My menstrual cup journey started largely because of an enthusiastic friend; I had heard of them before, but as an almost comically lazy human, I usually need about three extra kicks before I try anything new, and she is basically the World’s Biggest Advocate for Menstrual Cups. (Plug: this enthusiastic friend is the driving force behind the zine Cat Talk, a super awesome feminist publication!)
Basically, if you’ve never encountered one before, a menstrual cup is a reusable lil silicone cup worn inside the body to catch ~menstrual secretions and oozings~. There are a ton of different brands of menstrual cups; I bought a lunette, but there are divacups, mooncups, and about a dozen other different brands to look into if you’re interested in buying one.
BENEFITS OF USING A MENSTRUAL CUP
- CONVENIENT AF: Both from “how much shit you need to carry with you” and “amount of time spent in public restrooms” perspectives, menstrual cups are a solid option. Pads/tampons need to be changed pretty frequently, both because they don’t hold all that much fluid and because they can be kind of irritating, so it’s nice to be able to leave a cup in for 12 hours and go out. Basically, they are awesome for lazy humans. (FAQ: you may, like I did, wonder what happens if the cup fills up. it leaks a little bit. you do not explode.)
- VERY COMFY: They! Leave! Your! Natural! Lubrication! In! Place! All us menstrual-type people know about half-dry tampons and how uncomfy it is to put things in your vagina without proper lubrication and menstrual cups largely do away with this drama. (FAQ: the cups are made of very flexible plastic. super bendy, not rigid at all.)
- IT’S AN “ECO-THING”: Not everyone cares about the amount of waste they produce, but consider the fact that, en masse, we consume fucking tons of throwaway paper products that don’t really need to be manufactured at all.
- YOU GET TO BE A SUPER WITCH AND DUMP THE BLOOD: I am not the only person my enthusiastic friend has recruited to use menstrual cups; there’s a whole crew of people sending each other pictures of our full (and fullish) menstrual cups. This sounds a little bizarre on the surface, but it’s is actually very very satisfying to see how full the cup is and then dump that sucker out. Pads and tampons are lying to us about the consistency/texture of our menstrual blood!
- $$$: Upfront, they’re like $30-40, but once you’ve bought one, you’re good for at least a year (and probably more). As long as you don’t lose it you’re saving money by buying few-to-no paper menstrual products. IMPORTANT MONEY TO SPEND ON THINGS LIKE CANDY AND HEALTH INSURANCE.
MY FIRST TIME USING A CUP
I’m kind of a [nervous cough] apprehensive person when it comes to putting things in my body. (This isn’t just a vagina thing; I have issues with contact lenses, and I can get weirdly picky about food.) It’s not that I never invite foreign objects to hang out in my body, I’m just very finicky about it.
So naturally my first couple uses of my cup were a bit of an adventure. There’s kind of a learning curve to menstrual cup use; it’s nothing overwhelming, but I think it takes a little getting-used-to.
As soon as I started my period, I took my newly purchased and boiled (for some reason the instructions told me to boil it before first use, I think for cleaning reasons?) cup and went to go lay down on a towel with a mirror. Also, brought my phone because I livetweeted a good chunk of that shenanigan.
Inserting the cup is pretty straight forward: you fold it so that the top makes a U or C shape, grasp firmly, and insert. Make sure the stem isn’t poking out, because that can be uncomfortable. (Since we don’t really have nerve endings inside the vagina, that’s where you want the cup to be. I ended up trimming a little bit of the stem off once I’d used it a couple of times. )
Like all vagina-related things, honestly, the key is to chill the fuck out. If you’re stressed put a pad on and come back and try later, because you want your muscles feeling relaxed. Of course, I have no chill and as soon as I remember that I need to relax I get even more stressed about the fact that I’m not relaxing and it’s all downhill from there.
Because I got stressed out about “omg something new is happening,” I kinda had to give it a couple of tries and take a break. Everything was awesome after that, I went out and came home, and then struggled hardcore to get the thing out, for the exact same reason I had trouble inserting it. Life!
The basic overview of removal is to reach up and squeeze the bottom of the cup (which releases the suction helping to hold the cup in place) and kinda push with your vaginal muscles, rotating the cup a little if you need to. It’s important not to just yank it out by the stem because then you risk the cup just dumping blood everywhere, and also because of the suction thing. (Suction sounds scary but it’s not; just make sure you’re not trying to force it out. It should be totally comfy.)
After round one of menstrual cup use, everything was about ten times easier. It really is just something that you learn by doing, and truth be told I would be hard pressed to come up with a way you could actually seriously/long-term injure yourself using a menstrual cup. It’s not going to “get lost” or anything, according to the lil information thingy it came with, if the cup gets a little too high you can basically chill out and it’ll work back down lower into a spot where you can grab it.
That being said, here are my top tips for menstrual cup usage, based on my initial experiences:
MENSTRUAL CUP TIPS
- RELAX RELAX RELAX: Remember that nothing bad is gonna happen, worst case scenario you take a breather and come back to it later. You’re not gonna get TSS and die, it’s not going to get lost.
- totally do the handmirror thing the first time: Pretty standard advice, but it is helpful to have visual cues instead of just going by feel.
- read up before you start: Read the company website, FAQs, and information page that comes with the cup before you start. They’re fairly intuitive, but I feel like it’s helpful re: knowing what to expect.
- don’t just yank it out by the stem: I put this in here earlier, but it’s important. When removing it, you need to grab the cup by the cup itself, both to stop it from spilling and for comfort.
Overall, despite a few hiccups, my first month using a cup was an overwhelmingly positive experience. After the initial learning curve, I was super comfortable and it was nice not to need to think about bringing pads or making it to the one public restroom in the mall or all that. Plus, I totally feel all badass dealing with my menstrual blood!