Are you ready for maybe a little TMI here? I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to write about this… but it has been such a game changer for me that I kind of had to share. I’ll try to keep this as little TMI as humanly possible- but this is natural and normal stuff that approximately half the world experiences.
I switched to a menstrual cup several years ago (five years I believe) and I haven’t switched back since. I’ve heard all sorts of reactions to a cup- via articles online and a few of my friends even. There are a huge number of questions and reactions every time which I will address specifically at the end. Let’s start with some general info first though.
We are all very very aware that periods suck. They just do. Cramps, tampons (or pads), hormones… just all of it. I personally hated all of my options- pads are just straight up uncomfortable and gross, and tampons left me in an anxious state (someone I knew came down with Toxic Shock Syndrome when I was in high school). If we are all really honest about all of it- these options are pretty gross (we don’t really want to go into all those details- we are pretty aware of all of them). Plus- if you’re one who keep environmental issues in mind when you’re making purchases- the massive amount of disposable feminine products that go into landfills can be a little off putting.
What is kind of crazy is that using a menstrual cup addresses many issues that come along with pads and tampons…
Okay- let’s talk quickly about some more medical details. Okay- so the average woman only flows approximately 1 to 2 ounces (30-60 ml) per cycle. Those 1 to 2 ounces only get particularly disgusting when exposed to air (which tampons and pads allow them to do). Plus- Toxic Shock Syndrome becomes a threat when your flow is held against you skin for too long (which tampons can do if they are not used properly).
So a menstrual cup… how it works- the one I use is shaped like a bell and made of healthcare grade silicone. It is more similar to a tampon as it worn internally- it is different though as it sits low and away from the cervix using the bell shape as a air tight lock (preventing odor and leaks). The cup can be worn for 10- to 12-hours at a time without needing to be emptied and cleaned- since the flow stays inside the bell it doesn’t rest up against your skin.
Now my personal experience- I was really really unsure about switching when I first heard about it. Two of my aunts wouldn’t stop raving about how much they loved this new thing they were trying (my family is close and we share things). They claimed they no longer noticed any discomfort throughout the day… that they almost forgot that they were on their period since they no longer worried about leaks or needing to change anything while they were out and about or at work.
So I bought one (at Wholefoods of course)- and then the box sat on my bathroom counter for two months until I finally worked up the nerve to actually try it. I will be honest with you- when I finally did work up the nerve to try it out it took me two or three cycles to really get used to it. Putting it in and taking it out was the biggest challenge at first BUT it was so comfortable the rest of the time that I kept at it. I leaked only once the first time I tried it because I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of inserting it right (but I had taken my aunt’s advice and used a light pad while I was getting used to it), but I figured it out before my flow was over.
I have now been using a menstrual cup for over five years now and seriously could not be happier with it.
With all that being said- I thought I would specifically address a few questions I hear a lot:
Menstrual Cup Frequently Asked Questions
1. It looks kind of… big. How do you get it in?
The silicone folds easily. There are two types of folds you can use- the U Fold and the Push Down Fold (or Pinch Fold). I use the Push Down Fold. It unfolds itself once it is inserted form the air tight seal.
2. Isn’t it uncomfortable?
I don’t feel it at all when it is in there right. The silicone it is made of softens with body heat so it forms to your body. So I don’t feel it at all through the day except for when I’m going to the bathroom which is normal.
When I feel a little discomfort I know I didn’t get it in quite right. Sometimes I will feel it a little bit right after I insert it- but that feeling quickly dissipates. I recommend after you insert it and finish up everything moving around you bathroom for a second or two and make sure it feels okay- then if it doesn’t you can quickly reinsert it then.
3. Isn’t it disgusting when you remove it?
No worse than a pad or tampon. If you change it at home in the morning and evening like I do then you’re right next to your sink. You simply remove it (which does feel a little funny- but not painful) dump it out in the toilet and wash it in the sink with this special pH balanced soap. Then you put it back in- seriously it is no worse (and I think it is better) than tampons or pads.
4. I have a really really heavy flow- there is no way it will work for me.
You may be surprised- I thought the same thing at first too. Try it with a pad back up just to see- there is nothing to loose. You may just discover the solution to feeling like you have to run to the bathroom every hour to check on things.
5. What if I need to change it when I’m in a public bathroom?
Not a problem- I have really only had to do this once or twice since I started using it. Just in case I carry single packs of feminine wipes. It works the same as if you were at home but instead of washing it in the sink (which would definitely be really really awkward in the public bathroom full of stalls) I wipe it down with one of my feminine wipes before putting it back it. But again- I have only had to ever do this one or two times.
6. What about when I have to go to the bathroom?
Also not a problem in the slightest- you don’t have to remove it to go to the bathroom. You may feel it a little- but it doesn’t interfere at all.
7. Do you seriously reuse it? That seems unsanitary.
Yes- I seriously do reuse it, but not without cleaning it (cause that would be unsanitary). As per the instructions– I clean it every time I empty it and then I boil at the end of each cycle. In the past five years I have replaced it two times- once because I was absent minded and left in the boiling pot and burned it (super embarrassing), and the other because I moved and couldn’t find where I packed it (which it turned up later- but I was in a pickle).
If you have any other questions about it I will be happy to answer them- just leave them in the comments below or email me. :)
Also check out DivaCup’s FAQ as there are a few things that I don’t deal with and can’t give you any insight on. You can also watch this video which explains all of this too in a more visual manner (it is not bad- but potentially just a little awkward so maybe don’t watch it at work).
Also note that when I first started I could only find the DivaCup brand- but there are now a lot of options out there for you. This is a review about the DivaCup and I’m not trying to specifically endorse the brand- but menstrual cups in general.