Lifestyle writer Megan Burton shares her experience of using a menstrual cup for the first time, providing The Student with the lowdown of the cup’s compatibility with student life.
I hate buying period products. I hate the lengthy process of going into Sainsbury’s, trying to subtly pick out a box of tampons, burying them in the basket underneath the rest of my shopping and then rushing to the self-checkout to make sure no one can tell that I, a 20-year-old female, bleed from my vagina once a month. I also hate, that even as a broke student, I have to spend almost £10 a month on sanitary products (thank you tampon tax!).
What actually is a menstrual cup?
I first heard about menstrual cups at Sexpression’s fair a few months ago. I knew straight away that I had to try one but for some reason, I was anxious to buy one. Would straying from the conventional tampons and pads make me some sort of menstrual outcast? Ultimately though, I knew I had to try it. For the sake of period-havers everywhere, I had to venture into this bloody unknown, documenting my experience and sharing my new found period wisdom.
For those of you curious beings who have not yet tried a menstrual cup, I will give you the low down. It’s a small siliconey, cuppy, tubey thing that you pop up into your vagina and it collects your period blood. You simply empty it out, rinse it and stick it right back up in there.
One cup can last you for up to five years, although I have heard of people using them for longer than this. Not only does this save you a load of money, but it’s also so much better for the environment and it also doesn’t put you at risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. I have yet to find a negative.
Logistics low down
One thing I will say, though, is that you’ll become very comfortable with your vagina. I’d advise testing out the cup once or twice before you actually get your period because it can be a fiddly little thing. Some sort of lubrication might be a good idea as well because it can be quite difficult to get in.
Although please, for the love of god, put the lube on your vagina and not on your cup, otherwise it’ll be slipping out of your hands and into the toilet and nobody wants to be fishing around in toilet water.
Taking it out the first couple of times can also be quite tricky but I promise you it can be done! It’s impossible for the cup to get lost inside of you so it might just take some kegel muscles to push it down a bit lower, but I liked to think of this as practice for giving birth. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.
You might also need to trim the stem of the cup to make it more comfortable for you. Make sure you take the cup out before you bring the scissors to it; no one needs to go to the hospital with that sort of injury.
My last piece of advice before you give the wonder that is a menstrual cup a go is to wear some sort of panty liner or pad for the first couple of tries, just until you know you’ve put it in the right way. I, unfortunately, decided to go without and now one of my favourite pair of knickers have had to be thrown away.
The initial insertion
Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for. My actual experience with a menstrual cup. I was excited. I announced to my flatmates that I was trying out this new product and that they should be excited too. Alasdair didn’t seem to have the enthusiasm for my Mooncup that I thought it deserved, but I soon convinced him that this was going to be God’s gift to periods.
I properly put my Mooncup through the ringer. It stayed with me through long shifts at work, through a full day rugby tournament, through a ceilidh and through a very drunken night out. And it worked.
My first day was a little bit strange, I hadn’t trimmed it properly so could feel it while I was at work. I think I also didn’t put it in far enough (or maybe put it in too far?) and there was also a little bit of leaking, but I just had a little bit of a fiddle and that soon sorted out that problem.
I also struggled to take it out to begin with. My flatmate stood outside the bathroom door while I shouted what was happening to my vagina, and I feel like that definitely cemented our flatmate bond.
After that first day though, I genuinely had no problems with the cup. Well, I had one but I’ll get on to that in a minute. I was very nervous about the rugby tournament, especially considering that I was on a field in the middle of nowhere (well, the middle of Stirling) and didn’t have a load of access to alternatives if I needed them.
I didn’t need them. I spent the day running around, leaping and diving, definitely as graceful as a gazelle, and my vagina was completely fine. I felt like those girls in those tampon adverts; you know the ones where they run through the field of flowers in their white dresses and talk about how their periods are not a problem, and for the first time ever, I understood what they were talking about. Except I was using a menstrual cup. My victory that day was not our 9th place shield trophy (achievement, I know), but the fact that I had spent a full day of rugby with a cup inside of me, and had no trouble with it whatsoever.
The only problem I had after that first day, was when I decided to try and take out the cup after a few too many vodka cranberries. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to take a silicone cup out of your vagina when the room is spinning, but it’s not an easy task. After a few attempts, and an inner debate about whether my flatmate would be willing to come and help me, I got the cup out but getting it back in was a whole other story.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get the cup back into my vagina, and I’m sad to say this was the one time that I abandoned my Mooncup in favour of a good old fashioned pad. But for the sake of science, I would be willing to get drunk and try it again.
Altogether, my experience with a menstrual cup was a fabulous one. I am now a menstrual cup convert. How I went this long without trying one out is completely beyond me. I really struggled to resist the urge to announce to the world what was going on inside my vagina, and ultimately decided that I didn’t want to keep my menstrual cup a secret anymore.
The world needs to know about the wonder that is this product; everyone, everywhere, who gets a period needs to try one.
image: www.menstruationstasse.net via Flickr