Photos from Mama.Baby.Love Facebook page
Around two weeks ago I shared an article on Facebook discussing the 5 Reasons to Switch to the Menstrual Cup. I’m not sure what I was expecting but on one end I got a lot of squeamishness and on the other, interest and excitement 🙂
That a lot of people responded was great for me. It’s awesome that we can talk about this in a public platform and that a conversation about alternative, environment-friendly ways to deal with our monthly periods is actually happening.
To continue the conversation and to walk my talk, I’m going to share my recent and first experience with the menstrual cup. I hope this will give you an idea of what to expect and dispel some fears and doubts you may be having. If you’re gonna read on, be warned that this post is going to be about blood, vaginas, and the act of inserting things in your lady parts!
What is a menstrual cup?
Basically, it’s a small, silicone cup you put inside your vagina during your period, designed to be a receptacle for your blood. It’s a great alternative to sanitary napkins and tampons for many reasons but I’m gonna talk about the two most important ones in my book.
One, as the writer of the article I shared said “The cotton of a tampon absorbs more than just your flow; it also absorbs your natural vaginal lining, and this makes your vagina more susceptible to diseases and infections. With the cup, nothing is absorbed, so this is no longer a risk. There are also no chemicals to worry about. Both napkins and tampons use chemicals such as bleach, dyes, and additives; the cup doesn’t. In addition, using sanitary napkins can cause rashes and chafing. This too will no longer be an issue with the menstrual cup.”
Second, it’s way better for the environment. Yes, I’m bringing up the environment in a conversation about our monthly periods. In all parts of our lives we leave a carbon footprint of waste and resources – our periods are no exception. Imagine how many napkins and tampons you’ve used over the years and how big an area it would fill. Then multiply that by the thousands of women in your city, the millions of women in your country, and the billions of women in the world. Then multiply that by 12 months. That is a lot. Menstrual cups are reusable and depending on how well you take care of them, they can last for 5-10 years. All you need to use is water, maybe vinegar, and mild soap to keep it working.
Where do you get it? How do you even choose?
Now, how do you choose?
Honestly, for me, I chose mine by looks 🙂 I was browsing through the Mama.Baby.Love Facebook page and the Meluna cup looked the most friendly. I read reviews online and by the sound of it, it was as user friendly as it looked. If you’re interested in other brands, just treat your purchase how you would any other – do your research.
After that, it was all about choosing the size. The cups come in small, medium, large, and extra large. On the Meluna site there’s a quick quiz you can take that’ll tell you what size is probably best for you – depending on your age, if you’ve had intercourse, if you’ve given birth, and your physique. I ended up getting a SMALL, SPORT cup with a RING.
The sport cup is usually for people who hold a strong level of pelvic floor engagement daily a.k.a yogis, people who practice pilates, etc. You’ll see in the picture below how firm they are in relation to each other when pressed.
You can also choose the grip, which is the pointed end of the cup you use to remove it when the time comes. It can be either a ring, a ball, a stem, or even no grip at all.
How do you clean it?
When you get the cup, it will come with a set of instructions that I advise you should read carefully. Meluna prescribes for you to sterilize it by soaking it in boiling water before your first use and right before your next period.
Other options I’ve been seeing online is to soak it in a vinegar-water solution with varying rations of vinegar to water, usually 1:9. All of this is easy and manageable and not yucky at all.
What’s it like putting it in?
Easy. Much easier than I expected. Granted, mine was a size small and if it was much bigger, I suppose I’d have a harder time.
With clean hands, you have to fold the cup and place it inside, right up until you can only touch the tip of the cup. There was never any pain but I would say, you can expect some slight discomfort – and most of it comes from the idea that you’re putting something in there, especially if it’s your first time. Just relax, breathe. Since the walls of our vagina are flexible, it’s pretty much easy going once you get the top part in. Everything else slides in much easier and it opens up into a cup shape once in. Again, no pain at all.
Here are some ways you can fold the cup. Personally, I used the C-fold.
It’s also easier to do this sitting down and when your vagina isn’t completely dry.
Just to give you an idea of where it eventually settles, here’s another photo from the Meluna site. As you can see, there’s no way it can slide all the way in and get lost in the body.
What’s it like using it?
- After the first few minutes (maybe longer for the first time), you can kinda forget it’s there. If you position it perfectly, you won’t feel it at all, even when you’re sitting down. You’ll only really feel it when you engage your pelvic floor muscles in daily life (a.k.a coughing, holding in your pee).
- You can keep it inside for a maximum of 8-12 hours. But for the first few times of using it, they recommend changing it as often as you change your napkins or your tampons. I usually have to change after 2-3 hours so I did the same with my cup. When changing, I’d see that after 3 hours, there was still a lot of space and I probably could’ve kept it in for an hour longer. This is good news cause it means you have to change and worry less.
- For the first few times you use it, you may still want to wear a panty liner to be safe. It won’t leak and personally, I didn’t experience any leaks either. But if you position it wrongly, leaks can be a possibility.
- No problem peeing at all 🙂
What’s it like doing yoga with the cup in place?
- I didn’t feel it at all. I’d only really feel it when I’d engage mula bandha or locking the pelvic floor muscles. Then, I could feel the cup against the sides of the vaginal walls but it was more of a presence, it wasn’t really pushing back against me or making it hard to engage the mula bandha.
- So for that first time I used it in class, I was a little uncomfortable. Think of doing dog splits and half moon with your legs wide open and a menstrual cup inside of you. Strange. But again, the discomfort was only really in my mind. Physically, I didn’t feel anything at all and it didn’t leak. The lesson I guess is, you have to get over it 😉
What’s it like removing the cup?
- Removing the cup is slightly harder than putting it in. You have to pull on the grip and once part of the cup is out, you have to squeeze on it. That’s what’s recommended in the instructions but it didn’t really work for me. What really worked was squeezing my pelvic floor muscles together, guiding the cup out.
- The most uncomfortable part is removing the very top part which is where it’s widest and most thick. Still no pain. I think pain will only come if you’re thinking it’s painful but what it really is is discomfort.
- When you remove it, you remove it by pulling down. So when it comes out, it’s still in it’s upright position. No blood will be spilled until you turn over the cup and dump the blood in the toilet. It was a much cleaner process than I expected 🙂
- The blood has absolutely no smell which is enlightening. The smell you usually associate with a period comes mostly I guess from the fact that the blood stays in your napkin or tampon for a while.
- Re: the blood in the toilet. You may have to flush more than once if your flow is heavy and if it’s more than just liquid. Sooo when you excuse yourself to the bathroom, know that it might be a while.
- Before putting the cup back in again, you have to clean it with mild soap and water. I brought natural feminine wash from Human Nature with me when I’d go out and use that.
- WARNING. If you use a bidet instead of a sink to clean it, test the bidet out. If there’s a lot of pressure, there may be a chance you let go of it and drop it in the toilet :O
Overall, it was a good experience and I’m glad I took on the change. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about how to use the cup, let me know in the comments below or message me privately 🙂