Yeah, I know, you’re making faces just thinking about this, aren’t you? Before I start, let me just warn you that there will be a lot of talk about periods, cervixes and blood in this blog post so if you’re a man you probably do not want to continue reading. But if you’re a woman who hasn’t gone through menopause then periods are part of your life. We need to talk about menstrual cups which are another option at your disposal in your monthly arsenal. These are a lot more popular in Europe. Don’t know why. They’re better for the environment? Save space? Who knows. But most companies and websites that deal with this item are Eurpoean.
Let’s talk about what a menstrual cup even is. It’s a silicone cup with a little thing coming out of the bottom to grab onto. You put it way up inside next to your cervix where it catches all the blood and gook coming out until you dump it out and reinsert it. There are probably more than a dozen options out there but most of them look something like this:
Economical. You’ll pay between $20-$40 for one but it will last you for years. Considering a box of tampons costs between $6-10, do the math.
Convenient. No more forgetting a tampon. The cup stays inside and just has to be emptied and reinserted. Your days of having to beg a stranger for a tampon are OVER. Although I do keep a tampon in my purse in case my first period of my cycle starts while I’m not at home.
Environmentally sound. Think of all the tampons and pads that are used around the world. No, don’t think about that. What a disgusting mess. But you can imagine the impact of throwing that much stuff away. Not to mention all the wrappers and applicators.
Capacity. A cup holds a lot more than a tampon. You spend a lot less time in the bathroom since cups have a higher capacity, especially during the lighter days of your period.
Healthy. Cups are made of medical grade silicone. Which means no risk of toxic shock. Silicone is also resistant to bacteria. Just ask all your friends with fake boobs!
Apocolyptically sound. When the world ends you won’t have to use rags during your period or barter for tampons. I know you were worried about that!
Messy. Not as messy as you’d imagine but your fingers will come in contact with blood. That can be an issue in public bathrooms. But there’s toilet paper in there for a reason.
Initial Cost. Since everyone’s body is different it could take you a few tries to find the right cup for you. And it’s not like you can sell your used cups on ebay. But once you find the right cup it will be great!
Insertion. This is the tricky part. You have to fold it up to get it inside, make sure it pops open and forms a seal.
I’d heard of menstrual cups over the years but thought, “gross” and dismissed the idea because . . . what a yucky mess! But I talked to my friend Tamara a few months ago. Tamara is even more nutty about preparedness and general End-of-the-World stuff than I am. And the talk turned to having babies and periods, as conversasation naturally does when women are together for more than an hour. She reminded me how awful it’s going to be when society as we know it breaks down and the supply of tampons runs out; and that menstrual cups are really the way to go. [Lightbulb moment!]
So I hopped onto the interwebs to do a little research. One visit to Amazon persuaded me that there must be something good about these things because there are RAVES about menstrual cups. I started by checking out the Divacup, a name I’d actually heard of. These seemed pretty good but I ended up going with the Mooncup because it was pretty cheap (about $20) and had great reviews. So I ordered one and tried it out a couple of weeks later when Aunt Flo came to visit.
There is definitely a learning curve to menstrual cups. Oh my gosh, what a mess the first time! Just think about when you first got your period and you totally didn’t know how it all worked and what a disaster that was. It’s kind of like that during your first period with a cup. But a few comments on Amazon had warned about that and so I stuck with it. The next period went a lot better. Now I’ve used my cup for about six periods and I’m a total convert.
After I used my Mooncup for my first cycle I realized that I needed something a lot more heavy duty. Not only do I have super heavy periods (I go through a Super Plus tampon every hour and a half on days 2-3) but my cervix and surrounding areas are a little roomy thanks to all the children I pushed out. The Mooncup actually slid down each time I used it. Super!
There are different sizes of cups (each manufacturer makes one size if you’ve given birth vaginally, one if you haven’t) and different capacities. Some brands are firmer silicone (they’re better to stay in place) and some are softer (better if youv’e got an oddly-shaped cervical area). Some are shorter and some are longer. Did you know that some women have a high cervix and some have a low cervix? And to make it even more confusing your cervix keeps moving throughout your cycle? Your menstrual cup choices are pretty wide. The only way to know which cup works for you is to try them. Which can get a little spendy. But the right cup makes all the difference!
There is an incredibly helpful blog here that shows all the menstrual cup measurements, rates their softness, their capacity, etc. The comments are all very educational so make sure to read those if you’re interested in trying out a menstrual cup. The one with the widest diameter and the most capacity was the Yuuki. So I ordered one from the only website in the world that seems to carry them (some place in the Czech Republic, I think). I had it within two weeks and it has worked great for me.
Here are the FAQ’s I get asked most often when I mention menstrual cups:
Q: Aren’t they messy?
A: At the beginning, yes. You definitely need to get the hang of it. But once you know what you’re doing it’s not so bad. Yes, you are essentially putting something up inside and your fingers will come in contact with blood. This really is only an issue if you use public bathrooms without sinks nearby. Must cups hold way more liquid than a tampon so the need to change them is a lot less. If I’m going out to dinner and a movie and I know I’ll have to empty my cup I try to find a family or handicap bathroom where a sink is nearby. If not just use toilet paper as much as possible until you can make it to the sink.
When you’re removing your cup just use your vaginal wall muscles to push the cup down to the opening. Then use toilet paper to grab it, break the seal and dump it out.
Q: Do they leak?
A: They will if they get too full. I usually wear a pad during my heavy days just in case. But then, my periods are always crazy heavy. I can go about three hours between empty times for my cup. About 1.5 hours for a tampon. And my tampons ALWAYS leaked, as opposed to every once in a while with my cup. The best part of a cup is when your period isn’t very heavy or you have those weird days at the end of your period where your body can’t decide if it’s finished or not. You can leave your cup in all day and there is no health risk. You can’t get toxic shock from menstrual cups. Just empty it once in the morning and once in the evening and never think about it again. So awesome! If your period is never very heavy I can’t imagine how dreamy it would be to use a cup!
Q: Are they uncomfortable?
A: Nope. The first day I wore one I could feel something there. No pain, just a sense that there was something inside me. But after the first day it disappeared and has never happened since.
Q. How do you put it in exactly?
A: It has to be folded to get inside. Lucky for you there are all sorts of different folding videos on YouTube. MenstrualCupInfo has posted a whole bunch of helpful videos about insertion and removal. (I prefer the punch down fold myself.) Just fold, insert, make sure it pops open, twist it back and forth to make sure it has a decent seal and you’re done. It’s usually easier to put it in when it’s wet. You might want to try doing it in the shower. I get a better seal when I insert it standing up.
To remove it, squeeze your muscles til the cup is down close to your vaginal opening, grab the base (I use toilet paper) and pinch the sides together. It will come right out and you just dump the blood in the toilet. I like to rinse mine too but that’s not always a possibility. So I just reinsert if I can’t rinse it.
I hope this has given you something to think about. If you’ve tried menstrual cups I’d love to hear your opinion!