Ever since my reproductive system hit womanhood and starting to shed on the monthly, I’ve been a tampon wearer. Yep, after *that* secret society meeting in the assembly hall with the rest of the girls in my year where we were packed on our merry way with a goody bag of pamphlets, tampons and sanitary pads, I swore my sanitary product allegiance.
It’s not that I have an issue with sanitary pads per se, I just never quite got used to the feeling my uterus free flowing into my underwear, even if there was a mattress thick pad there to catch it. Pass me a tampon, bung it up there for a couple of hours and switch it out as and when needed. Relatively mess-free, a little more reassuring and I don’t seem to get the thrush style symptoms and itchiness that prolonged wear of a pad seems to give.
However, since turning 30, my periods have gone to whack. I came off the contraceptive pill because my moods became unpredictable and I seemed to open the floodgates to the worst periods I’ve ever had. Floodgates being the operative word. My fourth day period pain began to feel just as horrendous as the second day, I found myself getting through 4 Super tampons before 10 am and was tempted to become the girl who wraps herself in hot water bottles at her desk. Am I painting a colourful enough photograph for you? My periods started making me miserable.
I’d had enough of bulk buying tampons, panicking about leaking on the go (after a couple of embarrassing moments) and I was tired of ruining my best undies. I’d heard positive things about menstrual cups and I figured I may as well give it a shot and to be honest, it changed my periods… once I got the hang of it. Whenever I’ve mentioned a menstrual cup since, the response is always the same: “I was thinking about using one, but…” and with that came a hundred (there about).
So let’s take a look at everything you wanted to know about using a menstrual cup (but probably didn’t want to ask!)
Isn’t changing it gross and inconvenient?
I’m not going to lie to you, it takes a little bit of getting used to the inserting and removing process but once you’ve cracked it, it’s as easy as doe rae me.
- To insert you fold the cup in half and hold it with your thumb and forefinger, insert into the vagina and once in position (which is lower than a tampon would usually sit but so the whole cups is inside) release your fingers. You’ll more than likely feel it open up as it forms the suction which means that it’s in correctly. You can even give it a bit of a twist so that it’s sitting comfortably.
- To remove, you simply pinch the base of the cup to release the suction and gently pull it down and out using the base.
- Once it’s out, you just need to tip any blood into the toilet and there’s no need to inspect to see whether your cup runneth over (unless you want to).
- Before re-inserting, simply give it a little rinse out or wash with soapy water and then reinsert.
This part may not always be the most inconvenient, what if you’re on a night out or at work or in a field camping for example? In these instances, I’ll just take a bottle of water to the loo with me or wet a hand towel before going into the cubicle so that I can give it a quick clean that way. For hygiene sake, and just because germs are bad, always make sure your hands are clean when inserting and removing your cup.
What if I don’t wanna be that intimate with my vagina?
Let’s be realistic, it’s your vagina and there really is no issue with giving it a jiggery poke every now then. Whether you wear a tampon or a sanitary towel, or even just from wiping yourself clean, it’s more or less a given that you’re gonna come into contact with your vagina when you go to the toilet, especially at the time of the month. Yep, it can be a little bit ick and you wouldn’t ideally but it’s a) natural and b) a product of your own body. Because the blood isn’t sucked up by a Tampon or towel, it also means that you’re more in tune with your body and how your flow changes throughout your cycle.
How long can I wear it for?
The beauty of a menstrual cup is that you can leave them in for longer than a tampon. Eight hours is the maximum time to wear a tampon, whereas with a menstrual cup you can gain up to an extra 5 hours between changes, giving you 12 hours of leak-free protection. Unless you’re super heavy, you can wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours, which means you can more often than not insert it in the morning and last an entire day at work without having to change it or worry that you’re going to leak, so having to fiddle with it when you’re “on the go” is rare. It also means you can sleep sound without worrying about making a mess of your favourite pants/sheets.
£25? That’s so expensive, my tampons are only £3 a box!
Let’s do the maths. If you bought one box of tampons a month for a year it’d cost you £36, and that’s not including those emergency sanitary dispensers in the loos for when your period just sneaks up on you. That’s £11 more expensive than the price of a menstrual cup.
With proper TLC a menstrual cup can last up to 10 years. That’s a £335 saving making it convenient, cost-effective and also much kinder to the environment as you’re not flushing or binning your waste.
Isn’t it uncomfortable to wear?
Not at all. The cup itself is made of silicone so it’s super smooth, soft and bendy and warms up with your body temperature which means once it’s in the position, you can’t really tell you’re wearing it. They also come in different size based on your age and whether you’ve had a child or not, which is handy.
Is it safe to put it inside you?
Completely! It’s actually safer than using a Tampon as there’s no risk of TSS and they don’t contain latex, BPA, dye or other creepy additives. Tampons also absorb any other natural fluids that occur in your vagina including when you’re sexually aroused, which is why you can feel quite dry when you remove a tampon which can lead to itching and an all-round uncomfortable fanny.
What if it gets stuck?
Well let’s cover the first thing: there’s literally nowhere for it to go once it’s in as its blocked by a little thing called the uterus, so it’s not like it’s gonna go floating through your body.
The first day I used mine, I spent a good half an hour squatting in the bathroom and panicked because I just couldn’t remove. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with a silicone cup inside me which would show up on airport scanners. Or it would back up and the sheer force would expel it whilst I was in the middle of Tesco. Of course, the more I panicked the more difficult it was to remove. Same as a tampon, it’s easier to insert and remove when you’re completely relaxed, panicking just makes your entire body tense up and you need the muscles down there to be loose.
It takes some getting used to removing it, I almost gave up because I thought it would never get easier, but once you’ve got the hang of the “pinch and pull” routine it becomes second nature, I can even do it drunk (and have several times).