I’ve been trying menstrual cups since I wanna say February or March of 2018, and I am so, so glad I gave them a try! I can’t believe I got introduced to them so late. I hear they’ve been around since the 1930s, and I have friends who’ve been using them for over a decade – and some who’ve been using the same cup for many, many years. Me, I’ve been using the same one for all these months. The package came with two cups, one small and one slightly larger, and a pretty little pink pouch you can carry them in. I bought mine from Rebel Kate, and I recommend purchasing only when they have one of their really cool deals going on, like free cups but you just pay a flat $11 shipping fee – to anywhere in the world. So two menstrual cups that you can use for years for $11, when the alternatives are non-reusable pads or tampons that you buy over and over and over, depending on the brand and the type, for at least $5 for just a few of pads or tampons? Yeah, I’m sticking to the menstrual cup, because it’s been working out really, really well for me, and I recognize that it may not work for everyone.
What is it, exactly, though?
It’s a small cup that a menstruating person can use by inserting it in themselves to collect menstrual blood. The cup has little tiny holes that allow it to suction itself to the vaginal wall so that the blood/shedding of the uterine wall falls into the cup. If it’s inserted correctly, the blood never ends up leaving your body as long as the cup is inside you. (This means no leakage if it’s properly inserted!) In my experience, it’s an excellent alternative to pads and tampons. It’s reusable, and, like I said above, I’ve friends who’ve been using theirs for years, and I’ve been suing the same one for over a year, too. They come in two standard sizes, and depending on where you get it from, you can get both sizes in the package, like I did. I recommend waiting for a deal to come up so that if you don’t like it or it’s not working out for you, it wouldn’t feel like a waste of money.
I think the two-cups package is great, mine from Rebel Kate. It included a two cps, one large and one small – same sizes for everyone – and a little pouch . You can try both and see which one fits in well. It’s to do with your cervix size and whether your cervix is high or low. Some websites say it’s to do with whether you’ve given birth or not, but I’ve also heard that’s not true. So I don’t really know what’s up with the sizes exactly.
Mine don’t come with measurements, and I’d love, love to know how much I bleed each month. So if I ever have to get another one for myself, I’ll be looking out for measuring once. (But one’s 25 ml, the other 30 ml.)
They can look like any of these. Note the stems of each one.
They’re also called diva cups, daisy cups, and moon cups. I think “menstrual cup” works just fine. Menstruation. It’s one of the most important biological functions in the human body, so I like the word and I like all things period.
So if you’re new to the idea, or if you’ve been thinking about it but have been hesitant to try, or if you’ve never heard of them, I hope the below info is helpful to you.
Questions/worries I had before I tried a menstrual cup
Here’s a useful website with FAQs about menstrual cups, but I’ll just tell you what my own questions were.
I was worried about things like, what if it gets stuck or lost inside, what if it goes in too far, what if it falls out, what happens when it gets too full, etc. All legit questions. For whether it can get stuck inside you, see here. But it definitely cannot get lost while it’s inside – it has nowhere to go! So it can’t go “too far” either. It can, however, fall, if it’s not inserted correctly. It can also get too full, so you want to check it and spill out the blood every 8-12 hours (this number varies tremendously depending on your flow). I’ve sometimes had to empty it out after 6 hours because I could feel it starting to overflow, and I’ve also kept it for 12 and it never got overfilled.
For more Q&A, see here.
The first time I tried them wasn’t so good. I had a hard time figuring out how to insert it in full and make sure it stays in. Turns out, it’s all about folding. Try different folding methods (here’s some good options). I don’t remember what the recommended instructions in my package said, but I do remember trying them all and none of them working for me. So I had to invent my own, and the idea is to make sure that the fold leaves you as small an opening/insertion point as possible so that it’s easy to insert. Sometimes I can feel it popping open after a few minutes once it’s all settled in.
Depending on how you fold it before insertion, you may need to rotate it so that it can open inside and collect blood. Because of my preferred folding method, I don’t have to do any rotating. It just pops open once inside after a little bit.
Everyone, all the instructions, say that you shouldn’t be able to feel it while it’s inside you, and if you can feel it, that means it’s not in correctly. I sometimes can feel it even when it’s done right (and I know when it’s done right because all that matters to me is whether there’s any leakage or not – and hopefully, all menstruating people have figured out what to do when they know to expect small leaks every now and then). But mostly, I never feel it, and hopefully you’re not feeling it, either.
When removing, instruction manuals and all the websites say to pull down on the stem (see pics above) and then pinch the base of the cup (right above the stem). I don’t recommend pulling on the stem; it doesn’t feel like the stem is strong enough to pull the cup out. A friend of mine recommended another pulling out method to me: push like you’re pushing out a baby, and the cup will slowly come out and once the base is accessible to you, pull out from the base.
I have to say, though, that it’s rather difficult to work with a menstrual cup if you’re using a public bathroom. You need easy, immediate access to a sink or water. But it’s not impossible: if you make sure your hands are clean before you take it out (and your hands should always, always be clean when you’re inserting the cup or removing it), then you can clean the outside of the cup with a toilet paper if you don’t have immediate access to water, and re-insert it without having to wash it. But you don’t want to do this and instead want to make sure you can clean it with clean water before re-insertion.
Once your period is over, you should wash the cup, of course, and most websites recommend boiling in water. I boil mine in water before I use it for the first time once my period has started or is about to start, and I boil it once the period is over before I put it away until the next month. I have friends who have gotten serious infections by not boiling them before use, so I don’t think of this as negotiable for myself.
Does it help with menstrual pain?
Unfortunately not. I know – that saddens me, too. The pains are just as bad or not-bad as they were before. I won’t be impressed with menstrual cups 100% until they start coming out with a magic painkiller that has sensors that would magically ease period cramps.
Does the blood inside the cup smell once you take it out?
In my experience, there’s no smell at all. This is because the blood has remained inside you and hasn’t come in contact with air and bacteria, and also because the cup itself is made of silicone and is odorless (they can be made of latex or rubber as well, but mine’s silicone, and from what I understand, none of these are supposed to smell). Now, as I understand it, keeping it in for too long can cause it to smell bad. So stick to the recommended amount of hours. It’s not hard to forget to remove it because sometimes you really can’t feel it inside at all.
Are they for everyone?
Absolutely not for everyone. Not everyone with a vagina can insert things inside themselves, or can afford (physically, physiologically, medically) to have anything inserted in their vaginas. It may be painful for some people. It’s also obviously likely not everyone’s preferred method of managing menstruation. So it’s definitely not for everyone. But I think anyone who’s open to trying it should. It can save you a LOT of money and it’s great for the environment (unless you’re already using reusable pads, in which case, brava and thank you! ❤ ).
To sum it up, menstrual cups are a wonderful invention, and I’m so grateful they exist and I’m so, so grateful I finally tried them and that they work for me!
I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for so long I can’t believe it’s finally happened!! 🙂
Categories: Death to patriarchy