For years, from talking to many other women, we have been made to think that there’s a certain product selection for dealing with our menstrual cycles, and that’s all she wrote. When we were teens, I remember talking a small bit with my other female friends as we were all going through these awkward times and trying to get support without embarrassing each other or seeming too “gross”. I remember coming home, mad at my mother, because I had heard a friend’s older sister talking about tampons, and that they were another solution to those giants two-foot-long thick diaper pads. I was surprised to hear that my friend’s sister and all her friends used tampons, as for some reason I had it in my head that those were only for older grown up career type women. As if pads were the kids’ stuff, and you needed to be some kind of established woman to graduate up.
Well you bet I marched right home and told my mom I needed to talk to her, and dragged her to their bedroom bathroom, and demanded to know why I didn’t have these.
Now to be clear, my mother was an awesome mom when it came to our bodies and their functions. All of us kids were raised to know that our bodies do body stuff, and the more educated we are about its function, the less stressful it will be to keep our bodies healthy and happy.
So, she sat me down, brought out a tampon, and explained to me how to use one, using her hand to demonstrate where they go. Now…. this was the early 90’s. I was only in 7th grade. There was no internet, and all we learned was from our mothers if we were lucky to have a good one, or older siblings or friends.
We never thought to question our feminine products. The go-to moves are, huge pads, and then tampons. For years no one really asked about what they’re made of. What chemicals are in them? Why are those ingredients not listed? What exactly are we putting into our highly absorbent vaginas?!
Within the last few years we have seen an influx of new companies providing various healthier organic cotton alternatives. A lot of them were founded and run by women. They even have subscription services, so you don’t need to run off to the store for emergencies, and you can even customize your packs of tampons! How great is that?? But what if you wanted to take it a step further? Enter the menstrual cups.
I first heard of the Diva Cup. They’re now available at all sorts of retailers, including Walmart. So, what are they and what do they do? Let’s get to it.
The menstrual cup device is a soft flexible cup that’s about the size of a shot glass. They are supposed to be made from body safe silicon and should be latex free. The idea is, you fold it a certain way to expel the air and make it small, relax yourself, and insert in the same way you would a tampon, into your vaginal canal. Release your hold and let it spring open. Depending on the style you purchase, it’s designed to either sit flush around your cervix, creating a sort of seal around it so that basically the cup catches all your blood, or some are designed to simply open and create a seal against your vaginal walls, and catch everything. Here was my experience, the pros, and the cons.
I purchased the Lena cup off of Amazon. I went with one that was top rated, had a good amount of reviews, and seemed like its function would work with my body. I decided to look into these mostly because ( here are some personal period stats, so you might feel weird reading this, but I feel like it’s a body function, and my particular function led me to find a better path), my flow is really heavy. Like I’m burning through a Super Plus tampon every 2-3 hours on the first day. Sleeping at night is a leaking nightmare. It’s expensive because I’m going through a box of tampons every month, plus panty liners. There’s the extra laundry and just the general discomfort and concern over leaks. I saw a random ad on YouTube about menstrual cups and I thought, I owe myself to investigate this.
I made my purchase. They have 4 options. A smaller cup for if you’re younger, and/or have no kids, or just need a narrower cup, and then they have a larger cup, which Lena recommends if you’ve had kids (I’ve had 2 vaginally) or have a super heavy flow. They also have a sensitive set, which comes in a small or large. I also love that they offer a combination set, where they give you both the small and large in one box so you can find one that works. They’re recommended for all ages, even teens. I threw the larger sensitive cup into my cart. It claims to have a softer rim, and therefore is more comfortable to wear. I also liked the fact that I didn’t need to try and find my cervix with it, which sounded extra intimidating to what I was already considering. The Lena cup just needs to be inserted and allowed to open and seal against your vaginal wall. So basically, it functions exactly like a tampon, however instead of absorbing, along with absorbing your natural lubrication and adding to irritations, the cup simply catches it. When you’re ready to change it, or remove it, there is a small pull tab it has attached to its bottom. You can grasp that and use it to gently guide it almost out as you relax, and then you simply grab the bottom of the cup, give it a tiny pinch to release the seal, and carefully remove it. You dump the contents down the toilet, wash it, and reinsert. Sounds pretty much the same as a tampon with a few twists, right? Here’s how it went for me.
I won’t lie, I was nervous. Mostly because I just didn’t know what to expect. I received my Lena sensitive large cup, and anxiously awaited my next period. The day came, I washed it in warm water and soap to make it feel more comfortable and clean, and tried a few folds. In the end I found folding it over from the top in what’s called the “seven-fold” was the best. That fold makes it the smallest for inserting. I found through trial and error that standing with a slight squat made it easier to insert. You place it inside, let it go, and then wiggle the end tab to make sure it doesn’t budge. You should feel it not really move, and you can feel the sort of suction effect if you tug on it. I was ready to rock! Here’s what happened after a few hours.
Nothing. Nothing happened. I was overjoyed. No random leak that you feel and that dread moment when you know your tampon is failing. No run to the bathroom or feeling like I couldn’t safely go anywhere without being close to a bathroom. No crazy mess every time I went pee. I wore it for 4 hours and had not one issue. I was now excited to see what it had been up to in there and decided to do a remove and replace. I was shocked at how much was in there. It was ¾ full, which is quite a lot. But it wasn’t as gross as you’d think. It’s all contained in a cup. It doesn’t smell horrid like a tampon does. I simply dumped it into the toilet, leaned forward to my sink and washed it with hot water and soap, folded it back up, wiped down really quick, and reinserted. Did it feel weird as if I was hyper conscious of using a new device? Yes, it was. Was the process a bit foreign and weird? Yes, it was. Was I having good results? Yes…yes, I was.
So, everything has a learning curve, just as when you start anything new. By the second day I had it all sorted out. I woke up overjoyed because for the first time there was no overnight leaks. As the day progressed, I got faster, and it got easier to dump and clean and reinsert. I knew I needed to tell people about this. So here we were! Let’s go over the final list of why we should all be using these.
First up, the cost. You can have these for years, and it probably pays for itself after only a few months. I have a household of girls, so the thought of buying tampons in bulk was terrifying for me. Which brings me to the next point, waste. You also have to throw away all those tampons too. You’re never supposed to flush them, so you end up with a garbage full of human body fluids, and that’s pretty gross. I can’t even imagine the waste output of female hygiene products from public bathrooms. With a cup, you reuse it, and you can buy containers to store them, and in the case of my Lena, it comes with a breathable storage fabric bag.
Next up is safety. There are actually a lot of ingredients that go into pads and tampons, and they’re not obligated to disclose them. For years because it was all we knew, we’ve been inserting and absorbing them into our bodies. Medical grade latex free silicone cups do no such thing. The one thing I will note though, is that there are a lot of these companies that boast you can wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours safely because you’re not absorbing anything and you’re not wicking away your body’s natural moisture and lubricant. This is also amazing news, but there can still be a risk for TSS, or Toxic Shock Syndrome, which as you know from tampons, you’re at risk for because of bacteria. So just be aware of the symptoms of TSS and remove your cup immediately and seek medical attention if you exhibit symptoms. The risks are much lower than that of tampons and there has only been one cup related incident, however. Any thing that makes my health less risky is good in my book! Remember that all blogs are opinions and experiences, and do not substitute for proper medical advice. If you are struggling in any way, seek medical advice. I am in no way a medical professional, and everything expressed here is only my experience and opinions!
Lastly, convenience. Not having to be tethered to a bathroom or stay home the first few days of my period now have been amazing. Finding something that doesn’t leak, has been amazing. I wondered about portability, and there is no shortage of accessories to make traveling with a cup easy as pie. I purchased a silicone collapsible cup. It folds flat or pops open to store my Lena. It also doubles as a way to clean it when you’re on the go. You can fill it with water from a sink, go into a stall in a public restroom, remove your cup, dump it, put it in the collapsible container you now have filled with water, give in a quick shake rinse, (it comes with a lid), remove and dump the water, and then use a travel menstrual cup wipe to sanitize. If you don’t want to take the cleaning cup with you, you can throw a couple of these special cleaning travel wipes designed specifically for the menstrual cups, and then remove your cup, dump it, wipe it down, and reinsert. Everything has been thought of, and there’s no excuse not to try it. You also never run out of product like you can with pads or tampons. Nothing is worse than starting Shark Week and not having enough supplies!
In conclusion, I would urge every lady to give this a go. Especially if you’re a tampon user. Less cost, less waste, more safety, more convenience. If you’re an active person, these are also great. They do not budge or leak. You can swim with them, and they will not absorb river, lake, pool, or ocean waters like a tampon might, introducing bacteria inside of you. For teens in school who also get limited bathrooms breaks, this would also be a healthier safer alternative for them. Pair these with a small organic cotton pantyliner just in case, and they can feel worry free and confident all day and not have to be worried of the dreaded school leak.
In fact, after I wrote this my teen daughter read it over and expressed an interest. I was overjoyed, as getting teens to try new weird stuff especially period related it like training a cat to swim. We purchased the two-pack Lena kit with the small and large cup. She listened as I explained how to use it and stay clean and safe with it, and she tried it. She loves it! I also purchased some period underwear, which has built in extra thickness to absorb any leaks and are worn instead of panty liners. I bought them initially for me to wear as backup to cut down on panty liner use, and now she would like a set. The amount of cost and waste we have cut down on the last few months has been amazing. This has made a normally uncomfortable time of the month a thousand times more tolerable. Remember, up to 12 hours of wear depending on flow! You just can’t beat that.
The most important thing to remember, is that just because we’ve been doing something the same way for so long, that doesn’t mean it’s the best, the safest, or that it’s our only option. When it comes to our bodies, we need to do everything we can to keep them safe and happy. We must do everything we can for our earth and landfills. These cups solve all these issues. Lastly, as with all products in life, everyone is shaped differently, and has unique bodies. What works for me, might not work for you. This doesn’t mean you can’t use a cup, it just means that your body might need a different style of cup. They all have a different thicknesses, flexibility, shapes, and sizes. You’ll know you have the right one because you can’t feel it when you wear it. If my brand doesn’t work for you, try another one! I cannot express enough how worth it this is.
Below is a list of the cup I use, as well as the travel wipes, and storage cup. Try until you find one that’s works, and bask in the savings, and knowing you’re doing good by your body, and your earth!
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Let me know how these work for you, and prepare to be blown away with comfort, convenience, freedom, and saving your health, the earth, and your wallet! This article is geared towards the average period having lady, if due to medical restrictions you are not able to use a cup then please make sure your products are pesticide free, sustainable, and organic. Most of the big box store and well known brands are not.