How the Menstrual Cup Changed my Period.

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mentrual cups rainbow

When I first heard about the menstrual cup, I was seeking to get rid of tampons, which happen to be bleached, mostly tested on animals, and carry a risk for toxic shock syndrome.

After I found out that tampons weren’t helping us girls out, I set out to find something else besides pads that could help me out at that time of the month. That was when I stumbled across the menstrual cup.

There’s a fabulous community of women online that will happily introduce anyone to the menstrual cup. Some girls are ready to make the switch—others need some convincing. I was ready to switch, and ordered my first menstrual cup after reading about it online.

The menstrual cup is a small cup that usually comes in two sizes—small and large—made out of medical-grade silicone or natural rubber latex that is inserted into the vagina, catches the menstrual flow, and then is removed and emptied when full, or, after up to 12 hours.

The biggest thing to keep in mind about the menstrual cup is cleanliness, as not washing our hands or the cup when taking it out or inserting it can increase our risk for urinary tract infections (which, sadly, happened to me my first summer with the menstrual cup). When taking it out or putting it back in, we have to be diligent about washing our hands first and washing the cup. I use natural castile soap to do both.

The menstrual cup is not tested on animals and there’s no known risk of toxic shock syndrome. When used properly, the menstrual cup can help alleviate menstrual cramps and make our periods lighter. But perhaps the most important thing the menstrual cup offers to women and girls is the opportunity to get familiar with their bodies, something we seem to be rather ignorant of in this day and age.

Tampons come in wrappers, in pretty colors, they can be plastic or cardboard, but in the end, they’re all disposable and are meant to be discarded immediately after they’ve absorbed the correct amount of blood from us.

Month after month, year after year during our menstrual cycle, here we are being ignorant of our bodies and producing tons of waste that will eventually end up in landfills. Not to mention increasing our risk for health problems like toxic shock syndrome!

The menstrual cup seeks to change that.

The menstrual cup has a lifespan of ten years or more—in fact, it may never need to be replaced. The menstrual cup is much more than just sticking a cup up your vagina: it requires us to get familiar with our anatomy because the menstrual cup depends on proper placement in order to do its job properly.

Women bleed from their cervix, which is a small knob that feels very much like the end of our noses, and also marks the entrance to the womb. Without successfully locating this, the menstrual cup won’t work and will end up leaking (which, trust me, can be incredibly frustrating).

The position of each woman’s cervix will be unique to her. Some women have high cervixes, some have low, some are angled left, or right. We need to find our cervix and then determine which cup would suit us best based on the position. The size of the cup will also depend on your age and if you’ve given birth or not.

The menstrual cup has totally changed my period by forcing me to get more familiar with myself down there. My cervix is angled slightly to the right, so I need to position my cup so. After going through three menstrual cups to find my perfect fit and ditching tampons for good, my period has gotten light, my cramps have gotten better, and I feel so in touch with my body.

The menstrual cup asks us all to pay attention to our impact on the planet, our bodies, and to look at the risks we’re creating by using tampons and pads. Conventional tampons and pads are bleached, are tested on animals, and pose risks for our bodies. We’re also creating tons of waste every year, and unnecessarily. Why spend money, time, and create waste every month buying tampons when we could order just one (or two!) menstrual cups and spend the years of our fertility being eco-conscious and in-touch with our bodies and the world?

Menstrual cups may be a revolutionary idea for some, or it may be old news to some of us girls! After all, they’ve been around since the 1930s, but were not commercial until about the 70s. Regardless of where we stand on the menstrual cup, we can all make better, healthier choices for ourselves, our bodies, and the planet by exploring the option of menstrual cups. For when the menstrual cup doesn’t quite do it for us, reusable, washable cloth pads can do the job as well.

The menstrual cup asks us to take another look at how we spend that week every month—cramped over in pain with bleached rayon shoved up our vaginas, or comfortable and secure with a reusable menstrual cup?

Oh, and did I mention the menstrual cup works for up to twelve hours, does not leak at all when inserted properly, and is not able to be felt at all once inside? What more could a girl want for period protection?

Let’s consider the impact of conventional pads and tampons on our bodies and on the planet—and let’s consider a menstrual cup to catch our flows next month!




Are Your Tampons Toxic?


Author: Jenn Ryan

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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anonymous Jan 2, 2016 3:42am

I am from India and have been using tampons for all my life. I want to switch over to menstrual cup , will you please tell me how to procure it and what will be the cost in Indian currency.

anonymous Oct 3, 2015 10:22pm

I bought one of these from Boots the Chemist. It is called a Moon Cup and cost about £20, so is very cost effective if you forego other forms of San-Pro for good…

anonymous Sep 29, 2015 1:38pm

Hi, I’m not sure it’s normal to be able to touch your cervix (or some of you have extremely short vaginas)(google it). The cup shouldn’t go anywhere near that, but should rest at the entrance to your vagina, thus the blood has to drain all along its bumpy, ridgey length. I doubt cervix orientation has any effect. Just one opinion from a fellow cup user 🙂

    anonymous Jan 27, 2016 11:35am

    That was my concern. My doctor even has a difficult time finding my cervix and needs to whip out the big pap tools. I am thinking of switching over to the cup because I am concerned with the chemicals from tampons. Not sure if anyone else has noticed this but I always notice some residue from them. Yuck.

anonymous Sep 29, 2015 9:15am

I have used a cup more than a decade and love it. Washing hands first is important, but then my style is to remove the cup, pour contents into toilet, then pee onto cup (whilst holding it below me in the pee stream area) to rinse it thoroughly, and reinsert. Some pee does get onto the hand holding the cup but is quickly dabbed off with toilet paper. Then another hand wash afterwards and away I go. Never have had a UTI in all these years of using the cup. This is easy to do while at home sitting on the toilet. In a public stall if not sitting on the toilet, I would just wipe with toilet paper paper, reinsert and wash later as a woman above suggested.

anonymous Sep 28, 2015 4:06pm

I've been using the Diva Cup brand for 4 years and still have problems with it leaking. I have to use a pad with it or put some toilet paper in my underwear to catch the leaks and my underwear are always stained. Not a huge problem, I still feel it's a better option than tampons. I try moving it around inside, and every once in a while I get it just right and it doesn't leak. But I don't know why and rarely get it right. If you can post an article about how to figure things out or give us a link to one that would be greatly appreciated. I just searched for more detailed instructions and didn't find anything new.

My period does not seem any lighter, and my cramps have gotten to be less and less as I aged even before using the cup, so I don't think the cup has changed things for me. Sometimes I have to empty the cup every 2 hours or it will overflow, usually my first day. I have not noticed the cup to change these things for me but I tended to use pads more than tampons before the cup, although sometimes I used a pad and tampon together because my flow has always been so heavy. But even when the flow has lightened up toward the end, blood leaks around cup, even when it's not very full.

I recommended the menstrual cup to an older friend with children. She got Diva cup in the larger size and it leaked terribly, and she was convinced her body must be too stretched out. I tried to explain it took some practice but I think she felt like her body was ruined and it made her very self conscious and was not a positive experience for her. Now I am afraid to suggest it to others.

    anonymous Sep 29, 2015 6:50am

    You may want to try these few things:

    1. Contact Diva Cup. Those menstrual cup sites are usually really cool about talking to you about your problems and helping you work through them.
    2. Try a different cup or size.
    3. Here's a link to another blog post I wrote about problems with your cup leaking that you may find helpful:

    I'm impressed you've stuck with the cup all this time if it's been leaking. I know how frustrating that can be as I went through it myself as well. I have a LadyCup and had to contact LadyCup and talk to them about it and get the position right with my cervix. Have you found your cervix? I am sorry to hear about your friend also. It's important to not give up and find the right fit, but it can sometimes be a challenging journey!

    I wish you the best of luck!

anonymous Sep 28, 2015 1:25am

I’ve been using a menstrual cup for about 15 years before the birth of my child and now 4 years after and I’m a huge fan. I still use pads at home and at night but I feel so great about the lack of extra tampon waste and allowing the blood to free flow.

The thing I didn’t think about was introducing it to my daughter when the time comes and after reading your post I will definitely show her and provide the proper instruction so hopefully she never has to use a tampon. Thank you!

anonymous Sep 27, 2015 3:31pm

Just wanted to offer my voice in hopes of clarifying something. I’m a huge supporter of menstrual cups. I’ve been using my femme cup for 4 years now and love that I can leave it in for many hours, love that there is no waste, and love how much more comfortable it is than pads and tampons! What I wanted to address here is the claim the author made about the cup lessening her cramps and her flow… everyone reading this has to understand that this is the author’s experience and therefore anecdotal. The menstrual cup brands don’t make these claims because.. They simply can’t. Your menstrual cramps don’t have anything to do with your vaginal wall- they are from the contractions of your uterus. And your menstrual flow is similarly, not affected by objects placed in your vagina because your menses is the endometrium of your uterus shedding, along with extra blood from the spiral arteries that retracted when there was no fertilized egg implanted in your uterus (hence, why you have a period). I’m not saying you definitely WON’T experience variations in your cramps and flow while using the menstrual cup, but if you do it cannot be attributed to the cup, logically speaking. It would be a shame if some women got the cup and were disappointed because they thought it would be their solution to an uncomfortable period. Hormone regulation via the pill is one of the more sure fire ways to address cramps.

    anonymous Sep 29, 2015 6:46am

    I totally agree everyone will have a different experience! This has just been mine and a few other people I know have had it lessen their cramps and shorten their period as well. And while the menstrual flow does come from the uterus, everything is connected down there! Every woman's body is different, therefore each woman will have a different experience with the cup.

anonymous Sep 25, 2015 8:43am

Where exactly can I buy it? I live in México.

    anonymous Sep 25, 2015 12:23pm

    Many natural stores sell it but your best bet will probably be online. You can order directly from manufacturers of even look on eBay and Amazon for cups!

    anonymous Dec 24, 2015 10:41pm

anonymous Sep 25, 2015 3:37am

I’ve been using a menstrual cup for three years now. I’d never go back to pass or tampons. I cut off the bottom thing that you use to pull it out as it hurt my vaginal lips when I sat as I realised I have a shallow vaginal canal. The first two cycles were a little weird, making sure I inserted it properly was the biggest hurdle and also getting used to putting my fingers up there. Also guessing when to empty it. It’s Easy now though. To help try to answer the other lady’s questions: the cup doesn’t strip your vagina of the natural lubrication. I think that’s what helps with cramps etc as although it is foreign, the body seems to accept it more happily tha. Tampons. There’s no exposure to dioxin, maybe that toxin causes pain?? I don’t know. Having a cup is so much easier on the pocket and also as convenience as you never run out. When I am at a public toilet, I wash my hands first, go into the cubicle and then wipe it out with toilet paper after I empty it into the loo. I just rinse it when I get home, no dramas. It really is so liberating x

anonymous Sep 24, 2015 11:20pm

May I ask exactly how the silicone cup has changed the amount of your flow? And how has it had an effect on your cramps? i’m not sure i understand the connection between them.

    anonymous Sep 25, 2015 12:04am

    It shortened the length of my period from about 6 days to 4. Cramps are now mainly on the first day. NOTHING as bad as it was while using tampons. I don't know why. It just does and I'm not complaining!

    anonymous Sep 25, 2015 12:24pm

    I'm not exactly sure how it works either, but this is my basic understanding of it–when you have a tampon in, your vagina wall closes around the tampon to hold it in, and this makes cramps more likely and your flow heavier. I'm not sure why. When you have a menstrual cup in, it helps to keep you more "open", therefore lessening cramps and flow. I'm sure there's more science behind it, you should look online!

anonymous Sep 24, 2015 9:29pm

This is not the most environmentally-friendly anwser, but I have actually been using a disposable version of the cup for years called "Instead". As someone who suffers from very heavy periods due to endometrosis, tampons weren't cutting it, especially overnight. But I could use Instead, and felt comfortable leaving it in overnight. Yes, it is disposable, but since I travel and am home so rarely, it was a good alternative for me. Not to mention that since my periods are so heavy sometimes, I would use 5-6 XL tampons a day, instead of 2-3 Instead, which has to be better.

anonymous Sep 24, 2015 6:46pm

Loved this as I am currently thinking of making the switch. Question…how does one wash it out if one is in a public washroom?

    anonymous Sep 25, 2015 12:03am

    I will wrap my emptied one in toilet paper, exit the stall and wash it, and then go back into the stall to put it back in. If another woman asks me what I'm doing it is a wonderful opportunity to share the good news about the cup!

    anonymous Sep 25, 2015 12:33pm

    I usually take it out in the stall, keep a small bottle of Dr. Bronner's in my purse (they make cute little baby sizes for like $3!) and then wash it in the sink. Usually no one pays too much attention! It can be a challenge though until you get used to it/comfortable with yourself. The idea is that the cup should catch your flow for long enough that you won't need to take it out in a public restroom. I rarely need to do this with mine.

    anonymous Sep 29, 2015 9:26am

    I have been using it for about four periods now and I have never had to take it out while I'm out and about, it lasts a really long time without needing to be emptied. If I know I'm going to be going out of the house all day, I just make sure it has been completely emptied and cleaned before I go. I wouldn't go so far as the author has and say it has alleviated cramps and misery, but it is life changing without that factor. Just the fact that I can put it in and do life and not have to fret on whether I have tampons, remembered to bring enough, or the guess work of whether it's time to change said tampon. I mean that alone is what is so freeing. I recommend that for anyone.

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Jenn Ryan

Jenn Ryan is a freelance writer and editor who’s passionate about health, the environment, and animals. She loves running, reading, and playing with her four rescued bunnies.