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For a Healthier, Freer "Time of the Month" - Menstrual Cups

Updated on September 11, 2014

You Mean There Are Alternatives to Pads or Tampons?

When I was going through puberty, my mom encouraged pads, and I had more than my share of accidents. As I moved into my teenage years, my older sister encouraged me to transition to tampons. The change was extremely freeing compared to the bulk and unreliability of pads, but there were still accidents to contend with, the threat of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and urinary tract infections, and the occasional discomfort associated with their use. Studies show that most women under 40 use tampons, and a growing number of women with heavy flows and/or women over 40 use menstrual cups.

Maybe this isn't news to you. However, for me, I was in my late 30s before I learned (what appeared to me to be) one of the best kept secrets of womankind - menstrual cups. Why don't we talk about these things, ladies? We should be singing this kind of information from the rooftops so every woman at least has all the information to make a healthy, environmental, money-saving choice.

This page is my rooftop - where I'll share my straight opinion and experiences, challenges and benefits, and some of the whys and hows of this "tool."

Have you ever heard of a menstrual cup?

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My menstrual cup came with a discreet bag to protect it between uses and make it easy to take along when I travel.
My menstrual cup came with a discreet bag to protect it between uses and make it easy to take along when I travel. | Source

The Basics about Menstrual Cups

Typically menstrual cups are made of latex or silicone, making them flexible and comfortable to use (If they are uncomfortable, that means they have not been inserted correctly. I'll get to that later.). They can be reusable or disposable.

Reusable cups can be used for many years if cared for properly. Caring for them involves washing at least twice per day, so if the gross-factor is too extreme for you, disposable may be the way to go.

For most women, the twice per day rule - or approximately every twelve hours - works just fine. The capacity of the cups is more than sufficient for the typical daily flow.

Some of the benefits of cups include:

  • The length of time they can be worn (up to 12 hours)
  • The freedom of movement, inability to feel them, and lack of outwardly visible signs
  • The health (does not cause TSS) and environmental (reusable option only) benefits
  • Significant reduction of odor without needing to mask it with scents

Diva Cup 2 - Post-Childbirth & for Women over 30 Years (even if you haven't had children)

Ridges on the stem and lower cup help with removal.
Ridges on the stem and lower cup help with removal. | Source

The Ins & Outs of Menstrual Cups

This is the part that most people want to know about. How do you insert it and (perhaps more importantly) how do you get it out?

When a friend first told me about the Diva Cup, she explained how you had to fold it and that it would unfold inside. However if you did it wrong, it would leak. While she was completely right, it threw me off. Not having seen what a cup looked like, I had images of complicated origami folds that would never unfold correctly. I thought I would end up wearing panty liners every time just to be sure.

Good news! I got used to using them in short order and while there is a bit of a learning curve, practice wins out. I'm not going to lie though... it's tricky the first few times.

  • Insertion - Follow the instructions and pictures on the packaging for putting it in. They clearly explain the fold and the angle. The final instruction is to turn it so it seats into the correct position. For me, this has been a joke. Once you get it far enough in, the stem is slippery! Turning it is impossible. My alternate strategy is to run a finger around the bottom edge of the cup to ensure that the fold opened up. You can definitely tell if it didn't open.
  • Removal - Again, the instructions are pretty good, and again, it takes practice. Especially during your first times using the cup, there are a few hairy moments when you wonder if you're going to be able to get it out. Just remember the directions to bear down. The stem has ridges on it to help you get a good grip. It also helps to push in the side a bit to release the suction (suction is comforting when you want to prevent leaks).

You can purchase a product called Diva Wash to keep your menstrual cup clean, or Dr. Bronner's pure-castile soap is affordable and does the trick nicely.
You can purchase a product called Diva Wash to keep your menstrual cup clean, or Dr. Bronner's pure-castile soap is affordable and does the trick nicely. | Source

Have you ever used a menstrual cup?

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How Does Your Garden Flow?

Most menstrual cups are designed to be significantly larger capacity than most tampons or pads. You can see in the image here that it can hold a little more than 1/2 ounce, which is more than enough for most women's flow on any given day. They recommend that the cup be checked every 8 hours on heavy flow days.

Here's my favorite part of using the Diva Cup. It might sound weird, but I know more about my body than I ever have before. I knew that days two and three of my period were heavy, but I didn't know how heavy. On those two days, I have to empty it every four hours, which is okay with me. Why? Because with a tampon, it was every two hours, and more importantly, because now I know my body and that feels good to me.

Obviously, you don't want to know more about me this way. I simply tell you about my experience to highlight the fact that we need to figure out our own systems and the menstrual cup is one tool we can use to do that.

Don't Take My Word For It - Recommendation for Laughter

If you have an hour to kill, I highly recommend grabbing your favorite chocolates and reading the customer reviews on Amazon for the Diva Cups. Read a range of ratings. In each category, there are practical perspectives and absolute hilarity. I had tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks at many women's open and honest stories of their Diva Cup experiences.

Source

Learning More about Our Bodies

I guess the bottom line for me is that I love what I've learned about my body with the use of a menstrual cup. Even after I made the decision to try it, I really thought it would be gross. I mean... it is gross, in a way.

In another way though, I am so much more comfortable with my body, its functions, and how I can care for it. I wouldn't have expected that from a little piece of silicone, but there it is. Any amount of gross (which washes off quite nicely, by the way) is worth learning about ourselves and feeling better about ourselves, especially at that time of the month.

Add to that:

  • The freedom of less worry and longer blocks of time without dealing with our periods
  • The increased confidence of a product that is safer to use and better for our bodies
  • The financial savings of a one-time cost versus boxes upon boxes of costly tampons
  • The environmental savings of a reusable product

I only wish I had known about it when I was much younger. I hope that by shouting the good news about menstrual cups from this particular rooftop, we can let more women know earlier that they have options in their personal care.

© 2014 Monica Lobenstein

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    • AcornOakForest profile image
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      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      Silvia, Thanks for the visit! And you're awesome too! It takes courage to try something new like this, and I'm so happy you like the Lunette cup.

    • profile image

      silvia 3 years ago

      i started using the lunette 2 months ago and i am very happy with my menstrual cup..i will definitely not be going back to tampons or pads. I think women should be aware of all the alternatives for a happier period. It is liberating, you can exercise, swim any sport with no worry of leaks or strings showing. Thank you for the article, your awesome Monica!

    • profile image

      lisette 3 years ago

      I have just heard about these after reading an article about the nasty stuff they put in tampons and pads. I was shocked! I'm definitely going to try one. It'll give my girl some extra options once she grows up (she's only 5)!

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      Recep 3 years ago

      LOL, funny. I have three kids and one on the way in six years - I hardly know what a peirod is, especially with breastfeeding. I will be using these as backup under some other pads after the birth because for me, postnatal is a terrible affair. I used cloth with my first and have to say it wasn't bad. She never got diaper rash and she was quick to potty train. My other two (especially my son) are fighting me on the issue so I wish I had used them the last two times.

    • AcornOakForest profile image
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      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      Great tips and comments Jill! I continue to be so happy with mine every cycle too. Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      Jill 3 years ago

      Love mine!

      In reference to the discoloration comment above, I have noticed that rinsing in COLD water makes a big difference. Hot water causes the staining. Additionally, if it stains, you can set it on a windowsill for a few days and it will fade. I have never used any of their wash products because I have so many allergies.

      I cannot sing the praises of the Diva Cup enough. I have horrid cycles, and it's the only thing that has kept me sane the last year or so. If I had any complaint at all, I would say they don't need to base the size on your age, but on how tight your vaginal walls are. I am 36 and use #1 and sometimes still have to fight getting it to open.

      Worth every penny!

    • AcornOakForest profile image
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      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      @Emma.Schell, I have also seen the warning on their site about Castile soaps. I have not experienced the discoloration you described. I strictly suggest the use of the Baby-Mild Dr. Bronner's because it is scent and color-free and much milder to use than others in that line of soaps.

    • profile image

      Emma.Schell 3 years ago

      Dr Bonner's soap is castile soap which the divacup website specifically says not to use on your cup. It is made from oils which will break down the silicone. I used it for two cycles and it discolored faster then ever

    • AcornOakForest profile image
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      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      @bethperry, Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of them. :) Thanks for reading about them!

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 3 years ago from Tennesee

      I had never heard of these cups before, and it was interesting to read about them. But no, no, dear goddess no, thank you.

    • AcornOakForest profile image
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      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      @kateloving, Wonderful to hear! I have been so happy with mine.

    • kateloving profile image

      Kate Loving Shenk 3 years ago from Lancaster PA

      Great alternative! I will suggest to my patients!!

    • AcornOakForest profile image
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      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      @mumsgather, I understand completely! It took me a while to warm up to the idea of them.

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      mumsgather 3 years ago

      I've never heard of this. I'm not sure I will try it though. I'm just more used to pads.

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