I’m here to talk about something I love: menstrual cups. Yes that’s right, the small silicone cups that catch blood. While that’s not, perhaps, the most appealing way to talk about these things, it’s the truth of what they are.
I’ve always been fairly concerned about waste and wastefulness. I have been ever since I moved to a place where my garbage is not carted away and out of sight by large, noisy trucks at 7am. When I was a child, my family moved to rural Virginia, where you had to collect and load your own trash and recycling into your car or truck, and drive them to the landfill yourself. The sheer magnitude of our trash astounded me, and the size of the landfill even more so. How can one small community throw away so much stuff? How can one person throw away so much stuff? How is there even that much stuff to be thrown away? While it’s been a lesson long learned by me (and oft forgotten out of laziness), I’ve been determined my whole life to reduce the amount of waste I create and hopefully influence others to do the same. It’s often difficult to do so, living in a society of excess, where new is always better and why bother cleaning out the machine every day when you can just use K-cups instead?
One of the ways I significantly reduced the amount of waste I produce is by eliminating tampons and pads from my monthly rotation and replacing them with Dear Kate period underwear and my menstrual cup. In my time at a women’s college, I spoke to several about these handy little bowls of silicone to find that not only were they not the preferred method of monthly use, but they were often viewed with horror or disgust as well. Being a squeamish person myself, this was understandable. But as an environmentalist, it saddened me. Why should our own short-lived discomfort be prioritized over the well-being of millions of species and ecosystems? To me, it’s a no-brainier decision to use a cup. But to those of you who are not so eco-minded as myself, I’ll lay out the reasons in a handy-dandy list, as well as provide some advice for starting a cup below.
Menstrual cups are comfortable
How many of you have ever been in the middle of changing a tampon and just felt like you had an unwelcome exfoliation treatment? I know I have. Cups are super flexible and nowhere near as dry as that bleached wad of cotton you use, meaning when you do any sort of manipulating with it, it doesn’t feel like a piece of sandpaper wiggling around inside you. And because of this, cramps can also be lessened.
Menstrual cups are economical
While the initial price may send you into temporary sticker shock (anywhere between $30 and $50 for one cup), you’ll be saving tons of money for the many years you use it from not having to buy a box of tampons every month. Depending on how many boxes you go through in one month, you typically spend $200 a year on disposable menstrual equipment. Multiply that by 40 years of bleeding and you get…a lot. It saves you a lot of money.
Menstrual cups are cleaner
If you use them right. Each cup comes with care directions but they’re all the same: wash after each use, boil after each cycle, store in a dry place. The medical-grade silicone prevents things from going wrong between days when you don’t have time to boil it, and it means you won’t get Toxic Shock Sydrome. While tampons and pads have the bonus of being clean until they’re used, washing silicone once a day is definitely better than TSS, amirite?
Menstrual cups are less wasteful
Like I mentioned way above, think about how many tampons and pads you use each month. Now think about how many you won’t be throwing away if you start using a cup. Huge difference, right?
When I started on the cup, I started with the Diva Cup. I liked it well enough, but I found that when I’d be sleeping or exercising, there would be a lot of leaking. It took me a while to figure out why that was. If you’re already on a cup but there’s a lot of leaking, it could be 1 of 2 problems:
- The cup is too small
- The cup is too big
Of course, these opposites produce the same symptom, but I found that with my problem (it was too big) I was also feeling lots of pressure and discomfort as well — the cup was creating cramps where it normally wouldn’t. Once I diagnosed this problem I felt stuck. I was already using the small Diva Cup and it was too big. Did this mean I just was not cut out to use a cup at all? Thankfully, that’s not the case! In my days of research I managed to find a blog post from a woman in the UK who purchased and measured the length and diameter of various cups from various brands to show that indeed, one brand does not fit all (I can’t find it again, but if someone does, please tell me!). In her post she demonstrated that the Diva Cup is actually one of the larger menstrual cups on the market, meaning my fear of being too small to use cups was resolved. The cup sizes played out something like this (in descending order from largest to smallest):
Note: I don’t remember the exact specifics, and several other cups were measured as well, so position 2 and 3 may be incorrect. I recommend asking your gynecologist about the size and position of your vagina and cervix. Because the cup rests near your cervix, if you have a tilted cervix, maybe go smaller for comfort.
In regards to actually using it, I suggest playing with it a few times to get familiar with the rigidity of your cup, and to find the most comfortable and effective way to insert it.
Well that’s all I have to say, except for one last thing. To those who think it’s still too weird or gross to try, consider this: if you expect another human being to interact with the area at all, be it doctor or partner or even birthing a child, it’s much better to be comfortable with it yourself. Using the cup puts you in touch (no pun intended) with your body and your cycles in a way that tampons can’t while also saving you tons of money and stress. So perhaps, then, it’s really worth it to try it out. If you don’t like it, well, what’s $30 in the grand scheme of things?
To those who are eager to find the right fit (again, no pun intended), then happy hunting!