It’s a bright sunny morning and you’re out and about in the great outdoors, brimming with excitement at what the day might have in store for you. Spirits are high and you’re truly enjoying yourself until lo and behold, you discover something that’s not exactly the hidden forest trails or picturesque views that you expected to find; instead, it’s your period popping in to say hello.
That time of the month has just announced its arrival, not making our lives easier in the least and I’m sure my fellow women travelers can relate hard, amirite girls? Or whether you’re non-binary, trans or genderqueer, every individual who bleeds can relate to the stress that comes with it when you’re on the move and away from the comfort of home. We’re only too acquainted with issues like finding hygienic spaces, dealing with period cramps and the constant anxiety of spotting and checking for leaks.
Now what if I told you that there existed one way to bid goodbye to all these worries for good? Yes, I’m talking about the menstrual cup, a product that is in my opinion absolutely revolutionary. I made the switch from sanitary pads to the cup in Jan 2017 and never looked back. What inspired me to do this? It was an article I came across on social media by a young woman who wasn’t afraid to try something new, no matter how unconventional. And by writing this, I hope in some part I can do for you what she did for me.
While I’m sure a lot of you must be familiar with the cup, for those who find themselves new to this, don’t worry I got you covered. This read entails everything you need to know about the cup from A to Z. To begin with, menstrual cups are made of soft medical grade silicon, safe rubber in simple terms. It’s an environment-friendly alternative to sanitary napkins and tampons as it can be reused for years.
You have to insert it in your vagina where it can stay for hours and collect all the blood hassle-free. A common doubt that you may have is if you can pee and poop with the cup inside you and the answer to that is of course you can! The cup sits neatly inside the vagina, without disturbing any of your other functions. Every 6-12 hours you have to remove and empty the cup, depending on your flow and reinsert it.
Pull it out, pour the blood, and reinsert. It’s that simple. Now I understand that not everyone is comfortable with the idea of inserting a foreign object into one’s body, and that’s quite reasonable. Most of us were introduced to pads at a very young age, sometimes even before we got our first period. Growing up without any means to an alternative, we remain unaware that choices do exist. Lacking the exposure, we tend to stick to the familiar. But it’s the age of the internet folks! I am frankly shocked that the awareness around menstrual cups is so low, despite the fact that its advantages over other period products widely outweigh the almost negligible downside. You have access to all the information in the world, so don’t take my word for it.
Do your research, watch some of the thousands of YouTube videos out there to help you learn more and ease into this transition.
I love everything about the cup. EVERYTHING. Needless to say, I could go on and on about how amazing it is but I’ll try my best to keep this short.
You already know that menstrual cups are reusable, they can be reused for anywhere between 5-10 years! Try and compare that with the regular use of sanitary pads and imagine the sheer amount of waste that gets generated. On top of that, sanitary napkins contain plastic, and add to the plastic pollution crisis the world is facing currently. Once you throw that used pad in the bin, you forget about it.
But it stays in the environment for hundreds of years. Having been presented with an eco-friendly, sustainable alternative, wouldn’t you take it? As co-habitants of the Earth, we all have a responsibility to the planet and if you think about it, implementing this one little change in your life can have a huge impact in the long term.
You must have seen sanitary napkin ads boast about their capabilities to absorb longer, lock away the moisture, being leakage-free, etc. I find this ironic now, because this is exactly what pads don’t do. The blood stays in our panties for hours, rotting away. And unfortunately, smells. A lot. The gel used in sanitary pads that apparently lock the wetness in fact contain chemicals, so while there is absorption of blood by the pad on one hand, what you may not know is there’s also the reverse absorption of chemicals happening simultaneously as a result of the body staying in contact with it for hours.
Tampons soak up the walls of the vagina and pose the danger of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a potentially fatal disease. Unlike both these products, there’s the cup. Its made of medical grade silicone that doesn’t react with the vaginal walls and nor does it absorb blood. It simply collects it inside our bodies in a clean and hygienic manner, reducing the risk of infections and/or rashes that come with the use of pads and tampons. Research suggests that the use of menstrual cups helps in reducing cramps and in general the pain and discomfort caused during periods. This is because the cup creates a suction when placed inside which is also how it attaches itself to the vaginal walls.
Many women with PCOD and PCOS conditions have recommended the use of the cup, having observed several positive effects.
The cup is a one-time investment for your overall menstrual health. A standard menstrual cup costs anywhere between 500 – 800 Rupees. Just one product has the power to replace all the purchases you’d have to otherwise make on pads every month of every year. It can be used from ten years to a lifetime and is clearly cost-effective. You can start saving now!
Once the cup is locked in position in the vaginal canal, it won’t move up or down on its own and neither can you feel it inside you. This makes it the perfect period companion for sports, adventure and all things travel! This is honestly the thing I like most about the cup. The tight seal formed by the cup on insertion is what makes it hard to get dislodged and also water tight, making it absolutely leak-proof. You can go about a wide-range of activities, completely worry-free, be it swimming, horse riding, cycling, yoga or even mountain climbing.
Its freedom, in a cup. The cup is tiny, it can literally fit in the palm of your hand. This quality makes it extremely easy to carry anywhere, especially on your trips. You can get a small pouch to keep it in and you’re good to go!
Since it is designed to rest comfortably inside your body, there is no feeling of dampness or stickiness at all. No dryness, irritation, odour or rashes whatsoever. The process of insertion and removal is entirely painless and a mess-free experience. At first, mastering the technique may seem daunting, but don’t lose heart. With a little bit of patience and a couple of YouTube tutorials, you’ll definitely figure it out. It certainly helps to have a fair knowledge of the female anatomy, and if you don’t that’s totally okay and you can maybe try to insert a finger inside to become familiar with your vagina and gain a more precise understanding of your body.
You may also use it before or after your period is over (for light flow) without any causes for irritation or discomfort. Inserting it in before your period even starts or around the time you expect it to so that you don’t have to worry about it if you have a trek planned later for instance. A great way to avoid those unwanted surprises if you ask me! Disposal becomes a non-issue as well.
As much as I’d like to say that that it was a completely smooth sailing process for me, that isn’t exactly true and I want to be as honest as I possibly can so that you know you’re not alone in the newness of it all. I have been where you are. When you try to insert the cup for the first time, you might get it in one go, or struggle a bit like I did. What’s important is that you don’t give up. Keep attempting until you get it right. And you will. The new is always challenging but you’ll become a pro in no time. It took me almost a month to finally fit the cup in there. I don’t want to dishearten you, but yes, it was hard. And I was really close to calling it quits.
But then I discovered a new kind of fold and upon trying it, I managed to insert it in one straight go! That was definitely an eureka moment for me, the sense of victory sweeping all over me. There’s no correct way to insert the cup, what works for one may not work for another. I’d suggest that you experiment with the different types of folds to figure out which one is for you. These folds are extremely simple and easy to learn with a quick google search. Once the cup is fully inside you, you’ll feel it open up and slowly stick to the walls of your vagina. The tip of the cup should be right above the vaginal opening. Be careful not to push it too far in as that will make it harder for you to remove it.
In order to remove the cup you can use two or three fingers to reach its sides and pinch it. This will break the airtight seal and fold the cup after which you can pull it out. Give yourself time to get used to the feeling of the cup. I found it really uncomfortable in the beginning and was super aware of it all times, scared of what might happen. Now it feels so normal that I sometimes forget it’s even in there! You might feel the need to keep checking on it, or removing it immediately after insertion. That’s completely normal. Patience is key here. It took me 2-3 cycles with the cup to get entirely comfortable with its every aspect so hang in there!
1). What if it gets stuck inside?
It is literally impossible for the cup to get stuck inside. However, the worst that can happen is that you push it too far up inside to reach. If this happens, do not panic because the cervix won’t let it go any further than your vagina and it cannot get lost in there. Simply squatting and flexing your pelvic muscles to push the cup back down should do the trick.
2). Can I still use it if I’m a virgin?
Yes, of course you can. Using the cup has nothing to do with your virginity or sexual activity. Remember, the vagina is a flexible muscle after all. The experience is the same for all, virgin or not. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from trying the cup with this reason.
3). But its so small, will I have to empty it multiple times a day?
No! That’s the best part. The cup may look tiny, yet its super efficient at its job. I for one don’t find the need to empty my cup more than once a day. Obviously, this differs according to the intensity of each person’s flow. You’d be surprised to see how little we actually bleed, contrary to what pads make us feel.
4). Will I have to remove it every time I pee or poop?
No not at all. In case you didn’t know, there are three holes down there and each serves it’s own function. You can easily pee or poop with the cup inside you.
5). Does the stalky end hang outside the body?
A lot of menstrual cups have a small stalk at the tip to ease locating it and removal. But it completely fits inside the body and no part of the cup protrudes in any manner.
In India, several brands providing quality menstrual cups are available in the market today. The one that I have been using is by Boondh, you can check out their website - https://www.boondh.co/ The cost of one cup is ₹700 and they come in some really cute colors too! I’m personally fond of their products because of all the work they have put into improving the menstrual health of rural women, generating work opportunities for them by creating such lovely sustainable products. Amazon also has a wide variety of options you can choose from.
Peesafe is another brand offering good products with affordable pricing. If you’re thinking of embarking on this beautiful journey with the menstrual cup, congratulations on taking the first step already and welcome to the world of easier periods! The decision may seem like a scary one but trust me, it’s a decision that your body will definitely thank you for.
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