Sorry to people who follow me for travel and Barcelona related posts! I will continue to post about both of those topics when I have something to write about but I am also going to be writing about other things that I am interested in and have an opinion on. This post comes from the fact that I have been asked about this by a lot of my friends over the past 6 months so I figured I’d address everything I’ve been asked in one concise post.
The commercial menstrual cup was first patented eighty years ago in 1937, so the product is hardly anything new but most women, including myself, hadn’t heard of it until about a year or so ago as the popularity of the cup has risen. Today, there are several different companies that manufacture the menstrual cup, which is usually made of medical grade silicone as latex was found to irritate some women. However, I am not writing this to give you information about the history of the menstrual cup because Google is a thing.
If you do want to know a lot more about its history I can recommend this Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast because those ladies have done their research and all their sources are available on the website too for further information.
So, on to my experience. As I live(d) in the UK, the Mooncup is the leading brand of menstrual cups and that is what I have so I will be referring to it by that name from here on out. I don’t remember how I actually came across the Mooncup in the first place, probably from some late night internet trawling that lead to an unexpected place. I do remember that once I discovered it, I read everything I could about it on the website and then immediately checked if my local Boots stocked it. I was so excited about this product for two reasons:
- I can’t use tampons, they irritate me and I have tried a fair few times and varieties to no success. The only other option I knew about for the past nine years that I’ve been menstruating was pads and they are also uncomfortable and leave you in a constant state of anxiety about leaking on your clothes and other people’s furniture. I think Rupi Kaur’s fantastic series of photos accurately represents a lot of women’s experiences with this.
- The Mooncup is a much more environmentally friendly solution to traditional sanitary products. According to several websites pads can take 500-800 years to decompose and knowing that all I could imagine was a pile of the approximate 1,300 pads I have used in my life so far sitting in a landfill. Not a pretty sight.
Bearing all this in mind, I headed down to Boots a few days later and purchased the Mooncup, which costs £21.99 and comes in two sizes for women who have and haven’t given birth. I know that £21.99 seems like a lot of money compared to £2 you spend on a box of tampons or pads a month but to be honest, I was happy to spend that money if it meant I would finally have a product that would make me feel slightly better during my period (also, think of those Boots advantage points). The cup will last for at least 5 years before it might need replacing so that means monthly you’ve paid about 35p for sanitary products after using the cup for its recommend life. Purchase in hand and on my way back home, I was actually getting a little excited for my period because I was so intrigued by it and I was the first of my friends to use one so I had almost no idea what it would be like – period pioneer over here.
The day came around, I had read the instruction leaflet back to front so felt fairly confident about using the cup. To sterilise it between uses and before the first use you have to boil it for 5 minutes (this is all explained in the leaflet) and this helps to soften it a little for easier insertion, which is important for me as the last time I had a pelvic exam it took the poor nurse about 10 minutes of trying and getting me to move in rather imaginative ways to keep the speculum in (TMI, I know but I find that story hilarous).
Now, this is my dramatic experience which really wasn’t that dramatic in the end and hopefully will calm any worries anyone has about getting a menstrual cup stuck inside them.
When you first use the cup, it has a long stem to aid easy removal and once you are comfortable with where the cup is sitting you are supposed to trim the stem so it does not irritate you. I think I was a little overzealous and trimmed my stem too short because when I thought the cup had settled, it actually moved a little further up making it difficult for me to grasp the stem to manoeuver the cup down so I could pinch it to release the seal (I will include some diagrams in the photos so you can reference to see what I mean). This was not a problem the first two times I needed to remove it, however, in the evening of the third time I was to remove my Mooncup I had an argument with someone who made me very tense. This proved to be an issue as I was unable to relax enough to use my pelvic muscles to ease the cup down. The great thing about the Mooncup though, is that I didn’t then have to panic about getting toxic shock, I simply went to bed and decided to try again in the morning. Morning came, still couldn’t remove the cup as hard as I tried and now I was starting to panic and having premonitions of me going to A&E and having to tell the staff I had gotten something stuck inside me. I went to work and tried not to think too much about it until I went on my break and called the Mooncup offices in Brighton and I honestly cannot sing their praises enough.
They immediately told me stay calm and that I would get it out, that nothing bad was going to happen to me and that they would call me back when I had finished work to assist me over the phone. They also told me to go and buy some fabric plasters, something I would recommend to anyone who buys a Mooncup because they give you extra grip and made it very easy to get the cup out. Anyway, they called me exactly when they said they would and walked me through everything, advising me to get in the shower and put on some soothing music and just try to remain calm whilst gently contracting my pelvic muscles to help push the cup down. Within 5 minutes of trying to cup was out and I was fine. They checked back with me the next day to make sure I was okay and I can honestly say that no company has ever provided me with such excellent, sincere care. So, I would like to say to everyone who has periods and is thinking of using a Mooncup but is afraid of that exact situation – it will absolutely be fine. After only another month of using the cup I was a pro at inserting and removing it without needing to use fabric plasters to help my grip and my nails are pretty long sometimes, which was a bit of a problem to begin with but now it isn’t an issue at all! It’s all about having patience and figuring out what works for you and your body.
The question I have been asked the most is about the removal of the cup and whether it is messy and gross. Honestly, I don’t find it to be either of those things. I empty my cup usually when I am going to the bathroom anyway so I will be washing my hands after but I rarely get covered in blood and I believe you are more likely to get a substantial amount of blood on yourself by using pads. I haven’t had to empty mine in a public toilet as of yet but I would suggest that if you feel a bit wary about getting blood on your hands bring a small pack of wet wipes around in your bag I mean, they are useful for lots of things anyway and if you’re willing to carry around extra sanitary products around then some wet wipes isn’t much of a change. For people with IUDs or a low/high cervix, make sure you talk to a doctor or sexual health professional about using the Mooncup but neither of these things should cause any serious problems, it’s just a precaution.
Clearly, I am a Mooncup convert and have been very happy to talk to a lot of people about it and I have been pleasantly surprised by people coming to me to ask questions about them. However, it is not for me to make the decision for you or force you into changing something you’re happy with. I do believe it is the best option for most people who have periods because I find it so comfortable I forget it is even there and it is so convenient to not have to constantly carry extra products in my bag but this is your choice.
I’ll happily answer any other questions in the comments and I hope that you all found this informative!