I’m Trying Not To Be Grossed Out By The Menstrual Cup

Yesterday when I wrote about Kotex tampons being recalled for fear of bacterial contamination, several people commented that this was one more reason to try a menstrual cup. Not to sound completely ignorant, but I wasn’t quite sure what that was, so I did a little research. And…eww!

In case you too are not a part of the menstrual cup user cult, it’s a basically a small container made out of silicone or latex rubber that holds about an ounce of period blood. You are supposed to insert it into your vagina like a tampon. Then, twice a day, you take it out, pour your blood into the toilet, wash it and then stick it back in there.

While this has an extremely high ick-factor in my mind (can’t I just wrap up the lining of my uterus, toss it and never have to  touch it?), some women apparently love it and make a good case for why we should make the switch from tampons and pads. (And, much to my surprise, they’re not all a bunch of crunchy granola hippies.)

 1. It will save you some cash. A menstrual cup costs between $20-$40. One popular brand, the DivaCup costs $32.49 and another $9.99 for their special DivaWash that is used to clean the cup. Proponents say we spend that much in tampons and pads in a matter of months, but the DivaCup can last for years. One cup for years? That kinda grossed me out when I think about possible germs and slimy fluids harboring for that long (yes, I get that you wash it, but still…). And what if a dinner guest opens your medicine cabinet and mistakes your cup for something to use with mouthwash or a dose of Pepto-Bismol? Maybe we are supposed to label it with a Sharpie: Period blood only.

2. Mother Nature will love you. Cup lovers also say that we females generate pounds of landfill waste every year with our throw-away pads, tampons we don’t flush and their pretty pink plastic applicators. Yes, your vagina can go green.

3. You will forget you have your period. No longer will you have to be embarrassed by running into your hot neighbor in the tampon aisle. No longer will you have to worry about leakage (even when running or doing other sports) because supposedly this guards against red-stained underwear. And, this one is very important, no longer will you have a little white string hanging from your ladyparts when you’re trying to look all sexy for your man.

Supposedly, after taking a bit of time to hone your menstrual cup-inserting technique, you will get used to the process and won’t even know it’s there. They even come in different sizes to fit our small or large va-jay-jays. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about toxic shock syndrome (a bonus for tampon-forgetters like me).

Want more details on a menstrual cup? Here is everything you need to know. Take a look and then let us know if you would try one (or are already using one). Meanwhile, I’m going to see if I can get over it.

Photo: flickr.com


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    • Jane

      1. It’s medical grade silicone so doesn’t harbour bacteria, which along with not effecting vaginal self-cleaning functions is why they’re far more hygienic than tampons, and thus why there’s no risk of TSS or infections. Consider reusable silicone items like babies pacifiers or silicone implants, or consider reusable items that come in contact with vaginal fluids like underwear or diaphragms.

      FYI cups don’t need any special wash to stay clean.

      2. Not just about waste, also about deforestation in rayon production (where only 30% of trees forested are used), non-organic cotton, chemical treatments, and bleaching adding to CO2 and general pollution which is not just about being green, but about the huge health impact of dioxins and other toxins in the environment…dioxin which is also commonly found in tampons and pads, not in cups.

      You have the convenience of wearing a product for 12 hours, rather than changing every 4-6 hours, can use with any flow (the best way of dealing with heavy flow), overnight rather than switching to pads, and before your period so no wearing liners just-in-case – hell, you don’t need pads at all with a cup. Cups are easier to use too.

      Cups are more body-positive, not only do companies not use menstrual taboos to sell products, but in a more direct way cups allow you to monitor cervical position and menstrual flow, can prevent menstrual cramps, and may improve vaginal muscle tone. Cup’s can change attitudes towards menstruation, and cup users have happier periods. Also great for our trans brothers who can forget about their periods.

      Cup companies are small women-run ethical companies – they are transparent about manufacturing and have never knowingly used harmful manufacturing that puts health and lives at risk, there have also been more independent safety tests carried out on cups than on tampons (which are self-tested and self-regulated). We now have 18 (soon to be 19) cup brands, and softcups – seven years ago we had only 3…there’s good reason for cups becoming so popular, and they’ve become this popular on word of mouth alone.

      • Hanna Brooks Olsen

        Oh, I really like your point about body-positivity. I’m not a huge lover of periods in general (they are painful and icky and get in my way), but tampon makers don’t help that, with their white pants and blue goop. That’s a good reason to try the cup, for sure.

      • Alex P.

        Absolute ditto on no menstrual cramps. Ever since having an appendectomy (appendix removal) at age 14 my periods have been alarmingly painful, to the point that I was having hot and cold sweats, had to curl up into a ball to avoid movement, and so on. These were monstrous periods, and it seems either ovary felt like they’d been operated near because it happened every single freaking month. Enter my beloved menstrual cup last year and now I get small pangs the first day and that’s it. I can’t explain why, and in fact I don’t think anyone’s been able to prove why, but it’s saved me from embarrassing near-faints and having to explain that “I’m on my period, gtfo and leave me alone”.

        I had to make a decision last year. I’ve never liked tampons because they always felt too stiff in my lady parts, and I was developing a skin rash like you wouldn’t believe in my nethers due to the chemicals in the pads I was using. On the one hand, I could stick with pads that might have worsened my condition yet, or find a product that would literally save my hide. That’s when I discovered DivaCup. I haven’t looked back since. What the hell was I thinking, harming my va-jay-jay with chemicals?!

    • Monique

      I really like your articles but the one you wrote yesterday was a little, um, weird. I get that menstraul cycles are gross and what not but the constant insertion of “ewws” and “gross” on an already sensitive topic just didn’t make you seem like the best candidate to write about it. Granted, everyone has their period issues, knowing you left your tampon in for two days is Alarming! and Embarassing. I applaud your courage to admitting that. And yes, tampons are gross, too. I am a tampon user because the idea of dripping onto a pad that is rubbing onto your vulva is…wait for it…. gross. Its all gross.
      With the menstraul cup, which i have considered using, if properly inserted- there will be no leaks. If you know your cycle is coming on thursday around 10 am, you can put it in that morning and wont have to deal with emergency runs to the drug store. Another bonus that I saw as very practical was that avid users suggest removing it when you are about to take a shower. Not a bad idea.
      No need to worry about someone drinking from your menstrual cup… a lot like the diaphragm, it comes in a case that is undeniably NOT a drinking cup.

    • Meredith

      I started using the Diva Cup during my Peace Corps service, since pads and tampons were not readily available in West Africa. I love it! I have been using it for four years now with no problems, and it has certainly saved me money.

      Why the “ew”? It is cleaner than pads or tampons. You also don’t need a special wash to clean it-dropping it in boiling water for a few minutes does the trick.

    • Sonsy

      Jane, you should have written this report in the first place and saved us all the “eww”s and “gross”es. It was like reading an article on periods by a 14 year old boy.
      I am a fan of sea sponges too, my Working Girl friends introduced me to them. You can have mess free sex on your period! (pretty much).

    • Patty

      I love my diva cup! Pre-pregnancy I had the wrong size and it poked my vagina (can’t have that, can we?) but after I gave birth, when my periods finally came, they were HEAVY for the first five months! Like one tampon wouldn’t last me an hour heavy…. even with multiple tampons and a pad, I would still wake up at night to a bloody mess.

      Enter the diva cup, which could hold so much more than all those nasty paper products. I don’t feel a thing and leave it in up to 12 hours on lighter days. There are ways of wiping it clean with toilet paper in public bathrooms. No mess, no fuss. I’ll never go back to tampons.

    • Falicia Dickinson

      ok. here is honesty, I am a large woman, 260 lbs, older 40 soon. I am just a normal american, married, 3 grown children. I never learned the right way to ware pads, bleed all over every month. Tampons were the only other option. They hurt unless I was on heavy flow. I saw the ad for the diva cup. I laughed at it and thought , gross. I looked at the site on and off for two years. I found one on sale for $17 and I ordered it. WOW the best thing I can say is that I finally made peace with my period, it is now longer a war with the enemy. 3years later I am cramp free, stain free. I took only 2 tries to learn the right way for me to put it in. I can not feel it unitll it is full. then I just dump it. If I am not at home, I just wipe it out with toilet paper. When my time is done I wash it and put it in its cloth bag and tuck in in my dresser with my under tings. I have the Diva cup and now, so does my teenage daughter.

    • Tracey

      I use Instead Softcup… a little different from the menstrual cups you list here. They’re all great options, but I find Softcup a little easier to use. It’s inserted like a tampon, you can have mess-free sex while wearing it, and they have both a disposable and a reusable option. It’s also about the same price as a box of tampons and you can get it at most drug stores.

    • Canaduck

      I’ve been using a Divacup for 5 or 6 years now (not the same one, they do have to be replaced every few years) and I’m only sorry I didn’t know about it much, much earlier.

      There is literally nothing about pads and tampons that I miss. Nothing. It’s way easier and more comforable and I’m happy to know that I’m not contributing to waste or putting weird bleached crap into my body.

    • Sarah

      I use the menstrual cup for more than a year , before I used the washable pads because of allergies to disposable pads. I had a baby naturally amd i’m over 30 so I use Meluna L size, then becoming a cup addicted decided to buy a silicone one branded Naturalmamma. This is the website from which you can check differente brands and models.

      • Sarah

        forgot the site:www.coppetta.mestruale.it

    • Queen of Cups

      The ick factor seems to be quite common for women who never used a menstrual cup, the first time I heard about them I wasn’t too thrilled either. But I never heard a women who tried say it was more disgusting than tampons or pads. It’s worth a try, I have used them for over 4 years and would never go back.

      I invite you to read more info on my website http://menstrualcup.co

    • ElTaco

      I’ve been using the Divacup for about 4 years and I LOVE it! Not only does it have the great benefits mentioned already – less waste, can keep it in up to 12 hours, no nasty bleached products in your body, less risk of TSS, $ savings and feeling more in-tune with your body, but it also reduces the likelihood of developing a pesky yeast infection. I used to have a lot of trouble with them. Since tampons are absorbant (which is what contributes to toxic shock syndrome) they dry out your vagina which distrupts the delicate balance of bacteria and fungi (some of which are good!). This can lead to a yeast infection or irritation. Menstrual cups are non-absorbant so they do not have this problem. I absolutely recommend them!

      When you’re new at it I’d use a washable pantiliner as backup until you get the hang of it.

    • Lizz

      Honestly, once you experience how much better your period can be with a menstrual cup it does not seem gross at all. I can’t even believe people wear pads or tampons. I mean, I know I will never have to painfully/uncomfortably remove a disgusting/partially dry tampon again. Nor do I have to sit in my own menstruation, aka wear a pad. Once you convert, everything else seems gross and people seem irrational for not wanting to try it.

    • Janalina

      This will change your life. I was bummed that I discovered the Diva Cup at age 47, so close to menopause. It makes me want to have my period for a few more years. The removal, rinsing and reinsert ions are so much less “icky” that a damp, smelly tampon string making a damp, smelly spot on all your underwear. Add that to never having a trash can full of festering female products and you can appreciate women never going back to using disposable men’s trail flow products.