Alert! Alert! Turn away now if:
- You want to read about food right this minute
- You’re squeamish about blood and bodily functions
- …and probably if you’re a man
I am about to venture deep into the nether regions of TMI land, and pretty far away from food, but I have experienced something so life-changing that I feel like I have to become an evangelist. Mostly so that I can stop blabbing about it to my husband to whom I believe I am giving nightmares.
***UPDATE: The good folks at Gladrags.com (makers of the Moon Cup) have offered my readers 10% off their purchase! Use code TMI10. Thank you Gladrags!***
If you’re like me, getting your monthly period is no cause for celebration, and is, in fact, and exercise in planning and preparedness. In short, it’s a huge pain, literally and figuratively. So recently when a friend asked if I’d ever tried a menstrual cup, I thought I’d research. I’d heard of them before, most recently from reading the Zero Waste book, but the author was also doing things like looking into using moss as toilet paper and sewing her own maxi pads, and I just wasn’t ready to go there. Even though I compost.
First off, for those of who you are unfamiliar with the concept, a menstrual cup is a silicone cup inserted in largely the same way as a tampon, but instead of absorbing the flow, it catches it. At first glance this sounds very, very messy, but…it’s not. And if you have a sick fascination like I do with the output of your Biore strips, I think you’ll actually enjoy it.
I started investigating online and found thousands of reviews from women talking about how life-changing the cup has been for them. And after having gone through my first cycle with one, I can confirm that for me, the following claims held true:
- I really appreciated the no-paper-trail, no-landfill-polluting nature of the cup. That is, no crinkly papers to deal with, no garbage created in your (or someone else’s) home, no worries about whether your tampon is going to clog up the plumbing. I’m usually mortified at the amount of waste I create each month, and this month — maybe just a few extra sheets of toilet paper. The cup is reusable for a number of years (the manufacturer of the Moon Cup mentioned that their customers use it for up to 10 years).
- I found it more comfortable than a tampon, and it doesn’t “fall out” like some tampons do.
- Because it doesn’t absorb like a tampon does, the risk of TSS goes way down, and you don’t have to worry about the uncomfortable removal of a tampon in the later days of your cycle…if you know what I mean.
- I had less cramping with the cup. I have no idea why this is the case but other women mentioned the same thing — I’m not going to complain.
- I had just about no leaking with the cup (and this is my first time ’round, so I was learning), and I am on the heavier side of the normal flow range, I always leak with a tampon, and I was using o.b., which I found to expand laterally better than the other brands. The cup forms a suction along the vaginal walls — so generally, no leaking.
If you’re about to embark on this adventure for the first time, there are a few things to know:
- Cups come in different sizes and shapes. You’ll want to get an idea for how far up your cervix is before buying, because having a cup right up against your cervix can cause cramping. This tutorial shows you how.
- This link and this one have pretty comprehensive comparisons of the measurements, shape and texture of the various cups on the market. If you’re going for bigger capacity, like what you would get with the Diva Cup, just be sure that the cup isn’t going to end up right against your cervix. I liked the idea of bigger capacity, but started with the Moon Cup (US — there is also a UK version) instead and I probably have to change it more on heavier flow days than I would with the Diva Cup, but it is completely comfortable. I also cut the stem on my Moon Cup about 3 mm and that made it perfect for me. The Diva Cup talks about a “twist” to pop it open, but my Moon Cup pretty much pops open on its own. It also comes with a cheerful yellow gingham carrying bag which seems to say “Yay period!”
- There are also slightly different insertion and removal methods that work with each cup, but there are plenty of great videos that show you how to insert and remove a cup. Ladies, you must break the vacuum seal before pulling out the cup, or I imagine it could be quite painful.. With the Moon Cup in particular, I find that the best method is to grab the stem with toilet paper, for better grip, and then to break the seal by pressing one side of the base of the cup away from the wall, and wiggling it down side to side. When it’s low enough, I grasp the base of the cup with my thumb and forefinger, and this gives me a good handle on the cup so that there’s no messy spilling. You do have to be unafraid to get your fingers up in your business, but that wasn’t an issue for me since I was an o.b. user anyway. Just dump the flow into the toilet. I found that after a few runs I was able to do the removal with very minimal mess.
- Ideally, you’d rinse the cup with soap and water before reinsertion, but in a public bathroom, you can wipe it down with toilet paper and reinsert until you can wash it. I’ve read about people bringing water bottles or peri-bottles with them in stalls for the rinsing, and that sounds like a good idea too. Other women said they just carried two cups, and would stick cups to be cleaned into a plastic baggie until they could get home.
On my heaviest days (for context, I would soak through an o.b. Super Plus tampon in 2 hours, and any other brand within 1.5 hours), I found that emptying the cup every 3 hours was sufficient and resulted in no leaking (if I used a Diva Cup, which has larger capacity, I might be able to go for longer — but I’m a little worried that it will hit my cervix). For the first time ever, I went without a backup pantiliner or a pad…though I would advise on heavy days using a pantiliner just in case. Now that I’ve gone all eco I think I’m going to try these reusables from Gladrags, the distributors of the Moon Cup US. On lighter days, I only needed to empty it once or twice a day, and I had no problem swimming with it on a heavy day. And overnight it was a DREAM. None of the gross issues I’ve had with overnight pads, and ZERO leaking (I emptied right away when I got up).
Now you know this has to be good if I’m as excited about this as I am about food. Feel free to ask questions below in the comments and I’ll try to get you the answer. Thanks for not fainting!