How I Learned to Stop Hating My Period, And Love The Menstrual Cup

menstrual cup

You probably know that using a menstrual cup will save anywhere between 10,000-15,000 pads and tampons from ending up in landfills over the course of a woman’s menstruating life. You might also know that if you switched to a menstrual cup, you could save around $4,000 over the course of your own period and pms-filled years. But let’s be honest: You’re a bit grossed out by the idea of a reusable menstrual product, or you’re freaked out by how to use menstrual cups. So I’m here to motivate you to switch over to a cup, and I’m not going to use any of that data to persuade you.

Full disclosure: about a year ago, I switched from hormonal birth control to the copper IUD. So I went from a light, controlled, entirely predictable period to one that made me feel like the floodgates had been opened. (Sorry, but I’m not sorry for that intentional pun.) The switch back to my natural cycle was nothing short of overwhelming, from the heavier flow, increased cramps and pms symptoms, to figuring out what my natural cycle was anymore.

As my hormones re-adjusted, I was never quite sure when my period would arrive, my cycles swinging wildly between 23 and 35 days. That’s to say nothing of the number of tampons I would go through on a heavy flow day. I was battling my period. And the way I was fighting, I was losing. There were cycles that I gave up going out for a whole weekend, instead feeling more comfortable in my sweatpants and wallowing in period induced self-pity. I felt like a cliché, in all of the worst ways.

Enter: The Menstrual Cup

My own reasoning for switching to a menstrual cup went along the lines of, “Well, this can’t get any worse and at least I won’t be adding any more to landfills.” I thought a change, any change, would be more likely for good than not. But I got an unexpected bonus to switching to a menstrual cup— the mental switch that happened was immeasurable, in terms of the way I began to understand my period and my body.

Menstrual cup users, if not fanatics, are proselytizers. They’ve set up a whole forum, for everyone from new users to veterans. They have comparative charts on every menstrual cup out there— and I mean every menstrual cup— and detailed instructions of the eight different folds that can be used for cup insertion. The sheer volume of information should have been overwhelming, but for me it never was.

These women, who pour out their knowledge on subjects from how to deal with your period overnight to finding your cervix, gave me a totally new perspective on my period. Reading the way they understood their cycles, the way they knew how the position of their cervix changed dependent on where they were in their cycles, the way they understood their bodies, made me feel empowered. I wanted that knowledge and that understanding.

Here was a group of women who found a space to discuss their bodies with one another in a safe, unashamed space. The topics on the forum range all over from cervix position, cramps, IUDs, postpartum periods, UTIs, and tilted uteruses. It wasn’t that I hadn’t gotten sex-ed before. It wasn’t that I had never been informed about my body. It was that I hadn’t before seen women so open to engaging with other women about their bodies, their cycles, and their sexual health in such a visible, amazing way.

The more I delved into the site, the more I wanted to be like these women. So, armed with my Diva Cup, I took the plunge. Excepting my one heavy flow day, I only have to change my cup twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. I’m more aware of my body and my cycle without being constantly reminded by it by a four-hour tampon changing cycle for six days straight. Cups make my cycle easier to deal with and using them also gave me the tools to understand my body rather than fight it.

The one caveat I’ll make for cup use is the initial learning curve. Just try not to beat yourself up as you’re getting the hang of it, and don’t throw out all your disposable products until you feel super comfortable changing out your cup. The extra benefit for me is that using a menstrual cup reduces my cramps. I’m not sure if this is a proven, scientific side effect, but from reading the forums I’m not the only woman to experience this phenomena. Maybe it’s just a placebo effect from feeling good about what I’m using in my body during my period.

Instead of my period being a great evil that befell me once a month, it became a process my body regularly goes through. I became the subject, not the object of that sentence. I’m not saying I love my period, but having it just isn’t a big deal anymore. I’m going with the flow and the only thing better than that is getting to make period puns.

Photo: flickr user Piperkins

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    • http://blisstree.com/ Carrie Murphy

      well, i’m basically sold!

    • lena

      i’ve been using the moon cup for the last 5 years and LOVE it. i could never go back to tampons.

    • Shelldotshell

      I started using a cup almost 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. I started with the Diva but due to my severe back issues was unable to remove it without difficulty. Then I found the Meluna cup with a ring instead of a stem. So easy and I have saved tons of time and money.

    • Christa McCaffrey

      Glad I am not the only one who trolls the IUD and menstrual cup forums. I am still debating on which cup I will go with, but once I get my period back… I am buying a cup and never looking back.

    • http://twitter.com/Lunapads Lunapads.com

      Great post! I love reading about how the DivaCup can teach people so much about their bodies. I had a very similar experience when I first started using mine. Just wanted to pop in and suggest that if anyone is making the switch to reusable period products, don’t throw away your unused disposables! Your local women’s shelter will gladly accept them, even if the box is already opened. As long as they are still sealed in their wrappers they may as well go to folks who really need them before they go to the landfill.

      • mm

        I like you, that is such a great point.

    • Julie Wednesday Strange

      Hey I’m one of the cup proselytizers on the forums ! This article is heart warming. Come join us at menstrual-cups on livejournal ! ;)

    • Liz G

      I love the idea, and I use a cup on weekends when I’m only going to be at home. But during the work week, god forbid you have to empty it in a public washroom stall – it might be just me, but I can’t come out of there without looking like I’ve been slaughtering something. Taking a damp paper towel along to wipe it doesn’t cut it. At home at least I can dump it, lean over and rinse the cup and my hands in the sink, then re-insert it. TMI? Sorry… :(

      • Elizabeth

        this is my biggest fear on switching! i havent made the switch yet, but i’m glad someone else pointed this out so i dont sound neurotic :) haha

      • Constance

        You’re definitely not neurotic, my friend! Go at your own pace and we’ll be happy to hear about your experiences through reusables. :)

      • Liz

        Hi Liz G,

        I’ve been using the diva cup for about two years now. First, most women only need to empty their cups twice a day. I usually do it when I wake up, and before bed (unless I am staying up super late), both times are in my home bathroom. Of course, I have forgotten to make the morning change, or for those with a heavier flow, and a change in a public bathroom is necessitated.

        Tips for these situations:

        1. Handicapped bathrooms generally are private rooms with toilet and sink included.

        2. Pour the cup out and wipe with toilet paper, re-insert, wipe fingers with toilet paper.

        3. Bring a bottle of water to rinse cup, fingers and toilet bowl if need be. Or bring baby wipes in your pocket for your fingers.

        I often find when some people first start using their cup, or haven’t really gotten comfortable with it, they change it to often. One weekend you should test it and see if you can go a full 12 hours without emptying, meaning a change in the morning and at night. If you don’t leak during the 12 hours, start wearing it to work.

        I had a friend who would change it because, “how could it not be full, I used to change my tampon every 4 hours”, well unless your cup is leaking it can keep going- at least in my experience.

        Granted, I’ve had mine for two years, used it while travelling extensively and working in an office, I am very comfortable with changing it, don’t get grossed out by — so maybe all of this is easier said than done for some. Let me know how it goes.

        I just couldn’t imagine going back to tampons, especially at work.

    • http://www.skinwellness.com/ Maria Roche

      can you share these forums? I’m so interested!

    • M

      One thing you mentioned was that going from the pill to the copper iud brought you back to your “natural cycle.” I’m sure this was just a case of improper wording, but had you gone off birth control COMPLETELY, your period would not be as bad. One of the side-effects, as I’m sure you know already, of the copper IUD is increased bleeding and cramping during the mentrual cycle, and even longer periods. This gets a little worse every month, but with the iud, your amount of fluids down there will always be a little more robust. One bonus of this: other fluids run a little more smoothly as well.

      • M

        *this gets a little better every month.

      • c

        maybe in theory, but I quit hormonal pills “cold turkey” about three years ago and now have an extremely heavy shorter cycle, I guess it’s my new natural cycle (my old one before the pill was a dream — light, short and 30 days) my docs say this just can happen after 30, your cycle changing, so just as an FYI…

        anyway, this post has put the idea in my head, so I very well might just pick one of these up. thank you!

    • Jane

      How disgusting!! Give it up, ladies.

      • Constance

        I am so sincerely sorry that you have such a negative outlook on menstruation. I wish you the best of luck in finding peace with yourself.

    • Bee

      I’ve been using an Aussie brand called JuJu and I really wish I had found out about these years ago. My period seems lighter and I love the convenience of only ever having to change it at home.

    • Jessica

      Thank you so much for posting this article. It’s raw, but just what we woman need. I mean after all we all have our period…why not talk about it right?

    • Constance

      I’m one of the weirdos who got it right the first time with my cup, and I started proselytizing on my first cycle. I also tell people that my cycles SEEM a lot lighter since the cup isn’t absorbing sweat along with menstrual fluid. I think it might even leave mucus alone a little better, but I don’t have any science to back that up.

      Great post!

    • JLynn

      Thanks for your post! I just began using a menstrual cup about a week and a half ago, and I loved it. Like you, I also chose to start using a menstrual cup because my periods became this awful, monthly horror story after starting the copper IUD. I really wanted an effective, hormone-free birth control method, and Paragard fit the bill. However, after 6 months of having it in, my IUD began slipping out at the end of my last period — just after it ended and I had stopped using the cup — and I had to get it replaced. My GYN from back home said it was probably just coincidental, but the GYN in my new town who replaced it said that maybe using a menstrual cup in conjunction with an IUD wasn’t such a great idea. Now I’m paranoid about using the cup for fear that my IUD will be expelled again, but I really don’t want to go back to using pads and tampons…
      Have you read anything on any of these forums where women have discussed their experiences of doctors’ recommendations regarding use of a menstrual cup along with an IUD?