If you’re still using tampons and pads, toss those puppies aside (or donate them to a woman in need - please do that instead) and get yourself a menstrual cup. I’m not exaggerating when I say that using a menstrual cup has completely changed my period game for the better.
Menstrual cups have been around for 80 years but I just started using one in June of 2017, partly because I was stuck in my ways of buying tampons and pads, and partly because I didn’t see a lot (or any) information on menstrual cups in the mainstream media. I didn’t even really know they existed.
First and foremost, using a menstrual cup has completely transformed the way I view my period. There are a lot of stigmas attached to periods that are engrained in our minds from the time we experience our first flow.
We shouldn’t talk about them.
Now, of course you need to take proper hygiene into consideration when using a menstrual cup, but let’s get one thing straight: periods are awesome.
The female body is a powerhouse and it is something to be so proud of.
Over 50% of the world’s population menstruates, yet these conversations about periods are frowned upon and not typically welcomed.
Despite the power to the period mindset I have now, I didn’t have this same belief before getting off of birth control in September of 2017. After I decided to leave the pill behind and control my hormones naturally, I lost my period completely for about four months. I felt really discouraged and started to think I made the wrong decision. Even though I inherently knew I would have a lot of work to do since I had been on birth control for over nine years (!), it really rattled me once I was experiencing the symptoms first-hand.
But, slowly overtime, my period started to come back. I was healing my body with foods, exercise, and self-care. I’m still working towards getting a regularly scheduled period to this day, but this journey has completely amazed me. I'm truly experiencing the natural rhythms and cycles of my body for the first time without chemicals controlling my hormones for me. It's pretty cool.
WHY MAKE THE SWITCH?
Nearly 20 billion sanitary napkins, tampons, and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year.
On average, a woman experiences her period from 3 to 7 days and menstruates from age 13 to 51. That means the average woman endures some 456 total periods over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period - 6.25 years of her life.
With 70% of women using tampons that we're instructed to change every 4-8 hours (using 6 hours as an average), the cost adds up quickly. A box of 36 tampons costs $7 at CVS.
1 tampon every 6 hours = 4 tampons per day x 5 days of having your period = 20 tampons per cycle x 456 periods = 9,120 tampons. At 36 tampons per box, that's 253.3 boxes x $7 = $1,773.33.
And that price point doesn't even include the cost of pads, panty liners, birth control, heating pads, or any other necessity that's a part of your monthly period routine. Read more about that here.
Chances are, most girls are not starting out with a menstrual cup when they experience their first period. From that time on, we get so used to buying tampons and pads because it seems more convenient to stop at a local pharmacy whenever you need.
I haven’t purchased pads or tampons in a year.
My period vessel is always patiently waiting in my bathroom cabinet and the convenience is undeniable. It comes with a little bag for clean storage so I sometimes throw it in my purse if I think Aunt Flo will be stopping by that day.
Furthermore, tampons are made of toxic-laden cotton that can easily be transferred into your bloodstream via your vaginal walls. Over 85% of the tampons that are produced today contain glyphosate - a cancer-causing agent and one of the primary ingredients in the weed-killing chemical Roundup. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't want anything close to Roundup coming near my yoni.
Chronic exposure to these toxic ingredients increases our risk of cancer, causes oxidative stress and metabolic changes, and disrupts the endocrine system. This can contribute to adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunological effects. Conditions such as infertility, endometriosis, and thyroid disorders are all on the rise, for example, and are affected by exposures to chemicals and toxins in our environment.
Menstrual cups are made out of medical grade silicone and are BPA free, making this method non-toxic, eco-friendly, affordable (it’s a $40 investment for 3+ years of use), sustainable, and hassle-free.
It's worth noting that I've only used the Lunette Menstrual Cup in my experience, so I'll be referring to that particular cup here.
WHAT IS THE THING?
Menstrual cups are easily inserted into the vagina to collect the uterine lining during menstruation. Rather than absorbing the blood as a tampon would, a menstrual cup collects the blood over the course of your period and is periodically cleaned to prevent leakage or a risk of infection. Tampons hold 6-18g of blood whereas menstrual cups can hold up to 30ml in the largest size.
HOW TO USE YOUR CUP
I’m not going to lie, the first time I went to insert my menstrual cup (or even thought about it), I got really nervous. Even though I had been using tampons for years which is essentially the same type of insertion method, this was so new to me and I started to get all these wacky thoughts about it.
What if I can’t get it out?
What if my blood leaks all over my underwear and misses the cup?
What if I damage the inside of my vagina?
Will I be uncomfortable for the next 5+ days?
I can confidently say none of those situations have ever happened.
I definitely experienced some discomfort the first couple of times because I was so tense and had a hard time relaxing. But with practice and patience, that quickly disappeared and it's been super easy ever since. Introducing a menstrual cup into my period regime has been amazing. When inserted properly, they're more comfortable than tampons and 99.99% of the time I can't even feel it.
Start by folding the menstrual cup in half so it makes a ‘c’ shape and then simply insert the cup as you would a tampon. If the 'c' shape doesn't work for your body, you can watch this video and learn about nine more fold variations that may work better for you. Some things to keep in mind while inserting:
- Relax your muscles. This is the most important thing to keep in mind while inserting your cup. The first couple of times I tried, I was very tense and had to continually remind myself to relax. Relaxing will help position the cup right under the cervix and behind the pubic bone.
- Insert your cup while you’re in a squatting position, this helps with opening the vaginal walls.
- Once the cup is inserted, you need to make sure it fully opens and does not stay folded inside of you. To do this, keep relaxing your muscles and pull on the tab gently as to not pull the cup out. This allows for the cup to open and creates a seal formed by the walls of your vagina and vaginal muscles. You can also slide a clean finger around the bottom of the cup to see if it has opened, but the tab method works better for me.
- Since vaginas are tilted backwards, guide the cup towards the small of your back to ensure proper insertion.
- Use water or a non-toxic lubricant if you find the area is especially dry and not allowing for the cup to be inserted comfortably, although blood typically acts as a natural lubricant during menstruation.
- Notice if the stem on the end of the cup is too long once inserted which can cause discomfort while wearing the menstrual cup. You can simply snip it down a bit so there's enough left to help with removal.
- Insert your cup the day before your period is due to prevent any leakage.
A menstrual cup can be worn for up to 12 hours depending on your individual flow, and it's recommended that you change your cup 2-4 times a day. It can also be used with different contraceptives (such as an IUD), while swimming, during yoga (although it is not recommended to do inversions while on your period as this would cause the contents of the cup to spill back into your uterus), and while you're sleeping.
To take the cup out, a lot of the same guidelines apply that you would use for insertion. First and foremost, relax those muscles. This is pretty crucial. If you’re tensing up, your vaginal walls will hug the cup and not allow for it to be removed - they're just doing their job.
Pinch the bottom of the cup and avoid tugging on the stem, this allows for the seal to break for a smooth removal. However, if the cup has traveled a little too far up there, you can use the stem to help release it a bit, just make sure you pull gently. There shouldn't be any pain or discomfort during removal.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CUP
First, wash your hands with a fragrance-free, mild soap. Then, simply remove the cup, dispose of the blood in your toilet, rinse with cold water first to prevent staining, and then wash with warm water and a bit of the Lunette Menstrual Cup Cleanser. Lunette also makes cleansing wipes for gals on the go. Look closely and check that the air holes around the top of the cup are clear and fully open, as these can sometimes get clogged.
After your period is finished for the month, wash the cup as normal and then put it in a pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Your cup should always be disinfected before and after your cycle to ensure proper cleanliness.
As for cleaning your cup in public, I never find that this is an issue because of the lengthy wear time. If I know I'll be out and about for awhile, I make sure to clean my cup beforehand and have never had to change it in public. If you find that you do need to make a quick change in a public restroom, own it. If you know that you have an especially heavy flow, I would recommend purchasing the Lunette cleaning wipes just for peace of mind.
That’s right, there are two different sizes of menstrual cups because no two vaginas or periods are the same.
Here's a chart to help you determine which size fits your unique shape the best:
Throughout my time using a menstrual cup, the biggest takeaway I've had is learning to truly appreciate and honor my body. I've become so in tune with the cyclic nature of my body and it's the coolest thing to experience first-hand. I felt my body ovulate for the first time this year and I was in complete awe.
We need to make an effort as a culture to destigmatize periods and stop period-shaming women for something that is natural and vital.
After all, women are the life-force of the world.
Have you switched over to the menstrual cup way of life? If you have any questions or want to share your experience with a menstrual cup, leave me a comment!
With love and light xx