Last time I menstruated I bought myself a menstrual cup, so I’ve been meaning to write up a review. So here it is: menstrual cups are wonderful! I’d only heard about them last year (when I wasn’t menstruating much) but now I wish I’d known about them decades ago. Apparently they are not a new invention, it is just that the disposable options (pads, tampons etc.) have been advertised much more widely (and are more socially acceptable?).
Speaking of socially acceptable (or not), this post may be ‘TMI’ for some readers. You have been warned!
Every other review that I’ve read of the cups, including those on the brand websites, warn you that the cups take a little getting used to: Perhaps during the first period that you use one it might be a little awkward, uncomfortable or messy. I found this to be sort of true. The first time removing the cup was tricky. Partly this was because the first time inserting the cup was almost too easy, and it ended up in slightly the wrong position (too high up). Consequently, removing the cup took quite a few minutes as I figured out how to best get a hold of it, and then it was slightly uncomfortable on the way out. The good news is that for the second removal I was a lot less tentative. This was probably because although the first removal was uncomfortable, it was not messy at all (and that was on a high flow day!). The second time around I paid more attention to the instructions, and was able to pinch the bottom of the cup really easily, to ease it out with no discomfort at all, and in a much quicker, simpler move.
So it seems (in my experience at least!) that the vendors warning is overblown to err on the side of caution! It didn’t take me a full period to learn how to use, just one awkward practice and then all was good after that. I went out and bought mine on the first day of my period, but I guess if you’re at all concerned then you might want to buy it at another time and practice with a ‘dry run’ (pun intended, although I wouldn’t recommend it if you are actually experiencing vaginal dryness).
Another potential downside of the cup, as compared to tampons, is that you do need a little more room for the insertion/removal. Let’s just say tampon insertion can be a little more lady-like, whereas for the cup I found you do need to use a deep squat with knees wide, and ‘bearing down’ facilitates removal (I read this tip somewhere but now I forget where, sorry). So a cramped stall in a public toilet/restroom is not going to be ideal. This brings up another point: women find the idea of changing a menstrual cup in a public place horrifying. How do you carry a dirty cup to the sink to rinse it prior to re-insertion?? I’m not worried about this (performing contortions in a small space/being embarrassed about being seen with cup/being extra careful to keep public spaces clean) because I frankly don’t think it will come up.
No, I’m not going to hide away, out of public view, when menstruating. It’s that the cup has one huge benefit over tampons: you only need to change it every 12 hours! This is very freeing. Not only do you not have to think about what time you last put a tampon in, you don’t have to carry any ‘feminine hygiene products’ around with you, and you can do the change-over when it best suits you (as soon as you wake up, and then before bed works for me).
I keep comparing the cup to tampons, but I should point out that they both have an advantage over pads/liners. If used correctly, they don’t leak (my cup didn’t, even though I didn’t use it 100% correctly the first time). Also, both of them are not felt after you have them in (trust me, i was riding my bike to work like normal).
And of course, I’ll reiterate the main reason I wanted to use one and that is because it is more sustainable, creating less waste.
Oh, and for a normally cycling woman (one period about every month), it’s a lot cheaper! Disposable products can cost anywhere from $3-$5 (AUD, aussie dollars) per period. My one criticism of the cups is that they are overpriced, a small piece of medical grade silicone should not cost $50-$60 (retail price in Aus.)*, but that actually means that they are still cheaper than one or two years of disposable products (depending on your flow and duration), and the cup should last for up to 10 years.
What’s not to like? Anyway, hopefully this is helpful to anyone considering using a cup and saying goodbye to the disposables.
*This has to be a supply and demand issue, I’m sure if more women started using the cups then the price would come down.