I read all their FAQs on the website and I was just wondering about your experience. My main question, I guess is, how, when and where were you able to boil it, as it says to do at the end of your cycle? I am especially wondering about during training and while living with a host family. Any info would be greatly appreciated, and maybe one day our paths will cross!

Kevin Cropper said...

Catherine, hopefully you'll check back here, since I don't have an email address.
My wife says she would typically boil water, pour it in a mug, and then put the cup in.
While we were in host families, she says she would generally clean it with bleach water (a bottle of chloro is cheap and common).
She had no problems and advocated it to several others here who have adopted it with similar enthusiastic and positive results.

Jade Graham said...

because of the tight seal it creates, it does not leak. Plus, you don't need to carry anything around or worry if you have enough with you. menstrual cup

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