Women have their period for approximately 10 years. That’s a good chunk of our lives spent with cramps, discomfort and embarrassment.
Periods shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment. But when I first got it, at 12 years old, I felt like my life was over. As I grew older (and wiser, haha) I learnt to accept and embrace my period and to be comfortable talking about it.
While the discussion of normalising period talks is way bigger than what type of collection method to use, I think this article is still a good start.
I want to take you through all the details I experienced and learnt throughout adopting menstrual cups as my main collection method during my period. But firstly…
Why I Looked Into Menstrual Cups
Throughout a lifetime, a woman throws away almost 140 kg worth of period hygiene products: pads, tampons, applicators, pantyliners, etc. While you can reduce some of this waste, it is almost impossible to eliminate it completely. Especially if you stick with the classic collection methods.
You can’t just stop having a period, so you need a collection method. That’s why I started to look into alternatives.
I discovered the menstrual cup, but I did not buy one right away. I saw one of my coworkers purchase one and then I decided to give it a try.
Using a menstrual cup is one of the most sustainable changes a woman can make, in order to reduce the plastic, non-recyclable waste generated by period hygiene.
Of course, there are other sustainable alternatives, like reusable pads. But I don’t find them very hygienic and I’m generally not crazy about pads.
So, I decided that a menstrual cup is the best alternative for me.
How I Chose One
Honestly, I did not have that much information about menstrual cups, but I had some criteria:
- to be produced by an European brand
- the cup should be made from silicone
- it should be colourless
- the brand should stay true to the cause of less waste
So I ended up picking OrganiCup. They are a Danish company and they have minimal package, plastic free and they are involved in lots of social causes. They educate young girls in Africa about periods, and provide them with menstrual cups in order to help them attend school.
You can read more about the brand and their impact on their website at https://www.organicup.com/impact/.
1. Menstrual Cups Aren’t Actually New
An initial version of a menstrual cup was patented in 1932. Leona Chalmers patented the first usable commercial cup in 1937.
Incipient versions of the menstrual cup, were worn using a belt – which made them not very comfortable.
Thankfully they evolved enough and now are making a strong come back, thanks to the zero waste movement.
I know this information isn’t very personal, or related to my experience with the menstrual cup, but I find it very interesting. And I wanted to share it with you.
2. Use Them During Weekend First
Producers say it can take up to 3 months/periods to get used to a menstrual cup. For some, it can work from the first try (like it was for me), but for some, it can never work.
It is a new, kind of weird experience and using it during weekends – while you are at home is more comfortable. Or if you work from home, even better.
Using the cup only when you stay home and have access to your own bathroom is super comfortable. You won’t have to worry about changing your cup in a public bathroom. about the mess or the lack of soap.
3. It Is Messy
This is probably the hottest point.
So. Changing a menstrual cup is messy. Or messier than the other collection methods.
I don’t want to get into all the details since it’s quite a personal experience and it can be different from person to person. But having to deal with menstrual fluid so… directly, is messy and different.
That’s why I encourage you to use a menstrual cup only when you are at home, at the beginning. This will allow you to get used to it and you’ll learn more about it and your body.
4. It Will Get Stained and It Looks Weird
My OrganiCup is colourless, so after 2-3 month of using it, I noticed it started to get stained.
If you worked with silicone before (like a baking silicone mat) you know they get stained quite easily. The same happens with a menstrual cup too. Blood stains, so the cup will change its colour throughout time.
This is probably a drawback of a colourless menstrual cup.
The good news is that you can clean it.
Soak the clean, boiled cup in one part water, one part hydrogen peroxide solution. Leave it overnight or for around 12 hours. It will come out squeaky clean and shiny.
I personally clean it after 3 uses. It’s not very stained, but I like to keep it clean and I think this will help in the long run – to prevent it from looking yucky.
This is just a matter of preference. If you don’t have a problem with the stained look of your cup, then you can skip it.
5. It Makes you More Comfortable with Your Own Body
Using a menstrual cup for the first few times is uncomfortable, I won’t lie. Or maybe uncomfortable isn’t the right term but it is something new for sure.
You have to experiment quite a lot at the beginning to realise what’s the best fold for you and much more. As you experiment and discover the ideal steps for you, things will get much more comfortable.
When I finally figured things out, I felt super comfortable with my body and my period (except those times when the period is everything, but comfortable).
I found it very funny how little women know about their bodies. I was reading through forums questions like “what if it gets lost inside there?” or “what if it turns while inside and it leaks everything out?!”.
These are obvious legitimate questions for someone who’s not very familiar with the female body. If you have any concerns about the cup twisting, getting lost, sliding out or anything of this kind ask yourself if a baby could do that while it is being born.
If you have any of these fears, start researching and get to know how your body works. You’ll be more comfortable using a menstrual cup after you understand the anatomy of your body.
6. Pinch the Bottom
While this wasn’t something “new” – it’s written on the instructions, but I had a friend who skipped fully reading the instructions and she regretted later.
Removing the cup, without pinching the bottom, is extremly painful.
When the cup is inserted correctly, it creates a vacuum. If you simply try to pull the cup out by the stem, while the vacuum seal is still there… well, just imagine.
So make sure you pinch the bottom of the cup, in order to break the seal and the removal will be a breeze.
7. It’s Surprisingly Comfortable
When I first opened the box and I saw the cup my first thought was “Jeez, this is bigger than I expected”.
And I think a lot of people will say the same. Yes, it looks and it is big and it will fit.
There are 3 different sizes for the OrganiCup:
- mini – recommended for young girls and teenagers
- size A – holds up to 25 ml of fluid and is recommended for women who haven’t given a vaginal birth
- size B – slightly larger, holds up to 30 ml of fluid and is recommended for women who have given birth
Now, these are general criteria. You can select the size of a menstrual cup based on your flow, needs and much more. Every body is different, so your need doesn’t have to fall under one of the criteria above mentioned.
No matter what brand or size you chose, they are pretty much the same.
Most cups are made of silicone and they are comfortable. The edges are not too rigid, you won’t feel it and it won’t get lost.
Yes, you firstly have to get used to it, but once you understand how to use it properly, it’s the best thing ever.
Read and Follow the Instructions
I already left the instruction video which is very, very informative.
They tell you everything you need to know.
I know it looks easy to use a menstrual cup, but just like my friend who didn’t bother to read the instructions, she ended up hurting herself.
Another quick point I want to mention is that buying two cups can be a good idea. OrganiCup for example, often have “buy one get one” offers throughout the year – that’s how I got my cups. My doctor was not very happy when I told her I was using a menstrual cup, but she encouraged me to clean it very well, change it every six hours or more often, and even boil it every time I change it, in order to prevent any risks.
I alternate from one cup to another each day and I boil them at the end of the day.
This is some extra trouble for sure, but this extra work leads me to my next point.
Toxic Shock Syndrome and Menstrual Cups
I heard of TSS since I tried tampons.
Simply put, TSS is a bacterial infection that manifests like a regular cold, but is deadly if it’s not identified and treated properly. Also, it is very rare – only 40 cases were reported in 2016.
TSS is usually associated with tampon use and menstrual cups, because poor hand hygiene can lead to bacterial infection. That is why it is very important to wash your hands when changing your cup and boil them between uses.
Some studies say the danger comes from the absorbent capacity of tampons. Which does not apply to cups, since they just collect the fluid.
The bottom line is simple: although this disease is very rare, simple hygiene rules can prevent it. So make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and sterilize the cup regularly between uses.
This is pretty much my whole experience (so far) with menstrual cups, plus some extra insights. I personally regret not discovering this collection method earlier, since for me it’s very convenient and comfortable.
Did you try a menstrual cup before? What are your main concerns about switching to menstrual cups? Let me know in the comments and let’s normalise periods!