Sustainable Living: Try the Menstrual Cup

I had seriously considered getting a menstrual cup since starting university. The pile of pads that collected in my bin were a glaring reminder of how much I was contributing towards the landfill pile. Apparently, it takes centuries for a tampon to degrade, particularly when it is still wrapped up in its plastic. With the amount of menstrual products people with periods use and dispose of in their lifetime, I was tempted by the menstrual cup in order to cut down my chunk of waste. However, I had been putting it off for ages until I impulsively bought one online in a burst of desire to live sustainably.

For anyone not sure what a menstrual cup is, it is a silicone bell shaped cup with a stem that gets inserted into the vagina. The cup catches the menstrual fluid and prevents leaking. The great thing about it is it completely reusable. You need to just rinse it between emptying and make sure to boil it at the end of your period ready for the next cycle.

I had been putting it off for so long because it seemed like lots of effort to arrange. I heard there was variation in size, how did I know what was the right one? There seemed to be a lot to learn too and it always felt like too much effort to learn. Also, it cost a bit of money and it felt like a lot to spend on something that might not even work for me. Generally, I was overwhelmed by this silicone object everyone was raving about.

I ordered a menstrual cup online. Sizing was not complicated like I thought it would be. There were two sizes, one for those who had given birth and another for those who had not. It arrived next day, ironically in an unnecessarily large cardboard box (so much for environmentally friendliness). Looking at the cup, it did look a little big. It is bigger than the familiar tampons I had been using for years.

I tried it out as soon as possible. Having looked at instructions online before it arrived, I had little fear of inserting it. You know it has settled inside when you give the stem a tug and there is some resistance. This is caused by a vacuum created in the cup in order make a proper seal so nothing leaks. Fascinating stuff, right? I got on with my day and I found myself forgetting I was on my period. You definitely cannot feel a thing once it is in and there was no leaking. I was impressed!

I decided I would take it out during a shower that evening, after a quick glance over the instructions. I found it quite a struggle to remove at first, (I won’t lie I nearly lost my cool). Tugging the stem is no help because of the resistance caused by the vacuum. The way to remove it is to gently pinch the base of the cup so that the vacuum created is gone. The only difficulty from here is reaching the base when it is quite far in. Of course, after some trial and error, I removed it and emptied the contents. I gave it a rinse and put it back in.

After a more thorough look at the instructions, I learned that you should “push with your stomach muscles”. I had a moment of believing I was out of my depth in the world of menstrual cups, but I still had to remove the menstrual cup already in me at some point. When I got to it, I did try to the technique of tugging the stem and using my stomach muscles. This lowered it and made it much easier pinch the base. It made removing it a much smoother experience!

Overall, I get the menstrual cup hype. I wish I had started using it earlier. Learning how to use it did was not the hassle I thought it would be, apart from the minute of drama in the shower. There were so many perks to it. It does not leak; it only does when it gets full up. You can take it out and insert in public toilets if need be, but this can mostly be avoided because you can keep it in there for 12 hours, much longer than pads and tampons. You really do not feel it once it is inserted. It does not come with the harsh and drying absorbance a tampon does.

I am not an expert on menstrual cups, but that is why I wanted to share my experience with it. I hardly knew a thing but it really worked for me. Of course, lots of people who menstruate will all have different experiences. For example, a glance online showed me some took a few attempts to figure out the right position for the cup to sit so they did not feel it. The way I see it is if you are comfortable with feeling around your vagina a little bit, I would recommend the menstrual cup. Try not to be put off the price tag: even if it does not end up being your go-to, or just does not work for you, it is a product that lasts and you could always try again another time. If you needed a final nudge to start using a menstrual cup: let this be it. It’s a great opportunity to try living a little more sustainably.