I Tried a Menstrual Cup and Here's What It Was Like

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


My First Time Using a Menstrual Cup

I want to set the stage for you before we dive head first into my last period. I have been using Thinx period underwear for almost two years. I have nearly 10 pair. I do not period with them. I even travel with a pair or two when my period is nowhere in sight...ya know, just in case. When I say these underwear changed my life, I mean it.

I made the transition to Thinx after an absolutely terrible (read: traumatic AF), 18-month journey with the copper IUD. I share more about this experience on episode #71 of The Tranquility Tribe Podcast. Because of this experience, I fell into the world of free-bleeding and this led to my discovery of these magical underwear. For the longest time, I was not open to anything else but Thinx to manage my period. You read that right. For nearly 18 months, I was free bleeding and even avoiding the pool if I was on my period. I had turned into that girl.

It's important to note here that I don't love the feeling of "wetness." I am that person at theme parks that won't ride water rides if I am not one thousand percent sure I will dry soon. This usually requires me to be wearing the right clothing and shoes plus be 80 degrees or warmer. Otherwise, I will happily forgo the thrill of the ride.

Finally, more than a year after using nothing but Thinx, I decided to explore other clean choices of menstrual management. I knew that I'd want to go swimming eventually or I might be traveling where it's easier to have other options rather than just Thinx. I explored lots of options and I finally Period like a Queen, but it was (and still is) a journey. Along this journey of exploration, I was asked so, so many times by clients, friends, and social media fans about using a menstrual cup. Just as I was super hesitant to stray from my strict thinx-only policy, I was even more hesitant to stick a plastic "cup" into my vagina. Hadn't I already decided tampons weren't for me? Didn't I already say to myself I was all-done putting outside things inside my body?

What's a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a silicone hygiene product that can be inserted into the vagina and sits in the vaginal canal to collect menstrual blood rather than absorbing like a tampon. Menstrual cups are reusable and an eco-friendly, (often) non-toxic way to manage your period.

My Decision
To be one hundred percent transparent, my decision to try a menstrual cup was largely driven to be able to have answers for people who asked (since the questions came constantly) and the rest was obviously curiosity. Of course I wondered what it was like because the people who love it, love it. You know what I'm talking about? They say they've used it for 10 years--What?! I thought these things came out like 2 years ago... Or they say they forget they're on their period thanks to their cup... is that real? I'm a special kind of committed to my Thinx underwear but I don't forget I'm on my period.

I needed to know what this hype was all about. 

So I began to look into menstrual cups and...whoa, nelly. There are so many choices to choose from and it can easily get overwhelming. The first thing I learned was that there were different brands and no standards sizing. Apparently, (as read in Facebook mom groups) a small from this brand is totally different than a small from that brand. Another thing I learned from these massive threads of women sharing arguably way too many details about their menstrual cycle is that your body shape and size, plus any variations in your uterus or cervix will impact the fit and comfort of your cup. Almost every single women who tried multiple cups said that was key--don't give up and keep trying different brands until you find the perfect fit. I don't know about you, but I did this when I first started my period to find the perfect tampon for me so this made a lot of sense to me.

Next, I knew that I wanted an honest company. But, I quickly realized I didn't know a lot of what I needed to when it came to making smart decisions about my period management. I began to utilize Elizabeth Raybould Wellness and she has been an incredible wealth of knowledge on this journey for me. One of the things to be aware of is what your cup is made of. When I began to research companies, I stumbled across Mahina Cup on Instagram. Their website states "Mahina Cup is made from soft, 100% medical-grade silicone, is latex-free and does not contain colouring, toxins, or bleach. It is hypoallergenic and is suitable for sensitive women. Mahina Cup is FDA registered." I have a latex allergy so this was extra appealing to me plus who knew latex would be used in the making of menstrual cups.

Finally, I loved that Mahina Cup not only had size 1 and 2 (typical), but they also had an option of size 0 (teen). SOLD! This was a total 'shut up and take my money' moment. I decided to order right then and there. Unbeknownst to me, they were also having a sale as if the universe was saying, "do it."

What Was The First Time Like?
First of all, just like sex, I was so built up by the time I made it to actually using it that it was very anti-climactic and extremely different than I imagined. I had read so many internet articles and consumed so many blogs, I thought it'd be a quick thing. Boy, could I have been more wrong? I don't think so.

Insertion
To insert the menstrual cup, you are supposed to "roll" or "fold" the rim on the cup into what resembles a rose. With this tightly rolled silicone cup, you are supposed to slip it into your vagina and slide it in. As it slides in, the cup unrolls and creates a suction to catch your menstrual blood. The cup supposedly sits comfortably in your vaginal canal and viola! That's that!

....It wasn't quite that easy. Oh no, it took me a good 20 minutes to get it in and I contorted by body into positions that I didn't know was possible. I squatted. I stood. I used the squatty potty. I propped one leg up. I squatted on the toilet. I did the whole kneeling Captain Morgan. It was a sight, lemme tell ya.

I would get the rolled rim in and it would start to unroll faster than I wanted or it would not feel right and I'd retry. I probably retried 15 times. An instructional video would have been nice, ya know? *Welcome to today's masterclass where we'll be sharing how to put in your menstrual cup, everyone get into position* After a few failed attempts, I decided I would actually insert my fingers just a bit to keep the rim rolled until I felt comfortable with it unrolling. It worked and I was ecstatic. I did a quick figure 8 and a little Jump On It action and I was off for the day.

The Emotional Process
The emotional part was really wild for me. I was totally excited to try it. I was trying to balance sharing such an intimate thing with the world--like how much is too much when it comes to you period? Ya know? I was also trying not to freak myself out about germs and the new process. Sticking a plastic cup that you then have to break the seal with one of your fingers is like no other experience I've ever had in regards to managing my period. I was not used to my menstrual blood getting on my hands and with the cup, it does. I'm used to having to clean my menstrual blood from my Thinx, but the cup actually collects it. It's like you put in a menstrual cup and a shot glass of blood emerges from your vagina 12 hours later.

I was also somewhat worried/curious as to the suction and the "security" of the cup meaning if it was going to leak on me or not. I wore my Thinx underwear as back up and had zero leaking. All day I walked around with this anticipation that the cup was going to fall right out of me and blood would go everywhere like an accidental and misinterpreted murder scene. Spoiler alert: that never happened.

The emotional process was something else. I hope next month is better and less rollercoaster-y.

The actual wearing/feeling
Remember those very strange people who said they "forgot" their cup was in? Well, add my name to the list and slap "strange" on my forehead. Yal, it's weird. If you don't get it right, you know immediately--it's not painful, just uncomfortable. You can use the "stem" at the bottom of the cup to slightly tilt it this way or that way to try to reposition it. If that doesn't work, use your finger to break the seal and re-insert the cup.

When you get it right, you can not feel the cup at all-- or I couldn't at least. It was the wildest thing. I actually did forget I was on my period. It was incredible. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on an extra small (size 0) cup because I think finding the right fitting is key. 

The removal
If you want one hundred percent transparency, I put off removing the cup for hours. I waited until I was literally climbing into bed for the night. I was terrified to take this thing out. I just kept thinking I was going to end up on an episode of Untold Stories of the ER as the girl who couldn't get her period cup out. *dies of embarrassment*

Finally, I decided that I had to take this cup out or I was going to have to summons some help--what that meant, I did not know. Into the bathroom I went. I considered getting in the shower, but I really wanted to try to get the hang of it as if I were out in public and did not have access to a shower. So I decided to sit on the toilet. Breaking the seal required more pressure than I expected. The seal was very strong. So strong that I felt silly thinking about my fears of it falling out of me earlier in the day.
I broke the seal just like "they" tell you to by sticking one finger into your vagina. Find the top of the menstrual cup and gently (or not so gently, in my case) press inward. Once the seal is broken, keep the rim of the cup bent inward. I made the mistake of releasing it and it sealed right back.

I was really worried about making a huge mess, spilling the blood--remember the accidental and misinterpreted murder scene. Well, I wore the cup for over 12 hours and it was filled just over half way. There was no way it was going to spill. While your vaginal canal is slanted, it isn't that slanted as to spill the contents of your menstrual cup if you're on the toilet or standing. 

The Clean Up
You have lots of options here. You can pour it in the toilet, pour it in the sink, pour it in the shower, pour it in your yard, pour it in your house plants, or pour it in your garden. Curiosity got the best of me (I mean, when else do you explore menstrual blood?) and I poured it down the sink. I wanted to see if there were clots, did the blood coagulate, did it stain the cup, etc. I was basically consumed with the novelty of such a new experience.

I rinsed the cup and briefly washed it with Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap. I decide to sleep in just my Thinx underwear and give my vagina a break. I also wanted to see if my vagina was going to have a reaction to the cup or any of its' ingredients. Before I used it the next morning, I boiled the cup for 3-4 minutes in boiling water.

As always, I used Healthy Hoo Hoo wipes. These wipes are my favorite "on the go" menstrual care product! They come in small, single use packages and are 100% biodegradable! They are infused with aloe, green tea, and pomegranate extracts to moisturize and gently cleanse without stripping away protective barriers.

The Final Say 
Here are my final thoughts: Your mind is in so much control! From the way I allowed all the hype to get to me in the beginning to psyching myself up and making insertion much harder than it (probably) needed to be all the way to worrying myself sick and not removing the cup until the last possible second. My mind was in control, not me.

I was so consumed with the "new-ness" of it all that I never once stopped to take the time to think grounding thoughts "I am safe to remove the cup," or "Millions of women safely use a cup to manage their periods. I am safe," or even "This has been an exciting experience and I am grateful I got to do exactly what I wished for." Instead I let my mindset tumble over and over again like a cement truck in the narrative of "this is scary," "this is new,' and "what if [something] goes wrong?"

I think this is a place that so many women unknowingly fall into in pregnancy. They get stuck in this pattern of thinking things are going to go terribly wrong and they see writhing, excruciating pain in their near future. These women seek out information in the wrong places trying to calm their anxious minds, but it only (inaccurately) confirms their worrisome concerns. If mindset is 90% of the game, what playing field did you just create? A field of dreams or a field of land mines you're desperately trying to avoid?

Try to avoid going to your neighbors sister's best friend who is visiting for the weekend for birth advice--unless she had your ideal birth. Also, mom groups on Facebook are not always super helpful. Remember, these decisions are meant to be intentional and that includes the sources you use to get your information. Be sure you're using reputable sources that share evidence based information. (Here are my top three picks: Evidence Based BirthMama Natural, and American Pregnancy Association)

If you find yourself telling yourself that aren't helpful (ie: "What if you're allergic to this silicone, you dummy?! Then it's inside of you!! Oh this is BAD!!),

What Else Do You Need to Know?
The smell can be rancid. I was not prepared for the smell and honestly it's one of the biggest deterrents for me. I have never in my life experienced vaginal odor and when I took the cup out that very first time, I was consumed with the smell. Thank goodness I am used to the very distinct smells of birth because this was just too much otherwise.

Cleaning is a little bit more than just rinsing your cup. Elizabeth Raybould shared with me that there's a common misconception that you can't develop TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) while using the cup and this just simply isn't true. If you are not intentional about the way you care for your cup and your vagina while using the cup, you could cause your vagina some serious harm. You can throw off the pH of your vagina, or worse, cause an infection. 

Insertion is not as easy as you might think. Or at least not in the beginning. I posted a video to my Instagram stories fo me trying to get the cup in the first time and it was up and down and squatting and legs on a stool and a foot on the toilet and bending. I got tons of messages and comments from women saying they did the same exact thing.

Your vagina is elastic. And it can fit a baby so a silicon cup is going to be a breeze. Remember that our vagina is all muscle and fat. It can stretch to accommodate the menstrual cup just as it does for tampons.

Two Tampon Rule: You will wear your cup the same amount of time you would go through two tampons. Usually 8-12 hours. Of course, you may find that you can go longer, but that is a good place to start.

My Second Choice
If I didn't decide on the Mahina Cup, my second choice was The Lily Cup because of its' unique design. I couldn't find any information about it being latex free (as in, I think it does contain latex) and it took me quite a while to find that it was confirmed made from medical-grade silicone. 

At some point, I'm sure I will try this cup as I'm still very curious. First, I want to master the art of using the cup in general and then I will expand my menstrual product horizon. Stay tuned, villagers! 

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