On a similar note...

The squeamish should probably stop reading now, because I'm continuing on the menstrual theme. I've had some questions recently about my menstrual cup and as I'm always delighted to sing the praises of my fabulous cup I'm answering the questions by subjecting my blog readers to an entire post of icky, squirmy girly stuff. (Except, of course, it's not icky... which is the point of the thing.)

Uhh, so what is this cup thing?
A menstrual cup is a small, inverted-bell shaped cup, usually made of medical-grade soft silicone. There are a number of different types available now and they all look like a variation of this:

Okay, cute. What's it for and how do you use it?

It's essentially a tampon alternative. You fold it, insert it in your vagina and let it unfold. It forms a seal against the vaginal walls below your cervix and then sits there catching blood and menstrual fluid. Kind of like the picture below, except that most women don't have 500 metres between the cup and their cervix like in the diagram... and so far as I know my uterus is not green.

Seems a little gross. What happens when it's full?
When it's full, or before it's full, you go to the bathroom, squeeze the bottom of the cup to break the seal, remove it, dump the contents in the toilet, wash the cup if you want and then reinsert it. Some people are fanatical about scrubbing and sterilising the cup every time (not that you can actually 'sterilise' anything without, you know, an autoclave...), some just rinse it, some... like me... just give it a good clean at the end of their cycle.

Doesn't it leak everywhere?

Sometimes it can leak a little bit before you get the hang of using it and find exactly the best positioning for you. It's different for everyone and it can take a couple of cycles to fully work out what's best for your body. Mine has never leaked but I know it's happened to others. Also, if it completely fills up the seal will break, which will cause some overflow. Once you work out how long it take your body to fill it then there is usually no problem.

Is it uncomfortable?
I have never been able to feel it... to the point where I've sometimes forgotten it was even there.

Alright, but what's so great about it?
Well, women like them for different reasons but here are the top points for me.

1. It's better for your body than tampons. Tampons are designed to absorb any fluid in the general area, which means that in addition to catching blood they also absorb the natural self-cleaning lubrication that your body needs. They dry out everything, they can leave minute fibres behind and those fibres can scratch the vaginal walls... and that's what can cause Toxic Shock Syndome. Cups don't absorb anything; they just catch menstrual fluid and there are no nasty little cotton fibres to be left behind. Of course it's always wise to be careful and wash your hands, but to date there is not a single recorded case of TSS linked with cup use.

2. They last about 2-3 times longer than tampons between toilet trips. On my heaviest days a tampon would last me maybe 2 hours. On my very heaviest days now it takes about 4-6 hours for me to fill my cup. Women with a lighter flow can go 12 hours or more.

3. I haven't had to buy anything from the 'feminine hygeine' aisle for years, nor do I have to worry about running out of products at an inconvenient time. I forked out about $60 for my cup roughly 4 years ago and it's likely still to be going strong in another 6 years or so. You do the maths on that.

4. I'm not contributing to landfill. In the US it is estimated that there are 12 billion pads and 7 million tampon being thrown out and going to landfill EVERY YEAR. Obviously those numbers are smaller for Australia, but still the average woman is likely to use this amount of disposable products (pads and/or tampons) over ten years:

Multiply that by... well, a lot of women... and you have a lot of money and a lot of waste in landfill.

Well, I'm still grossed out but I might do some investigation. Where should I look?
Start by Googling 'menstrual cups'. I use the Mooncup (although I chopped off the stem because it was useless and uncomfortable) but there are many different kinds available now so do your own research. They even come in different colours! The only bad news here is that they're not available in shops in Australia so you WILL have to buy them online if you want one. Because it's an internally worn product and it's medical grade silicone the TGA wants to classify it as a medical product so they're still not allowing any businesses to import them yet. Sigh.

For those who haven't run off screaming, thank you for allowing me to rave about my cup - which is the best purchase I've ever made in my life - and I hope I covered all the questions people have had for me recently.

Returning you to your normal programming now...


Givinya De Elba said...

Hey wow interesting. I had heard of them. I've never used tampons ever, so I didn't know about the minute fibres and drying-out. I assumed that a cup would fill up and overflow in 10 minutes on my heavy days - maybe I've overestimated the volume of ... yurgh, sorry I just grossed myself out.

Femina said...

Here's where I get to share useless information. The average menstrual flow is roughly 35ml per cycle. A regular sized pad or tampon holds 5ml. Flow is considered heavy at 80ml or more (ie, at least 16 soaked pads/tampons per cycle). Menstrual cups hold about 15ml, so three times the amount of a regular sized disposable product. My older sister has a heavy flow AND she's perimenopausal and she LOVES her cup. She reckons it's the best thing ever. There are some brands that are bigger than others and therefore better for a heavier flow... the Lunette, for example, is one of the larger ones.

The other advantage of the cup is that if you have an erratic cycle (like me) you can start wearing it a few days before you think your period might start (still taking it out to clean once a day) and you're not wasting half a packet of disposables while you wait for your stupid body to make up its mind about when to start your period. Grrr.

I'm told that if one has had children they should go for the larger size... and keep up with their kegels... ;)

Hippomanic Jen said...

Okay, so really don't know what to say, but don't want to say nothing, because that might indicate that I'm shocked, offended, grossed out or something. I'm not. It is interesting.

I had actually followed one of your links previously and noted that the style of writing was vaguely familiar and the comparison of every cup known to womankind was extremely thorough and again vaguely familiar as I have some friends who are a bit obsessive at times. ;)

Femina said...

Yeah, cup evangelists tend to be annoying! I actually hate hearing "oh, you must never use pads or tampons again because they are eeeeevil and will kill you!!!" Not true, and everyone should be free to make their own choice. If my friends choose to wear triple-bleached, scented, glitter-encrusted, glow-in-the-dark tampons, all power to them. That's their choice and I respect it. I'd just like people to know all their options before choosing, and to know why the 'alternative' choices may not be as gross as everyone thinks.

Crazy Sister said...

Hey wow. I've never heard of this. It seems really gross, but I guess it's actually less gross than the alternatives!

I'm interested. Although my mother-in-law recently sent me a few hundred pads that for some reason were given as samples to my doctor father-in-law... they fill up an entire drawer in my bathroom and everything smells like Libra now. What would I do with them if I got a cup?

Femina said...

Actually I usually wear a pad as 'backup' in case of overflow, since I often forget the cup is there until I'm reminded by it filling up and spilling over. That only happens in the first two days of my cycle which are really heavy. Pads are helpful overnight too for the same reason. I use cloth (washable) pads because I'm a tree-hugging hippy but disposable pads work just as well.

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