I’m going to talk about menstrual periods. Squeemish? Don’t be!
Male? Probably not a good idea to read this but feel free to share with a female in your life.
Did you know it wasn’t until 1985 that the word “period” was used on television? You can see Courtney Cox in the commercial here. I’m a little weirded out by the women stretching in the background . . .
I think women have come a very long ways in terms of talking about their health, their intimate relationships, and learning to be comfortable in the bodies in the last century.
So this is me, getting comfortable with talking about my body.
My family has been on a slow but gradual move towards a more organic life. We’re removing chemicals where we can: foods, cleaning products, personal care products, and even clothing!
I heard about menstrual cups about ten years ago and tried a brand known then as Instead and didn’t like it at all. Massive leaking and I couldn’t figure out how to get it in right and eventually gave up.
About a year and a half ago I started to hear about the Diva Cup. I saw ads, jokes, and comments from women on blogs and everyone seemed to say the same thing: there’s a learning curve but then they love it.
For me, the two main attractions were that a menstrual cup is free from chemicals and the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and that it is reusable. It fit my lifestyle but the Diva Cup is rather expensive so I didn’t purchase one immediately.
After hemming and haaahing for a few months I decided to bite the bullet and purchase one. I waited until it was needed and inserted according to the directions while taking a shower. I noticed immediately that I could not get the thing to stay up far enough! The directions say that if it seems too long to cut the stem. I cut the whole stem off and it still kept slipping to where it seemed like it was going to fall out. It was, in fact, far enough out at times that it could be seen from the exterior. So. Not. Comfortable!
I managed to get to where I could wear it for about 5 to 6 hours and it would mostly stay in place, but not much longer. And that whole time it was rather uncomfortable. Not painful, but not at all like the tampons I was used to.
Thankfully, that 6 hours was enough on a day where I really needed it! I had to take an unplanned flight with my 2 children from Virginia to California while on my heaviest flow day and I knew that a tampon wasn’t up to the task. Changing tampons in an airplane bathroom is just naaaaasty so I went with my Diva Cup. It lasted about 5 hours before it had slipped to a point where it just needed to come out but at that point I was in an actual airport for a decent layover and could use a stall with some elbow room. It was pretty darn full, too, but that was expected since it was such a heavy flow day.
A menstrual cup can be worn for 12 hours, which means that if you’re in a position like I was, where clean facilities are hard to find (or camping/hiking!), you can still be worry free.
I tried for 5 cycles to get my body adjusted to the Diva, doing kegles, repositioning the cup, and just about everything else but it wasn’t working. After the 5th month I gave up on the Diva Cup and promptly got pregnant (actually, I used the Diva to help get pregnant–read below for more info).
The pregnancy lasted until the 13th week, at which point I had to have a D&C. I knew from experience that my body would resume its monthly menstrual cycle fairly quickly but I also knew the Diva Cup wasn’t going to be a part of my menstrual care.
I purchased cloth menstrual pads to use with my miscarriage flow and really do like them, but still, anytime bodily fluids are on the outside they’re messy.
Within a week of my miscarriage I was researching other brands of menstrual cups. Some fabulous people even put together a chart with measurements of more brands than I even knew existed. Once I realized that other menstrual cups were available in SHORTER sizes, I was thrilled! After watching a few reviews on youtube and comparing user ratings/rankings, I chose to purchase a Lady Cup. If you look at the chart I linked to, you’ll see that the LadyCup is one of the shortest ones available. That’s why I picked it.
BEST DECISION EVER!!!
I cut the stem off even before I inserted it the first time because I knew that it would drive me nuts and that it wasn’t going to be necessary. Within ten minutes of insertion I knew I’d made the right choice. While I was a little aware of its presence, it was not trying to fall out of me and was easily forgotten during the day.
This is my 4th period with my Lady Cup and I must say I now understand why women love their Diva Cups so much. I feel the same way about my Lady Cup. She’s pink, easy to use, easy to clean, and makes for a no-leak period. Seriously. No Leaking. Not even “well maybe I need a pantiliner”. I have complete confidence in my LadyCup.
As with all wonderful things in life, there are some things that every menstrual cup investigator ought to know.
First off, the process of emptying can be messy even after you get the hang of it. Think about it, you’re taking a small, squishy cup full of menstrual fluid out of your body. The fuller it is, the more likely a “WHOOPS!” is going to happen as you remove it so be careful not to squeeze the cup too hard while removing if you know it’s going to be full. I’ve only missed my dump zone once and that won’t happen again.
Second, finding the right fit might be a little tricky. The chart above shows a variety of brands and the sizes they sell. Here’s the link again: MENSTRUAL CUP CHART. A good rule to follow is if you’ve ever been pregnant or are over the age of 30, you’ll want a cup with a larger diameter. Sizing for length can be a little harder. You’re going to have to get to know your vagina really well for this one. The cup sits around/below your cervix so what you need to know is where your cervix sits when it’s in “period position”. This would be just about any time of the month EXCEPT during ovulation (usually about 14 days before your period starts). If you can easily reach your cervix, then you may have to get a short cup like me. If you, try as you might, can’t reach the darn thing then you’re probably good to go with any length of menstrual cup.
Don’t know what your cervix should feel like? Try this tutorial. The shorter ones will still work—just don’t cut the stem before giving it a whirl because I’ve heard of people having their cups up so high they couldn’t reach it for removal.
When in doubt, use a shorter cup. They do not hold quite as much, but it means you might have to empty it every 8 hours instead of 12 and that still isn’t a big deal.
The last thing to know has to do with moving your bowels. Yeah, I get to talk about periods AND pooping all in the same post! It is definitely possible to move your bowels with your menstrual cup in. I always have to re-position it afterwards but this is really quite easy. I have heard of a few women who always remove their cup before pooping and that would be fine, too.
There are some really fabulous things about menstrual cups that I did not think about when I made my first purchase. One of them is that if you are trying to conceive, you can actually insert it immediately after doing the baby-dance to keep more of the seminal fluid inside your body. The silicone they’re made of is inert and does not affect the pH of the reproductive tract. Sperm are designed to swim against gravity, so this really is an ideal way of giving every little swimmer a chance.
Many women I know have periods like clockwork. They know almost to the hour when it will start. My periods have been pretty irregular for most of my life. Years of fertility charting have given me a pretty good idea—usually a 36 hour window—but who wants to wear a pad for hours on end if it’s not needed? If you have an inkling that your period is going to be starting, you can insert your menstrual cup in advance!! No need to make a quick rush to the bathroom or home for a change of clothes with one of these little ladies!
This month was the first time I put my cup to use before my period started. I figured it would show up sometime during the day and I just didn’t want to fuss with it since I had a really busy day ahead of me. I was very grateful I’d decided to do that because this particular period started off with heavy bleeding right from the start.
Tampons contain some crazy chemicals (there are chemical free versions and they are pricey!) and should never be flushed. Add to that the very real risk of toxic shock syndrome and you have a wonderful case of “Is this really worth the risk??”
Nope. Not to me. Not anymore. The wonderful thing about menstrual cups is that they can be sterilized as frequently as you’d like. I generally sterilize mine at the beginning of each cycle. There is no risk of TSS.
If you have a teenage daughter, this might be worth looking into as well. I know as a teen I was frequently embarrassed by the noise of unwrapping a pad or tampon since everyone in the bathroom knew exactly what that noise meant. Because the menstrual cup lasts longer than a tampon in terms of wear-length, and emptying is pretty much silent, there’s no need for embarrassment.
Also, if you are hiking, camping, or skiing: what in the world would you DO with a used tampon or maxi pad? With a menstrual cup, you’d empty it and dispose of the blood/tissue just as you would the other bodily fluids.
Just be sure to sanitize your hands first if you’re anywhere but home! At home, a simple washing of the hands should be fine. Sticking your fingers in your vagina is necessary for insertion and removal so you want to make sure they are clean.
Questions? Comments? Just leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!
Curious about my comment on chemicals in clothing??