For the first majority of my menstruating life I thought I only had the option of two different products – the disposable pads and tampons that are found flooding the shelves of the local supermarket. It wouldn’t surprise me if many other women also believed that these were their only options as well… but the truth is they aren’t our only options. In fact there are numerous other options available to us, from re-useable pads and menstrual cups to re-usable tampons and inter-labial pads.
One of my many reasons for wanting to do the whole Red October feature was so that I could help share and educate fellow females about some of the great ‘Alternative’ products that we can use when we get our period. I wanted to take a closer, first hand look at products such as menstrual cups as they are better for the planet, our pockets and our bodies.
I first discovered menstrual cups whilst I was on a strange journey through the web around 2 years ago when I discovered a site called the ‘Beautiful Cervix Project‘. Somewhere on there I read a mention of something called a moon cup as well as what I now know as the popular US Diva cup. Not having a clue what they were talking about I hit google up for the answers and checked out menstrual cups on wikipedia – as one does these days!
What I discovered was intriguing – it takes a fair bit to make me go WTF? so I was really into the concept of a menstrual cup.
That day I spent the next hour or so reading all about these products and I even found what is possibly the most valuable resource regarding menstrual cups – a live journal community where many of the different cup brands and styles were being openly discussed and reviewed. The discovery of this whole new product had me excited, I was almost overwhelmed by how many positive aspects there were to using a cup instead of the traditional one use only disposable pads and tampons I’d been using my whole life.
So What is a Menstrual Cup?
A Menstrual cup sits inside the vagina and collect the menstrual blood halfway between the source – your uterus, and its destination – outside of your vagina. It is inserted and sits in place quite similar to the way a diaphragm does, but instead of preventing bodily fluids from entering the uterus it stops the bodily fluids being expelled from the uterus from escaping the vagina. Internally it feels no different to tampons but unlike tampons a cup can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time. Once it is full, or sooner if you prefer you simply remove it, empty it into the toilet, rinse clean and re-insert.
There are now many different brands of menstrual cups and they are made of different materials ranging from pure rubber through to 100% silicone. Depending on the brand they also come in a range of colors and most brands have two different
Benefits of using a Menstrual Cup
There are so many advantages of using a menstrual cup instead of tampons but some of them include:
The Cost – a once of cost of between $60-$80 rather than the recurring cost of buying tampons and pads each month which both cost around $5 each. Within just a few months the savings start adding up. With a life expectancy of up to 10 years those savings are quite considerable. Also as the cup can handle the lightest right through the heaviest of flows you don’t need to have various sizes of tampons and pads on hand. You can even insert the cup before you expect your period to begin to ensure you don’t have any unexpected accidents allowing you to forget about needing panty liners at the start and end of your period.
The Environment – not only do cups create less pollution than disposable products due to their once off nature, they also mean that we aren’t throwing all those disposable products into landfills or polluting the waterways by flushing tampons.1
Our Bodies – Number one is that there is no risk of the silent, but deadly TSS – Toxic Shock Syndrome which has been proven to be linked to the use of tampons – and yes it can and does kill otherwise healthy females such as Amy… Unlike tampons, menstrual cups don’t absorb the natural vaginal secretions which keep the mucous membranes of the vagina moist. The area of the vaginal canal below the cup continues life as normal rather than becoming dried out, itchy and just generally pissed off as is often the case with tampons. (mind you though I didn’t know about this added benefit until I recently began to use a cup) One of my favourite pros is that as a cup fully seals the blood inside of the body it leaves your clit free and perfectly clean so that you can masturbate your way to a cramp relieving orgasm without making a dreadful mess.
The Convenience – Cups can hold much more fluid than a tampon ever could which means you don’t need to change it (or rather just empty it) as often. In fact you can wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours, including the overnight period when we’re warned to not use tampons. For those of us with extra heavy flows who are used to wearing two pads at night and having to get up and change tampons every few hours the switch to a cup is nothing less than revolutionary.
Because I was so blown away by how cool life could be with a menstrual cup I shared my find with one of my cousins and my bestie. My cousin also has ridiculously heavy periods caused by similar issues as mine and I thought she might be interested because of the convenience, & my bestie is a hippy chick right into having babies at home in the bath tub so I thought it would appeal to that ‘Earth Mother’ side of her.
I was quite flawed when both of them responded with the same ‘Ewww’ style reaction. WTF?
I’ve sat beside her father in law and watched my bestie give birth in her bath tub – which turns bright red due to the bleeding once the baby has popped out, but a menstrual cup is placed in ‘Eww’ territory? I don’t get it. Sadly though their reactions seem to echo the feeling of a lot of Australian women.
We are happy to stick tampons in with our fingers and stare at the blood filling up a pad, but a cup is too gross?
What I find truly weird though is that it’s the US girls who find tampons a bit messy and far prefer applicator style tampons are open to the cup concept, where as us Aussie gals are fine with getting a bit of blood on our hands and rarely use applicator style tampons yet the majority are grossed out by the concept of a cup.
I think it’s ridiculous – after all it is just a bit of blood, your own blood at that and in fact I’ve found the process of using a cup to be far, far cleaner than using pads or tampons.
When the idea for red october came to me I knew I absolutely had to get my hands on some menstrual cups to try so that I could hopefully help to introduce more Australian women to this marvellous invention that truly does revolutionise the way you view and deal with your period. I’d love to see those reactions go from ‘Ewww’ to ‘WOW! and hopefully this bit of education might help change those opinions.
For my past two periods I’ve been using the JuJu cup – the only 100% Australian menstrual cup and I’ve got to say I’m LOVING it. I’m absolutely loving it and the review is in the works.
When I first discovered menstrual cups I though they were some fabulous brand new, innovative invention. I was quite surprised to find out that they were first invented way back in 1867. For a short period the Tasette menstrual cups were available commercially in the late 50’s but by 1967 the company went out of business and the concept almost disappeared before it was re-introduced to the market more recently.
Today there are many many different brands of menstrual cups, many of which come in 2 sizes – a smaller one for younger women who haven’t had to push a baby out of their vag and a slightly larger size for those of us over 30 who know how hard it is to push a watermelon out of a hole the size of a lemon!
Some think they may be hard to use and extra messy, but honestly I found it to be quite easy to get the hang of. Certainly no more difficult or messy than it was to get the hang of tampons and pads. These two tiny cons that are really only an issue the first cycle or two are far outweighed by the numerous pro’s of the cup, where as there are so many cons to both disposable pads and tampons.
- Toxic Shock
- Disposal can be tricky at times and is environmentally unfriendly
- Can’t be used overnight
- They dry out the vagina and can cause irritation
- One use only so cost is an issue
- Smell Having to carry them with you til your period starts
- Running out of them when you need to change one
- can be visible through clothing
- difficult to dispose of
- environmentally unfriendly
- no swimming and a few other activities are affected by pads
- You can run out of them & its a pain having to carry around spares
The only tricky bit with cups is the inserting bit, luckily for me the first cup I’m reviewing came with an amazing visual guide that showed me how to fold the cup in order to fit it into the vagina. I’m not going to lie, it is a bit awkward but it’s not difficult. It is a good idea to have a practice run before you get your period so that you have a better idea of how to do it when there isn’t any blood involved. Unlike tampons you can insert the cup and wear it even when you don’t have your period, that means you can pop it in early before your period appears and avoid any accidents what so ever!
Once inserted it forms a suction like seal just below or around your cervix and it feels no different to a tampon. It takes a while to get used to how often you need to change it but this is something you have to go through to find out as every woman is different so a little experimentation is required. I wore a re-usable pad as a backup when I first started using it to help prevent any major accidents.
The changing process is the bit that I guess puts most people off the concept and I’m not going to lie – staring your menstrual blood right in the face is a unique experience, it can also be messy to start with, but if you think back to your first few periods they too were just as messy and strange. I was somewhat fascinated to see that the blood had started to separate into the layers of different components. Anywho… you simply pour the blood into the toilet, give the cup a quick rinse clean and re-insert. It’s even easier to do the changing process of a morning or evening in the shower. It’s a far less messy or as yucky a process as using tampons.
Due to the required experimentation in your first cycle or two I wouldn’t want to be changing a cup at work or anywhere else until you get the hang of it, but that’s really not that much of an issue due to it being safe to wear a cup for up to 12 hours. Once you do have the hang of it and feel confident with changing it, if you find yourself needing to change it without acess to a sink you can just wipe it down with toilet paper or baby wipes.
In between periods you can boil your cup to sterilise it, or give it a good once over with rubbing alcohol and rinse it in water after its dried. Then you can put it away until the next month.
A clean sterilisable piece of silicone or a wad of cotton shoved up your vag or stuffed down your knickers? Seriously though I know which options make me think eww!
I will never buy another tampon nor any more disposable pads now that I have some reusable ones from Lunapads.com to review. I’m now officially a menstrual cup girl, as are most women who have made the switch. I dare say that if you try one, you too will say the same!
For more info on cups or for extra tips and advice about insertion be sure to visit the Menstrual Cup community on live journal – it’s Fantastic! And another great source for information and reviews of the different cups there’s also the Menstrual Cup Blog.
Keep your eyes open for my upcoming review of the Australian Menstrual Cup – The JuJu and also be sure to check out my first Red October post so that you too can join in the discussion of periods and all things red.
So how about you? Are you an Eww or a Wow? Have you tried a cup? and if you have would you ever go back?
This post is part of my Red October Project – a month long celebration of ‘that time of the month’
- yes I’m one of those naughty ones who flush tampons [↩]