Sawbones: Menstruation


Ladies, you know that menstruation is a natural, perhaps even beautiful part of life. But do you think that kept men from trying to put a stop to it? No. No, of course it didn't. This week on Sawbones, Dr. Sydnee and Justin are letting Aunt Flo crash on their couch with a brief history of menstruation.

You can subscribe to their show right now on iTunes! Then tweet about or follow the show on Twitter (@Sawbones) so all your friends and family can be as horrified and entertained as you.

Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


+1 menstrual cups

I can't not get in on the menstrual cup thing too. I either learned about DivaCups from my friend or Bitch Magazine's website. I had known about it for about a year or so but didn't realize there were so many different types of designs. Diva Cup is definitely the way to go, as you have this little stem where you can pull it out. Soft Cups, on the other hand, you have to reach all the way up to wrangle that thing out. And for those of us with short fingers, it's slightly terrifying. I definitely think the menstrual cup is having a comeback since feminist communities are growing and health food stores are gaining popularity. It's certainly the better option in saving you money and it's quite reliable (once you learn how to use it). It also makes you feel like you've accomplished one more thing in womanhood. AND it saves you the embarrassment of throwing away a bulky pad or bloody tampon at a friend's house when they've just emptied the trash. Or have those mesh trashcans. Yugh. Just don't get over confident when you're still learning, or you'll regret it at the most inopportune time. It's also suggested to buy two Diva Cups, in case you need to change one in public. But they DO cost about $30-40.

I hate to be this guy...

Great show as usual. I don't want to be this guy but since he keeps coming up I feel that I should give a minor correction to you guys. Pliny (as in Pliny the elder) rhymes with skinny and not shiny. I've taken a lot of classes dealing with this dude and the professors are pretty adamant about this. Not a huge deal, obviously, just wanted you guys to know.

Love ya and keep up the great work!

Cups Rock the party that rocks my body...

I learned about menstrual cups because internet. Also, my buddy and I bought them at the same time and compared notes. They're amazeballs, and unlike tampons they don't dry you out. It takes about 3 cycles to get past the learning curve of using them, but once I did it was awesome. Less money, less smelly, less chemicals = good times.


Glad to see others are chiming in about how awesome menstrual cups are--I came here to say the same thing. I first learned about them maybe 7 years ago, and my reaction went from "Ew, no way" to "Hmm... I guess I can see how that would make sense" to "How did I not hear about this sooner??" There is admittedly a bit of a learning curve to using them (I can recall my first attempt at removal resulted in me crying on the bathroom floor and wondering whether I would need to go to the ER and have them use the jaws of life to get that thing out), and you also need to be someone who can deal with touching your own body and not being squicked out by the whole thing. But I actually find the process less gross than dealing with tampons and pads. Additionally, the thing NEVER LEAKS, you don't have a string hanging out of you (or a diaper in your pants), and you can pretty much do anything non-penetrative, sexually speaking, while it's in there. I only regret that, having discovered the cup in my late 30s, I had to spend so many years with the inadequate alternatives.

Menstrual cups - not nearly as weird as they seem

As someone who used pads and tampons for over 15 years, then switched to the cup, I honestly think that the menstrual cup (in its modern, silicon form, at least) is about the best tool that's been made for dealing with menstruation. It's way way WAY less expensive than pads & tampons (it's a one-time purchase for several years, and boy am I happy not to have to spend money every month on feminine hygiene stuff - I'd rather spend my limited funds on more interesting things), doesn't put anything at all into the landfills (all those used pads and tampons really add up) and it's way more comfortable and easier to move around and do whatever you want while wearing it than I ever found tampons (and certainly pads) to be. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but I'm a big advocate of menstrual cups. So there's some current perspective on them from someone who does use one.

Hurrah for the cup!

Just wanted to jump in the conversation to add my voice to the cup followers!

It sounds weird at first but they are seriously the best option I have ever used. I got cup when I was 25 and it's still going strong 5 years later. Huge amount in savings and just as much ability to swim and jump around, if not more, than tampons! (once you get used to using it, which doesn't take long)

The menstrual cup seems to making a big resurgence, at least here in the Pacific Northwest. I know from experience that the majority of women I've convinced to try it love it, and many women I meet have already made the switch.

On a side note, thanks for another great show!

Big fan! Just wanted to point

Big fan! Just wanted to point out The Story of Menstruation is on youtube:

Menstrual cup = Amazballs

I haven't bought a tampon in 5yrs! Nearly zero waste product, and there is a reduced risk of Toxic Shock because the material collected is not held next to your sensitive tissues. Gynos like them too because they have little measuring marks so you can know exactly what your flow was and measure any changes.

Menstral cup

I love my Diva cup. Will never go back to Tampons.

Off-label use

I was sold on the DivaCup when a friend pointed out it holds an ounce of fluid, so you can use it as a shot glass in a pinch.

Wow, I didn't know cups were

Wow, I didn't know cups were so old! I think most people don't know about them because they just aren't as lucrative as selling and advertising disposable pads and tampons---one $30 divacup will last potentially your whole period-having life. I personally learned about them through vaginapagina on lj, which was an amazing resource for teenage me. Whole foods sells them but you can buy them online too. I was amazed at how quick and easy it was to use after a few tries; the trick is twisting it a little once it's inside you so that it pops open and forms an airtight seal. After that I could leave it in all day and not have any leaks.

I'm surprised you didn't mention reusable pads; they're a thing. You can buy "lunapads" (but they're expensive) online, but there's tons of tutorials on how to make them yourself. They come in pretty calico prints and the wings snap together, and they're absorbent enough to last as long or longer than store bought pads. You just throw them in the wash and they're good to go. Unless you prefer tampons, there's no real reason to use disposable pads that I can think of---not to mention the chemicals in the plastic make everything smell SO MUCH WORSE. I hated my body growing up because I thought my period naturally smelled like a dumpster behind a red lobster on a hot summer day, but after making the switch I realized my periods were actually fairly odorless.


Menstrual cups are indeed making a comeback, because they're cheaper but also because you don't have to send tons of pads and tampons to a landfill. But they're also just really convenient, and although messy, you're able to dispose of all that mess right down the toilet rather than your trash can, then rinse and it's ready to go again. No smelly garbage and no need to carry tampons or pads in your purse. I can't remember if they're in regular grocery stores (since I never have to visit that aisle any more) but they're definitely at organic sorts of stores like Whole Foods. I'm not a super granola organic environmentalist, but I use one and it's great, and I've told a few friends who have also started using them and they love them too. But it's not something that comes up in conversation very much.

Cups are the best! No

Cups are the best! No leakage, no trash and they only need to be emptied twice a day. Check out Diva or Luna brands.

In regard to sanitary pad belts, that was my first pad arrangement in the 1970s - no sticky backed pads then. They were kind of like garter belts, where you slipped tabs through loops in the front and back. Not sure what time period it was when the adhesive backed pads won the day.

SNL Kotex Classic commercial

Great SNL commercial/skit about how ridiculous old pads were

Medical History Museum on Contraception

Listening to this podcast now and really enjoying it. Thought you'd like to know that the Dittrick Medical History Museum in Cleveland, Ohio currently has an exhibition about the history of contraception.

Keep up the interesting work!



I've seen webpages that claim that women just bled into their clothes back in ye olden days. I think women just had some kind of home-made way of dealing with it (rags or something like that) and it was simply taboo to write down anything about it. In addition to the ick factor, here are two good reasons why that claim is ridiculous:

1) People didn't have many clothes in those days (they were made by hand until pretty recently) and they wouldn't have ruined or stained them on purpose.

2) All the clothes had to be hand washed. Monday was a blue day because it was laundry day and the worst day of the week for women.

On a side note, menstrual cups work pretty well. You only have to empty them every 12 hours. So you don't need to mess with it at work, which is good because they're kind of messy.

T Shirts!


Big fan here, and professional tattooer/illustrator offerring up my humble drawing abilities to bring your bizarre and wonderful t shirt idea to gasping, placenta-smeared life.
Instagram: mayorofbuttcity

I'm serious. Crusty, opinionated Greeks from antiquity dressed in unbecoming outfits are my jam.


Show topic

I'm not sure if it's a bit too outside of the medical world, but I think a show about embalming/mummification would be really interesting.

I love the show, my friend told me about it as a birthday gift back in October, and it was definitely the best gift I received.

Menstrual Cups

As far as I can tell cups are making a comeback, since they're less expensive over the long haul than pads or tampons. Next time you're picking up tampons, Justin, see if your local store carries the "Softcup," a disposable cup.

Depending on who you ask the DivaCup is the greatest invention since sliced bread.


Thanks for talking about Menstruation. My mom , like most women of her generation, knew very little about sex and her own body and 'the talk' we had pretty must consisted of "sex is dirty - don't do it" and "don't use tampons because they will break your hymen and you need that in order to get married".

It took several years before I was able to convince her that I could use a tampon and still be a virgin.

In general, my mother distrusts Western Medicine and is more inclined to believe a neighbor than her doctor. Perhaps you can explore this on your show - misconceptions about medicine or medical devices?

I know the 'tampon will break your hymen' is a persistent one - it's written in the instructions that using a tampon will not cause the hymen the break.

Great show, can't wait for the next one.

- maj