I think it’s clear from the title what the topic of this blog is going to be but in case you need a disclaimer here it goes: if you will be grossed out reading about periods, menstruation or blood, please do not read what follows. However, I would like to add that periods are normal, natural and healthy and people (of any gender) should be able to talk about them!
It took me until I was 28 to realise that I wasn’t as careful with what I put in my vagina as I was with what I put in my mouth.
If your mind went there, get it out of the gutter! I’m talking about tampons. I’d realised the importance of nourishing my body with good food and using lotions and products without chemicals to make sure I don’t harm my skin and the environment but I had no idea about the impact of using tampons and I was putting them into a very sensitive, highly absorbent part of my body every month.
For those who don’t know, tampons are made from a number of materials including some plastic, this means it cannot biodegrade or compost – all the tampons you use in your lifetime will still be on this planet after you are long gone. Weird, scary and a bit gross. This doesn’t even account for the additional plastic with applicator tampons. More concerning is the chemicals contained in tampons; tampons are bleached and this process creates chemical byproducts such as dioxin which has been proven to be harmful to humans causing reproductive issues and immune system suppression. Fragranced tampons contain even more unnecessary chemicals. The cotton used in tampons is often treated with a lot of pesticides in the farming process and the final product can still contain residues of these pesticides. It is worth noting that dioxin can also be found in some foods (meat, dairy, fish and shellfish) as well but let’s not add to the level in our body needlessly right! For more information on dioxins head on over to the World Health Organization website: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health
So needless to say, I decided I didn’t want to use tampons anymore. I started to look into menstrual cups, I did my research and it turns out there are so many different types and brands. Some are made for higher or lower cervixes, some which are more flexible than others, some which are better for beginners. Whoa, overwhelming much?! I came across an article which was super helpful in navigating what the different cups are like and which one would be best for me (https://menstrualcupreviews.net/).
I made a decision and ordered myself a lunette cup. When it arrived, I’d managed to run down my stash of tampons to my last few so it was perfect timing to be able to transition to the cup. Side note: if you do have a stock of tampons or sanitary towels you can donate these to a local homeless shelter for those unable to afford period products rather than just throwing these away.
I did a bit of research about peoples’ experiences using menstrual cups to prepare myself as I’d heard it can be hard to put in and take out to begin with. I would definitely recommend you do your research if you intend to start using a menstrual cup. These two videos were particularly informative (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpBku_K_hzE, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZe_bnPH1aw).
So my period came and I was genuinely excited! To put it in the cup, I folded it in on itself (the most common insertion method) I tried to put it in a couple of times changing the position of my hand, I got it in after about 5 attempts. Not too bad. I wasn’t sure if I’d done it right; I checked it to check it was there and one side still felt a little dented in. It’s important for the cup to open out properly to form a ‘seal’ around the cervix meaning so you don’t have any leakages. I tried to give it a little prod to see if I could make the side pop out but it wouldn’t. I was going out for a 10 mile walk (not ideal for the first day of my period but it happens!) so I wanted to make sure I would be ok and that no leakages would happen. Once we’d finished packing our bag to take with us for the day I had one last check and could feel that the cup had popped out to it’s proper cup-like shape; so I felt a little better about it. I still didn’t know how the seal worked and whether it was ok so I hoped for the best and headed out for the day.
We did the walk and returned home. We had toilet stops which was comforting as I was able to check all was good and no leakages happened. I couldn’t feel it during the walk and it didn’t limit me in any way.
I don’t have particularly heavy periods so I left it in for 10 hours (it’s ok for 12 hours). To remove the cup, I tried to walk my fingers up the stem to the cup to poke one side in and pull it out but couldn’t work out how to get the right position to do this. I ended up holding the stem by the root with my left hand, in between the thumb and forefinger, and used my right hand, the forefinger, to trace up the side of the cup. This way I could give a little push on the side of the cup to break the seal of the rim of the cup over the cervix. While I pressed in with my right forefinger, I pulled down with my left hand and the cup came out easily. If felt a little odd the first time, not bad or horrible, just a little strange.
Also, in the spirit of being completely honest – I worried about spillage as I pulled out the cup of I actually did this standing in the bath! It all came out ok and there were no spills. Everyone will be different and you’ll get used to the amount you bleed and how often you need to take the cup out.
When you do take it out, give it a rinse and make sure any holes in the cup near the rim are cleaned out. Then put it back in. I feel like it goes without saying, but make sure your hands are clean for all of this.
I continued using the cup for the rest of that period and by the third day I’d got so much better at putting it in and out.
Another great thing I found with the cup was that when my period came to an end I didn’t have that horrible feeling you get when you pull out a dry tampon. It was so much easier taking the cup out as normal with no problems and I just saw there was only a little bit of blood.
At the end of your period you should sterilise your cup in a saucepan of boiling water for 3-5 minutes moving it around so it doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. Let it dry and then store until your next period.
One last thing to mention is that you can keep the cup in overnight but I don’t bleed too much at night so I got myself some period pants which I can wear instead.
I’m so glad I started using a menstrual cup. I don’t know why I didn’t start sooner. It’s amazing and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Please share your stories down below. If you’re using a menstrual cup how did you find your first time? If you’re not – are you thinking about getting one and what’s stopping you from giving it ago?