I started using a menstrual cup five months ago – and in such a short span of time, it has transformed my period in ways I could never have imagined.
It’s possible that you’ve never even heard of the menstrual cup, and if you have, you must have a lot of questions. This post is an attempt to answer some of those questions using my own experience with the cup, and hopefully convince you of its awesomeness.
But before I can start talking about why menstrual cups are so great, I need to explain what it is and how it works.
A menstrual cup is a soft, flexible cup worn internally during your period, as an alternative to sanitary pads or tampons. It’s made of medical-grade silicone, which makes it body-safe. It is folded and inserted into the vagina.
Once inside, it opens up and stays in place by making a vacuum seal. The edges of the cup stick to the vaginal walls, keeping the seal secure. The cup holds your menstrual flow in place, and does not leak. To empty the cup, you have to reach inside, pinch the base to release the seal, and pull it out.
The cup can be emptied into the toilet bowl or the sink, before it can be rinsed and re-inserted.
Why it’s better than a pad or a tampon
Essentially, the cup holds the flow, instead of absorbing it (as a pad or a tampon would). This means that the blood doesn’t react with the cup in any way, nor does it get mixed with sweat and whatever fragrances they add to the pad/tampon. There is no irritation, no rash, and no smell.
Once the cup is inside and securely in place, you won’t even be able to feel it – you can go about your day and forget about your period for up to 12 hours! (Except for the cramps, which, unfortunately even the cup can do nothing about.) You wouldn’t even have to worry about leaks or stains.
Imagine being able to sleep without having to worry about staining the sheets. You could go swimming, running, do cartwheels, or wear white pants. So long as the cup is securely inside, there will be no leakage.
My favourite thing about the cup is that it’s reusable.
All you need to do is rinse it and re-insert it every time you take it out.
At the end of your period, simply boil it in water for five minutes. The boiling will sterilise the cup without damaging it. Using any kind of soap (unless it’s a wash made especially for menstrual cups) is inadvisable as it can damage the cup and cause irritation.
Once you have sterilised it, you can store it in a clean pouch until your next period.
It’s easy on the wallet, and on the environment.
An average woman uses around 15 pads per period. That’s 180 pads in a year, and 1800 pads over 10 years. The pads I used to use cost around Rs. 10 each – that amounts to Rs. 18000 spent on disposable menstrual products over 10 years, as compared to Rs. 600 with a menstrual cup.
One menstrual cup costs around Rs. 600, and can last up to 8 or even 10 years. You’ll save an enormous amount of money.
Moreover, these pads – 1800 each year – end up in landfills. They can’t be recycled, and (for the most part) aren’t biodegradable. If we multiply that number by the number of menstruating women in the world, we have a massive environmental problem on our hands. Menstrual cups are a way to minimise that damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know which size to buy?
Most menstrual cup brands offer two sizes: a smaller and a larger (I don’t want to call it Small or Large, because sometimes they call it Small/Medium or Medium/Large). The smaller size is for women who haven’t given birth. The larger is for women who have given birth, and require a broader cup.
As long as you have picked the correct size, you don’t need to worry about the diameter of the cup. Vaginal walls are very elastic, and will accommodate the cup without causing any pain.
There is one more thing you need to consider: the height of the cup. Before selecting the cup, you should ideally measure how high your cervix is (for more, click here). Once you know how high your cervix is, you can choose the brand where the cup height is the same/slightly less than your cervical height.
How should I fold the cup?
Menstrual cups can be folded in various ways before insertion. You’ll have to experiment with the different types of folds and find out which one is the most comfortable for you. I personally prefer the Punch-Down Fold.
Will I need lubrication?
Generally – no. The menstrual flow is enough lubrication for the cup. However, you can also wet the rim of the cup with water for added comfort. If you feel like you’re having too much trouble inserting, try a water-based lubricant.
It’s important to remember that there is a learning curve to using the menstrual cup.
It’s a massive lifestyle change, and you are bound to encounter a few bumps in the road. The cup may not work perfectly the first time you use it. If you’re worried, you can use a safety pad for the first few times.
But with a bit of practice – probably in a day or two – you’ll not only be able to insert the cup properly, but also realise how great it is. Feel free to Google whatever questions (however weird) you may have, to help ease the transition.
The only downside to the cup is that you’ll have to get your hands messy, particularly the first few times. However, you have to remember that menstrual flow is just like any other body fluid (like saliva or phlegm), and being squeamish about touching it doesn’t make much sense.
So, please don’t hesitate, and buy yourself a cup. The menstrual cup has made my periods comfortable, affordable and sustainable, and if you give it a chance, it’ll do the same for you.
This post was written by Ritisha Mishra, an old friend! Ritisha has recently graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Delhi. Calcuttan, feminist and dog-lover, she is about to begin classes at XLRI, Jamshedpur. She can be found on Facebook.