“It’s going to be cold and it’ll probably hurt,” the woman standing over me says, clearly aware it’s pointless trying to say anything comforting right now. The truth will suffice. I nod and pull the skin at my abdomen – what I usually do when I’m in a similar position with my waxer.
Except this time I’m not with my super friendly, polite and soft-spoken waxer lady. I’m laying on a hospital bed, pants off and legs spread with an intern doctor standing at the other end holding a pair of forceps. I would have laughed had it not been so bloody painful…
Before I explain how I got onto that hospital bed, let me just explain WHY I ever wanted to try a menstrual cup in the first place.
Basically, they are a huge game changer for periods.
You don’t have to spend $10-$15 every month for 40 odd years on products that aren’t reusable or recyclable and in Australia, aren’t even tax-free (a conversation for another time).
The menstrual cup is an environmentally friendly, safe and reusable cup for menstruation. Basically, it’s a cup that collects your period and you can keep it in for eight hours without any issues. Most female travellers like me RAVE about their menstrual cup and how practical it is not having to buy pads and tampons overseas or having to change in dirty toilets.
I’m dreaming about my future long-term travels so I decide to give it a shot…
How bad could it be?
Alright, I’m ready for this. A period catching cup is a little weird but if all these YouTubers have used it successfully, I can too. I’ve watched a week’s worth of reviews, how to, what to and not to do. I even read up on the menstrual cup equivalent of ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’.
$45 later, I’m in my bathroom with an overly read manual in one hand and the cup in the other.
Man, this looks rather large for something meant to be “small”.
I fold it, as per the instructions, put it up and leave it. I can feel it but it isn’t uncomfortable – just like all the YouTubers have told me. So far so good.
Listen: A man has come up with a ‘solution’ to your period. Oh, goody. (Post continues…)
Three hours later…
Although you can leave the cup in for eight hours, I want to practice removing it before bed just in case. I go to the bathroom and poke my finger up there to feel for the little stem… and, um, where is it?!
I reach in a little further and can just touch the tip. The instructions say to grab the stem with my thumb and forefinger, but I just can’t reach it. Panic.
OK. Breathe. Google. “My menstrual cup is stuck”. Watch another few tutorials on how to remove it.
“Push like you’re doing a poop.”
It’s not budging and has managed to suction its way further up. More panic. I call on my younger sister to do what sisters are pretty much born to do – help you with your lady bits.
“Do I have to?!” she asks me, as if she really has a choice.
After her initial inspection, she comes back with a pair of tweezers and a torch. Tweezers + vagina = no bueno.
After a gruelling 30 minutes, she resorts to using her hands. Gross, I know. But remember – sisters. She eventually gets a hold of it, pinches it and pulls it out. These are the kind of experiences only sisters are blessed with.
A second attempt
I decide to try again. I didn’t just pay $45 for something not to work. And I am no quitter.
‘Perhaps I inserted it too high,’ I think to myself.
I read an article written by some random who suggests allowing it to sit low and then cutting the stem a little so that it wouldn’t poke out and be uncomfortable. And this goes down as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.
I follow the advice, trim the stem and put it back in. Four hours later, I am back in the toilet and my sister is up my vagina fishing it out.
“Please stop using it, I don’t want to keep seeing your bits,” she tells me, as if I consider this quality sister bonding time.
This time, however, she can’t reach it because, well, I trimmed the stem. Two hours of failed attempts later and we agree that it’s officially stuck. It’s midnight. I call my partner and ask him to come over to take me to the hospital.
At the ER…
The receptionist eyes me strangely as I tell her what happened. I repeat the story to a male doctor who bails and sends in a female doc. The doctor assures me that I’m going to be fine as I apologise profusely for putting her (well, the both of us) in this uncomfortable position tonight.
Apparently, it’s quite common for people to have foreign objects lodged inside them so it’s just another day in the office for her.
She gets me on a bed, takes a look and resolves that she must stick a pair of forceps up there to clamp and remove it. Forceps + vagina = also no bueno.
After 20 minutes, the doc has a grip on it and through my wincing, she yanks it out.
I ask if I can wash and keep my cup. A little confused as to why I’d want to keep something that reeked havoc on my life for two days, she shrugs her shoulders and tells me ‘sure’.
The morning after
I return to the pharmacy the next day with the washed cup back in the box, a doctor’s note and a fun tale about the last 24 hours. Horrified, the salesperson gives me a refund without hesitation. My days of a menstrual cup are over. For now.
Takeaways from my experience
If you’re planning on making the switch to a menstrual cup, here are three tips I've learned the hard way...
1. Check the position of your cervix
I didn’t do human biology in school and to be honest, never took the time to learn much about my own anatomy. A friend told me a few days ago that the problem I had with the cup was due to my high cervix.
After lots of Googling, I discovered that I do indeed have a high cervix which explains why I couldn’t reach the cup (yes, I’m a little slow with these things). This matters because there are plenty of different menstrual cups on the market and some will be better for you than others depending on its position.
2. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH.
Read up about it. Speak to someone who has used it (successfully – ie not me) and get some advice. The cup is far more popular now than it was when I first used it so there are ample resources and reviews out there. I found this article extremely helpful to answer many of my questions.
3. Give yourself ample time before taking it travelling
You might have some impending travel plans and want to use the cup. Make sure you try it out for the first time at home. There are some things in life that you can wing and others that you cannot. This is one of those!
Will I try the menstrual cup again?
When I first started writing this article, I would have said no. But after doing more thorough research, understanding the cup and my body, I think I will. Just need to invite my sister over first.
What do you think? Have you had any troubles with the cup or has it been a major success for you? Should I give it another crack and do you have any tips for me? Let me know in the comments below!
This post originally appeared on LVV Travel, and has been republished with full permission.