I was preparing for my third international trip when the thought occurred to me: I will be in a foreign country for an entire month — not the one or two weeks away I was used to — which meant I would experience a menstrual cycle while I was gone. On top of that, I was headed to New Zealand. Known for its beautiful landscapes and adventurous activities, I had plans to hike, swim, or scuba dive almost every day.
After thinking my trip planning was all thought out and realizing I missed a crucial detail, I started to feel stressed and didn’t know what I was going to do…
A Little About Me
Being on my period isn’t always doom and gloom, but there is a certain stressful feeling that comes when I know it is approaching. I’m always hoping it won’t show up at the most inconvenient time.
I have a copper IUD, which means the first three or so days of my period are always VERY heavy. After that, the rest of my menstrual cycle is not very noticeable. But having a period in New Zealand meant facing three days of outdoor adventure during heavy bleeding.
At home, I use super absorbent tampons coupled with a pad on my heavy flow days, but that was not a viable option for the water activities I would be doing abroad.
I knew I had to find another solution, so I asked my trusted female friends and family. One of them recommended using a Diva Cup, which she had tried and found to work for her.
Before I had ever used a Diva Cup, I imagined they would be uncomfortable, hard to insert, and unpleasant to remove. However, I was getting desperate and decided to give one a try!
Read next: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling on Your Period and Access to Feminine Hygiene Products around the World
Using a Diva Cup
For three months before my trip, I practiced using a Diva Cup until I became more comfortable with the process.
There are three simple steps to inserting a Diva Cup: fold the cup together, insert the cup, and then twist the cup until it feels firmly secure in place. You may need to also feel the perimeter of the cup with your finger to ensure it is not still folded. After inserted, you can wear it for up to 12 hours before needing to take it out and wash it.
I’ll be honest: my first day using a Diva Cup was not stellar. In fact, I spent nearly half an hour in the bathroom trying to take it out, cleaning it, and then reinserting it.
My second day using a Diva Cup was not the best either — I overestimated its size, thinking it would be enough to wear alone for a few hours on my super heavy day, just to find it leaking onto my underwear while I was stuck in a work meeting.
By my third day, I was more prepared with a pad for extra protection, and a working method for inserting and removing my cup. I also learned to empty my cup more frequently to avoid spillovers. Sure, I was in the bathroom every two hours, but at least each of those times combined was shorter than the nightmare from day one!
The rest of my period was a breeze as the bleeding became lighter and I found I could wear my Diva Cup for the entire day without it leaking or me needing to wash it in a public bathroom.
After experiencing using a Diva Cup during three separate menstrual cycles, it was time for my trip to New Zealand.
What Happens in NZ Stays in NZ
I found the benefits of traveling with a Diva Cup before my period even started: Diva Cups are small, so I was able to easily carry it around with me in my daypack in case Aunt Flo decided to make her debut while I was away from my lodging or in transit to another location.
Using a Diva Cup also meant I had more room in my luggage since I didn’t have to haul a whole box of tampons and pads around the country with me (I did still bring a few of each for backups and the pads for super heavy days, but I was able to pack significantly less than I normally would without a Diva Cup).
The first three weeks of my trip were pure period-free bliss. It was my fourth and final week that Aunt Flo decided to come, which just so happened to be the week my big, all-day scuba diving trip was planned for.
I told myself not to worry: I could do this. I have practiced wearing my Diva Cup, and there will be private bathrooms on the boat!
Scuba Diving in a Diva Cup
My scuba trip came on day two of my period: a super heavy bleeding day. This time I couldn’t use a pad as extra backup as I would be wearing my swimming suit all day and I would be in the water most of the time. I tried to stay calm and went to the bathroom twice that morning to make sure my cup was empty for my first dive.
I got in the water (which was shark-free, although there have been studies to show that sharks are not attracted to you while swimming on your period, so don’t let that add to your stress) and excitedly scuba dived in the ocean for my first time.
While underwater, my breathing was focused and calm, the sights were beautiful, and I saw a sea turtle! It was a dream come true.
But then it was time to surface.
I came up out of the water and did as I was instructed to do: hoist myself up onto the boat. I was mortified when I felt a leak.
The next few moments were a blur. I scrambled to remove my gear and then hastily made my way to the cramped boat bathroom. When I got in, I realized that, sure enough, I had leaked. Thankfully, there was not much blood and my wetsuit soaked it all up without a trace (hopefully the dive shop I rented my gear from won’t be reading this).
I quickly cleaned my Diva Cup and got ready for my second dive. The next time around, I didn’t leak and had no issues when getting out the water.
The rest of the day was easy and I was so grateful to have my Diva Cup, knowing that my leaking would have been much worse in a tampon.
Would I Recommend a Diva Cup?
My short answer: yes, especially for water activities.
I continued to use my cup throughout the rest of my trip and had no issues. However, in trips since I have found one major pain point: it can be hard to find a private place to wash a Diva Cup if there are no private bathrooms with private sinks. This can be especially difficult on road trips where it may be necessary to use gas stations and fast food bathrooms frequently.
Related: Traveling on Your Period: Tips to Feel Prepared
My solution has been to bring flushable wipes with me when I travel so I can at least wipe the blood off before reinserting my cup and then clean it in the sink or shower when I get to my lodging for the night.
I still also sometimes just use tampons and pads when traveling so I don’t have to deal with the hassle of cleaning my cup and replacing it constantly when I have heavy bleeding. This mostly applies to shorter trips or trips where I will be on the move through a city and not be doing adventurous outdoor activities.
With that said, wearing a Diva Cup saved my outdoor adventure and I’m glad I found an option that works for me.
Quick Facts About Diva Cups
- Diva Cups can be found at most grocery stores that sell beauty products, including Walmart, Target, Kroger, and regional stores throughout the United States. If you cannot find one at your local store, order online from Diva Cup’s website for about $40.
- Diva Cups come in different sizes, depending on your flow and age. Take Diva Cup’s online quiz to find the right size for you.
- Diva Cups come with a small cloth bag to carry the cup in, as well as a care manual that is very useful. Read it in full before using one to make the process easier.
- Diva Cups are NOT for one-time uses, so be sure to store it in the cloth bag when you are done using it and pull it out the next time you have your period. The person who recommended using one to me made the mistake of throwing hers away after using it the first time, not realizing that it can be used over and over again for a year or longer.
- Diva Cups should be washed with a gentle, fragrance-free soap. I have used hand soap in the past and have not had an issue with it, but Diva Cup does sell a special soap if you are worried about getting irritated skin.
If you’re reading this to decide whether you should use a Diva Cup while traveling, I say you should absolutely give it a try. It’s especially useful if you are going to be doing a lot of water activities and outdoor adventures and want to save room in your luggage. You won’t even notice it’s there!
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