Menstrual cups have become more and more popular amongst society with more and more women talking about them! (me being one of them). As our world (slowly) shifts to becoming more eco-conscious and aware of limiting/reducing the use of single-use plastics and products, menstrual cups, reusable pads, period underwear, etc. have been women’s preferred choices as alternatives to single-use pads and tampons. I’m going to talk a little about my experience with a menstrual cup as well as a little bit about all of the above!
As a teenager, I used pads pretty much throughout my early-mid teen years until I reached my late teens as, if I’m honest, it was daunting to think about shoving something up your vagina (like what happened if it got stuck up there?!). So, for most of my teen life I stuck with pads, but it wasn’t something I particularly liked, as they felt like a nappy & were bulky and I always felt super hyper aware that people might be able to see that I was wearing one whenever I wore tight clothes, and they felt smelly too seeing as they were basically a thing strapped to your knickers holding blood to your body… it just wasn’t an overly pleasant experience for me. Plus, they needed to be changed constantly which wasn’t ideal if you were at school or in public places… the dreaded sound of peeling the pad off your undies only to be replaced by the sound of opening a new one – cringe – no matter how quiet you tried to be, it still rocketed off the bathroom walls for the world to hear! Also continually buying them all the time adds up in expenses.
Later down the track I bit the bullet and started using tampons, which were sooooo much more pleasant for me. I no longer felt so self-conscious, I could swim when I liked, I no longer felt smelly or felt gross, it was a much happier time for me. They of course needed to be changed more regularly, but at least the process was much quicker, and quieter, than with pads. I also liked how I could move more freely and exercise more comfortably without the feeling of cotton covered plastic taped to my underwear.
But tampons do have their downside:
– They’re not environmentally friendly
– They are associated with causes of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which is rare, but can happen
– Using tampons opens you up to coming into contact with (vaginally – which is highly absorbent) bleach, pesticides, chemical fragrances & dioxins.
Also, going back to costs it can add up over time.
“The average woman uses roughly 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. The time it takes for a tampon or pad to degrade in a landfill is centuries longer than the lifespan of the woman who used it, particularly when wrapped in a plastic wrapper or bag. In addition, the process of manufacturing these products – turning wood pulp into soft, cotton-like fibres – is both resource- and chemical-intensive.” – theguardian.com
Switching to a Menstrual Cup
About 1 year ago I purchased my first ever menstrual cup after seeing lots of people on social media talking about it! I purchased mine from OrganiCup as I had seen posts shared by them for a while leading up to that point, and thought their products would be pretty reliable. It cost about (from memory) around $45 AUD, which if you think about it as a long-term investment, it’s SUPER affordable! (and sounded quite reasonable to spend on something that I was still a little unsure about how and if I would like using a cup!)
When starting out using this cup, I was pretty hesitant. It look WAY bigger than a tampon and seeing as I was to put it up my personal area, I have to admit it at first seemed rather daunting (and took me back to the days of using a tampon for the first time). Thankfully, instructions were included on how to insert it (oh! And it was delivered in plastic-free packaging too! In case you were all wondering 😉). In all honesty, the first week of using this cup was REALLY uncomfortable. It took me a while to get the suction to hold right, so it did leak a few times, and I could feel it sitting inside my vagina so when it came to exercising, sitting down, and even walking, I could feel it sticking into me. Also removing it was reeeeeeally painful the first few times to (looking back it’s because I was doing it wrong), so when it came to the next month of using it again, I almost wanted to give up with it then and there. But I persisted (mainly due to the “eco girl” in me that refused to use single-use plastics unnecessarily anymore) and the next week of using it was surprising comfortable. It’s like they say, “persistence pays off!”
How to Use:
- Sterilise the cup. Before the first use, sterilise the cup in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
- Next, fold the cup in half to form a ‘C’ shape and pinch it together between your thumb and index finger.
- Insert into the vagina, pushing in at an angled direction toward your tailbone, rather than straight upward if that makes sense.
- Keep pushing until the cup is fully inserted (I find doing this in a squat position is way easier). For me, I find that the stem won’t be visible from the outside and should be pushed up comfortably into the vagina (otherwise you may feel it when sitting down). Just be careful not to push it so far up that it sticks to your cervix!
- Once you think it’s in there far enough and is secure, use your index finger to feel around the cup to make sure it has suctioned on by opening up, and feels securely fastened. If inserted correctly it’ll unfold itself and pop open, so it should feel rounded (and not pushed in or folded anywhere) just like it looks outside your vagina, in its original form. If it’s not, try tug and twist it a little or walk around a bit to see if that pops it open. If not, you may have to re-insert it again (make sure to wash your hands to prevent any contamination.
- You also shouldn’t be able to feel the cup inside of you if it’s inserted correctly.
Picture from daisymenstrualcup.com
It can definitely be frustrating getting used to using a menstrual cup, but once you do succeed in getting it right, the benefits far outweigh the struggle it took to get there. And you’ll find what works best for you, just be patient with yourself, and know it’s just trial and error. We’ve all got to learn someway.
I recommend wearing a panty liner of it’s your first few times using it, or if you’re on the more heavier days of your period, you may even want to double up using period underwear and a menstrual cup for double protection.
For the most part, if I’ve done a perfect job with inserting it, or it isn’t on the first one or two days, I don’t need to double up (if I’m on the heavier times of my cycle, I just empty the cup more regularly which helps to stop leakage).
Removing and Emptying the Cup
Menstrual cups can be left in for up to 8-12 hours!! This is something I absolutely LOVE as I can go about my daily tasks without needing to change it until the evening! Of course, variables do come into play given how heavy your period is (you may need to empty it more frequently), but it’s great when it comes to those lighter days! This is fantastic when you’re out and about or travelling.
To remove, you gently tug and pull on the stem of the cup while using your abdominal muscles to push it downwards until you can reach the base. This may feel weird the first few times, especially if you haven’t used a tampon before. Give the base of the cup a pinch (or insert your index finger alongside it) to release the suction and ease it out. I find pinching it in half again makes it easier to pull out without causing any pain or discomfort. Avoid removing your menstrual cup by pulling the stem as this might cause discomfort. Also, seeing the blood in the cup may be a little queasy for some, not gonna lie, the first time I emptied it I felt a little uneased by it, but I’ve gotten used to it now!
To empty, just pour the blood into the toilet, or you can pour it down the sink.
I prefer to both insert and remove/empty the cup is in the shower! It’s so much cleaner that way and makes the process a lot simpler I find. So definitely give that a try!
Emptying it at a sink (for bathrooms that allow that) or shower gives you the option to wash the cup before re-inserting it! But if you can’t rinse it and need to re-insert it, that’s okay too! Just make sure to always insert and remove the cup with clean hands!
Also, seek professional advice if you use a form of contraception such as the copper IUD or Mirena before using a menstrual cup.
Cleaning the Cup
When you’ve just started your period and before you insert the cup, it’s a really good idea to put the cup in some boiling water for 3-5 minutes. It’s good to do this once your period has finished as well, as it can help kill germs and eliminate any smells, but rinse it in cold water first/when cleaning the cup throughout your cycle, to prevent stains.
You can also buy cup wipes for when you’re travelling or camping so you can clean the cup without needing water. Lunette have some here.
Where to Buy & Brands
There are quite a few places you can purchase menstrual cups from out there, with more appearing each year! I’m just going to mention a few of them today:
This is the brand I got mine from. It’s one of the more expensive(ish) ones available (not being aware of this when I bought it though 😅, oh well), priced at $45.35 AUD online. Their cups just come in the one colour, a clear whitish, and come in 3 different sizes. Size A for a standard flow (women who have not given birth vaginally), Size B for a heavy flow (or for women who have given birth vaginally), and Size C which is the mini (for teens).
These come in 6 different colours! (You get to pick from almost every colour of the rainbow!). Their priced at around $39.90-$49.90 AUD online, and come in 2 different sizings; Model 1 for lighter flow, Model 2 for heavier flow.
These come in about 4 different sizes! (Very generous).
- Model 1: Recommend if you are under 30 and have not given birth.
- Model 2: Recommend if you are over 30 or have given birth
- Model 3: Recommend if you have a high cervix or long vaginal canal.
- Model 4: Recommend if you have a low cervix or short vaginal canal.
They also only come in clear, but you can pick the colour pouch you’d like. These ones are made here in Aus, so for those living in Australia shipping is free if you spend over $50 and the cups are $49.95 AUD, so that’s easy!
All these websites include plenty of information about the cups, how to use and care for them, as well as a whole heap of FAQ’s.
Overall, my experience with a menstrual cup has been a positive one! It’s totally opened me up to even talking about my period, rather than it being this taboo topic that should be kept to one’s-self. It’s made my periods much less of an inconvenience as using a cup gives me the freedom to wear whatever underpants and clothes I want to exercise comfortably while on my period, and to be able to just move freely in general!
It definitely takes some time to get used to, and inserting it is something that gets easier over time. Once you become familiar with what it should feel like when done correctly, it becomes a lot easier.
The best part for me was that they can be kept in for 12 hours meaning you don’t need to go about changing them nearly as much as pads or tampons. Plus, they’re so much more cost-effective, with one easy payment of $35-$55 for something that will last years, and contributes less waste to our beautiful planet! It’s definitely a win-win!
Menstruation continues to be a taboo topic in society, sometimes feeling that they can’t freely talk about it due to judgement. This is particularly the case for those who do not have access to sanitary products, which can cost up to $25/month.
It’s important we break the silence and have the conversation.
The Eco Benefits of a Menstrual Cup
Menstrual cups can save us up to $240 a year, and divert 240+ tampons and pads from landfill (woohoo!). That means one cup (assuming it lasts the expected 10 years) will divert 2,400 tampons/pads from landfill, and save us $2,400!! Well, minus the $45 it cost to buy, so make that $2,355. (Calculations courtesy of Ethically Kate)
Once you have a cup… you’ll never go back.
Body positivity messages and cost-effective menstrual solutions are the just beginning. What’s great is menstrual cups no longer freak me out anymore; I actually don’t know what I’d do without it.
Let me know if you’ve tried a menstrual cup yet? What was your experience?
If you have any questions or would like to chat, feel free to DM me on Instagram @simplynaturalnessa.