Note: This is a long and graphic post where I talk a lot about menstruation and blood. It’s very TMI. Don’t worry, there are no photos of blood but just in case you’re squeamish about reading about blood, this blog post may not be for you. I also talk about vaginas. A lot.
Sometime last year, I had a chat with a BA reader about that time of the month, tampons and sanitary pads … y’know, the stuff us women just LOVE to experience each month (sense the sarcasm in that one). She recommended that I give menstrual cups a go because according to her, once you’ve tried it, you won’t ever want to use pads and tampons ever again. I must admit, my first reaction was quite a resounding hell no. I was elated when I discovered the joys of tiny tampons; the thought of wearing something that big up there was something I couldn’t fathom.
As the months went by, I read more about menstrual cups and somewhere along the line, I became intrigued at the idea. I was curious as to how it worked and if menstrual cups really were that good. One night when I was browsing iHerb, I saw that they stocked Diva Cups and without further thoughts, I added it to my shopping cart. A week later, the cup arrived.
First thoughts of the cup when I saw it? GEEZ LOUISE HOW THE HELL IS THAT BIG THING GOING TO GO UP THERE?! Of course, I forgot that babies came out of the vagina so I freaked out for nothing. 😛
The menstrual cup sat unopened in its box for a couple of months before I dared to try it out. I read the enclosed pamphlet of instructions back to back just to make sure I know exactly how the cup would be inserted. I finally gave it a go and, well, that first time was an experience I don’t want to relive.
The first time
First of all, it’s very rubbery and springy, so when you fold the cup prior to insertion, if you don’t hold it properly, it will spring back to form and if the cup is wet, it will splutter water all over. No problem with that, of course … that is, until I removed it out of me with the filled cup and it sprung back to form, spraying blood everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
The first time I used it reminded me of scenes from the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The packaging and pamphlet should have issued a warning “DO NOT USE IF YOU’RE SQUEAMISH WITH BLOOD”. When I removed the cup, blood spilled over fingers and hand. Seeing my own blood didn’t usually bother me but even seeing all that the first time was hard to stomach. Thank goodness my WC is right in front of the washbasin and I was able to wash my hands immediately.
Another problem I had during the first period of using the menstrual cup was the removal of the cup. Nowhere on the packaging nor pamphlet did it tell you that you have to gently turn the cup (when it’s still inside you) to remove the vacuum of the sealed rubber against the vaginal walls. This made the first couple of removals exceedingly painful because the vacuum wasn’t released. I felt as though my insides were being pulled out.
I was *this* close to chucking the damn cup and never bothering with menstrual cups ever again because of the painful removal. That evening, I Googled the heck out of menstrual cups. I even watched tutorials on YouTube on how to properly insert and remove the cup. Oh yeah, there are plenty of non-graphic videos on YouTube that will show you this, which were immensely helpful. This particular video helped me out the most.
Once I learned how to properly insert the cup and more importantly, learned how to release the vacuum upon removal, that was when I experienced a 180 degree change with the cup. Insertion and removal became painless without even a hint of discomfort. When it’s worn, I felt nothing. There’s no silly string I have to worry about disappearing in me like I would tampons. I didn’t have to remove the cup when I need to do a #2 in the loo.
Best of all – and this was the factor that completely won me over – I don’t have to wear a sanitary pad to sleep and worry about leakage ever again. I don’t wear tampons at night and I hate those long nighttime sanitary pads that feel like I’ve got a sausage wedged up in there when I’m sleeping. I also tend to leak and I’d stained the bed sheets and mattress protector several times. As I’m able to wear the menstrual cup for up to 12 hours at a time, it was all right to sleep with it. No more leakage!
I love my cup!
I’ve been using the menstrual cup for several months now and I love it. While it’s not as convenient as tampons (I need to be careful with removal of the cup and make sure blood doesn’t spill anywhere other than into the toilet bowl) nor is it as easy to insert, it’s actually more comfortable when worn. There’s less leakage and I don’t have to remove the cup as often as I would tampons. The environmental benefits of using a menstrual cup far outweighs the use of so much tampons and pads. Having said that, I still wear pantyliners when I wear the cup just in case.
Another benefit of using a menstrual cup is that you finally know what your monthly flow looks like. While it sounds icky to look and even feel your own blood, it’s important that we women know what our monthly flow looks like. Tampons and pads absorb the blood and I had no idea what my flow actually looked like. This is very important as we’ll be able to notice any changes to the flow, the texture, the consistency and colour, if there are unusual clots, if we’re bleeding excessively, etc.
Here’s what you need to know
If you’re considering using a menstrual cup, I highly recommend that you give it a try. Here are a few things you must take note thought before you do. This is what the packaging and pamphlets don’t tell you:
- This bears repeating: if you’re squeamish about blood, even your own, don’t use it.
- Beware of the vacuum that seals the cup to the vaginal wall. Always break the vacuum prior to removal or else it will hurt like hell when you try to remove the cup.
- The attached pamphlet will tell you to “bear down” to remove the cup. When I first tried this out, for the life of me, I had no idea what “bearing down” meant. After some Googling, it simply means that in order to push this cup out, imagine you’re about to do a big poo and push.
- You need to be very hands-on when using a menstrual cup. This means that you need to be comfortable inserting fingers (not just one!) into your vagina because you don’t only need to insert the cup in there, you also need to turn it a little and feel around to make sure the folded cup has properly opened in there and formed a seal.
- If your WC is separate from the bathroom or doesn’t have a washbasin, have wet wipes handy with you because you’ll definitely need them. Wet wipes are essential when you need to empty the cup in a public toilet.
- Once you’ve emptied the cup, flush the loo as soon as possible. The longer you wait to flush, the more the blood will stain the toilet bowl. This may be awkward when using a public toilet, especially if the toilet bowl is white. I experienced this often with my own WC as my toilet bowl is white. In my experience, flushing the toilet ASAP prevents staining.
- Wear a pantyliner when using the menstrual cup. I seldom experience leaking after I started using the menstrual cup but there are times when there’s a bit of staining.
- My friend who has been wearing menstrual cups for a long time now recommended snipping the stem of the cup off to prevent thrush. Mine is still intact and I have no issues with thrush but if you’re prone to thrush, this is something you might want to consider.
- Pop the cup in boiling water for 5 minutes when you take it out of the packaging. After your period is over, do this again, let the cup air-dry and store it away. In between uses, use a very gentle soap-free and fragrance-free soap to clean the cup. I use the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser to clean mine.
Say yes to menstrual cups!
It might seem as though it’s a major hassle using the cup but once you’re used to it (and you’ll get used to it very quickly), you won’t want to go back to using tampons and sanitary pads again. Just the thought of not needing to sleep with pads anymore already makes the menstrual cup a huge winner in my books. No more packing heaps of pads and tampons when traveling again because all you need is one cup. And I repeat … NO MORE FREAKIN’ PADS!
I’ve only tried the Diva Cup so far and I love it. I’d love to give other cups a go. The cost of a cup is significantly higher than buying a pack of tampons and/or pads but it’s reusable for each monthly cycle. It’s recommended that you replace the cup annually. Personally, despite the rough start, the benefits of using a menstrual up far outweighs the initially inconvenience. I never need to worry about leakage or even tampon TSS (toxic shock syndrome) again!
Good luck! 😀