Not a cup of woe

Menstrual Cup
Menstrual Cup

I discovered about menstrual cups in the newspapers and was intrigued. I read up some more and became aware of the problems with sanitary napkins and how menstrual cups can help resolve them to a great extent. This is the story of my trials and a little turbulence as I eventually switched to the menstrual cup completely.

There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip. So true in this case.  My journey has been a bit of an emotional toughie. I hope my experience will help others who may either be unaware, like I was, or who might be sitting on the fence.

Why Bother ?

a) My decision to go for it was totally out of concern for the poor planet we inhabit. Bad news about unlivable cities, dirty air, dirtier oceans pour in everyday and most times we feel outraged and helpless. I hope to contribute in any small way I can. Sanitary napkins are non bio-degradable. Now imagine millions of women using napkins every month all over the world and how the dirty napkins must just stack up in the ever increasing landfills. One menstrual cup is meant to last for years and if adopted by many women, should definitely help resolve the issue greatly, .

b) Soiled napkins create a health hazard for waste pickers.

If you feel really strongly about the above reasons, you will definitely want to go for the cup. That’s what I did. Initially, it did mean gritting my teeth and willing myself to just get on with it. But now I am quite comfortable using it.

I have so far tried the brand ALX Care that is available on Amazon. I read the reviews and went by what I felt might work best. I have not tried the other brands but they might be just the same as this one or better. ALX has worked for me and no cause for complaint.

So, the first thing about a menstrual cup is that it does not hurt at all. It is not like going to the gynac for a pap smear or anything. Obviously it still is not easy. But at least there is no pain.

The first issue that we have to address is:

The mindset

It is a little tough to think of inserting that cup inside you, esp if you have never tried anything but sanitary napkins. If you are tampon user, it will be easy to switch. But otherwise, it will take time. It is one thing to put up with the indignities of a check up at the gynac and have an instrument stuck in. But to take that silicone cup and push it in needs a certain opening up of the mind. At least mine did. The thought is not comforting. It just seems so much easier and simpler to use a napkin. And that is true. The cup idea needs getting used to. So in all probability, you will mull over this cup thing for a while before you invest in it. What I would suggest here is that you go ahead and buy it. Next, let it just sit in your drawer with the sanitary napkins for a bit. After a few months of this, you will one day be tempted to at least give it a shot.

Getting it in
Once you are determined, you have got the first hurdle out of the way. The next part of getting it in was surprisingly easy for me. I got it in at the first try. I was relaxed probably because I did not know what to expect and I was determined. So I did well. But, even if you don’t, don’t worry. Don’t start feeling any pressure.  Because in all likelihood, your first attempt may have been a bit half hearted. So after a few seconds, you will more likely tell yourself it’s not happening. But don’t give up. There is a sort of trick to doing it. You have to keep pushing it in till your insides sort of seem to swallow it up. This is the grit-your-teeth-and-be-done-with-it part.

Even after having used it for so many periods now, I still feel a slight trepidation when I have to take it out of the drawer. But once it’s in, you are so good to go.

Keeping at it

The second time might not be as easy or comfortable. Mine wasn’t. It wouldn’t go in as easily and I had to knuckle down and push myself (as well as the cup)! The important thing is to not be too hard on yourself and take a break by alternating with a sanitary napkin. You will still have reduced the waste by half and you can pat yourself about that.

The Tail pricks

So the design of the cup is such that there is a little tail at the bottom with which you pull the cup out. This tail hangs out from the vagina and that was really uncomfortable as it pricks the whole time. The instructions do talk of snipping off a bit if needed. But I was not sure if the cut edge will prick even more. Finally after a day’s use, I decided to snip it because I was so uncomfortable and I felt I had no option if I wanted to continue to use the cup. So I snipped off a bit and what a relief it was. The cup inside is not a bother at all – most women can’t feel it and neither did I.

Pulling it Out

This was real challenge once I had snipped off the end. I was enormously helped by this incredible Gabrielle Moss blog – esp these lines:

OK, first and foremost: menstrual cups pretty much never get stuck inside you. There is no situation where it’s just lost up there, and you have to spend the rest of your days with a silicone thingimahoosier up your yodel. So relax about that.

I totally loved that confidence in her voice and I desperately needed it – because I did panic when I couldn’t find the little tail. I thought – Oh My God! I snipped off too much and I am never going to find it! I am going to have to get surgery done!Eeeeek!!!

But I calmed down, remembered her words and resolutely hunkered down, till at last, I caught hold of the little slippery nub, and pulled and breathed and pulled some more till it finally popped out! Phew!

Going to the bathroom

Though there is no discomfort, it does take a little getting used to, to the sensation of having the cup in and going to the bathroom. As if, something is holding you back from emptying your bladder.

Discomfort

I have not felt any discomfort really, apart from a slight pinching in my lower back a couple of times. But I am susceptible to lower back pain anyway, esp after riding my two wheeler on the pot holed roads of Bangalore. The pain has not occurred every time I have inserted the cup, so you should be good to go on that front.

If the cup has not inserted properly and if you are leaking a bit, its ok. Use a sanitary napkin initially along with the cup. But there is no leaking at all when inserted properly.

Care

The main care that you must take is to always wash it with soap and clean water. I also always sterilize it, just in case. The instructions on the pack say you need to sterilize it when you store is away before your next period. But I am terrified of infections. I wash my hands with soap in an almost compulsive disorder like manner throughout the day. So I sterilize before each use.

Advantages

I found it incredibly convenient when going to bed and when travelling, to use the cup. You don’t need to empty the cup for upto 12 hours and you stay clean and nice smelling.

About Silicone

The material that is used to create the menstrual cup is silicone. It is said to be completely safe as it is considered inert (does not react with other chemicals) and also temperature resistant, so you can boil and sterilize it. However, silicone is not bio -degradable either. The only reason the silicone cup is still better than napkins is that the cup is reusable – upto a few years. Also, it is recyclable.

Enlist support

I’ve been helped in the transition by my ever supportive husband. He totally encouraged my decision and that helped me take the first step. I feel it is important to have some positive figure in your life – be it a gal pal or anyone you are close to. So do confide in someone when you decide to go for it.

Additional Reading

There is a lot of information on the subject. The sites I visited and found useful are listed:

  • The Gabrielle Moss blog is a must read – menstrual cupper or not – https://www.bustle.com/articles/76798-using-a-menstrual-cup-for-the-first-time-heres-our-step-by-step-guide
  • https://www.bustle.com/articles/49547-6-weird-reasons-to-wear-a-menstrual-cup-that-arent-about-saving-the-environment
  • https://www.littlethings.com/how-to-use-a-menstrual-cup/
  • https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/menstrual-cup#2e

 

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