Why do we still have tampons when we could invent tiny period-nano-bots?
March 13, 2015 1:54 PM   Subscribe

"Couldn’t we come up with some nano “woombas” to suck up a couple of ounces of blood every month?" asks Kaleigh Rogers. Where, oh where, are our flashy, hi-tech menstruation solutions? After a hundred years of tampons, is it time to paint Silicon Valley red and develop some uterine upgrades?
posted by averysmallcat (78 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
They've got the commercial ready to go.
posted by msbutah at 2:02 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


There have been new things since then- Like Softcups for example. But they are not as popular with women. Plus you can just take birth control pills and skip the plecebos to skip your periods if you want. There hasn't yet been any evidence that shows this is dangerous in any way. I think when it comes down to it, the tampons are just easier and less hassle and that's why they've endured.
posted by rancher at 2:04 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nanobots with a taste for blood - what could go wrong?
posted by rosswald at 2:05 PM on March 13, 2015 [126 favorites]


All of those things are discussed in the article, rancher.

I didn't realize that the stick-on pad came along so recently. Sort of amazing that those belt contraptions seemed reasonable to people for so long.

Interesting article, though I thought the framing device was a little too overwrought. Or at least it ignores that it's sort of astonishing how not Jetsons-like so much of our personal hygiene/medicine routine is all-around.
posted by phearlez at 2:08 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure this author has a concept of what "nano" means. Also, where would said presumably inorganic particulates filled with clotted blood go? Back out the obvious exit would be the best course of action, in which case I'm not sure you've invented any sort of net solution here.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:08 PM on March 13, 2015 [28 favorites]


Answer to first question: no nanobots yet exist that do this, and that's not necessarily the best way to eliminate periods anyway.

But this bit:

New contraceptive options like birth control pills that only giv​e you four periods a year and hor​monal IUDs that eliminate menstruation altogether are gaining in popularity. While still a small part of the market, the use of long-lasting, period-reducing contraceptives doubled over a five-yea​r period from 2011-2013.

But Houppert isn’t convinced Big Tampon has anything to worry about.

“Most women, by the time you’re in your 20s, are pretty used to getting their period,” Houppert said. For many women, their period is a way of getting a monthly “check-in” on their bodies, she said. It’s a signal that a woman isn’t pregnant, that she’s healthy, that things are functioning the way they naturally do.

“We’re all aware when something is off through that. It’s a casual check in that women do with their bodies consciously or unconsciously,” Houppert said.


...made me laugh. I can't handle the current hormone pills out there, but the minute something I could handle came out that eliminated my periods or greatly reduced them, I would be on it like that. I don't need my "check-in" thanks a lot. All it tells me is I'm not pregnant (though women do sometimes bleed a bit when they are pregnant, so it's not 100% fullproof for that either) and frankly, buying a pregnancy test now and then is a hell of lot less of a hassle than a fucking period.

For more on this, read "Even the Queen" by Connie Willis.
posted by emjaybee at 2:09 PM on March 13, 2015 [48 favorites]


Let's see -- we'll build tiny self replication robots that exist to destroy blood. What could *possibly* go wrong here?
posted by eriko at 2:09 PM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Tampons are just so convenient but I feel bad buying them for environmental reasons. I'm actually leaning towards the opposite of the article. Rather than buying some Shiny New Product from The Man I think I'd rather go back to using washable squares of material like what they did in days of yore. Though I say this as someone blessed with non-nightmarish periods and the privilege of in-house laundry facilities. I realise tampons are supposed to stop periods from getting in the way of all one's socialising and sporting activities but they make no difference to my actual pastime of lying on the couch.
posted by billiebee at 2:12 PM on March 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think I would settle for tampons being some blood-absorbing strip that somehow dehydrated the blood, so instead of then having to pull this bloody messy thing out and having to figure out somewhere to put it, you just remove a small strip that is not full of wet congealed blood and toss it lightly away. Because honestly, I don't hate my period, I don't hate bleeding, I just hate always being afraid that my tampon will fail to absorb enough and I'll be left with showing blood on my clothes.
posted by corb at 2:16 PM on March 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


What kind of science fiction future is this? Where are the flying wombs we were promised?
posted by happyroach at 2:21 PM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I can't decide if 'woomba' fills me with joy or makes me want to punch a wall. But if I'm going to right a horror story about swarms of blood-hungry nanobots, I'm certainly borrowing it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:21 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Of course the idea that showing blood on our clothes is a hideous faux pas - despite the billions of women who menstruate each month and have done for millennia - says a lot about the unacceptability of the realities of women's bodies. I hear you, but it sucks that we have to give a rat's fart.
posted by billiebee at 2:21 PM on March 13, 2015 [42 favorites]


Not everybody can just take birth control pills. (Clotting disorders: more common than you may think!) I really hope for a Glorious Technological Solution, here.
posted by Jeanne at 2:24 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I had nightmarish periods and have upgraded to not having a uterus. I do think that the way that menstrual issues are treated is very messed up and sexist - I know some women don't have the kind of pain or depression I dealt with, but for me it was quite severe and just not wanting to spend several days a month bleeding out your genitals seems like something science should be excited to fix.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:27 PM on March 13, 2015 [22 favorites]


Other people have aptly illustrated the potential unintended consequences of blood-sucking nanobots but I think it speaks to just how hard it is to envision just what a Glorious Technological Solution would look like. The things that come to mind all seem initially great, but then again so did tampons, and pads, and giant diaper-pads on belts, and...
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:38 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cannot stand tampons (despite what the article says I CAN feel them and they suck) but SoftCups are like the best thing that's ever happened to me. I like my DivaCup okay, but the instant they make a fully reusable SoftCup I'm buying 300x. No leaks, no feeling it, easier to get in/out than the Diva, just a happy trampoline full of menstrual blood that I don't have to think about for the next 10 hours.

Clean ones also make excellent collapsible shot glasses in a pinch.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:45 PM on March 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


I'm reminded of an old joke by I forget whom, which I'll paraphrase: if men got pregnant, you could get abortion pills from every corner store, and they'd come in chocolate and cool mint flavors. Likewise, if men had to deal with blood dripping from their dicks once a month, the patriachy would put the "men" in "menstruation". Nanobots or no nanobots, MegaCorps in all related fields would make sure that the piles of money dedicated to developing pharmacological and biotech solutions for it would be enough to pay for a few manned space flights to Jovian moons. (Or maybe cultures around the world would have evolved to consider it all manly and shit, and a non-issue to begin with. At the very least you could bet your ass that the holy texts of major religions would not consider menstruation unclean and shun men during that time of the month.)
posted by jklaiho at 2:46 PM on March 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


The absorbents in pads and tampons (and diapers) have had a major upgrade in the past couple of decades. Polyacrylates (YT) are used in the "Super Absorbent" varieties, though highly drying internal tampons have been implcated in toxic shock:
A super-absorbent tampon -- especially if it's left in place too long, or if it is used when the menstrual flow is light -- can dry out the vagina, making such tearing even more likely.
So too much of a good thing can be a really bad thing. Sodium polyacrylates can also cause allergic skin reactions, and so have to be packaged under cotton and fabric.

The chemistry of the polyacrylates is rather interesting (YT). Essentially these are giant hydroscopic salts that suck up water into a gel, that only activate when they're directly wetted, so they don't degrade (as strongly) in humid air, for example, unlike other drying agents such as silica gel.
posted by bonehead at 2:46 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


When my partner told me about menstrual extraction I couldn't believe it hadn't evolved into a spa-like once-a-month treatment. It's fascinating to read about, though--kind of an important piece of the DIY reproductive health movement from the 70's. It sounds like a lot of the issues with it revolve around how safe it is (especially in a DIY setting), along with the inevitable fraughtness that comes with it also being a form of very early abortion. For all I know it may be uncomfortable too.
posted by rivenwanderer at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


WidgetAlley: I cannot stand tampons (despite what the article says I CAN feel them and they suck) but SoftCups are like the best thing that's ever happened to me. I like my DivaCup okay, but the instant they make a fully reusable SoftCup I'm buying 300x. No leaks, no feeling it, easier to get in/out than the Diva, just a happy trampoline full of menstrual blood that I don't have to think about for the next 10 hours.

I had to give up my MoonCup when I got an IUD - it was no longer comfortable and I was always concerned about catching the IUD strings. I tried SoftCups but I, er, can't pee with them in. Seriously. Such a promising solution, but apparently too big/not the right shape for me.
posted by averysmallcat at 2:54 PM on March 13, 2015


Or maybe cultures around the world would have evolved to consider it all manly and shit, and a non-issue to begin with. At the very least you could bet your ass that the holy texts of major religions would not consider menstruation unclean and shun men during that time of the month.

Chicken and egg scenario, perhaps? After all, the reason women were excluded from positions of power in "traditional" type religions (aka The Big Three) is their perception as the "weaker sex", and I can't help but think that menstruation has something to do with that.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:56 PM on March 13, 2015


Trust me, you really don't want to get robots involved in your lady business. I've been trying to warn people about this sort of thing for years.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:56 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


along with the inevitable fraughtness that comes with it also being a form of very early abortion. For all I know it may be uncomfortable too

I had a boss in college in the 90s who was still mad she couldn't get extractions every month like she used to. It was absolutely zero big deal, and if men menstruated I guarantee we'd all have a home extractor and maybe one in the car, too.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:58 PM on March 13, 2015


I could do with just biodegradable sanitary pads, really.
posted by sukeban at 2:58 PM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


This article read like a high school essay to me. In that the author did some googling and explained about some stuff but failed to consider any experience outside of their own. Oh really, you can't feel tampons? You can skip your period? That's nice, but not universally true. My hormones are set up in such a way that they refuse to be manipulated and any attempts to do so wreak havoc on me.

e thing is, the companies who would be the ones to develop new advancements in menstrual technology really have no incentive to replace the status quo.

Well no. It's ignorance that the status quo doesn't work for everyone, and that we have money we would throw at this problem for the right solution.

For me none of the things the article talks about are things I can use. The only things that actually get the job done are adult incontinence products.
posted by bleep at 3:05 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


phearlez: "I didn't realize that the stick-on pad came along so recently. Sort of amazing that those belt contraptions seemed reasonable to people for so long.
"

The stick on pad requires an adhesive that sticks until you don't want it to at which point you need it to release without leaving a residue. This is a hard problem only solved in a practical sense in the late 60s.
posted by Mitheral at 3:11 PM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


The DivaCup has worked well for me, but if they invented a uterus vacuum for home use, I would be all "TAKE MY MONEY NOW!"
posted by Ruki at 3:33 PM on March 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


...made me laugh. I can't handle the current hormone pills out there, but the minute something I could handle came out that eliminated my periods or greatly reduced them, I would be on it like that. I don't need my "check-in" thanks a lot. All it tells me is I'm not pregnant (though women do sometimes bleed a bit when they are pregnant, so it's not 100% fullproof for that either) and frankly, buying a pregnancy test now and then is a hell of lot less of a hassle than a fucking period.

They will never work perfectly though. My wife's prescription set her free for about 10 years. 100% success. After forced brand changes due to manufacturing discontinuations and hormone changes that come with aging the results are more like 95% and seem to be gradually decreasing. But yeah my wife was pretty stoked when she first got on this.
posted by srboisvert at 3:44 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of an old joke by I forget whom

Gloria Steinem, If Men Could Menstruate.

And not to get all hippie earth-mothery about it, but when I went off the Pill (due to it ramping up my normal major depression to suicidal levels) I really appreciated the experience of getting back in touch with my body's cycle, instead of having it steamrollered flat by the Pill. Mileage varies, of course, and people whose cycles are more difficult (worse cramps, or endometriosis, or anything like that) would have a different experience, but for me? No hormones, ever again.
posted by Lexica at 3:48 PM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I freaking adore my MoonCup, but it doesn't make menstruating suck any less.

A buddy of mine who was having problems with menorrhagia (read: "great, gushing Godzilla periods") was offered the chance to have endometrial ablation surgery, which destroys the uterine lining so it can't make menstrual goop anymore. She passed on it, because she wasn't ready to give up on having more kids, but damn: I'd have that done in a minute.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:53 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


When my partner told me about menstrual extraction I couldn't believe it hadn't evolved into a spa-like once-a-month treatment.

Seriously, why? I would want that so hard.
posted by corb at 4:12 PM on March 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


“Most women, by the time you’re in your 20s, are pretty used to getting their period,” Houppert said. For many women, their period is a way of getting a monthly “check-in” on their bodies, she said. It’s a signal that a woman isn’t pregnant, that she’s healthy, that things are functioning the way they naturally do.

I have not had a period since the early 90's--thanks to hormonal birth control, which thank god my body tolerates--I have never once questioned whether I'm pregnant, healthy or "functioning the way I naturally do". The idea that women need to simulate periods while on birth control to feel normal is, frankly, horseshit.
posted by LeeloDallasMultiSocks at 4:17 PM on March 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


sanitary towels used to leak and absorb nothing and have useless glue on the back, like dried-out pritt stick (if you walked more than 100 yards they came loose and out the bottom of your trouser leg) until they overturned the ban on advertising them on tv in about 1994 in the UK, suddenly the design improved dramatically - sticky backing, waterproof outer etc! When i was in sardinia for a year in 1999, colleagues swore chemists sold them under the counter but everyone suddenly froze and ignored me when i asked, so spent the year using incontinence pads from a huge french supermarket out of town. Fortunately had packed tampons. But they still vary totally from country to country, brands don't cross borders. No applicator ones in Germany (method is different with non/applicator ones: with, you sort of relax your body while pushing, whereas with non you have to sort of push against it with your body. You can learn the new one, but it can be painful or uncomfortable and isn't easy and automatic) and they all had a sort of skirt on the tampon to prevent leaks. NB they're considered disgusting and private because of genitals etc, but so why isn't toilet paper an even bigger secret, since it's far more disgusting (vaginas are sterile)?
posted by maiamaia at 4:41 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, someone please tell us more about menstrual extraction/regulation for the non-abortion use case. Can it be done at home? Does it hurt? How effective is it at ending your period right away? how long does it take? how soon before your period can you do it? So many questions, so few answers.
posted by captaincrouton at 4:41 PM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


NB i just realised, when the EU or was it the UK made it law that all public toilets even eg work ones had to have a special tampons bin suddenly life got so simple. Every time i went abroad in the past i forgot and suddenly life was hell (i have to carry this thing round with me?) again. That's living a luxury first-world life: all water in taps is drinkable, you never have to carry tampons round with you, bliss...
posted by maiamaia at 4:45 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hate tampons. It's hard to get in and when I extract it there's this weird suction that makes it feel like I'm pulling out a kidney. When I hadn't yet had sex one of the reasons I worried about it was that I thought it might feel like repeatedly inserting and removing a tampon, which was about as far from sexy as I could imagine.
posted by winna at 4:52 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just out of curiosity (dude-erus without a clue-terus over here), have they totally worked out all the cancer kinks with the pill, or is this "full stop to the period" thing going to come home to roost in the worst way in a few decades?

I have not had a period since the early 90's--thanks to hormonal birth control, which thank god my body tolerates--I have never once questioned whether I'm pregnant, healthy or "functioning the way I naturally do".

I think the point is that if you get regular periods, then on the off chance they go all wacky, you'll notice something's up, and you'll consult a doctor about your imminent demise. If you don't get a period, you don't have that early warning system. You could be riddled with the super duper double death and wouldn't even know it! (But, yeah, speaking as a person innately lacking that particular superpower, it hardly seems worth the expense and hassle.)

until they overturned the ban on advertising them on tv in about 1994 in the UK

what
posted by Sys Rq at 4:57 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yup
posted by billiebee at 5:02 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, to be clear, you could advertise the product. You just couldn't show the product.
posted by billiebee at 5:03 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh really, you can't feel tampons? You can skip your period? That's nice, but not universally true.

One of the shittiest things about it taking so long for me to get pregnant (18 months for kid #1, 13 months for kid #2) is that I had to endure unregulated periods for most of that time. I'd been on the pill for the previous 14 years and it was delightful. But, well, that's not a good option when you're trying to have a baby. I have a Mirena now (my second) and it is EVEN MORE DELIGHTFUL; I don't get a period so much as a sort of a light diacritical mark, it's only heavy enough to even need a pantiliner about twice a year.

When I'm menstruating without regulation, though, the Softcup is the best for me. My favorite thing about it is that I can empty it without removing it -- just bear down when you pee, it squeezes and empties, and then kegel real hard and it snaps back up behind your pubic bone. Every day in the shower, remove it, rinse it out, and huck it back up there. Bliss.

I too would love menstrual extraction to be a thing. I can think of no other way to skip the shittiness of menstruation while still preserving fertility.
posted by KathrynT at 5:13 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think the point is... You could be riddled with the super duper double death and wouldn't even know it!

Can't tell if serious.
posted by bleep at 5:21 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


NB they're considered disgusting and private because of genitals etc, but so why isn't toilet paper an even bigger secret, since it's far more disgusting (vaginas are sterile)?
Vaginas are very not sterile! And the bacteria in there are pretty important--when they get out of whack, bad things happen. Back in the day, I was peripherally involved in a research effort characterizing the vaginal microbial communities in adult women. But nowadays you can even use monthly services to keep track of your genital microbiome!
posted by foxfirefey at 5:31 PM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


My favorite thing about it is that I can empty it without removing it -- just bear down when you pee, it squeezes and empties, and then kegel real hard and it snaps back up behind your pubic bone.

WHAT

ARE YOU LIKE A VAGINA SUPERHERO

I'm going to go try this right now.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:55 PM on March 13, 2015 [42 favorites]


.You could be riddled with the super duper double death and wouldn't even know it!

Win win?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:29 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Of course the idea that showing blood on our clothes is a hideous faux pas - despite the billions of women who menstruate each month and have done for millennia - says a lot about the unacceptability of the realities of women's bodies. I hear you, but it sucks that we have to give a rat's fart."

No, it doesn't say much about the "unacceptability of the realitieis of women's bodies." If blood is showing through your clothes that means it's not staying on your clothes. Is the concept of blood being unsanitary really that problematic?

EDIT: To clear up a sentence:

" that means it's not staying on your clothes." should read:

" that means it's not staying on your clothes but, instead, could be transferred to things like seats and other things."

Also, there's a reason I wipe my nose when I get a nosebleed and don't walk around with a bleeding nose. This point just doesn't make much sense to me.
posted by I-baLL at 6:30 PM on March 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


My favorite thing about it is that I can empty it without removing it -- just bear down when you pee, it squeezes and empties, and then kegel real hard and it snaps back up behind your pubic bone.

Look, I'm a mom, and things have happened down there. But when I use tampons, I don't remove them with my hands. If I had the vaginal fortitude to do that with the DivaCup, my life would never be the same.
posted by Ruki at 6:36 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you combined the menstrual vacuuming/suck out with liposuctioning you have MAJOR product. What, I can get my menstrual cycle hoovered out AND weight loss? TAKE MY MONEY. Where is all that disruption talk, now?! But seriously, I would want a multi-use vagina dentata.
posted by jadepearl at 6:40 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


No, it doesn't say much about the "unacceptability of the realitieis of women's bodies." If blood is showing through your clothes that means it's not staying on your clothes. Is the concept of blood being unsanitary really that problematic?

danger! warning! you're crossing the event horizon of a black hole. More e-ink has been spilled over this one(freebleeding/the blood isn't gross society is the problem Vs yes it's a biohazard it's gross and that isn't just some symptom of the patriarchy and messaging about womens bodies) than almost anything i've seen in the past several years. I fell asleep last night reading a huge instagram comment thread that turned in to an all out war about this.

Pretty much the answer seems to be somewhere around "it's both". Like yes it's actually gross, but people react to it literally worse than they would about a pee stain or shit. Jizz on a shirt is seemingly more acceptable, and that has a lot of honestly grosser connotations.

There's some legitimacy to the biohazard/actually gross side, but you can't really trashcan the weird societal views of it, yea.
posted by emptythought at 7:37 PM on March 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


As an example of what emptythought is saying, consider that no one would suggest it's "gross" or "inappropriate" to bleed into a shared sink from a cut and yet dumping and rinsing menstrual cups is often called those words.
posted by R343L at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


And there don't seem to be pages and pages every month in teen magazines about how omg embaaaaaaaaarrrraaassssing it is to get a papercut.
posted by jaguar at 8:26 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Menstrual extraction actually exists?! I thought I'd thought that up on my own and had no idea how to invent one and figured the law would never allow it anyway.

Why is this not popular and why can't anyone get this magical device?!?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:27 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thought experiment: if women decided to never hide/check/contain their flow again, step one: blood everywhere, step two: free period products forever.
posted by bendy at 8:37 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I question the assertion that things would be different if men had periods, on the grounds that this is the 21st fucking century and I still have to poop. What The Actual Shit is this so-called "future"?

re: what would hypothetical nanobots do with the blood - presumably it comes from somewhere before it's in the uterus (ie there's a blood-permeable membrane at work). Couldn't the proposed nanobots just return it back from whence it came?
posted by Ryvar at 9:48 PM on March 13, 2015


I think the point is that if you get regular periods, then on the off chance they go all wacky, you'll notice something's up, and you'll consult a doctor about your imminent demise. If you don't get a period, you don't have that early warning system. You could be riddled with the super duper double death and wouldn't even know it! (But, yeah, speaking as a person innately lacking that particular superpower, it hardly seems worth the expense and hassle.)

Don't worry women's reproductive bits are closely monitored and regulated if they want access to birth control.
posted by srboisvert at 9:51 PM on March 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


If the nanobots could scrape the blood out one night while I slept, I'd be happy to sleep on a few towels one night.
posted by bleep at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


But the new pills are mostly a gimmicky thing aren't they? Even with regular birth control pills you just skip the placebos and get the same effect. Years ago a doctor told me that there are no safety issues involved with skipping the placebo pills (and therefore your period) and that the new pills that claim to especially do this are basically just a marketing ploy. They went through the FDA specifically for this, but it doesn't mean that all the other BC pills aren't capable of doing the same thing.

I usually just go ahead and get my period though because I my periods aren't a big deal anyway. Also if I do try to skip my cycle with pills I find that I have to be very diligent about taking them on time every day because otherwise spotting will occur if you've skipped over your cycle.
posted by rancher at 10:38 PM on March 13, 2015




No nanobots. GMO leeches.
posted by benzenedream at 10:49 PM on March 13, 2015


ARE YOU LIKE A VAGINA SUPERHERO

you have no idea how much I want to change my gender field to VAGINA SUPERHERO now
posted by KathrynT at 11:20 PM on March 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


My wife demands that Lunette be mentioned in this thread, and also thinx.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:28 PM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I question the assertion that things would be different if men had periods, on the grounds that this is the 21st fucking century and I still have to poop. What The Actual Shit is this so-called "future"?

Men pooping means that there are at least a minimal provision of restrooms in offices and stores (though as we all know genuinely public restrooms are in short supply). It really does drive infrastructure spending when the group historically in charge of those decisions needs a service.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:19 AM on March 14, 2015


I thought of the whole suctioning your period out of you at once thing too, and never knew that there was actually a way to do that. Given how many of us in this thread would totally buy the hell out of a product like that, is there anyone clever enough to invent it? Can we start a Kickstarter? Seriously, I feel like it is time to revive the menstrual extractor. Only we need a catchier name. Like maybe Woomba.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:58 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


My wife demands that Lunette be mentioned in this thread, and also thinx.

Thank your wife for the thinx link (that's fun to say...) That's exactly what I am looking for!
posted by billiebee at 2:41 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The author doesn't seem to realise that menstrual cups are going mainstream lately. There used to be two or three brands out there, now there are thirty or more; they're all over mainstream webstores such as Amazon. There are cheap Chinese versions, there are interesting innovations (a collapsible cup for easy transport! A cup with a valve in the stem! A cup with a ring and an anti-leak lip!) It really makes no sense to write them off as a product that did not make it.

Cups are not for everyone, but they work for many, many of us, and it's great that this option is more and more widely known so people can make informed choices. And if someone asks 'where is the innovation in menstrual products?' then this is the answer I'd give.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:50 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have an implant in my arm that comes free on the NHS and that has to be changed every three years, in a procedure that takes maybe five minutes. So far I'm on number four or five I think? and have had no periods (or children) during that time.

I completely fail to understand this argument about needing to have a period to check that everything's working OK. Maybe that is for people whose periods aren't a) really painful or b) last a week and nearly give you anaemia? As far as I'm concerned that kind of thing is classified as "NOT working OK".
posted by emilyw at 4:04 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, when I was using the Mirena, I was totally fine with not menstruating. In fact that was a definite advantage (especially during an 8-month trip, on a motorcycle, through Africa. Hell yeah.)
I don't feel that I need or want to have periods. On the other hand, I now have the sheer luxury of a partner who's had the snip, and it's not so bad to let my body do its own thing for a few more years, before the menopause mayhem starts.

My Fleurcup is my menstrual weapon of choice and it's so much better for me than tampons ever were. When I stopped using them, my cramps were instantly reduced to a faint shadow of what they used to be. The tampons may have been making them worse all this time...

I don't want everyone who menstruates to start using a cup. That's a personal choice. But I do want all of them to have the option to do so, and to know that they do.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:10 AM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I question the assertion that things would be different if men had periods, on the grounds that this is the 21st fucking century and I still have to poop.

When I had my period, it was 3-4 days of intense pain that would wake me up at night, cause me to cry randomly, leave me unable to pay attention at school or at work, and also I was bleeding out my vagina at all times and had no control over it.

Anyone who having this kind of experience pooping - intense pain, emotional lability, impairment of concentration, and no control over what's coming out - can see a doctor and have their concerns taken seriously because this is not accepted as a norm that people should just deal with.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:10 AM on March 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


It's gynerrific!
posted by anothermug at 7:24 AM on March 14, 2015


Seriously, there is no medical need for a period. There is some evidence that regular periods help reduce excess iron and thus some cardiovascular risks; there is also significant evidence that periods themselves increase risk for anemia, endometriosis, ovarian cysts. AND OVARIAN CANCER. Not to mention that for many many women, the attendant cramping, nausea, migraines and violent mood issues have a non-trivial health impact.

And, as noted above, in the US, you can't get hormonal contraception without an annual visit with a doctor to make sure the super duper double death is not hiding in your birth canal (seriously? what have you read that told you menstrual blood is a predictor of ANYTHING but the shedding of the uterine lining? what? periods don't show uterine cancer, cervical cancer, tiny little dreadnaughts eating you from the inside out or the common cold).

We don't need periods for anything but their primary function (shedding the uterine lining) if we have real access to--and basic understanding of --contraception.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:39 AM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


> on the grounds that this is the 21st fucking century and I still have to poop

Come talk to us when you poop all day, every day, for several days a month!
posted by rtha at 8:34 AM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


you have no idea how much I want to change my gender field to VAGINA SUPERHERO now

Do it! Do it!
posted by billiebee at 8:37 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd rather go back to using washable squares of material like what they did in days of yore.

Public service announcement: unlike the disposable pads and tampons on the market that are so absorbent that they seem to actually draw down all the blood in your uterus at once, flannel pads actually just absorb the bit that escapes, and the rest of it conveniently plops out in the toilet.

Turns out we're not the spigots we were taught we were in the 80's. I don't need thirsty wads of chemicals in my treasured bits. Flannel pads are much kinder to my flora and fauna.

(Loved my diva cup back in the days, but developed a sensitivity to it, even though it was natural rubber.)
posted by vitabellosi at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Vitabellosi, was it possibly a Keeper that you had? Divacups are silicone, and so are most other cups nowadays.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:45 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Vitabellosi, was it possibly a Keeper that you had? Divacups are silicone, and so are most other cups nowadays.

Yes! It was the Keeper! Loved it. Tried a silicone version a few years ago and it just wasn't comfortable, sadly.

Would love to get into another menstrual cup. Maybe I'll try again.

Also enjoyed these little padette things that rest between your lips for lighter days that were available only at Walgreens. But I'm all natural now.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2015


Do it! Do it!

The problem is that my current gender field is "Woman, Fire, or Dangerous Thing" and I love that juuuuuuuuuust barely too much to change it.
posted by KathrynT at 10:58 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


If I might put a word in about my favorite cloth pads - Talula Bean and Party in My Pants. I adore both these company's products. They're a little pricey so I tend to buy one or two here and there, but they are worth it. Also, I don't have a washer in my home so they all have to be hand washed before I take them to the laundry, but they've been easy to wash and I don't have much staining.
posted by persephone's rant at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, yeah, on the topic of cloth pads: Pink Daisy is my recommendation for really leak-proof & comfortable.
posted by rivenwanderer at 1:59 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Party in my Pants is awesome--I have a flannel liner of theirs, bought at Smitten Kitten, and I still find it a little amusing how much the checkout chica raved about hers. They're way better than pantiliners for when you're just starting or ending your period.

Also: one of the biggest reasons that we need better ways to handle menstruation is the girls of the developing world who live (and go to school) without running water. I'm totally ok with women who live with running water being the driving economic force behind menstrual innovation, but the girls (and women) of the world who handle their periods without an easy source of water really need those innovations.

It's a bit shameful to admit but this really sank in for me the first time that I had to use a dipper to swish water around a hole in the ground in order to pee. It was also the first time I really understood that holy shit, periods would be impossible in that setup. They're not, of course, and many women live that way. But in terms of hygiene and safety, we have got to find a better way.
posted by librarylis at 8:05 PM on March 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


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