Diary of a Diva: Hiking the trails with my DivaCup

ZJ-Michele-on-the-Trail-editAbout three years ago my mom and I decided that we wanted to complete a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We set the date for 2014 and started planning. For my 62 year old post-menopausal mom, she didn’t have to give any thought to menstrual care. For 42 year old menstruating me, I gave it a lot of thought. For 150+ days we’ll be backpacking on the PCT and the majority of those days will entail getting sweaty and dirty, using bushes as bathrooms, and very little ability to wash. We’ll be packing out all our trash and the thought of carrying around dirty pads and tampons was less than appealing to me.

I’ve always been a pad and tampon gal but knew that this hike would mean I’d have to find another way. I’d heard about menstrual cups but had never tried them and after reading several articles and blogs from other female hikers, decided to try The DivaCup.

I will admit that it took a little getting used to. Inserting and positioning the cup entailed a learning curve. I tried it out first for a couple of months in my day to day life before taking advantage of the timing of my period with a weekend backpacking trip where I could test the cup on the trail. I had worries. With dirty hands and limited access to water, how would I handle handling the cup? Surprisingly it went smoother than I anticipated. Digging a cat hole for waste is the norm so emptying the contents of the cup into the cat hole was easy. I made sure to carry a bottle filled with water – my hydration system is a bladder in my pack so access to water that I could pour meant having a bottle handy. I was able to easily swish some water in the cup to clean it out before reinsertion.

D-Michele-on-the-Trail_w-editThe greatest thing was being able to hike all day and not have to think about the fact that I had my period. I inserted it in the morning when I got up, removed and cleaned it when we stopped for dinner, and that was it.

How easy is that?

No trash, minimal fuss, and thanks to disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer my worries about having dirty hands were unfounded. I used the cup through the latter part of summer on several backpacking weekends and was so thrilled to have found a solution. And when I didn’t need it anymore, the handy little storage bag worked great. I could throw it in my pack and be good to go.

There are a lot of details to work out yet for our hike but one that is firmly marked off my list is my menstruation care – my DivaCup will be stowed in my pack, and I’m set! You can follow our adventure on the trail at Swollen Feat where I’m sure you’ll hear even more about the wonders of my Diva Cup during this adventure. Thank you Diva Cup!

X-Michele-at-Old-Mill-Cafe_w-editMichele Starry

Michele is one-half of the Swollen Feat team along with her mother Leslie. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her crazy cat Emily, and is busily planning her 2014 thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada). She’s working three jobs and trying not to be overtaken by her many to-do lists. You can follow her plans online at Swollen Feat.

 

sleep cycle/menstrual cycle

We’ve all been there.

It’s 3 am. You can’t sleep and… you have your period.

You know it’s 3 am because the light from your smart phone flashes a reminder that it’s past your bedtime. You get up for some water, and you can do this without tripping because of the “blue” light that streams from your PVR, smoke detector, coffee machine, etc. While these extra light sources are convenient, did you know they can actually be disruptive to your sleeping patterns and your hormones?

sleepBefore the introduction of artificial light, people were in entire darkness in the evening hours. Because of this, for centuries, women would chart their cycles in correlation to the moon’s cycle, a natural light source. This made sense because the moon has a 29.5 day cycle, different phases and because light has an influence on hormones, women found great success with this method.

That is until artificial light was invented.

Today our cycles are introduced to varying types of light sources that can influence our hormones. When your body is exposed to light, your retino-hypothalamic tract picks up the light sources and then relays this to your pineal gland. This is in turn produces the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a prominent hormone that is produced in the brain that sends signals to your body that it is time to sleep.

During the day normal levels of melatonin often stay low and as the sun sets, these levels escalate, hitting high levels in the evening. Low levels help you stay alert, but if these levels are low at night, you may have difficulty sleeping.

For this reason, presence of light during the night (or your sleeping hours) can influence the stable levels of your hormones and can even lead to changes in your cycle no matter the age or life experience of a woman (menstruation, pregnancy, menopause).

But, it’s not just light that affects our sleep.

According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, 67 percent of women lose sleep when they have their period. In addition to exposure to blue light, change in hormone levels, cramps, breast tenderness, headaches and change in temperature can influence sleep. It is also not uncommon to experience insomnia days before your period and disruptive sleep while on your period. Most cycle charting applications such as Pink Pad recognize insomnia as a common symptom of the menstrual cycle, listing it as a symptom women can report in the app’s interface.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that ovulation and the increase in progesterone experienced as a result of ovulation leads some to experience REM sleep earlier in the sleep cycle, which means they would experience less deep sleep. They also found that women who suffer from PMS, experience little to no REM sleep at all. And of course, with an increase in hormone levels comes an increase in temperature, leading to a week or two of restless sleep or for pregnant women or women in menopause, months and months of hot temperature nights.

Although disturbance in sleep can be linked to other issues such as stress and emotional tensions, hormonal changes need to be carefully considered, monitored and cared for just as equally.

While staying up late watching television or working on your computer is common, most women do not understand the effect this can have on your sleep pattern and if ovulating or menstruating, these activities can increase the imbalance.

So what can you do to better balance your hormone and sleep cycles? We’ve compiled some helpful tips to better care for your sleep cycle and in turn your menstrual cycle.

Settle: Wind down before bed, and not in front of a screen. Reading, writing in a journal or taking some time to reflect will not only relax your mind, but give your brain a break from the “blue light” of screens. Screen devices emit blue light, which keeps melatonin at lower levels, which can inhibit sleep.

Lights out!: Keep melatonin levels high by ensuring your room is dark. Remove any blue light sources and hang thick drapes over windows to keep the street lights out! Try your hand at this DIY tutorial on making “blackout” drapes!

Temperate Temps: Keep the temperature of your room comfortable and not too hot or too cold.

Sound effects: White noise, such as the noise of a ceiling fan, can often help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Track it: Just like tracking the symptoms of your menstrual cycle can provide valuable insight to your product health so too can tracking your sleep patterns in a sleep diary or mobile app.

Ask an Expert: Talking to your health care provider about sleep disturbances is also beneficial, especially when these are linked to your menstrual cycle.

Relax: Every so often enjoy a warm bath or shower before bed to relax your muscles and mind. Treat yourself with this bath melt recipe.

Diet Wise: Avoid grains, sugars and caffeine before bed. Limiting your liquids before bed will also ensure you won’t need to get up during the night.

Be Consistent: We recognize it with our kids, and we need to recognize it for ourselves too. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends) is the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep… every night!

Have some sleep tips that you want to share with the Diva Community? Post them here today!

{Guest Post} Generational DivaCup Love

two-boxes-w-shadowI’ve heard women express disgust when I talk about the DivaCup. I’m sure I had the same reaction when I first learned of its existence. And why wouldn’t I? As women we’re taught to feel shame about this particular function of our bodies.

Commercials brag about the most discretely-sized tampons. Boys recoil at the sight of sanitary products. Men leave the room when conversations veer into period-zone. In certain cultures and religions, menstruating women are banned from sacred spaces. Girls are taught to be secretive to avoid embarrassing ourselves and others. It’s no surprise this leads to period shame.

It’s important to the manufacturers of those products that we feel this way so they can sell us discrete tampon cases and silent-wrapper pads/tampons—because you don’t even want the girl in the next stall to hear you open that thing. —Nakia D. Hansen

I had my first vagina lesson when I was 19. I was counselling at a camp for the summer on an island in British Columbia. While conducting a routine tampon change, the string pulled off. Only the string. I spent hours wondering how I would evacuate the intruder, envisioning my early demise from Toxic Shock Syndrome.

I spent those hours in secret shame and worry, embarrassed about my period and my body. I eventually confided in two friends, hoping for ideas and solidarity. We snuck into the camp kitchen looking for utensils to resolve my predicament. This ended up being more of a giggle fest than anything. My friends convinced me to knock on the program director’s door.

After some stunned silence, tears and more giggles, the program director called her nurse friend. By now I was feeling like we should just announce the whole thing over the camp’s loudspeaker. The nurse-friend asked if I’d tried pulling out the tampon with my fingers. As if I hadn’t thought of that! She said if it wasn’t out by morning, I should take a boat across to the hospital and have it removed.

Cue the horror-movie-knife-scene music.

I hadn’t even had my first pap test yet. No one other than Mom had seen my bits. Frankly, I hadn’t even seen my bits.

I returned to my cabin and plunked myself on the toilet, determined to make this happen. Earlier, when I told the nurse that yes, I had tried to remove the tampon with my fingers, what I meant was that I had gingerly and barely inserted one finger and decided since I couldn’t feel anything, all was hopeless.

This time I reached up with determination, amazed with the flexibility and room my fingers were afforded. WHO KNEW? I became my very own superhero. Had I known anything about my body, I could have saved myself hours of stress and humiliation.

shannon.f.edit2As a young girl, I wasn’t taught much about my body beyond the basics. More importantly, I wasn’t taught to want to know about my body. Along with their harmful side-effects, tampons also allowed me to maintain a disconnect that isn’t possible with The DivaCup. The DivaCup taught me to engage with my body and to stop feeling ashamed of what it does.

That’s a win!

My daughter is eleven and awaiting her first period. I don’t know when she’ll feel ready to use The DivaCup, but she’s had a good look at mine and asked some great questions. I’m hopeful she’ll grow up to be someone who isn’t grossed out by periods, but instead amazed, informed and appreciative of her body and what it does. The DivaCup has done that for me.

Thanks, DivaCup!

Shannon.F.edit1Shannon Fisher

Shannon has written on the web since 1998 when you could make a grilled cheese sandwich before your page loaded. At Truthfully she writes about vulnerability, courage and mental health. At Republic of Quality she has the entire web on a spreadsheet. Before content strategy, Shannon spent nine years teaching small humans.

 

 

 

The DivaCup at APHA 2013

photoJust yesterday, The Diva Team packed up our booth at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting and Expo in Boston, MA.

This year’s theme was “Think Global, Act Local!” which spurred some incredible discussion about menstrual care practices and sexual health education. With The DivaCup in over 23 countries around the world, and our ongoing support of organizations like Lunapads’ One4Her program, access to sustainable menstrual care is becoming more and more available!

But there are still many who have not heard of The DivaCup concept which is why the Diva Team is committed to educating, empowering and equipping health professionals with the knowledge and tools they need to share The DivaCup concept with the women in their life.

Attending APHA was a wonderful experience for The DivaCup and we are excited for all those who learned about The DivaCup for the first time. We not only had the opportunity to present the cup to thousands of attendees, but also had the chance to host an exhibitor theater session with health educators from across the United States.

And we got to experience Boston!

Some of our favorite highlights from the show include:

  • Distributing over 500 Educator Kits to public health professionals.Award
  • Meeting public health students and sending them off with DivaCup kits to share with their classroom, teachers and campuses.
  • Getting to know our fellow Divas who not only love the product, but are passionate about sharing the menstrual cup concept with the young girls and women they care for and support.
  • Winning first place for our booth in the New Commercial Company Category!
  • Learning about organizations like the Institute for Reproductive Health, Healthy Futures, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and a new phase in women’s health called Centering Healthcare.

Overall the show was a great success and we cannot wait to connect with all the health educators, public health workers, professors, doctors, organizations and Divas that we met over the past few days!

If you didn’t have a chance to attend this year’s show, be sure to visit the official APHA 2013 blog for show highlights.