According to my Amazon order history, I’ve been using a menstrual cup since February, 2018. Two years of use probably makes me a bit of an expert, so you’re in good hands. Let me go ahead and say that periods are messy, and feelings around my menstrual cup aren’t due to it making my period less so; it doesn’t. Honestly, I just think the thing makes my period less inconvenient. Stick with me, and I’ll explain.
I didn’t have strong feelings about needing to try a menstrual cup, but a few of my friends had converted, and not one had gone back to tampons. My interest was piqued, but I thought sticking a silicone device up my crotch sounded gross. I remember saying that to one friend, and she answered, “Well, periods are kind of gross in general, don’t you think?” Point taken. Bleeding out of your crotch and finding a way to catch what’s coming is, in fact, a nasty business. No device is going to change that.
If you haven’t heard of a menstrual cup, it’s a silicone device you insert in your vagina to catch your period blood. This is the one I have, and it comes with a little diagram of how insertion works. There are several ways to do it, and it depends on the situation. Am I alone in the shower re-inserting my freshly washed cup? I’m going to crouch low, fold the cup into the seven position, and get it inside with ease. (It’s OK to be jealous of both my ability to crouch low in a wet shower and my understanding of the menstrual cup vernacular.) Am I on a toilet with pants around my ankles? I’m just going to spread as much as I can, fold the cup into a seven again, and take my time making sure I have a good seal. More on that in a bit.
I’m going to give you a few points on choosing and using a menstrual cup, but then I’m going to list all the reasons I’ve been happy with the switch.
Choosing Your Menstrual Cup
I linked the one I have above, but there are several on the market. Most brands are sized small and large, but this is where you really need to pay attention. If you’re over 30 and sexually active, you need a large. If you have birthed babies through your vagina, you need a large. This is no reflection on you as a person, but Friend, your vagina is not that of a 20-year-old who has yet to have sex and babies. She needs a small; you need a large. You can look up better resources on sizing before you order, but it all has to do with your vagina, not your flow.
Using Your Menstrual Cup
I mentioned a couple of insertion scenarios already, but there should be a little diagram that comes with your cup. If not, there are endless resources online for you to figure out exactly what you’re doing. Vaginas are funny in that they can be shaped differently, so what works for one person may not work for you. What I will say is that there’s a learning curve to insertion, sealing (give it a twist), and removal, but it’s not bad. You’ve got this.
The amount of time you have before needing to empty your cup will vary, but you generally get a larger window with a menstrual cup than with tampons. There is a small pointy thing at the bottom to pull it out, but you may just need to pinch the whole bottom to break the seal. Pour the blood close to the hole in the toilet for it to flush easily, wipe the cup, and put it back in.
Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup
One thing that scares people away from a menstrual cup is the thought that it needs a deep clean after every fill, but that’s not true. If I’m just dumping the blood, I either wipe it off with toilet paper and put it back in or give it a quick rinse in the sink. Let me repeat: You don’t have to figure out getting your menstrual cup to the sink of a public restroom before inserting it again. Dump the blood, wipe the cup, and carry on.
My method for cleaning my menstrual cup is soap and water. I have friends who boil theirs pretty regularly (pro tip: squeeze it inside a whisk, and it won’t keep floating to the top), but I’ve only done that once. It’s a hassle to me, and I find it unnecessary. I make sure it gets a good cleaning at least once daily during my period and of course at the end. The shower has been the most convenient place for cleaning. Flush the blood in the toilet, clean the cup when showering, and insert it again before getting out.
Why I’m Never Going Back
I don’t have to buy tampons every month.
I’ve had my period since I was twelve, but I swear the thing seems like an unwelcome surprise every time it comes. I’m not the best at planning ahead, so I inevitably realize I need more tampons, and I need them now. No more. And can we talk about the savings? I paid less than $15 for my menstrual cup, and I was spending at least $10 per month on tampons. Quick math says I’ve saved at least $225 in two years. Then there are the little things like knowing my husband no longer has to sweat a tampon purchase where he knows I’ll analyze the brand and design. (“But it says Tampax on the box. Aren’t they the same?”) And not being embarrassed that I’ve got three boxes at a time to get a $5 Target card? Yes, I’m glad to be done buying tampons.
I have more storage space.
I basically had an entire drawer in my bathroom dedicated to tampons. There were three boxes lined up, and I’d just refill them with light, regular, and super tampons. Now I just have the tiny menstrual cup bag and some panty liners which hardly take any space at all.
Packing is simplified.
When I’m going out of town, I no longer need to make sure I’m bringing along a significant amount of tampons. I just throw my menstrual cup bag and a few liners in my suitcase, and I’m set. Then there are the smaller outings with my kids. I don’t need to worry about turning my back on my bag and finding that they have pulled out an assortment feminine products. I can simplify this even more by saying having my purse searched in airport security, at events, or entering Disney World is no longer awkward. It’s not a big deal, but it’s one less thing to think about.
I don’t worry about where to throw a tampon away.
Have you ever been in someone’s home and freaked out that their bathroom garbage doesn’t have a liner? Have you used about half a roll of toilet paper to dispose of your used tampon because you don’t want it to bleed through? Have you buried the applicator and wrapper under other garbage? How about public restrooms when you realize there is no trash receptacle at all? Tampon disposal can be stressful away from home, right? (If you’re reading this and thinking about how you just flush yours, let me encourage you to stop that. Tampons tear up plumbing, even if they make it down the hole. Just google it.)
When I ordered my menstrual cup, I figured I’d try it a couple of months, but I kept my tampons just in case I wanted to go back. A year later, I finally gave them away. The menstrual cup has been a great option to make my period slightly less inconvenient, and I hope you end up feeling the same. Give one a try if you’ve been on the fence; I can pretty much guarantee you won’t go back.