health

"Yes, I use a menstrual cup. No, I'm not a weirdo."

Yes, I use a menstrual cup.

No, I’m not a weirdo. I don’t have anything particular against tampons and pads. No, I don’t have a fetish for scat or bodily fluids. And no, I’m not one of those people in the mangy koala suits who is asking you for cash at the train station.

I just find it very simple and convenient.

The Diva Cup. One of the many, many brands available.

Menstrual cups have been around for about 80 years. They don’t have a particularly high profile in Australia. I first read about them in a feminist chatroom (it was the 90s, ok?).

Now it’s not true to say that when women get together (in person or online), we sit around and talk about periods. But when one woman has an excellent experience with a product, then they like to spread the word (the same goes for vibrators and hair removal techniques – both of which have been recommended to me by colleagues, in the workplace). It’s just the decent thing to do.

More: Luxury tampons for fancy vaginas. They’re a thing.

With that in mind, here’s what I’d like you to know about my menstrual cup.

I bought my first cup online about 10 years ago. I had gone back to do some post graduate study and was financially poor and time rich.

The first time I used it, I stood starkers in the bathroom with my laptop open on the bath and a mirror propped up against the sink. After a series of Moulin Rouge-worthy high-kicks, some silicon origami and several helpful online videos, I got the cup up in there. I gave it a twist to make sure it was in place.

Then I waited.

(Post continues after the video) 

I put some clothes on. I did some star jumps. I made myself sneeze. Everything seemed stable.

I went outside. I walked around. Everything was fine.

I went to the shops, but didn’t have a great time because I kept dashing into bathroom to whip down my undies and check the structural integrity of the device. It all seemed to be holding.

I finally went home and yanked it out. The first thing that surprised me was that there wasn’t as much in there as I was expecting. I mean, I thought I had a heavy flow. But when it was just sitting there in the cup, it seemed like such a piss-poor effort on my body’s behalf. How can this tiny amount cause me and my body so much grief?

For more: Knowledge gap – No, Mia, you can’t flush tampons down the toilet.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Some kind of crimson tidal wave? A Carrie at the Prom moment? A Dexter-worthy crime scene?

Nope. My period was just sitting there. In an egg-cup thing. It was very red (I afterwards read that was because it hadn’t been exposed to air, so hadn’t taken on that usual rusty hue). It didn’t have that gross tampon smell, either (it smelled a bit metallic – yes, I smelled it. I’m a scientist, ok?). I tipped it into the toilet and rinsed out the cup in the sink. And I felt like an Amazon.

But that’s when I realised the menstrual cup’s fatal flaw.

Meluna menstrual cups.

You can only ever use it when you have a sink in the same room as the toilet. You can’t use it if you’re at the shops, or at work – unless you work in a place where you have your own bathroom or the bathrooms happen to have a sink. This is not a sani-bin situation – you need to be able to get to a sink to rinse it out. And walking to a communal sink to rinse out your cup seems a bit anti-social.

I guess if you are caught short, you could just empty it and reinsert, but the one time I had to do that, it was a bit messy.

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So now, ten years on, I tend to only use my menstrual cup when I’m at home. I’ve tried a few different brands, but they are all largely the same. I get the small size (despite my monsoonal flow, that is enough), but if you have a more roomy lady canal, you can go bigger.

*For more: 4 slightly disturbing thing you didn’t know about your tampon.

The name of the game when you’re using menstrual cups is hygiene – washing your hands before and after. If you don’t have access to a safe water source (if you’re living in developing countries), then it’s not a great idea to rinse your cup in water you can’t vouch is safe. That’s a shame because carrying tampons when you’re travelling is a real pain (especially when you’re going somewhere remote for a long time). But if you’ve got bottled water to rinse with and hand sanitizer to make sure you’re clean, then it’s a good solution.

Tampons versus Mooncup rap battle pretty much sums it up (post continues after video)


I have never got into reusable pads. I looked into it once and the idea of keeping the used pads in a water-filled bucket or glass jar until I got around to washing them was a bit too far for me. Plus the website had a picture of a woman pouring her bloody period bucket water onto her vegie garden and that was also not for me.

But there are many quite beautiful reusable pads for purchase on Etsy – and this website has a velvet bag with stars and moons on it for your pad soaking jar. So if that idea appeals to you, you can do it in style.

Resuable pads on Etsy (from Epicerna’s full moon collection)

So for people who haven’t come across menstrual cups before, here’s the low down.

1. They are a cup. For your menses

As the name implies, a menstrual cup is…er…a cup. Like a little foldable egg cup. You pop it in your vag, rotate it a bit and it sits up in there and catches your flow.

There are plenty of brands: Diva Cup, The Keeper, Femmecup, Fleurcup, Shecup, Moon Cup, LadyCup, Lunette, MeLuna, Miacup, Mpowercup. I’ve owned Diva Cups, a Moon Cup and a Lunette. They are all fairly similar and just a question of personal preference.

2. Like tampons, it’s a bit weird to insert to start with.

See above re Youtube videos on repeat. I was an adult when I started using them. It’s probably not ideal for young girls to start with them, but each to their own.

The internet really is your friend when it comes to working out how to use them. This guide is from menstrual cup brand Femmycycle.

3. It’s not gross.

Or at least not any more gross than you find tampons and pads. And, like with tampons and pads, you just get in and get it done. You don’t stand around playing with it. You just tip that shit out. Rinse it out. Put it back. Wash hands and then dust them like a boss.

4. It won’t prevent pregnancy or STDs. It also won’t give you either of those things.

You can’t have sex with it in (no room, dude)  and it does’t work like a cervical cap to prevent pregnancy. According to the FAQs on most of the products, you can use it if you have an IUD, but best to check with your doctor.

5. It’s probably very good for the environment.

It’s cheaper. There are fewer dyes and chemicals. And nobody flushes anything for it to end up choking a sea turtle. Peace.

I just put this picture of a baby sea turtle here to help you get over that rough pic of a vaginal canal. (via The Raptor Lab)

5. It’s still not gross.

Periods aren’t gross. Yes, our uterine lining sluices itself. And if we’re lucky, it’s going to keep happening for a long time. There are plenty of people who would love to be having their period right now – it’s a sign that you’re healthy, fertile, youthful and a woman. These are things that so many people desperately to be but can’t.

So next time you’re surfing the crimson wave, have a think about how lucky you are – and whether you’re interesting in investigating whether there might be a way you can do it better.

The author of this post is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous because you now know way too much about her menses and you might not be able to look her in the eye at your next BBQ.

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