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Menstrual Cups Are a Lady Scientist's Best Friend


Paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey digging in the field alongside her husband Louis Leakey. Other STEM disciplines that involve field work include geology, archaeology, anthropology and marine biology. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey digging in the field alongside her husband Louis Leakey. Other STEM disciplines that involve field work include geology, archaeology, anthropology and marine biology. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Brain Scoop has made a terrific video that combines two of our favorite subjects here at Stuff Mom Never Told You: periods and women in science. Host and Chief Curiosity Officer of Chicago's Field Museum Emilie Graslie spoke with a number of field researchers about how they prep for and manage menstruation in the wild.

"What menstrual products you decide to bring will be based off of things like your comfort level with various products, your access to clean water, and the duration of time spent in the field," Graslie says.

And first things first: leave home period-prepared.

"Don't rely on being able to find what you want once you land in another country because it's likely your only option will be buying maxi pads the size of twin mattresses, Graslie warns.

Based on feedback from the scientists she surveyed as well as personal experience, Graslie outlines product pros and cons, disposal methods and pain management. Menstrual cups emerged the most popular -- and packable -- period aid in the field. Along with its convenient size, reusable menstrual cups can be left in for up to 12 hours and leave no waste behind. The only awkward part might be cleaning them.

"If it seems weird to you to use camp cooking supplies to sterilize your menstrual cup, think about it this way," Graslie encourages viewers. "You just completed your first period on an expedition and there's virtually nothing that can stop you now."

And if an accident happens, don't sweat it.

"As one researcher told me, a little period leakage is nothing compared to the explosive diarrhea that keeps your lab mates sprinting to the forest every five minutes," Graslie recounts.

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