In front of me is a little, pink rubbery device (does not have ears, does not vibrate). It looks like a cross between a cup, a funnel and something that probably belongs in a science lab. Honestly? I’m not massively enamoured about the idea of sticking it up my vagina. And yet, here I am. Here’s why I’ve decided to give a menstrual cup a chance –
Menstrual cups are becoming increasingly popular and it’s easy to see why. They’re reusable, eco-friendly, waste-free and much kinder to your vagina too. They’re also significantly kinder to your wallet; costing about £20 and lasting for up to 10 years versus the £5K(!) women reportedly spend on average across their lifetime of menstrual cycles.
When I first heard about menstrual cups (or Moon Cups, as I’ve always known them, but I realise now that’s just a dominating brand name a bit like Hoover or Jacuzzi) I decided that they sounded a bit…well…gross. That, or they were strictly reserved for tree-hugging yogis or girls with phrases like ‘moon child’ in their Instagram bio. I was quite happy with my tampon usage, had never stumbled across any issues and didn’t see a reason to try something new.
The first time I took the idea more seriously was back in January when I read a series of blog posts by Alice Spake about her experience switching to a menstrual cup. It sounded quite easy and actually not that gross at all. The reality is it’s just blood; I’m not squeamish, I’m comfortable with my own body and after choosing to come off of the pill last year I’ve actually found getting to know my cycle more intimately quite empowering. However, at the time I was whizzing around the outback of Australia in a camper van and frankly it was not the time to start trialling foreign objects up my foof. With another month in a van ahead in New Zealand, I quickly forgot all about the idea, which is just as well really because I think I’ve had a grand total of about 5 actual showers across the last 4 weeks, with the rest of my personal hygiene limited to creeks, rivers and glacial lakes.
This morning my cycle tracking app alerted me that I’m due on tomorrow so I stopped by a supermarket this afternoon to pick up some night-time pads to add to my tampon collection. Usually I use the green tampons (‘Super’ I believe – anyone else only know them by colour?!) during the day and one of those big, chunky pads at night time. As I was selecting my choice of almost-nappy I noticed they were selling menstrual cups. With only one night left in a camper van and endless showers ahead of me – *happy dance* – I popped one in my basket, alongside the pads (just in case).
To be honest I didn’t even think about this, there was one type available – the ‘Oi Cup’ by Organic Initiative, a New Zealand specific company – and I’m glad I didn’t have to sit and try and distinguish a difference between what seems to be the same product offered by lots of different brands.
In the UK I know Moon Cup, Diva Cup, Tulip, OrganiCup and Intimina are popular brands. You can even buy them on ASOS now.
Different brands have different ‘size charts’. This came in Small, Medium and Large distinguished as: for those under 18 or who don’t have regular sex, for those under 25 who haven’t given birth vaginally and for those over 25 or who have given birth vaginally.
I went for Medium and will now live in fear for what may happen to my vagina when I turn 25.
It’s a bit bigger than I was imagining and thicker too. It looks kind of awkward to keep it folded and stuff it up there simultaneously. Other than that, it’s as I was imagining. Wondering when Kate Spade are going to launch a collection of menstrual cup pouches because this little one mine’s come with looks like a Tesco cotton bag for life. Joking. Ish.
Giving it a go
I turned to my BFF, Google, and came across this really hand ‘how to’ guide on the OrganiCup website. It features tips, tricks and even little gifs to teach you how to fold it properly.
I put my origami skills to the test and practiced the folds. It was definitely fiddlier than I’d anticipated! I then followed the next piece of advice and practiced inserting and removing it whilst not on my period. I think this is a really good idea, not least because it’s definitely a bit of a learning curve and doing so with the addition of gloopy menstrual blood would not be all that much fun.
As per the instructions I sterilised it in boiling water first (and chucked in a sterident dental tab for good measure) and then practiced putting it in and taking it out again 3 times alternating between the two different folds to see if I found either easier.
Getting it up there wasn’t that difficult but I struggled to tell whether it had really suctioned. I guess I don’t even know what I’m looking for. I was hoping there would be some kind of satisfying noise, like when you cover the vacuum nozzle with the flat of your palm, but clearly not.
Once it was in I genuinely couldn’t feel it, I even did a couple of practice squats for good measure. I’ve heard that lots of people choose to trim the stem but it didn’t seem to bother me in the short time I had it in; remember we’re all built differently. Still, I was a bit concerned that I just didn’t know for sure whether it was in properly.
Taking it out was easy enough. I pulled gently on the stem and pushed down with my muscles and then squeezed the bottom and removed it carefully. I’ve always assumed it must kamikaze blood all over the bathroom floor but actually, although mine was obviously empty, I can see how it’s likely pretty spill-proof because it wasn’t hard to keep it upright whilst removing it.
I’m due on, so ask me in a week what I think! I’m fully prepared to commit to this for a couple of periods at least to see how it goes.