8.03.2013

Natural Health Hack #3: The Menstrual Cup


Who says menstruation can't be fun?
The Diva Cup, the Moon Cup, The Keeper:  reusable menstrual cups go by many different names, but I call mine simply tremendous.  Ladies (and gentlemen, because you need not be shielded from the details of a woman's cycle), when you're faced with boxes of disposable feminine hygiene products wrapped in plastic, doused in bleach, laced with dioxin and godknowswhat, the modest menstrual cup shouts from the shadows, "THERE IS A BETTER WAY!"

For those who are unfamiliar, the menstrual cup is exactly what it sounds like:  it's a cup, for your menstrual blood.  Typically made from flexible silicone but also available in latex or natural rubber, the cup is folded and then inserted into the vaginal canal, where it unfolds to create a seal with the inner wall of the vagina.  When used correctly, the cup remains securely in place and collects menstrual fluid until it is removed to be emptied via a stem or nub at the base.  Depending on the quantity of flow, the cup may be left in place for up to twelve hours at a time (that's what the pamphlet says, but I recommend 6-8 hours max), and may be worn safely during high activity and overnight.

Most menstrual cups run between 30 and 40 US dollars.  One cup may be used for 5 years before replacement is recommended.  They are typically available in two different sizes:  a smaller size for women who have not had children, and a larger size for those who have.

There are a myriad of reasons to switch to a menstrual cup for your cyclical needs.  It's cheaper, more convenient, and eliminates huge quantities of landfill waste.  The menstrual cup is safer than tampons.  It is not disruptive to the vaginal environment, nor does it scrape the wall of the vagina as tampons do.  It also facilitates a better understanding of one's own cycle, as the quantity, consistency, and color of the flow may be observed.

However, as a long-time user and advocate of the menstrual cup, I will tell you plainly that, if you are going to make the switch, you must dispense with your squeamishness about menstrual blood.  Every 6-8 hours when you empty your cup, you will dump the contents in the toilet, rinse the cup out in the sink, fold and reinsert.  This sometimes involves a bit of blood on your hands.  It also involves venturing inside of your vagina for both removal and insertion.  You can do this.  It's okay.

I have used my Diva Cup for 3+ years and never once considered going back.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for the planet.

Links to Purchase


Readers:  Do you use a menstrual cup?  Have you considered it?  Leave your comments or questions below!

17 comments:

  1. Wow we don't have that here... I will google that right now!!!!!

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    1. You might be surprised. Take a look at this list. http://bepreparedperiod.com/PeriodTalk/question.php?que_id=31&value=1

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  2. Everyone who knows me know how I feel about the diva cup. Despite the occasional mess, I could NEVER imagine going back. One of the most enlightening thing about the Diva Cup is the insight you gain from your cycle. Tampons definitely don't give you an accurate idea of what's really coming out of you. Thanks to the Diva Cup, I was able to store a whole cycle's worth in a peanut butter jar, to the delight of me, my boyfriend and all of my fans. Love these eco-friendly hygiene posts! XO-Erica.

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    1. Love the blood harvest! What did you do with it?

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  3. I love the ease of use (except for camping situations where handwashing is less available)

    However, I did find it a bit uncomfortable. I wondered if I wasn't getting it to unfold properly and the suction wasn't happening right... but now I am pregnant and it's not an issue anymore! I will try again when the cycle returns!

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    1. Hi Alice. I'm sorry you found it uncomfortable to use. When I'm having an especially bad period with cramps, bloating, etc., the cup can be uncomfortable, but no more so than a tampon would be. Maybe you could find one that's of a thinner, more flexible material. Maybe the latex cups could work?

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  4. Hey there, I used the Diva cup for a a year, but have given up on it, I tried both sizes, but no matter what it would always leak on my second day of the cycle. I love the idea, absolutely think it's just fantastic, but thought it wasn't working. Any idea what was going on?

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    1. If the cup doesn't form a seal when it unfolds, then it will leak. When I insert mine, I make sure it unfolds and then give it a tug to ensure it's properly sealed and secure. But everyone is shaped a little differently inside, so maybe the Diva Cup just isn't the right shape for you...? You could try a different brand in a different material and/or slightly different shape. In all truth, though, the menstrual cup is never going to keep you completely clean and dry like a tampon. There will be a tiny bit of blood that gets onto your underwear every time you change the thing, almost no matter what.

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  5. I need to get one! My budget has been to tight to splurge on one just yet. I recently tried, "Instead, a disposable menstrual cup that last 12hrs, and it was terrible! There was only one size, which personally does not work for those who havenʻt had children. What are the best deal out there for cups?

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    1. The Moon Cup seems to be the cheapest option at less than $30. It comes in different sizes. If you're using tampons and/or pads, a menstrual cup will pay for itself in a matter of months. It's not a splurge, it's an investment!

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  6. Ooh, nothing like some good old menstrual talk! I've been using my MoonCup since 2006... Reading what you wrote, it might be time to invest in a new one, although I haven't seen any signs that mine is wearing out. I do have to say that I hate that little moment of pain when pulling the cup out though - sometimes on my cycle I am already such a baby that it's almost more than I can bear! I wonder if the newer ones are somehow softer or easier to remove?

    I also supplement my moon cup with cloth menstrual pads to catch any leakage and to wear at night or around the house. I recently replaced my set after 5 years - pretty awesome shelf-life all around!

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  7. Yeah, just looking at other brands. The seal always seemed to be fine, and it would only ever happen on every time on the second day, not just a little leak either, other times absolutely nothing! I loved it most of the time ; ) Shall have to shop around! Cloth pads for that second day may be an idea too.

    La Gitane, I too didn't like that pain either......thought it was just me being a baby ; )

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    1. I know, I can't stand it! Apparently there are some much softer ones available nowadays, when eventually I decide to buy another one I may look into it, or one with a narrower rim. Generally on days 1-2 I have to empty the cup every 3-4 hours because I have a very heavy flow, so there's no way I could use it overnight. Instead I use extra long, soft flannelette pads and generally with the extra long ones I don't have any leakage issues.

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  8. Although I'm now into Crone territory, I loved my Keeper and used it for the last 8 years of my cycle. Friends and lovers had mentioned them to me, but I finally bought my own after my daughter received one from a new boyfriend as a gift on their first Christmas together (now that's committement - and they're still together!).

    These are so much more sustainable and cash-efficient than tampons, and very easy to use once you get in the groove. The fold and the little tug to ensure a secure seal are crucial if you want secure protection. To help with that tugging pain when you pull out the full cup, here's what worked for me (sounds more complex than it is): As you reach in for the cup with one hand, give it a little pinch to release the suction effect. If the cup is really full, you may get some flow on your hand (hold a pad of tissue just below ground zero with the other hand - just in case), but it does diminish that tugging ache.

    Leakage is one of those rites of life for any woman -I don't think anything could fully prevent that. When necessary I'd supplement with reusable cotton pads. There are so many great options, some with inserts of various levels of absorbency, so you can adjust for the day's flow.

    But you can definitely minimize leaking by emptying the cup regularly (I think 12 hours is way too long - just empty it whenever you would normally change a tampon), and practicing to get the seal just right. If you're in a public restroom stall, have a little wad of toilet tissue in hand and use it to swab out the cup, then reinsert. It doesn't need a scrub down between sessions.

    Regarding the issue of getting your hands up in your vagina, do people still worry about that? No fear, folks! Every girl should learn to feel OK about getting her hand inside a vagina. There are many reasons why this might be a useful skill, only one of which is inserting a menstrual cup.

    Two final tips: Always wash blood-stained fabrics in COLD water and salt. Hot water will set the stains, cold water flushes them. And if you empty the cup into a small jar of water, and use the water on your plants, you'll get some very, very happy gardens. That is some nutrient-rich stuff there!

    Oh, one last tip - I regularly had various sorts of sex while wearing my Keeper, with no untoward mess.

    They're not on my packing list any longer, but I'm still a fan of a good menstrual cup.

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    1. Great tips, Cynthia! Thank you! Yes, definitely pinch the cup before removal to reduce tugging and pain.

      I, too, have enjoyed mess-free sexual activity with the cup, but obviously not vaginal intercourse, as the space is ocupado. Don't let the flow damp your fire! Be creative!

      Never thought to use the fluid as fertilizer. Very excellent.

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