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Mentioning Unmentionables #1: Menstrual Cups (and Usage Tips)

Yes, I’m going to go there.   Why?   Because I’m a woman and I bleed.    This is 2015 and it’s time to stop being squeamish about talking about menstruation and the fact that there are far more options available than pads and tampons.

When I moved out of my mother’s house in my mid twenties I finally felt free to do what I wanted in terms of dealing with Aunt Flo.    I bought my first menstrual cup and started to save to buy cloth pads.       I didn’t expect that I would still feel like I was smuggling drugs in my own bathroom.   It took a while for me to overcome a lot of conditioning and to embrace alternatives.   Cups are convenient, efficient, cost effective, better for the body, and better for the environment.

Read on even if you are a dude.    It’s important to know all you can about the workings of the female, so that you can support the ladies in your life.    There will also be advantages to you like:

  • When you see it in the bathroom you won’t feel compelled to play with it
  • You won’t need to ask the ladies what it is and maybe impress them with your knowledge
  • You won’t accidentally throw it away thinking it is broken off something (and save your life from menstrual wrath)

If you have questions or can’t figure out why your cup isn’t working for you, please, feel free to leave a comment.

Menstrual Cups

mensrualcupKeeperWhat is a cup?   A cup, like a tampon, is inserted into the vagina.   However,  instead of absorbing menstrual fluids a cup catches them.  This eliminates the dryness, itching, string leaking, and cramping associated with tampon use.  It also eliminates the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).     There is no need to change absorbancy with a cup, but one size doesn’t fit all.  That’s okay though because there are lots of options!  There are generally two main sizes – before childbirth and after childbirth.     When I first got my cup, there weren’t a lot available–but now there are dozens and dozens to choose from.

I bought my Keeper about 12-15 years ago (it is the natural version, but the MoonCup is it silicone sister).   I finally had to replace it due to some age cracking of the rubber, and also the birth of two children. I went with the Diva Cup, but the two cups are very different. I find that I miss the Keeper’s stiffer material because it popped open easier versus the softer Diva.     One day I hope to try a shorter cup or one like a MelunaUSA cup with a ball stem (Meluna is a Europe based company) to better accommodate by cervix on its lowest days.     The cups I have work great!  I just would like to have one I didn’t have to adjust as much.

menstrualcup mooncupThe thing people have to understand about cups is that they aren’t tampons.  You aren’t supposed to jam it up near your cervix (cups ride lower in the vagina) and there is a learning curve for use. How high or low your cervix travels and the strength of your vaginal muscles affect how a particular cup’s firmness works for you. It is like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. What fits on my body proportions perfectly, will be acceptably average  and functional on others. I have not yet found my “Goldilocks” cup,  but the cups I’ve used have done their job very well.

Some minor adjustments and knowledge can make a big difference in experience with cups!

Tips

STEM IRRITATION:

My cervix is a traveler. Sometimes it is way up there and sometimes it seems like it wants to have a peek at the outside world. I find that with cups that even cutting the stem down to nothing causes me considerable irritation or pinching.    It drove me batty.  However, if you TURN THE CUP INSIDE OUT it rounds off the bottom and shortens the cup.  No irritation! I didn’t hear of this trick until several years after buying the cup.  It made a big difference on those days of my cycle when my cervix was low riding making the “poking” unbearable.   The only drawback is that it make the cup harder to open and when my cervix decides to just move up I have to bear down to bring the cup back down to where I can grab it.  Some companies now are offering rounded “ball stems” and/or shorter cups for very low cervix or even prolapse.

CUP OPENING PROBLEMS and PAIN:

Give the cup a twist if you are having trouble opening it after insertion or try a different fold.   If you are having pain when letting the cup open it is often because the cup is firm and you may be hitting your urethra.   Make sure the cup is past your pubic bone before releasing it.  Try different types of folds until you find one that works best for you. I used a “punch down” or “origami fold” with the Keeper when I first starting using it before children.  After children, when I had better control of relaxing my vaginal muscles I was able to use a the C-Fold.     With my Diva I use a “Seven Fold” or “C-Fold” because I find that with other folds the softer Diva doesn’t open as easily.     If you have another cup and find that you can’t get it to open no matter what or it opens and seems like it collapses, the cup is probably too soft for you. Athletes, dancers, and anyone who is particularly sporty have much stronger vaginal muscles and will squash a soft cup flat.  Likewise, if you have poor muscle tone or bladder problems, you’ll need a much softer cup.   Companies do make Sport Cups (very firm) or much softer cups.

LEAKING

Other than being an athlete or dancer with muscles that are squashing a cup flat, the other reason for leaking is accidentally putting the cup behind or beside the cervix. You might even feel cramping when you do this. With a tampon, women are in the habit of pushing it pretty far up, a cup however sits much lower close to the vaginal entrance.  A woman who has a high sitting cervix that doesn’t move much won’t have this problem, however, if you have a low cervix you can easily push the cup too far, and you just leak all around the cup rather than in it.    Are you baffled why sometimes when you use the cup insertion is perfect, and other days you leak like crazy?  On your leaking days, your cervix is probably low-riding and you’ve accidentally placed the cup behind or beside it.      When you are first learning, you may want to wear a cloth pad as back up.

EMPTYING

The first few times you use the cup you will find it messy very much like when you’ve waited too long to remove a tampon or change a pad.      Once you figure out how to bear down with your vaginal muscles and how to best angle your cup with removal you will experience very little mess.       Just so you know, menstrual blood is viscous because it isn’t just blood.  It also has a lot of vaginal fluids because the vagina likes to keep itself clean.      This means that the blood is heavier than water and when you pour the cup’s contents in the toilet it sometimes gets stuck at the bottom.   You can avoid having to multi-flush simply by putting some toilet paper into the toilet first.     At home it is easy just to rinse and wash in your own sink.  In a public restroom bring a wet paper towel in with you (don’t worry about rinsing the cup with water, it isn’t necessary).  If you need to, you can simply wipe it down with toilet paper or a wet paper towel.


menstrualcupdivaWill cups work for you?    Most women (even young teens, virgins, and the most petite) should be able to use a cup once they get past the learning curve and common insertion issues with either of the two sizes.   There may be some unique conditions that might make cup use challenging, but I am not aware of any that make it impossible.      There are usually a few critical reviews on websites from beginners, but a lot of those problems are easily remedied.

Cups will work for just about everyone  no  matter their size, but it may not be “THE” cup that fits you perfectly (for similar reasons why one brand of tampon works for you better than another).  However, you can get it to work just fine with some minor adjustments. If you have special issues of bladder, muscle strength, exceptionally heavy flow, or prolapse there are now cups on the market that cater specifically to those needs.

You can find an excellent comparison chart for many cups here at the blog Menstrual Cups.

Meluna Tips for Sizing
A few types of folds at Bunnie’s Choice Blog

Precious Stars Pads — How To Stop Your Menstrual Cup From Leaking

This video is two years old now, but don’t let Bree’s age throw you off.   This young lady knows her stuff and she’s not afraid to be frank.

 

Precious Stars Pads — Quick Cup Comparisons

 

If you have questions or can’t figure out why your cup isn’t working for you, please, feel free to leave a comment.

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11 comments on “Mentioning Unmentionables #1: Menstrual Cups (and Usage Tips)

  1. Akanksha Varma
    March 18, 2015

    Good information! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Daleen
    March 18, 2015

    Very informative indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      March 18, 2015

      Indubitably.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Daleen
        March 18, 2015

        And for a bonus you just expanded my vocabulary! As English is not my home language, I have never heard indubitably before and I will now attempt to use it at least twice a day 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Bunnywunnie8
    March 18, 2015

    Thank you for the link to my blog 😀
    I’ll link you the next time I write about cups ^^

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Karyn
    March 19, 2015

    I have NEVER heard of a menstrual cup before. Fortunately I no longer need one but I will ask my two daughters if they have heard of them. Thanx.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Annaliese Maree
    March 19, 2015

    I have a MeLuna and it is really really awesome. I cut off the ball after the first day of using it. Much better. It’s so fantastic that there are more options out there than standard disposable pads and tampons – especially for someone like me who seems to have bad itching reactions to any disposable pad that is not organic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      March 19, 2015

      Cloth pads are nice too. I haven’t used a disposable in over 10 years

      Like

  6. Pingback: Mentioning Unmentionables #2: Cloth Pads (aka Mama Cloth) – A Sewing Project | Laissez Faire

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