This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and DivaCup, but the opinions are all mine! #PeriodConfidence #TryTheDivaCup #CollectiveBias
Before backpacking around South America and moving to Germany, I was challenged to plan ahead for the things I normally dealt with in real time. I made a final appointment with my gynecologist and foreboded something scary during my lapse in insurance. I considered stocking up on six months of birth control, antibiotics, and tampons. Does it strike you as ridiculous that someone would leave the country with only eight shirts, but 168 birth control pills, 36 antibiotics, and 240 tampons? What was previously inconvenient became an expensive and frustrating battle, but these aren’t exactly things you can skip over, so I had to find another way. Girl’s gotta plan ahead!
For this post in partnership with DivaCup, I’ve chosen to talk about reproductive health and other taboo topics because we don’t talk about them enough and they totally matter.
How to Manage your Reproductive Health for Long-Term Travel
When it comes to sex, you’ve got to do what is best for you. The good news is that birth control comes in so many forms, it’s easy to be responsible. Some women opt for condoms, but you might also consider long-term options like reversible contraception (IUDs or implants), hormonal contraception (birth control pills or DepoPrevara), fertility awareness, emergency contraception, or permanent contraception (tubal ligation). Perhaps a more difficult topic is what to do if you get pregnant while traveling. You’ll be faced with the tough choice of going home to figure things out or endeavor to navigate a pregnancy in another country. I won’t pretend to understand the complexity of a decision like this one, but it’s one that should be carefully considered. Gynopedia is a great resource should you find yourself in this situation!
… and STDs
A more straightforward risk of having sex while traveling is STDs. Many travelers operate under a system of anonymity or ignorance, so you ought to be extra careful with travel hookups. If you’re planning to have sex, make sure you get tested so that you can answer questions honestly. Condoms are locally available almost everywhere, but stay on the safe side and bring some of your own.
Put simply: Use discretion, use protection, and definitely don’t be an idiot.
Managing your periods
Managing your period in the best of circumstances can be frustrating, but squat toilets, hand washed laundry, and local availability of period products can make your period a real production. Much of the world relies on sanitary pads or cloth napkins which can be tough to adjust to if you’re used to move out of sight methods. Your options for menstruation while traveling are conventional options (pads or tampons), hormonal options (birth control), or less conventional options (menstrual cups or period underwear). There are also a handful of holistic products that can make managing your period more pleasant (like these pretty amazing essential oils from FEMNA that can help with PMS).
About the DivaCup: Don’t want to travel with a lifetime supply of tampons? The DivaCup is a reusable silicone menstrual cup that you can use as an inexpensive, convenient, and ecological alternative to pads or tampons. Rather than absorbing like conventional sanitary products, it collects menstrual flow as not to disrupt the pH environment. The cup holds up to 1oz and can be worn for up to 12 hours without leaks. The DivaCup comes in 2 models (Model 1 <30 who have never given birth or Model 2 >30 who have given birth) and costs $39.99/year compared to the $150/year most women spend on menstrual products. I bought my first one before teaching in Thailand, and still swear by it. Mine came from Rite Aid, but find out where else you can buy one here.
If you’ve never used one before, I know that it can sound totally weird. But get used to traveling with something ecological, inexpensive, and discreet, you’ll understand why it’s awesome.
Going without a doctor visit for a while is the perfect excuse to learn self-examination. Every woman should know how to give themselves a breast exam, but it is also important to observe less obvious changes in your skin, hair, etc. Many women already have deficiencies in iron, Vitamin D, Calcium, or other essential nutrients, and traveling can make it worse. Keep an eye out for any abnormality that lasts more than a few days and have a doctor at home you can reach out to virtually with questions!
… and keeping your eye out for other concerns
Yeast infections and UTIs can be an awful and painful reality for many women. While treatment for both is generally available overseas, you won’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere when it happens. It is important to learn the symptoms and pay careful attention to your body while traveling. If you’re familiar with what a UTI feels like, your doctor might be willing to prescribe you antibiotics before travel so you can treat yourself. UTI symptoms left untreated can become serious bladder and kidney infections. Best practices for prevention are to stay dry, wear loose-fitting clothes, drink lots of water, and pee often. Sage wisdom, isn’t it?
The world is less scary than it sounds, but women have the particularly important job of staying aware of their surroundings. Protect yourself against sexual assault or other violence by making educated decisions and trusting your gut. If you are a victim of a crime, it is recommended (in most cases) to immediately file a police report. It is important to note that in some cases, rape can be a more complicated matter. If you’re concerned about local laws, contact your embassy first for further advice on what to do.
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Do you have any health tips for female travelers? Thanks to DivaCup for sponsoring today’s post. What do you think about the product? Is it something you’d consider trying?
Disclaimer on the DivaCup
Give a read to the DivaCup User Guide before trying the cup and ask a doctor if you have any questions about your vaginal or gynecological health. Have questions about the product? Get in touch with the DivaCup team at firstname.lastname@example.org.