For You I Tried: The Menstrual Cup
(I had another post planned for you today about January, the women's march, and other protests in New York, but my computer crashed and I lost the video I was working on, so I hope you nonetheless enjoy this much less politically inclined article!)
Knowing that women with periods throw away an average of 62 thousand pounds of tampons during the span of their lifetimes, individually wrapped tampons equipped with applicators (especially the plastic kinds) have always made me feel guilty. As I try to transition into a more eco-friendly, natural lifestyle, I’ve been more conscious of my own waste. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve made plastic my number one enemy. I’ve purchased some reusable bags to use when shopping (my favorites are from Baggu) to avoid collecting (and throwing away) plastic bags, I buy eggs that only come in cardboard boxes, and I refuse to purchase water bottles. Is this enough? No, not nearly, but it’s a start (right?). So when Ruby Cup contacted me to see if I wanted to try their menstrual cup, I jumped on the occasion.
First, let me be clear: I have never accepted PR samples because a) I’m in the minor leagues and don’t get many offers anyhow and b) I refuse to feature products that don’t fall in line with my morals. But as I read about Ruby Cub, I loved their social mission. Similar to Toms’ model, for every cup purchased, one is donated. But Ruby Cup eschews the flaws of Toms’ business model (such as the fact that donating shoes is less impactful than helping local shoe businesses) by partnering up with organizations in various parts of Africa that help empower girls and educate them about sexual and menstrual health. It’s a much more sustainable model, and it’s one I can “unconflictedly” get behind.
I was sent two different sizes, one small, one medium. The right size for you will depend on your age, the amount of flow you usually have, whether you’re a virgin or have had kids, and a few other factors. So before you purchase one, read up and decide what would probably work best for you. I went for the small.
Before inserting the cup, I watched a few YouTube videos to figure out what “folds” to use (i.e. how to fold the cup to insert it). Obviously, the cup needs to be folded in a certain way to go up your vagina, but what I didn’t know was how many different folds existed, it’s like freaking origami!! After trying out a few different ways, I actually ended up using the Ruby-cup recommended fold. It’s quick, simple, and easy to insert. I pushed it up until it felt comfortable, and showed up to work.
When I arrived at work, I realized I could actually kind of feel the cup. I also realized I was leaking. So I went to the bathroom and got intimate with my cervix. And here, I have to admit: I had to discretely google “how to find your cervix” because I really had no idea. I run a feminist blog and I can’t even tell you how to feel for your cervix, despite knowing it’s up there somewhere and that that’s where the blood “comes out of.” I realized my cervix is actually a little higher than I thought, so I pushed the cup in a bit more and tried to fit the cup around it. Still not perfect, but the leakage was much more minimal, and I could barely feel the cup this time.
Taking the cup out was stranger than putting it in (you pull on the stem so that it can glide down, making a small suction noise), but it wasn't messy at all as I had anticipated. Yes, of course there's going to be blood inside the cup, but that's where it remained. I emptied it out in the sink, rinsed and washed it with soap, and put it the cup back in. Quick, painless, and clean.
Over the next two days, I learned a lot more about my body. I learned how much blood I produce each day when on my period (not as much as thought!), I learned everything about cervixes, and I learned how convenient using a cup was (unless you're a noobie like me who went to the bathroom 10 times to readjust the cup, you don't have to empty it until the evening...and you don't produce any trash.)
As I mentioned, I still leak a tiiiiny bit (a good excuse to wear my period underwear), but I’ve only used the cup on my last two menstrual cycles so I do think there’s a learning curve (when you’ve used tampons with applicators for the past 15 years, your hands need some time adjusting to the new motions.) I might revisit this post once I figure out the best method to insert it (for me), but I do think every girl/woman should own one of these.
Environmental factors aside, I think it's important that we have a deeper understanding of how our periods work, and what the inside of our vaginas feel like. It felt a little strange reaching for my cervix, but then I became embarrassed that as a 27 year old woman, I had never before tried to find it. Using pads or tampons, we rarely have to think about how much we actually bleed, where the blood comes from, or what makes up our vagina. This forced me to get familiar, and comfortable, with both my cervix and my period. As I've mentioned, I still haven't mastered the application of the cup, but I'm not giving up.
Have you tried the cup? Do you have any tips? Let me know!
P.S. Do you think the medium cup would work for you? Email me or comment below if interested and I will send you my (unused, of course! still in packaging) medium Ruby cup!