In an effort to be more cost efficient and environmentally conscious, I purchased a menstrual cup (MC) back in October. It had arrived at the perfect time as my period started the day after it came in the mail and, as any millennial would do, I documented my experience on my Instagram (which has been shamelessly plugged here).
Before giving my thoughts, I was curious to know how much my followers knew about the cup. The results weren’t all that shocking to me. Only 16 out of 108 voters had tried/used an MC and 3 out of the 16 were guy friends trying to screw up my data (Calling you out Russell, Francis, and Devonte).
As a preface, I want to first mention that my goal here isn’t to provide a thorough, informational guide on what cup to use and how to use it, although I will touch upon some details here. I’m in no way an expert, and I wouldn’t want to lead anyone astray! Nor is my aim to convince you to buy a one, but if you did that’d be great. My goal is simply to share my own experience. And should any questions arise from that, feel free to leave it in the comments down below. I’d be glad to share more!
What is a menstrual cup?
Simply put, it’s a cup you insert into the vagina during menstruation. When the cup reaches capacity or after 8-12 hours, you empty the cup into the toilet, sink, etc., clean it, and reinsert it.
After a lot of research I finally settled on an MC that I felt would fit me best. You can find this brand here on Amazon.
Model: Lily Cup A
Dimensions: Size A: 3.07 x 1.57 x 1.57 in.
Unlike popular cups like the Diva Cup, Lunette, or the Lena Cup, the opening of the Lily cup is slightly slanted. It also comes with a nice pouch to carry it around in. There are many different brands, so make sure to research which one would make your vagina most happy.
The stem is also quite long, so I trimmed off maybe half an inch of it. Many sites recommend you do this. The MC shouldn’t extend past your opening and if it does, you’re likely to experience chaffing.
I tried different folds to make insertion easier. My two favorites are the taco fold and the punch down fold. The former is basically rolling the cup like it were a burrito and the latter is pushing down on one end of the rim as shown in the picture down below.
Did it hurt? No. But the first time using it was uncomfortable. With practice, however, that feeling went away.
Did I feel it inside me? No. When inserted correctly, I sometimes forget it was even there.
USING AN MC IN A PUBLIC BATHROOM???
Let’s get to the question everyone has on their mind: okay but using an MC in a public restroom is gross?
My first time cleaning out my MC in a public restroom was definitely nerve-wracking, BUT this is mainly because I was worrying about it so much. It’s not as weird once you get accustomed to it.
Was it messy? No. If you’re concerned about blood splashing everywhere, that did not occur at all for me.
Did I get blood on my hands? YES. But only the tips of my fingers. I should also mention that I do bring wipes inside the stall. To prevent this, bear down on the cup using your vaginal muscles and the cup should lower enough for you to get in and get out with little to no damage done. This also depends on how low/high your cervix is. You could also cover your hands with toilet paper when pulling it out.
As for cleaning, since I couldn’t always mosey off to the sink and rinse out my cup, I used toilet paper/baby wipes to wipe the inside after I dumped the blood into the toilet. This should work fine and most users will tell you this as well. IT’S NOT AS GROSS AS YOU MAY THINK.
- Durability and Security:
MCs supposedly lasts hella long–– 10 years. And because I am not the plan ahead/track your cycle typa girl having the security of an MC always on hand was golden.
It’s more hygienic than pads and it’s a lot safer than tampons (as it lowers the risk for TSS*).
*note: While Toxic Shock Syndrome is most commonly connected to tampons, it can be acquired from a variety of (non-period related) things. So using a menstrual cup does not mean you will never get TSS, though the risk is very rare.
- Eco-Friendly and Cost Efficient
If you’re aware of our environmental crisis, you might have heard that pads and tampons are not necessarily recyclable, although there are efforts to combat this (Check out LOLA for more details!). Because MCs last longer, the need to purchase non-recyclable menstrual products is hardly ever a factor.
- Less Time in Between Changes
Because the MC hold your period blood instead of absorbing it, I didn’t need as many stops to the bathroom as I used it. An MC can be left inside for a longer amount of time as it holds anywhere between 18 ml to 30 ml of blood. To put that into perspective, the average period is between 10 ml – 35 ml of blood. If it’s inserted correctly, it shouldn’t leak, which is something that always occurred when I used a tampon for more than half an hour. BUT MAYBE I’M JUST INCOMPETENT.
On lighter days, I’d go to the bathroom maybe twice every 10 hours and that’s just to check if I leaked–– which wasn’t usually the case.On my heavier day (usually the second day), it’s a different story. Using a pad/tampon I’d go to the bathroom maybe 5 times every 10 hours. Using an MC I’d go around 3-4, which really isn’t that big difference. Again, I’d like to share that I’m still relatively new to using one so this might lessen with time.
- Suited for active lifestyles
I had no problems using it while I went for a run or for the one time I went swimming. I didn’t have to worry about hygiene (as much as I usually do) and changing it out right after a run as I would with a pad and I didn’t worry about leaking as I would with a tampon.
I’m going to be real with you. As great as I believe MCs to be, there were a few cons I want to address here. It is also important to note that practice and consistent usage will definitely help or solve many of these issues.
- Hard to Open??
Anyone who says an MC is easy to use IS A DAMN LIAR. While the benefits outweigh the cons, you really have to become intimate with your vagina and the cup when first using it.
The Lily Cup material is extremely soft and very malleable. For some women, this might be ideal, but this made it difficult for me to open it up once inside my vagina because my pelvic floor muscles are relatively strong (weird flex, but ok?). And in order to prevent leakage, the cup literally has to suction onto your vaginal walls and the rim has to open up from the fold you used to insert it. That being said, it was especially challenging for me as I had been a first time user and was still learning the tips and tricks of using an MC.
The second month was a lot easier. I spent a lot less time trying to get it to open as I had a better idea of what my vagina needed. I’d say the first month I’d spend 10 minutes on average in the bathroom trying to insert the damn thing correctly. The second month, I spent 3-5 minutes. Pretty good improvement, I’d say. I am still planning to buy a brand with firmer resistance to see if it really is just the cup or if I’M JUST INCOMPETENT.
One of the pros of a menstrual cup is that it does not leak. Caveat: it does not leak if it’s inserted correctly. Because learning to use the cup is the upward battle, I did experience leakage my first time using it. I will say, however, that when I did leak, it was not nearly as much as when I would use a tampon–– often times, it was just some minor spotting. I’d also like to note that I only leaked on my heavier days. The second month I used it I hardly leaked at all. Because of this, I do suggest wearing a liner on your heaviest day or the first time you try one–– at least until you get used to it.
Using a cup requires maintenance. You can’t just use it and throw it away like you would a tampon or pad. Before and after each cycle, you have to boil the cup in water for a good 5-8 minutes. So you will have to reserve 5-8 minutes of preparation after you discover you got your period. I could have avoided this wait time if I had some foresight and prepped my MC as I got nearer to my due date rather than waiting for the day my period actually came.
I’d like to conclude this section of my MC journey by letting y’all know I will have a part 2 to this post where I answer the questions others had sent to me and share some of the tips and tricks that helped me best. Before then, feel free to leave any questions you may have or share your experiences and insights down below.
Thanks for reading, everyone!