I feel happy to continue using pads, but I would like to try using a menstrual cup because I’ve heard a lot of great things about them. They fit around the cervix, inside the vaginal canal (a bit lower down than a tampon). What I like most about menstrual cups is that they are reusable. They’ll also give me the opportunity to see what my menstrual blood ‘really’ looks like, and give me a better idea of how heavy my flow is (exactly how many tablespoons of blood does my uterus excrete each month?) I like the idea of just being able to wash the blood away down the sink or toilet & that’s that.
These cups are particularly useful for women working in remote or isolated areas where there is no place to dispose of sanitary products. In many developing countries, cloth pads are probably a better option than menstrual cups because of hygiene issues as well as cultural taboos. In developing countries, some girls miss school every month due to inadequate access to suitable sanitary products when they are menstruating (some charities donate reusable cloth pads to women and girls who need them).
No health risks have been found in relation to the use of menstruation cups (although some doctors have said that theoretically it could lead to endometriosis). The University of British Columbia is currently conducting a clinical study comparing the safety and user satisfaction rates for tampons and menstrual cups (it sounds like a really interesting study!)
As for menstrual cramps, a lot of women say that using cups reduced their pain (in comparison to using tampons I guess). On the other hand, the cups increased menstrual pain for quite a few women… at least until their bodies got used to wearing the cups (stiffer cups may make cramps worse).
Overall, I’m keen to try out one of these cups! Choosing which style & size of cup is definitely tricky (the size to order depends on a woman’s age, whether she has given birth before, and on how far in her cervix is). I had a look at http://menstrualcups.org/ to help me decide which cup to go with, and I’ve just ordered a “Yuuki cup” (I ordered some cloth pads too because I’ve always wanted some of those).
Learning how to get the cup in and out can be tricky (and very painful). I read through the virgin’s guide to menstrual cups and it’s a very sweet, baby-step guide to inserting and removing them (much nicer than my first introduction to tampons which was more like a blunt, “Jam it up there! It won’t hurt”).
Here are a few comments I’ve read online from users of menstrual cups:
“I feel a rush of genuine excitement every time I get my period. Using a Diva Cup allows me to observe just how much I bleed each day of my cycle, how the color and consistency changes, and much more. The simple act of inserting and removing the Diva Cup every twelve or so hours has literally forced me to get comfortable touching my own body and my own blood. I feel like I know my body better now and I think that is a beautiful thing.”
“It’s amazing what a cup can do for your emotions and sense of self worth. I had my [Femmecup] in before my period actually started, in preparation for it. The first time I took it out and saw menstrual fluid, I had this weird surge of positivity… I felt proud of myself, I felt empowered and I felt strong. It felt like, for the first time, I was more in charge and in touch with my femininity. I know its a little new-agey, but oh well. I’m a feminist, and you can make of that what you will. I can honestly say it felt good to not be dependent on disposable products. I’ve always hated the throw-away mentality of society today and it’s great to find a reusable product I can use for my natural body processes! I also had my final day at uni during the week, and after class we went for a few beers. I felt so free at not having to worry about when I had to go to the bathroom to change my pad/tampon. I felt so happy in knowing I’d be right until I got home later and being able to just have some drinks and relax.”
“More than anything else, using a Diva Cup has reunited me with my body. It’s allowed me to bridge that gap that we’ve been encouraged to create between our bodies and our selves. Before I started using menstrual cups, I had no idea how much I bled each day, how the flow changed, how its consistency changed, all of that. I had a vague idea I suppose but I never felt comfortable and familiar with my period the way I do now. I won’t get too graphic for the squeamish out there (even the fact that I have to say this and censor myself is indicative of the problematic relationship we as a society have with women’s periods!) but now that I use a menstrual cup I’m able to see how much I bleed, which days I bleed more, what changes accompany my cramps (if there’s more or less blood, if the consistency of the blood changes, etc), and so much more.”