Monday, 4 January 2016

The Menstrual Cup review: Why the secret cousin of tampons rock

Along with my hashtag healthy living:healthy choices wannahave lifestyle, where I’ve been starting to pay close attention to what I was putting in my mouth, it made sense to start paying attention to anything else I was putting in myself. And in this case, I’m talking my vagina. 

Considering that half the population experience surfing the crimson wave once a month, it’s absolutely something that we should be talking about. And talking proudly, without cringing or using our inside voice. So here we go…

Hopefully, you’re aware that disposable sanitary protection have actually been quietly subjecting the southern region of our bodies to chemical warfare. That and the impact on the environment means that it’s high time to look to other methods. Enter the Menstrual Cup. 
Menstrual cup
The Menstrual Cup. So squidgy. 

Often seen as a petrifying silicone bucket destined to be lost forever up your vagina, the Menstrual Cup is the unpopular, perhaps even secret, cousin of well known tampons and sanitary towels. When I had the ‘period talk’ at school, I don’t remember my teacher ever putting a menstrual cup on the table as one of my options. Go to my local supermarket, I see every brand of tampon under the sun but I am yet to see the cup. In the UK, it seems like the choice of disposable sanitary products are being made for us. (Note: I have seen them in some Boots stores hidden away on the bottom shelf). Conspiracy theory paid for by industry giants? Meh, that’s a different online rant. 

Menstrual cups are flexible containers made of silicone that sit low in your vagina and collect your flow. The variety of cups is overwhelming. Each new cup bringing more questions…such as but not always including: 'Well, how long is my vagina?', 'Do I want a stem or a tail?', 'How do I know if my cervix is high or low?', 'How many holes to I have down there again?!' 

Eww. That sounds so gross. Why would I ever? <- My former thoughts.

But then I tried it out. Mostly out of curiosity and the idea of never having to deal with tampon ‘wee wee string’ was too tempting to pass up. 

So with that, I launched into slightly obsessive research mode in searching for the perfect cup for me. I was met with a lot of options, detailed videos and confusion. But eventually, I picked the right one for me. I’ve tested out this bad boy now for just under a year. The past six periods have been absolutely hassle free. So it’s time to share. 

The first time it went in, I had the same thought as when I first had sex; ‘Oh, is that it?’. Too easy. That little thing just popped in, opened itself up and spent the next few hours quietly collecting bits of my former self. But then it was exit time.

For thirty minutes I was crab walking across my bathroom floor with my bloodied fingers up myself in the most unsexual way imaginable. My hands (and perhaps parts of my arm) were covered in blood. I was making noises only made my the severely constipated and I was clumsily treading between realising how funny the situation was to how long it was going to be until I needed to go to A&E. Yes, I sure as hell got to know myself in that thirty minutes period. 

Anyway, after more bearing down than I thought possible, it came out. And I didn’t swear never again. Instead, I was determined to get this little bastard thing working for me like it had for so many others. After all, if the YouTube menstrual cup guru could use it, why couldn’t I? My next attempt included overthinking it, dropping it on the floor and feeling a bit sick. Back to the tampons till next time it was. 

It was touch and go for the next few periods. There was a small amount of leakage, but that was nothing compared to the ridiculous pain that I experienced. My lower abdomen was screaming at me, even though the cup wasn’t in me. I’m talking horrendous pain, the type where you feel you want to vomit. Hot water bottle later and it subsided, but I was worried that I’d damaged myself. 

I googled the crap out of it but didn’t come up with a definitive answer. Other girls mentioned some pain, but nothing really fit what I experienced. It could have been worse cramps than usual because my body was just changing, it could have been psychosomatic or it could have been the cup itself. Determined not to give up, I ordered another two. But this time, I made two more small holes in the cup after a recommendation that I read on the interwebs. 

This. Was. It. 

Ever since then, there’s been no pain, no leakages, no worries. Almost too easy. I am now the menstrual cup poster girl. I happily bounce about during yoga and wipe from back to front with no fear of stinky string during my period. I don’t want to go back and as long as I’m pain free, I don’t think that I will. 

So now, for your reading pleasure, the best things about a menstrual cup:

  • You are now an Eco warrior- no more will your used tampons and pads be sitting in a landfill for all to see. As the average woman roughly uses 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, there is a pile of disposable chemically cotton somewhere with your DNA all over it. Plus, the time it takes for that tampon or pad to degrade is centuries longer than your lifespan. And remember, its’ not just the sanitary product itself, that little dude is usually wrapped in a plastic wrapper or bag which gets thrown on the trash heap as well. 
  • No stinky string- we’ve all been there; just put in a fresh tampon when suddenly you need to do twosies. You know, the period ones. When you feel like the organs of the lower half of your body are about to fall out of your ass. One wipe it shall not be. With the menstrual cup, there is no string- so there’s nothing there to get stinky or change. Result. 
  • Money saving expert- the cost of sanitary products (Or rather the fast that they are taxed as ‘luxury goods’ in the UK) has been a lot more vocal of recent, suggesting that we spend around £90 a year. Menstrual Cups cost between £11- £22 and they last for years if looked after. Bargain. 
  • No bleach up my minky- If you would like to know the kinds of chemicals your putting up your vagina click here
  • Getting to know ME- A conversation that I have a lot with my fellow vagina-havers is that for the longest time we didn’t know diddly squat about it. Maybe we’d had a quick look with a mirror once or twice, curled our lips at the different crevices, bits of skin and holes, but young ladies aren’t taught a thing about their bits. It's like female masturbation when I was a teen in the 00s: everyone was doing it, but nobody was talking about it. While men publicly rearrange their testicles, we don’t know shit about our vaginas. And that's sad. Very sad. The good thing about the menstrual cup is that you get to know what you’ve got. You have to, in order to understand what’s going on during your period. After all, why should stick with the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality thats been sold to us by giant disposable sanitary product companies for years?  
  • The Lazy girls guide to periods- menstrual cups can be left in for twelve hours. TWELVE fricking hours! I’m telling you, I’ve actually nearly forgotten I was even having my period when I’ve used it because I literally change it after work and then take it out at night. Bonus. 
  • Your vagina will be a moist haven- That word. That word. But be gone the dryness that you feel when you shove a tampon in. Or worse- out. That horrible feeling when you need to take a dry tampon out is no more. Unlike the tampon, the menstrual cup doesn't suck up every ounce of moisture in your vagina so you’ll be wetter than a ducks wet bits (In a good way!)
  • No Toxic Shock Syndrome risk with a menstrual cup: Think that TSS is an 80s myth used to scare us? Think again, again and again.
  • Feel free to get me off- Something that was only brought to my attention by a fellow mooncupper. Suddenly, you can go back to having furtive feel ups without the fear of your partner touching a string that really wants to touch them back. Third base is still on the cards with the menstrual cup. 
  • You are no longer a walking Boots chemist- Every fricking bag I had held several tampons within. I now have one moon cup which I carry with me when I’m due. That’s it. Awesome.
Reasons why menstrual cups can be ‘meh’
  • Oh, so thats was menstrual blood looks like- yes, you do get acquainted with what your releasing. Who knew that it was that goopy? You do get over this. But to be honest, I’m always interested to see how much my cups collected. And I’ve been known to offer a private viewing to friends who want to see how it works. Share and educate, people. 
  • They can leak- Not to the point of the contents of the Thames flowing out of your vagina, but similar to how an overused tampon would. Since I cracked the moon cup code, I haven't had any leaks for over seven months. Having said this, it's rare that I will wear a menstrual cup without a reusable mini pad when I’m out of the house just for my own piece of mind.
  • Maintenance- It’s recommended that you boil your cup for three minutes for at least once per cycle. This can be annoying and cause some raised eyebrows in the kitchen.
  • Get it out of me!! It takes time to get used to removing the cup. Practice really does make perfect, but fully expect some hilarious removal story of your own when you first give it a go.
  • Issues- I’ve read reports that those prone to thrush may enflame a re-occuring condition. There are arguments that they can also cause problems with IUDs.

Conclusion (TLDR): Menstrual cups get the thumbs up because after a lot of testing and fiddling about, it works for me. But I’m not you. Our bodies are different. Still, what have you got to lose? The pros outweigh the cons on this secret little cup that could be a total game changer. 


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