Three months ago I made the switch from tampons to using a menstrual cup. I was road tripping through New Zealand in a camper van and feeling particularly money and plastic-conscious. I wrote about my initial thoughts as I took my rubbery new pal home and prepared to…well, stuff it up my vagina.
Over three months and three periods on I feel confident in saying that deciding to start using a menstrual cup was definitely one of the better decisions I’ve made regarding my body. A little like when I decided to come off of the pill, something just felt better.
Around £60 a year (calculated on my usage of around 20 tampons, 5 night time pads and 5 liners a month). Over 10 years that’s a holiday!
Based on my monthly usage of tampons and pads, that’s an annual saving of:
- 240 plastic applicators
- 240 tampons
- 12 boxes
- 240 plastic wrappers
- 60 night time pads + packaging
- 60 liners + packaging
How do I keep it clean?
I rinse my cup between every removal/reinsertion and ensure it’s completely clear. Personally I do not use soap and for the last 2 periods the tap water has been un-pottable but this has not been a concern.
At the end of each period I submerge it in a cup of boiling water (from the kettle) and throw in a sterident tablet (the kind you use to sterilise braces) too. I then store it in the cotton pouch it came in until next month.
What if I need to empty it in a public bathroom?
In all honesty, this is really unlikely to be necessary unless you’ve got a very heavy flow or haven’t timed it right. Most people are able to just change it in the morning and evening from the comfort of their home (I do it in the shower!). If you do find yourself needing to empty it whilst out out don’t want to rinse it in a communal sink you can either use a water bottle to clean it, or just wipe it out with some loo roll and wash it when you get home.
My flow is too heavy for a cup?!
No…it’s not. A cup holds the equivalent of about 4 super tampons. Do the math and work out how regularly you need to empty it. You can always wear a pad too to start with if it makes you feel more secure!
Can it get stuck?
No. There’s nowhere for it to go; it is not going to get lost or do a runner. The only time you might find removal difficult or uncomfortable is if you’re tense or you don’t release the suction. Relax, push it down with your muscles and then just pinch the bottom and slowly remove it.
I’m worried about getting it up there; it looks too big?!
Let’s be honest…things are designed to go up there. If you’ve used tampons comfortably and are having sex then you’ve really, really got nothing to worry about when it comes to using a menstrual cup. Inserting it might initially feel a bit weird but you’ll quickly get to grips and find the easiest way for you.
If you’ve never used tampons it may be the place to start just to get used to the idea. It all depends on how comfortable you are with touching your own body; I think in itself that process is a positive one to experience!
Can I sleep in a menstrual cup?
Yep! No problem at all. You definitely don’t need to vertical for it to work.
Can I swim in a menstrual cup?
You can do anything wearing one. As you’ll read below, I spent a week scuba diving and it became my BFF!
How long can you leave a menstrual cup in for?
Recommended on most instruction leaflets is 12 hours. You’ll see from my usage I’ve broken this limit several times! That’s because menstrual cups do not have an association with TSS. Make you own call!
Which one should I use?
There are lots of brands! I ended up using a New Zealand one as thats where I was travelling at the time but had I been at home I’d likely have gone for a Moon Cup, which looks the same as what I have. You can even order them off of ASOS (linked here!)
Having practiced in the back of a van after a couple of glasses of red wine, I was both excited and apprehensive for my impending period; my first using a menstrual cup. To start with inserting it felt a bit awkward and it took some time to figure out the easiest fold but generally, I was really relaxed about the whole process which I think helped a lot. I quickly forgot I was even wearing it and by the third day, by which point my flow is usually light, I thought nothing of leaving it in for 16 odd hours as I caught an early morning flight to Bali.
Initially I was concerned it wasn’t in properly but consoled myself with the notion that if I’d placed it wrong I’d soon find out, whether because it would be uncomfortable or leak. Thankfully, neither happened and I quickly got used to working out where it was supposed to sit; a little lower than you’d put a tampon but high enough that you can’t feel it.
I found removing it a breeze. I think often people imagine some sort of Dexter-esque massacre scene across the bathroom floor. Where possible, I just took it out in the shower. I didn’t spill it, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way. In a (probably quite grotesque) way I found seeing how full it was quite interesting; in that first week I felt I learned a lot about my period. Changes in flow and texture that you may not normally see or notice became great indicators of where I was in my cycle.
Perhaps the best part of all was towards the end, those couple of transition days that are too light for a tampon but will absolutely ruin your favourite undies. Unlike an ultra-drying tampon, a cup is not causing your body any harm so I had no issue with leaving it in a little after my period had seemingly ended to catch the grotty aftermath.
The entire process was a lot easier than I expected. Yes, it’s intimate but it didn’t ever once feel icky or uncomfortable. I survived my first period and – miraculously – not a single pair of knickers were harmed in the process!
After a smooth-sailing first cycle, I didn’t have any fears for period numero two. In fact, I felt a lot more attuned to my body and – with the help of the Clue app – actually realised I was due on and popped it in in anticipation which made me feel like a bit of a vagina ninja. I trimmed off the stem – something I’d been a little apprehensive of doing the first time round – which made it even more comfortable.
I spent this week scuba diving in Indonesia and if that isn’t testimony to the power of the cup then I don’t know what is! With 12 hours or so at the dive centre a day – often rolling later into sundowners – and a couple of hours submerged under the ocean, I didn’t once even think about my period. I popped my cup in in the shower in the morning and it didn’t cross my mind until at least 16 hours later when I emptied it (in the shower again) before bed.
I know using tampons would’ve made that week so much more stressful. I’d have had to do the math and work out how long I’d had one in, to scuttle off to change it in the tiny little loos, to worry that the string was hanging out my bikini like a demented rodent tail.
Basically by the end of this week I was ready to buy cups for every woman I know.
By this point I felt like a menstrual cup expert. Ironically, this is the only time I had a very minor mishap when I wore it for about 17 hours on day one when my flow was a little too heavy to cope with that duration. It was my own fault; I had a mammoth lie in. In reality, there was no carnage just a few skids in my pyjama bottoms that told me I’d been a bit over-zealous.
Beyond that, I have nothing to report. I’m happy, my vagina is happy, the planet is happy, my wallet is happy and I honestly could not see myself using another product again.
I’m so intregued by the menstrual cup, I’ve wanted to give one a go for a while now. I’m so conscious about the amount of plastic I use when using tampons, its so bad for the environment. Perhaps I’ll have a look into getting one!
Lucy | Forever September
I’m currently travelling around New Zealand and I’ve decided to give one of these ago after hearing you rave about it! I’m so nervous but you’ve definitely answered many of my questions so I’m actually a little excited too! Amazingly detailed and informative post as always Beth! Xx
This post was so helpful – thank you! I’m definitely going to get one now.