Here’s the thing about periods: you get them, but you don’t necessarily want to talk about them. At least I don’t, anyway.
I’m incredibly squeamish, and if I’m being completely honest here, there have been times when I’ve almost passed out on the toilet during that time of the month – it’s an issue.
So when a friend told me she’d started using menstrual cups… Well, it was way more information than I needed to know.
A menstrual cup is a small silicone cup, generally shaped like a bell with a stem, which you insert into your vagina to catch the blood during your period.
“Excuse me. I need to go wash this conversation off myself,” I told my friend, before walking away in disgust.
But I’m a professional, and so I persevered to get some answers – because as grossed out as I am by periods and all things period-related, I was also strangely curious, and I figured other people would be, too.
I managed to convince my friend to talk to me on the condition of anonymity – but for the purpose of this story, let’s call her Kira (not her real name) – and in return, she agreed to tell me everything she knows about these mystical menstrual cups.
Then neither of us will bring it up ever again, hopefully.
Kira says she's been using menstrual cups for around two years. She also switched to reusable cotton pads around the same time as well.
Although her main reason for making the switch was "environmental", there have been other benefits as well.
"It is cheaper, does not smell and I prefer not to put extra chemicals on my body, especially in that area," she says.
"I think it is better to be on the safe side."
Despite them seeming a little awkward, Kira maintains it was "not hard at all" getting used to them.
"I read up online and saw a few YouTube videos that talked about the different ones and what you need to know. There is lots of info out there," she says.
She does admit it took a little while to figure how to use the damn thing though.
"[It] just took a bit of practice to put in and take out and be comfortable with the placement over the first few months," she says.
"Then I got used to knowing how often to use and change it on different days of my period. What works best for me is using it on the heavier flow days and using reusable cotton pads on the light days."
And like with tampons, you can go swimming while wearing a menstrual cup.
According to Kira, you can usually leave them in for up to eight hours, less on heavy flow days.
Although she could feel it at first, after a while, she says you don't even notice you've got one up your... well, you know.
"You stop noticing, just like you wear a ring all the time and can't feel it after a while," she says.
While she hasn't had any major mishaps while using the cups, Kira says she does occasionally experience "spotting", so she'll use the cotton pads as well, just in case.
Cleaning them out can be a bit of an issue though, because you do need a private bathroom, which isn't ideal if you're using public restrooms or shared amenities.
"You need to make sure you have access to a tap - preferably with privacy - to clean it when you change in the bathroom, and have clean hands, too," she admits.
"I have been lucky, [because] I often have access to toilets with a tap with privacy. I use a clean towel, tissue or hanky to dry it before reinserting."
Kira says she also sterilises the cup in boiling water in between periods.
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Another issue is toxic shock syndrome, which can sometimes occur when using menstrual cups.
It's probably also not ideal if you're a little bit on the disorganised side, as Kira says it takes "a bit of planning" ahead of time.
But she maintains the good outweighs the bad.
"I am happy to do the cleaning and extra care if it means that I don't have to buy plastic and have excess waste products polluting the earth," she says.
"In fact, sometimes I empty and rinse my cup in a bucket of water and feed my garden so it gives back to the earth in the circle of life."
Hippie sh*t aside though, Kira says that unlike with some other feminine hygiene products, "the cups don't dry you out or cause irritation" to your sensitive lady bits.
She also says it's been weirdly empowering.
"Many women are saying they are a great way to embrace feminism and get to know your body and not feel ashamed of having a period," she adds.
"I thought it was good to see how much blood actually came out to compare to what is supposed to be normal and to tell the doctor."
As for whether she'll ever return to using more conventional feminine hygiene products, it seems unlikely.
"No way! It makes me happy that I am not adding more pollution and rubbish to the world," she says.
"I also save money, time and the hassle of going to the shops every month to decide on which pads I should get because I forgot or can't recognise the brand and type that suited me."