For us some of us, periods can be one heck of a deal. The unannounced arrival, the cramps, the crazy mood swings, the fear of leakage, the rashes, and whatnot.
It’s probably the only time of life when most of us wonder – why me? ‘Cause let’s be honest, there’s nothing about periods that’s normal.
And the sanitary pads and tampons just don’t help. This possibly is the rant of everyone who gets periods. All this, with the amount of waste these single-use products generate, is just a big no-no.
Enter menstrual cup
When I first switched to a menstrual cup, it quite literally made my periods disappear. No more worries about leakage or rashes.
And certainly, no more alarms to remind me to change the pads/tampons. Once I got the hang of it all, my periods became very comfortable. And I had no worries about my menstrual waste.
The first time I tried a menstrual cup
I will be honest, going from sanitary pads and tampons to trying a vaginal cup during periods wasn’t an easy task. Initially, it was a struggle, but I promise it only gets better after.
Just like any other menstrual cup beginner, I had my doubts and inhibitions. Unfortunately, none of my family members or friends had cup-verted then, meaning I had nobody to exactly guide me through the journey.
Naturally, the internet became my go-to place to find answers. While some guides really did help me, others also added to my fears. So, here’s how I mustered up the courage to give the menstrual cup a try.
Unlike most people, I wasn’t introduced to a menstrual cup on the internet. I received mine from my cousin. She bought one but couldn’t try it ’cause she felt the size was too big to fit her (it was her first time, too!).
Back then (6 years ago), I wasn’t brave or familiar with my body. Moreover, the menstrual cup did not have the hype it has now. Thus, I did not give it a try then.
The poor reusable cup stayed locked in my wardrobe until the day I finally decided this was it; and that I could not use sanitary pads or tampons anymore.
It wasn’t a cakewalk initially
I tried the menstrual cup on the first day of my period. Unfortunately, I failed the first time, thinking the cup was too big for me. Later, I found out that my period was only starting, and it was too dry for inserting the cup.
After possibly watching every youtube video on how to insert a cup and reading a million blogs about how it’s harmless, I finally mustered the courage to try again on my second day, and I haven’t looked back since.
And for everyone looking for more comfortable periods, I recommend trying a menstrual cup too.
What exactly is a menstrual cup?
So, a reusable menstrual cup (yes, reusable, that’s the word to emphasize!) is probably one of the most sustainable period products out there. It is also known as a vaginal cup or a cervix cup.
It’s a medical-grade silicone cup that you can insert into your vagina. It can hold your period blood inside for 8 to 12 hours (you heard it!), post which you can empty, wash and reuse it. Sounds cool, right?
The cup-like structure you see is what holds all your period blood. Right below the rim or the circumference of the cup, there are holes (4 usually) that help release the suction while removing the cup.
The tail-like structure is mostly present in all the cups. You can use it as a guide to reaching the base of the cup when removing it. You can easily cut it to your choice of length.
The one shown in the picture above is only one kind of menstrual cup. They are available in many other shapes, sizes, colors, and capacities.
Doubts most menstrual cup beginners have
Now, you must be wondering how exactly can it stay in, why doesn’t it leak, and so many more questions. Here are honest answers to all of them.
1. Does it hurt?
I totally get this one ’cause even I used to be scared before I started using it. In my experience, if you know your body well down there, it gets easier. So, don’t shy away from getting to know yourself. Accordingly, choose the right cup size for yourself.
The next thing to make sure of is that you are well-lubricated. I suggest trying it on the second day of your period instead of the first. It pretty much slides in for itself. You can also opt for water-based drugstore lubricants if it gets difficult initially.
Also, take a clean finger and feel yourself to make sure the angle you point your cup is right. I came across a few Reddit threads from users who inserted it at the wrong angle and had minor cramps.
I assure you that the cup doesn’t hurt if you insert it right. The first few times can be a little uncomfortable ’cause you are new to the whole thing. To be honest, the first few times, I constantly felt the cup as I consciously reminded myself of it. But, once I got busy with work, I completely forgot about it.
2. What if I get an infection?
Here’s the thing about infections, you can get them while using a pad, tampon, period panties, or even other period products. If you are not practicing basic hygiene, no one can save you from an infection.
Although, the chemicals in a pad or tampon can mess up the pH balance of your vagina. While using a pad, the period blood is exposed to air for long hours, which makes the dirty pad a breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria. Fortunately, a menstrual cup has no chemicals, and it seals the blood inside your body, so no chance for bacteria.
To make sure you get no infections, wash your hands with mild soap before inserting or removing the cup. Also, sanitize your menstrual cup between your periods, and you will have nothing to worry about.
3. What if the cup gets lost inside my uterus?
This is the most obvious doubt all menstrual cup beginners have. Trust me when I say this, but it just cannot. Also, a menstrual cup never even reaches our uterus, it stays in our vagina. To understand this, let’s take a small anatomy lesson.
Our uterus has a small opening called the cervix, which opens in a 3-4 inch long tube called the vagina. The vagina is more like a tunnel where your (and my) menstrual cup sits. And the cervix prevents it from entering the uterus. So, there’s absolutely no chance that a menstrual cup can get lost in your uterus.
One thing to note here is that the position of our cervix varies depending on where we are in our cycles. It depends on every individual. Sometimes, if the position is higher, the cup also sits high inside the vagina, but as it fills up, it slowly comes down.
How to use a menstrual cup?
Listed below are all my learning about using a menstrual cup, and there’re videos to help you understand better.
1. Clean your hands and your menstrual cup
Hygiene is super important while using a menstrual cup. So, make sure to clean your hands with mild soap and sanitize your menstrual cup before and after your periods.
To sanitize your cup, fill your sink or a bowl with boiling hot water and let your cup sit in it for 10-15 mins. You can also use a menstrual cup wash specially designed for your cup. And yes, even if your cup is brand new, we suggest you wash it before using it.
IMPORTANT: NOT (and when I say it, I really mean NO) to use any scented soaps or products that will make your cup smell nice. You will end up with a nasty infection, and none of us would want that.
2. Relax and squat
You can squat or keep one leg on the seat to make it easier. Different positions work for different people. This is a step you will figure out once you start using the cup; you might come up with a more comfortable position yourself.
Once you do that, relax. Like, really relax because when you are tensed, your vaginal muscles clench too, and that’s when your cup won’t fit in at all! What worked for me was trusting the process; it can be something else for you that you will figure out with time.
3. Fold the cup the right way and insert it
Well, this part is tricky for most of us. There are many techniques to fold your cup, while 3 folds are super common, the punch down, the seven fold, and the c fold.
It’s important to figure out which fold will work for you. I would say the punch-down fold works best for beginners as it has the smallest circumferences.
The video will help you learn the different kinds of folds. Post folding, insert the cup in and twist it a bit. You will probably hear a slight pop sound as it opens.
4. Always check if the cup has opened after inserting
Once the cup is in, tug on the stem very lightly to check if the seal is formed or not. If the cup doesn’t slide down, then you are good. If you feel it sliding down, hold the stem or the base of the menstrual cup and twist a bit until it opens.
Voila! Depending on your flow, you are good to go for the next few hours. Make sure that the stem isn’t too long. Once you insert the cup, you will not feel it at all & if you do, it’s not inserted correctly.
5. Removing the reusable menstrual cup
This part can be a tad bit messy, but after a few tries, you get used to it. In most cases, when the cup is full, it usually slides down a little due to the weight of the blood collected. All you need to do is squat again, like while inserting the cup, and push the cup down (similar to how you do before having a bowel movement).
Next, insert your finger inside and find the stem of the cup. Follow it to reach the base of your menstrual cup. Slowly pinch it to release the seal and pull it out. Empty your cup, wash it with clean water and reinsert it.
Note: In case you are in a place where you do not have access to clean water, you can use the cup as is or use tissues to clean your cup. No, the cup can not get lost in your vagina. If you can not find your cup, don’t panic. Instead, try to relax and push it down again. You will find it.
Also, the cup becomes super slippery, so be careful not to drop it in the pot! 😛
Important things you should know
- You should reinsert the cup once every 12 hours. Do not wear the cup for longer at once.
- Always sanitize your cup before and after your periods. If you want, you can sanitize it every time before reinserting it.
- Your cup might sometimes leak in the first few attempts, so please make sure to have an extra layer of protection along with you. You can opt for period panties or other reusable period products. Usually, it takes three menstrual cycles to get used to it.
- No, your vagina will not loosen up if you use a menstrual cup. Your vagina is like an elastic band, it expands when you insert the menstrual cup, and once you remove it, your vagina returns to its regular shape.
- There are nearly no side effects of using a menstrual cup. Yes, TSS or toxic shock syndrome is a possibility, but it’s scarce and can happen while using a tampon as well. So, a menstrual cup is definitely a better option.
How using a menstrual cup can change your life too?
Just like me, if you also like to make a list of pros and cons before trying something new, then let me help you with this list of all the benefits of a menstrual cup.
1. It is super comfortable and safe
Apart from inserting and removing bits, a menstrual cup is one of the most convenient period products out there that can actually make periods feel good. You don’t need to worry about any leakage or rashes.
You can run, dance, travel, and even swim wearing a menstrual cup. Plus, there are no harmful chemicals, irritants, etc., in your period products.
2. It saves you a lot of money
I definitely, couldn’t skip this one. One menstrual cup can last up to 5 years. On average, a woman spends $168 on sanitary pads and tampons during each period.
Imagine all the savings you could have by just buying a $20 – $30 menstrual cup for the next few years.
3. It’s good for the planet
According to National Geographic, ‘…over the course of a lifetime, a single menstruator will use somewhere between 5 and 15 thousand pads and tampons, the vast majority of which will wind up in landfills as plastic waste.’ Shocking, isn’t it?
The solution to the period plastic problem is simple – switching to a menstrual cup. Since it’s made of silicone, you can easily dispose of it. It is one of the best sustainable period products you can possibly get your hands on.
Is it worth it?
If you, too, are looking to make the switch to a menstrual cup, whatever the reason, you can try these brands – Organi Cup (now All Matters), Ruby Cup, and Diva Cup. Using a menstrual cup is definitely not a huge deal. All it takes is a little effort, patience, and care.
So, don’t give up on the idea of trying this wonderful and sustainable period product if you are too scared. All new things take time, but I am sure once you get the hang of it, there’s no turning back, only good periods!
Looking for more sustainable period products? Check out – 8 Eco-Friendly Period Products That Are Good For You And The Planet