A while ago, my friend told me to quickly rush to Amira Ayman's Instagram stories because she was answering every question you could ever think of about menstrual cups. To be honest with you, the idea of menstrual cups freaked me out, but hearing her talk about how liberating, life changing and sustainable it is had me rethinking. There were still a lot of things I wanted to ask her about and I would be very selfish if I didn't share that with you too. So, we interviewed her...

Note: Please refer to your gynaecologist/doctor before you use or try any menstrual hygiene product. Also make sure you check the quality and safety of any menstrual cup you buy before using it, because some might be knock offs or harmful and could be dangerous for you. 

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1. Amira, we’d love it if you start with an introduction to our audience…

Hello! I’m a 30-year-old architect, yoga teacher and entrepreneur who made an overnight switch to a plant-based diet a bit over 5 years ago. When I did, everything fell into place for me; physical health, mental wellbeing, awareness and finally addressing my past trauma.

2. How did you get to find out about menstrual cups and what made you interested?

Drugstore pads have always been a nightmare for me. I was very sensitive to them but I never even realized that there’s an alternative other than tampons, which were out of the question for me.

The awareness that came with switching to a plant-based diet was a big step for me in discovering the menstrual cup. I started tuning into my body, listening to all the quiet messages it was sending on a daily basis and I was also becoming more aware of how polluting disposable pads are.

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The big moment for me was when I was having one of many imaginary scenarios with myself where a father was going through trash with two of his children and his fingers sunk into my oxidized blood-soaked menstrual pads. Yes, I make up stories like that in my mind! At that moment, I realized that something is very wrong.

At that point, the menstrual cup started appearing everywhere on the internet for me. I didn’t know anyone in person using it and it wasn’t available in Egypt at the time. I was meeting my Germany-based sister in Switzerland and had her bring it with her. I remember stressing on how big of a secret this is and that I didn’t want our mom to find out.

3. What was the motivation for you to speak openly on a public platform about this topic, despite it being hard to talk about for some women?

Years later, I started being so aware of how disconnected we are from our bodies. We don’t talk about periods, sex, birth and death, among many others, even though these are things we all go through. There are normalized behaviors that aren’t really serving most of us and it was time we talked about it. I’ve been told a lot that I need to respect the culture and that women should behave a certain way in this culture, but I always remind people that I am the culture, we are the culture! We need to talk about what we need to change!

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4. What is the most common question you get regarding menstrual cups?

“Isn’t that very unhygienic?!” A lot of people view reusable items as unhygienic, forgetting that we reuse our cutlery, underwear and more. The culture of disposables is actually quite new to humanity and our generation is pretty much the first to get used to single-use items that fast! I think a lot of women were also taught that their blood is unclean. They think it smells bad and no one wants to get it on their hands. Whereas this is actually an amazing insight to our health. If you start knowing your blood; it’s quantity, color, smell and consistency, you’ll be able to tell if something is ever wrong! Who else can do that but you?

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5. What would you say to women worried about the use and cleaning of menstrual cups in public?

Own it! Most women have periods, it’s the most normal thing in the world! Once you’re used to the cup, you can easily take it out, empty the blood in the toilet, wrap the cup in toilet paper or simply your hands and then rinse it. Return to the cubicle and insert it. There really is no shame in bleeding. In fact, we should be comfortable and even take pride in the fact that we can create life because of this little miracle known as the menstrual cycle!

6. How long does it take to get used to a menstrual cup?

For many right away. For most 3 cycles!

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7. Are menstrual cups a complete replacement for pads and is there a limit to how long we should have them on?

Of course, we shouldn’t have anything inside us for over 10 hours, I would even say 7. Keeping a tampon or a cup in for an extremely long period of time could increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome. And in a way, yes, they could be a complete replacement. I didn’t use a single disposable pad for over 4 years before I felt the need to free bleed.

I have strong views on that though. Let’s actually talk about this because I believe it’s very important. While I’m a big advocate for the menstrual cup, I’m a big believer in free bleeding; that is bleeding into a pad, underwear, in the shower or whatever. If it was made to flow out of us, then why keep it in?

The cup is extremely convenient and since it’s not really harmful for us, then we could definitely make use of the convenience of being able to be in the water without having to worry about blood running down our legs or being out and about and using the bathroom without dealing with changing a pad and cleaning up the blood after. Balance is key! I free bleed in the shower doing this gentle womb dance, I free bleed at home into reusable menstrual pads but whenever I’m out, the cup is always there for me!

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8. Would you mind talking to us about any personal difficulties you had with menstrual cups? And how you’ve resolved them…

I think the biggest was the discomfort at the beginning. Inserting it wasn’t fun and I could always feel it inside. Turns out I wasn’t inserting it properly. Keep in mind that back then I didn’t know anyone else who was using it so I didn’t really have anyone to advise me. With time, I learnt to insert it easily and anywhere (I did the Everest Base Camp hike with it!) and once I learnt to wiggle it around a bit and tilt it a bit backwards, it now sits very comfortably and I often forget it’s even there!

9. What are some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding menstrual cups?

Hygiene related things for sure. Many women think that it’s pretty messy too, which it can be at the beginning. With more experience, it becomes a breeze and touching the blood will be your own choice, not because it’s messy! We also don’t realize that blood doesn’t smell bad, it just smells like blood, maybe with a slightly iron-y smell. Blood in pads smells bad only because it oxidized from the contact with air.

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10. Are there any dangers or side effects that people should be wary of when using menstrual cups?

Just don’t leave it in there for more than the recommended time and always make sure it’s clean and that the side holes aren’t blocked. The risk of toxic shock syndrome with the cup is way lower than most menstrual hygiene products so there isn’t much to worry about!

11. Do you believe that decreasing the frequency of wearing pads, tampons or menstrual cups on a daily basis can be beneficial? And how so?

In all honesty, I think single use pads should be banned for good. The amount of chemicals these products are loaded with is incredible. It is also not a legal requirement that the companies label all the ingredients because it’s not an item we ingest. Even though, when you think about it, it’s in contact with a very sensitive area. The amount of micro-plastics and synthetics in these products are endocrine disruptors. They’re terrible for our hormones and our overall health.

Tampons are pretty much the same, except that tampons also have a mechanical function that harms us even more! They absorb so much of the vaginal fluids and therefore cause dryness. Many people would argue that organic pads and tampons are better, which is another choice, an imperfect one but for some women it’s perfect enough.

I always recommend a reusable menstrual pad. There’s pretty much nothing about them that can be harmful, except if we wash them with harsh detergents. Lastly, to address the cup, as I mentioned earlier we need to free bleed! When the uterus is bleeding, the vaginal walls are detoxing as well. Allow this flow to take place so definitely do take breaks from the cup if you’re using it!

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12. And finally we have to mention Urban Earthlings and its incredible initiative. Are there any future plans for the online store that we can start getting excited about?

Thank you! Well, there’s a big thing relevant to what we were discussing and that is… reusable organic cotton menstrual pads! I’m really excited, but it’s so much work so I can’t really announce when they will launch exactly, but they will pretty soon!

Main Image Credits: Instagram @manonofthesprings Via Instagram @amiraaymans