Remember those sanitary pads’ ads where the girl is tossing and turning in the bed at night for fear of staining. Don’t know about others but that’s most definitely me. I have spent sleepless nights, slept on a side, tried those XXXXXXXLs and still made multiple nocturnal visits to the washroom. And no, it ain’t that the stain embarrasses me but doing the laundry isn’t my idea of fun!
And then after almost three decades of period(ic) suffering I discover the menstrual cup, almost by serendipity. There’s a small back story to this which I have to share. Some of my online bloggers discussed about it and while I was still debating about it, my daughter learnt about it in school. When she asked me about it, I parroted out what I knew but felt like a fake. That tipped the scales for me.
So here I am, my dear girls, to report that I am the recent most menstrual cup convert. Ever since, all I have been wondering is, why did I never try it before? Why no one talks about it when they have been around since 1930s?! Why ain’t more and more women using it and enthusing about it?
May be because it doesn’t generate as much profit unlike other products in the same category, it doesn’t enjoy the attention it deserves. Rather than wasting any more time on analysing that, I am sitting down to do what I do best… write about it. So here it is, culled from my professional and more importantly my personal experience, my take on the cup;
What’s a menstrual cup?
It is a flexible, bell-shaped cup made of medical grade silicone. It has a stem that helps in its insertion and removal into the vagina during menstruation. The cup holds the menstrual fluid and prevents it from leaking.
Now I know, it sounds icky and messy…the idea of pushing something down ‘there’, pulling it out and emptying it in the toilet bowl. But trust me it ain’t. It might take a while to get used to, but you’d get there!
How to use it?
Wash your hands, fold the cup and insert it like a tampon. Once inside, it will open up against the vagina’s walls, forming a seal. The menstrual blood will simply pour in.
The instructions are mentioned nicely and clearly on the package inserts. Online too, there are enough instructional videos, for a better understanding. I’d say that it’s a trial and error thing but doesn’t take long to master. You know it’s done right when it doesn’t hurt, you cannot feel it and there’s no leak. If any such thing is happening, take it out and reinsert.
Before removing it, wash your hands and just pull the stem that you can feel sticking out. Do remember to pinch the base as that helps overcome the vacuum. Once out, tilt it to empty it and wash with soap and water. Voila its ready for reuse.
I’m a little obsessive so I bought two. I alternated between washing one and using the other. Worked well this time since I was home. A water-based lubricant has been suggested if it’s difficult to manoeuvre but I didn’t need one. Ensure its water based else it might degrade the silicone.
How long can it stay in place?
Depending on the flow, you might have to remove it more frequently on the heavy days. On an average a cup can hold anywhere between 25-30 ml depending on its size. In any case, it’s safe to keep it for up to 12 hours.
Since I was home, on the heavy flow days, I kept checking because unlike pads it’s a little difficult to know. Initially you can supplement with a liner or a pad till you figure out the pattern.
Where to buy it from?
I bought it online. Haven’t tried the chemist’s shop but no harm asking. Even if you don’t get it, you’ll have fun watching his expression and his gaping mouth.
There are disposable varieties too, I’m told. I didn’t bother looking them up. If you are finicky or doubtful, you may want to give that a try.
How to know which one?
There are different sizes available depending on age and history of childbirth.
Usually these two are enough to help you decide but just in case you feel discomfort, consult your gynaecologist who’ll help you with right fit.
How to care for it?
When the cycle is on, washing with mild soap and water is enough. Once the period is over, just sterilize in boiling water for a few minutes. Allow it to dry and store in a dry place.
Cleaning in public toilets or at work could be an issue for some. Keep tissues handy and some wet wipes. Trust me when I say there’s no splash or mess as some of us tend to imagine.
Why should you use it?
Don’t trust me but you have to trust the studies that have been conducted to vouch for its safety.
It’s eco- and pocket-friendly
Even if the one time cost may seem higher, but a cup lasts up to 10 years which overcompensates that initial costs. Your conscience is at ease when you know that this switch means much less waste in the land fill.
Stays longer and holds more
You can keep it for up to 12 hours which means I had a good night’s sleep after ages without having to worry about the sheets.
Periods have no smell
I had always read about it but this is the first time I REALLY understood what it meant.
No more rashes
Don’t know about others, but with the pads, I used to suffer from rashes and chafing. With the cup they’re history now… that’s another first for me!
Why should you NOT use it?
Frankly, I have no reason not to. I am converted for life.
The only women who may choose not to use a cup would be the IUD (intrauterine device) users because there’s a theoretical chance that while pulling out the cup the IUD might just get dislodged, though it hasn’t been proven. Consulting a gynaecologist would be safer for such women.
For some, finding the right fit could be an issue. Give it time, is my sincere suggestion.
Others might find still it embarrassing or messy. Again, with time one learns to work out a way. But that needs commitment. As they say, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. There are more reasons to say yes than to say no, so girls, go ahead, experience it and share it.