We are getting more and more comfortable talking about our periods and reproductive health in public, and we’re looking for options that offer convenience and keep us healthy. We also want more control and more fun. Let me tell you about three options for women to make our lives easier: cups, diaphragms, and funnels. Wow!

When I was a teenager I had a natural resistance to putting artificial hormones in my body to suppress my fertility, in spite of the fact that every one of my girlfriends was taking oral contraceptives and gynecologists were pushing them like candy. I was also already a budding feminist, so I found a free women’s health clinic at the university in my hometown, Frankfurt, where medical students—all women, which was still unusual then—taught us how to examine ourselves with a speculum and fit the right size diaphragm without having to rely on a gynecologist. Though at first a little awkward as we were sitting, pants off, in a circle on the floor to look at our own vaginas, it was easy to do and felt empowering. Fast forward a few decades, and we now have ready access to improved one-size-fits-all diaphragms we can order over the internet.

One such product is the popular Caya Contoured Diaphragm (not surprisingly manufactured literally down the street from where I grew up in Germany). These diaphragms are easy to place securely and easy to remove, don’t contain latex and can last a couple of years if cared for properly. They are always used in combination with a gel that lowers the pH right around the cervix and serves as a spermicide. You insert the diaphragm before sex and leave it in for 6+ hours afterwards. You wash it with soap and warm water, let it dry, and store it in the carrying case. This is a very affordable, safe and effective, as well as environmentally friendly hormone-free contraceptive that gives you and your partner control over your fertility. Keep in mind that, in contrast to condoms, a diaphragm does not protect you against STDs.

Period or menstruation cups have also come a long way. It used to be either pads or tampons, both of which have advantages and disadvantages; they also are expensive and create a lot of garbage. Cups, on the other hand, are made from silicone and can be reused for long periods of time, if you take proper care of them. One popular product is the Lena Cup, which is available in two sizes. You can buy a set of both at a lower price and use them depending on your flow and shape of your vagina. A menstrual cup will give you a better sense of the amount of blood you are losing during the days of your period. Obviously, a gel is not needed, like it is with a diaphragm. But these silicone cups require the same care to keep them clean and they have the same advantage of reducing your environmental footprint (and saving you money in the process).

I recreate outdoors a lot. I go hiking and backpacking with friends and also get away to rock and ice climb as much as I can. Naturally, the privacy of a bathroom is not always easy to find in the backcountry. In the winter, it can be so cold that I just don’t want to bare my behind. At night, I often can’t bring myself to get out of my cozy sleeping bag and tent to go pee. That’s were a funnel comes to the rescue. A pee funnel allows you to urinate while standing up and without lowering your pants, it provides more privacy and convenience. (It’s also easier to use with a bottle inside your tent if you don’t want to get up.) My climbing partner turned me on to the pStyle. Very affordable and durable, you can choose between many fun colors, along with a wide range of carrying cases, and you will soon be the envy of your female outdoor buddies.

I’d like to hear what your experience has been with any of these innovations or if you’ve come across other nifty devices that intrepid women should know about.

© 2019 Christiane Siebert