Monday, December 20, 2010

The worst part of being a female hunter

Ladies, you know what I'm talking about. Aside from finding properly fitting hunting clothing - which is getting easier all the time - the worst part of being a female hunter is dealing with your period when you're on a hunt. But I've found something that makes it a LOT easier.

Guys, this would be your cue to hit the "back" button or close your browser, though you might want to share a link to this post with the female hunter in your life. But ladies, click on "read more" if you'd like to learn about my favorite new piece of women's hunting gear. Read more...
OK, here it is: the Diva Cup.

The Diva Cup is a soft cup made of silicone that you insert into your vagina. Unlike a tampon, which absorbs blood until it is saturated, the Diva Cup merely collects it, and you can leave it in for 12 hours.

Bonus points: It's re-usable, so you're not putting more trash into the environment when you use it. Nor do you have to worry about running out of pads or tampons, or about flushing tampons down weak toilets, or into delicate septic tanks.

Until I tried the Diva Cup earlier this month, I dreaded the days when duck hunts fell on one of the heaviest days of my period. Once I leave my house at 2 or 3 a.m., all that's available to me is Porta Potties at best, or wide open marsh - filled with LOTS of other hunters - at the worst.

Suffice it to say, I'd had several unfortunate tampon or pad failures in my waders, and even when I didn't, I spent much of my time worrying about whether I would.

I think I heard about the Diva Cup in the news when it first came out a couple years ago, but I didn't give it much thought. It came up again in conversation when I was at Cal Waterfowl's Women's Hunting Camp last September, and this time I paid attention.

I was talking to one of the women about joining me on a deer hunt, and I advised her that there was no running water or flush toilets at the campground, which could be inconvenient if she was on her period at the time.

"Oh, that's no problem," she said. "I use the Diva Cup." Then she explained how it worked.

I was intrigued. Reading about something in the news is one thing. Hearing about it from a female friend who loves it casts it in an entirely different light.

So the next time I knew I'd be going duck hunting during the worst part of my period, I ordered a Diva Cup, and I can tell you now I will never go back to tampons and pads.

There is a detailed FAQ on the Diva Cup website that can answer pretty much any question you might have about the product, but here are a few key issues I can address based on my early experience:

Is it disgusting? At first, the thought of removing a cup full of blood from your body sounds a little gross. But let's face it: Is dealing with used tampons or pads any better? Not really. And...

Is there an odor problem? NO! That's the cool part. Tampons and pads interact with air, which allows bacteria to grow, and thus, odor to develop. But the Diva Cup creates an airtight seal, so there is NO SMELL. Even if I didn't hunt, I'd welcome that benefit.

Is it messy? Generally, no. You remove it while sitting on the toilet and pour the blood out right there. Then you take it to the sink and wash it out. Because there's no blood on the outside of the cup, there's no dripping between toilet and sink.

But, I will tell you something that happened to me once (it also happened to another woman I know who used it, so I'm guessing this is not an isolated problem): One time the cup was a little slippery when I was removing it, and my fingers lost their grip. Slip! Splash! Oopsie! My bathroom looked like a scene from Goodfellas.

Should this discourage you from trying it? NO! But take my advice: Keep a firm grip when removing it, and you might want to slide your bathroom rug aside until you get the hang of it. :-)

Is it difficult to use? No, but it does take a while to get it right. There is a technique to proper insertion, and it's important to get it right so you create an airtight seal.

What if I do it wrong? Will a tidal wave come gushing out? In my experience, no. If your seal isn't perfect, what you get is a little spotting. That's it. I experienced that several times, and the friend who recommended it to me did say it took her several cycles to get the insertion just right.

That said, it won't kill you to wear a panty-liner for the first couple of cycles.

What if you're going to be away from comfy bathrooms for more than 12 hours? The manufacturer recommends washing the Diva Cup thoroughly between uses, and if you're away from running water, that's not possible. But the Diva Cup website recommends wiping it as clean as possible on those occasions, then washing it thoroughly next time you can get to running water.

The site contains full recommendations for using the Diva Cup while camping, including being sure to bury the blood you pour out, and I can't imagine the instructions would be any different for long hunts - it's just camping with guns.

Will this thing give me cramps? Funny thing about that: I found that I had almost no cramping with the Diva Cup - just a little mild discomfort during the part of my period when cramps are normally the worst.

Could it be that tampons were causing my cramps? I haven't scientifically tested it, but I can tell you I have never had a period without cramps, or with cramps as minimal as they were with the Diva Cup. After using it, I talked to another friend of mine who said she couldn't use tampons because they caused her extreme cramps, so maybe there's something to this. If so, that's a HUGE added benefit of using the Diva Cup.

Where can I get one? I know from experience that they're hard to find in drug stores, so I got mine at

Holly, why are you pimping this product? Do you have shares in the company? Nope. I get no financial benefit from recommending this product to you. I paid full price and shipping for my Diva Cup, and the Diva Cup company doesn't know me from Adam. I'm sharing this with you because menstruation has been the worst part of my hunting experiences, and having a solution to that problem is too good a thing to keep secret from my fellow huntresses.

Got any more questions? You can go directly to the Diva Cup FAQ, or leave questions here by posting a comment. Just make sure you click on the option to be notified by email of new comments so you get my answer. Or, email me if you don't feel like asking your question so publicly.

And if you decide to try it out, good luck! We may not be able to get rid of our periods, but we can make them way easier than they've ever been before.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Kate said...

I've used a Diva Cup for a few years now. Here's a tip from a longer term user for the newbies. The tiny little holes near the rim can get clogged, even if you're pretty diligent about washing thoroughly. My trick is to use a hydrogen peroxide soak whenever I notice that there's an issue there. It also incidentally takes care of the gradual discoloration of the silicone that shows up after about a year. I know the company now recommends replacing the cup every year, but I haven't. Still using the one I got 4+ years ago, before they recommended annual replacement. I've never had any problems using it this long.

Holly Heyser said...

Good tip - and it doesn't damage it? I know the DC website has all sorts of warnings about what not to use for cleaning.

I've found that pressing my finger on those holes from the inside of the cup, then running water over it on the outside, tends to pop out any obstructions.

Stephen Olner said...

There was an issue a few years back with girls/women getting toxic shock syndrome (caused by Staphyloccus aureus bacterium).Basically this was attributed to girls/women leaving their tampons in for to long. I would of thought there would have been a real issue with this as well lets face it hunting is not the cleanlist of places so is there not a danger of this ???

Holly Heyser said...

I remember this all too well, and it was way back in the 1980s, when a new brand of super-absorbent tampon came out, and women started leaving them in for too long. The problem wasn't the tampon, which was quickly taken off the market, but the length of time it was there.

What makes the Diva Cup different, the company says, is the fact that oxygen isn't getting in there, and you don't have this absorbent object that provides fertile breeding grounds for bacteria. I haven't seen any indication of incidents of TSS associated with menstrual cups.

David J Blackburn said...

I always thought that this problem was overstated in the movie Pitch Black. At times like this I wish I wasn't a speed reader. Back does not come fast enough sometimes.

Holly Heyser said...

OK, I knew some guys would read this, but dang!

Never saw the movie, David, but I can confirm for you that being on your period while hunting is one more thing to worry about, one more hassle out in the field. End of the world? No. But it can dominate your hunting experience.

Erik Jensen said...

I am trying to raise two girls into hunting and my wife might get a little more into hunting as a way to spend time with them. This is great, I'm going to share it with my wife. Any advice on good "pee jugs" for women ? Us guys have it so much easier in deer stands that way. One of my female hunting buddies jokes about this a lot, and one of her attempts that didn't work so well. One of my girls' favorite hunting stories is of me killing a buck that approached while I was peeing, of course I didn't put my member back in my pants until he was dead. Seems like a woman would have had a tougher time with the situation, since all I had to do was put the piss jug down when the buck went behind a tree...

Shewee woman said...

OMG you are so cool to talk about such a delicate situation. Only we woman can truly understand the feeling of blood running down your leg inside your waders. I've been thinking about trying the Diva cup and I certainly will now. My daughter and I were just discussing the effect of all the tampons and pads that are disposed of. I am going to buy one today. Thanks for the blog and kick in the right direction. Love your openness. Have a wonderful Holiday!

Kate said...

NCC, No damage from H2O2 that I can discern, and I don't do it very often in any case.

Erik, check out what my female family members and I call the pee-nice:

Girls can pee standing up too! There's always one of these in my glove box.

Holly Heyser said...

Erik, thanks for sharing this with your wife! I get the sense that the Diva Cup is well known in urban circles, but not so much among hunters. It really changes the game for us.

We absolutely hate to talk about it, so we usually just try to deal with the inconvenience in silence.

As for good pee jugs: I don't know about the jug, but like Kate said, there is the Freshette, and also the SheWee, which I have, but have not trained myself to use yet. Hunting has made me pretty fearless about dropping trou and peeing wherever I have to, but you'd definitely need one of these funnels if you were trying to aim for a jug. Yeah, we have really bad aim. :-)

And yes, peeing is one of the best ways to attract game. When I have to take a leak in the marsh, I ALWAYS take my gun with me. So far I have not had to stand up with my butt exposed to take a shot. But I'm sure it'll happen some day.

Shewee woman, LOL. I woke up like five times last night thinking I was crazy to write such personal things (not to mention dismayed that so many men were reading this!), but it's this issue we all have to deal with - at least until menopause.

I too was really excited about the re-usability of this thing. I've been aware of the waste issue before, but nothing like trying to change up in the marsh - and then hauling your trash around with you because leaving it in the marsh would be gross - to make you even more cognizant of the waste.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great invention that is well worth it for all females but especially those of us who like to spend all day out in the woods/marsh.

I cannot count how many times I said this fall that I hated that I couldn't stay out all day because I had my period but I know it was one too many!

Thanks for the heads up!

SimplyOutdoors said...

I'm a guy, and yes!!! I read the post. :)

I read it in order to get some information for my wife, and I will definitely pass it on to her.

Since we spend many full days outside, whether it be ice fishing, river fishing or hunting, something like this could definitely come in handy, and is something we've talked about before.

I'll pass it on.

Holly Heyser said...

LOL, I'm glad it didn't gross you out too much :-). Believe me, we don't like talking about it either (much less experiencing any of it), but it's nice to be able to have a frank discussion every once in a while.

And is it funny that my Captcha word below is "menzed"?

Ryan Sabalow said...

Aside from wanting to make a sexist joke about never trusting something that bleeds for a week but doesn't die, your post further proves just how inherently bad-ass chicks are.

The craziness you gals deal with on a monthly basis would cripple most dudes.

Then there's that whole childbirth thing...

Holly Heyser said...

LOL! I think if men had to endure what we had to endure, the bathroom facilities at wildlife refuges would be more abundant, more useful and more clean. But that's a topic for another post...

LuckySarahLynn said...

I will definitely try that. I discovered long ago that tampons and my body don't go well together and have been wanting to find an alternative that works, especially in the field. I love that you will bring up topics the rest of us just wonder about in silence...or on google after dark.

Unknown said...

I should've heeded your warning.....I will never doubt you again. Ever. Period. (snicker....sorry, it's the humorist in me)

Holly Heyser said...

I have been amazed by men's curiosity here! Didn't mean to decoy y'all in ...

Unknown said...

Now I know how the puddlers feel when they're back peddling with feet down an all of a sudden up rises a couple of shotguns.....YIKES!. Keep up the great work Holly and Merry Christmas from South Carolina.

2 cyber-thumbs way up.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I've been using the Keeper, which is essentially the same thing as the Diva Cup but from natural rubber, for 10 years and still absolutely love it. Yes--I've been using the very same cup this whole time. Every time I get my period I smile at how much money I've saved and waste I've avoided producing all these years. It makes everything about my period easier, and especially outdoors activities. In all this time I've had maybe 3 incidents where I put it crooked and experienced some leakage. But when I remember all the times I bled through a pad or got my period with no tampons handy...well, this is way better. I know it sounds weird, but I recommend giving it a try.

Unknown said...

Gogirl is the best, women can use it and pee in a jug too its great for hunting and fishing but does take practice