They aren’t so scary
Why would I ever use one of those?
It was about a year into the beginning of my womanhood when one day I went to the bathroom and saw my mom’s menstrual cup sitting on the counter. I had loosely heard her talk about it, but had never seen it before, and there it was. The first thing I noticed was the size. As a novice menstruator, I had barely mastered tampons which seemed imposing enough. The thought of ever putting one of those inside me was a dead ass “NUH UH”.
I would say that is one of the two biggest fears of menstrual cups.
1. The scary-looking size.
2. The fear of losing it inside oneself.
It’s not as bad as you think
I’m not going to lie, menstrual cups require a much more intimate handling than tampons and pads. You are sticking your fingers inside yourself after all. And then you have to wash and reuse, which simply as a culture, we are not used to doing. Not to mention that most women don’t want to acknowledge or deal with their period more than necessary. But I promise you, as a tiny woman who has now been using a menstrual cup for two years, they are wonderful and not scary at all once you get the hang of it.
Why Make the Switch?
1. Easy for travel, especially abroad as many countries don’t sell tampons. 2. Economic. As of writing this, a box of Tampax, 36 count, is $6.99. Let’s say 36 tampons last you three months, so four boxes a year equalling $27.96. For ten years that total is $279.60. One menstrual cup for ten years is about $40. Need I say more?
3. Tampons are full of chemicals.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
First, let’s start with the logistics of the cup. There are many brands out there and it is completely your choice which one is right for you. However, I do recommend buying from a reputable company. The Diva Cup and Lunette are two brands that I am personally familiar with and they rate as some of the top brands out there. Typically, a cup runs between $30 and $40 and can hold about an ounce of fluid give or take. Cups are made of medical-grade silicone and last ten years. The cup sits in the vaginal canal, just like a tampon, and collects all the fluid rather than absorb it, unlike a tampon. I can confidently tell you right now that if you use tampons you will be able to use a menstrual cup.
So let’s tackle the greatest fears of menstrual cups.
The SIZE! It may look big, but once the whole thing is inside and far up enough, you won’t feel it. The vagina is very durable and made to stretch. Fingers, toys, penises, and babies all pass through it, and so can your menstrual cup. This is something you have to experience for yourself to believe. But I promise you, if you have had other things up inside you, then a menstrual cup will do just fine.
What if it gets lost inside of me?
The Second and perhaps the greatest fear: WILL THIS GET LOST INSIDE OF ME OR STUCK? And I respond to this with: “THE CERVIX”. “THE WHAT?” Yes ladies, the cervix, a very important part of your reproductive system that most don’t know about.
I’m pretty sure it was never taught in reproductive class. So what is the cervix? It is the organ that separates the vaginal canal from the uterus. Yay! Think of it as a gateway of sorts, accept it only opens one way; to let things out of the uterus like menstrual blood and babies.
The cervix is awesome
The cervix keeps things from entering your uterus, like say: penises, tampons, toys, or other foreign objects including… trumpets please…. MENSTRUAL CUPS. How does it do this? Well, the hole is the width of a toothpick and that is where labor pains come from when giving birth. Who would have thought shoving a six-inch head through a 3-millimeter hole would hurt so much; I say with all the sarcasm I can muster. And don’t worry mothers, that hole collapses right back down after birth, continuing to keep things from entering the uterus. So yeah, the cervix is pretty cool. If you have more interest in what lies at the end of your tunnel check out the Beautiful Cervix Project. The website is dedicated to teaching women about their bodies and celebrating them. https://www.beautifulcervix.com/
So, there is no black hole or never-ending tube that I think most women have some preconceived notion about. Personally, there was a time I had some illogical thought that if I used a menstrual cup and lost it, it would be floating around in my stomach. Crazy I know.
What if gets stuck?
And we come to the second part of fear number 2. What if it gets stuck? Well, now you can have confidence that if you can’t feel your cup, it is NOT lost to the mystery oasis that is your uterus. It is simply up a little high which is perfectly normal. Take a breath,
calm down, all hope is not lost, and push. Using menstrual cups will definitely make you learn more things about your body, especially if you are not accustomed to sticking your fingers inside yourself prior to menstrual cup use.
Let’s do this! How does it work?
So you have gotten this far in the reading and you say, “Okay, that doesn’t sound so bad, I can do this. So how does it work?”
Step 1: Open your menstrual cup box. Most come with a pouch to carry it in and directions. Read the directions.
Step 2: Wash the menstrual cup and your hands, the instructions will advise you to boil it, it isn’t necessary. The vagina is not a sanitary place and the cup doesn’t need to be completely disinfected. As long as you give it a good wash with unscented, antibacterial soap you will be fine. Use warm water.
Step 3: Fold it. There are different ways to go about this, but the easiest way is to collapse it in half and then in half again.
Step 4: Insert it, it might be a little tight initially, but once it is completely inside and up far enough, you won’t feel it. Make sure it is fully open once inside you. If you feel a dent, twist it until it is. Oftentimes you can hear a pop.
Step 5: Do your thing. The cup can stay inside you for up to twelve hours as recommended. Not gonna lie, on my lighter days I keep it in all day. When I’m at my heaviest, I generally need to empty it every three to four hours. When it is full, it drops a little in the vaginal canal and I can feel it so I know when it needs to be emptied. No, it has never fallen out of me.
Step 6: Removal. I personally always wash my hands before inserting and removing the cup and advise you to do the same. Do not pull the stem. Pinch the bottom of the cup, and break the seal. Carefully, and I’m over the toilet when I do this, shimmy it out. Warning: you might spill a little when you first do this. It is ideal to remove it in a bathroom that has a sink in the same room. I dump the contents in the toilet and then rinse the cup in the sink and then stick it back in. In cases where you are in a public stall and can’t access a sink, I have just put it right back in, it’s all bloody up in there anyway. If this isn’t for you, many brands, like Lunette, sell wipes too.
Step 7: At the end of your period just give it a nice wash, dry it off and stick it in the pouch. Caution: keep away from animals, my dog ate my first menstrual cup. If your cup
has a bit of a smell to it that bothers you, I have found that rubbing a few drops of tea tree oil in coconut oil on it and leaving it on for a few hours gives it a nice cleanse. Tea tree oil and coconut oil are both antibacterial too!
In a nutshell
There you have it, not too bad, right? After doing this a few times, it gets a lot easier and quicker. Using the cup, I feel like my periods are not as long and the cramps have lightened. I feel a lot healthier. Actually, a few months ago, I had forgotten my cup and had to use a tampon, it was the first I’ve used a tampon in over a year, and it was awful. I was so uncomfortable and hyper-aware of the tampon. I couldn’t wait to get home and take it out.
If you are ready to take the plunge, Artemis Advanced Gynecology does sell Lunette Menstrual Cups in the office. Here at Artemis Inspired Medicine we always support your body, your choice, and no matter what, do what is best for you.