March 26, 2012

Lady Bizness

Okay, this post is strictly about lady business. Men, if you're uncomfortable or not interested, don't read ahead. 

I wasn't sure if I would write about this, but I partially made my "feminine care" travel decisions from reading blogs of other women traveling, so I'm going to fully disclose in case other gals happen upon this blog in need of advice. 
The Diva Cup - clever idea...not for me.
First, let's talk periods. I was very nervous about feminine hygiene and having my period while in remote parts of developing countries. The bathrooms are often disgusting by our standards (hello, squatty potties!), and travel blogs and books suggest tampons and other period goods might be difficult to find in some places. Not to mention, while tampons are never eco-friendly, they are even less so in parts of the world that lack organized garbage removal. Some women travelers suggest The Diva Cup and I understand why this might be a good option for some. However, for a variety of reasons (including lack of hand-washing facilities in public bathrooms - gross), this just isn't for me. I also get pretty bad cramps, so I decided I just wouldn't have my period while on The Trip. Great idea.
Next, I was worried about birth control. We wouldn't be taking this trip if we wanted to have a baby right now, and I can imagine very few things worse than morning sickness in rural Burma. No thanks. I've used a ton of different forms of birth control. The estrogen in birth control pills and the Nuva Ring make me nauseous and an emotional basket case and...pretty bitchy (just ask Tom). Even if I could manage my side effects, in the interest of traveling light, I didn't want to pack an entire year's supply of birth control pills. If my bag got stolen, I'd either be in big trouble, or abstaining. So then I thought about condoms. I knew I couldn't pack a year's supply of condoms (TMI?), but I wondered about availability. I read that, while you might be able to find condoms, they are often off-brand and highly unreliable, or they have sat in direct sunlight in a shop for an extended period of time and are likely damaged. Yikes. Enter Mirena. It's an IUD birth control device that lasts 7 years and is statistically more effective in preventing pregnancy than sterilization. Seriously. When you're ready to go off birth control, your doc/NP takes it out and you can immediately get pregnant if you want to. My good friend who is a women's health medical practitioner swears by her's, and the research I found on Mirena was almost entirely positive. The Mirena is still a hormonal birth control, but it's progestin-only, and has a very low risk of emotional side effects because the progestin is released into your uterus and very little of it enters your blood stream. There's another popular IUD on the market that I briefly considered, ParaGard. It's hormone-free, so there's no risk of the mood swings and bitchiness. The deciding factor for me was that, while the ParaGard can make your periods heavier, Mirena greatly reduces and usually eliminates your period altogether (which is completely safe). Hallelujah! I feel like one of the women in the tampon commercials.

I hate those women. Women don't get excited about having their period. We get excited about not having our period and not being pregnant (when we don't want to be). And, even then, I'm not sure I'd wear white yoga pants or do hippy twirls with my girlfriends in celebration. Put another way...

Annoying Period + Birth Control = Two Birds
Mirena = One Stone

After a consult with my doctor a few weeks ago, I got the Mirena last Friday, and I won't lie to you - it hurt. It hurt a lot. It still hurts and it probably will for awhile (kind of like bad cramps, but nonstop). It's manageable now, but it hurt so badly when they put it in that I hyperventilated and vomited on the floor of the doctor's office. It was mortifying. MORTIFYING. Admittedly, I am a huge wimp when it comes to pain, but this was the strangest kind of pain I've ever felt, which gave me anxiety, which made me hyperventilate, which made the pain worse, which made me nauseous, which made me barf on the floor, which made me anxious, which made the pain worse, etc... Vicious, vicious cycle. The obvious lesson to take from the painful and embarrassing experience is that, your mother was right, sex is bad. But I still 100% believe it will be all worth it, and I kept telling myself that yesterday and repeating in my head, "No tampons in Bangalore. No tampons in Jaisalmer. No tampons in Chiang Mai. No tampons in Luang Prabang." I'm repeating the mantra today as well, and it's working, mostly. What's also working? Prescription pain killers and a few glasses of wine. Last on the list of lady troubles....yeast infections. Fun, right? Travel blogs warn that yeast infections are common for female travelers due to hot, humid climates and increased sweating, so I also ordered some other Boiron meds to treat that condition.

Thinking seriously about the hassles of birth control and periods has made me realize something. Maybe men are always so focused on sex because, as long as they're having safe sex, they have absolutely NO annoyances, pain or inconveniences associated with it. We deal with periods, tampons, birth control (holy painful IUD), mood swings, and child birth. Being a lady can be tough. And women travelers have to deal with things that men can't even imagine. I'm excited to take these things off my radar for the time being.

On a different note, I wish I had the funds (and pain tolerance) to get laser hair removal on my legs before we go. How am I supposed to shave my legs with cold water in Jodhpur? If the Mirena could take care of leg hair, I
would do hippy twirls with my girlfriends in celebration...but I wouldn't wear white yoga pants. I'd wear NO pants because my legs would be all smooth and razor-bump-free.

No tampons in Ho Chi Minh. 

Update: I just got the Go-Girl. (It, ahem, allows a lady to do her business while standing.) When I first heard about it, I scoffed and feigned disgust while being slightly intrigued. Then I started reading more and checking out the reviews on Lonely Planet's ThornTree, and it is almost unanimously lauded as a must-have for the long-term female traveler in developing countries. I hadn't made a decision about it yet, but Tom and I happened upon a shop selling them today and he said, "Babe, I think you should really get this," and he was dead serious. SOLD. If the husband recognizes the sanitary advantages of NOT grazing my bare cheeks on a squatty potty, then it must be a good idea.

1 comment:

  1. I agree there are a lot of things that women have to deal with when it just comes to that "special time of the month". Nevermind constantly worrying about getting pregnant when you aren't ready and it can get tiresome and frustrating. I think the biggest benefit of birth control is the measure of control that it affords to women over their bodies sometimes-strange cycles. That bit of control over your body does a lot for your peace of mind, from what I've learned. Mirena intrauterine device is considered one of the most effective and cost efficient forms of birth control currently out on the market today. I'd recommend doing a little research into the side effects just to be on the safe side of "knowing being half the battle".