Art by Ashley Lukashevsky (@ashlukadraws)
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There are a surprisingly few number of options, in terms of gear, when it’s that time of the month: your have your standard pads, panty liners, and tampons, of course. A new trend, called period underwear, is on the rise. But there’s another method (with a huge and growing fan-base) called the menstrual cup. And people are converting.
Sometimes referred to by brand, such as the Diva Cup, it’s a small, silicone cone you fold and insert directly into the vagina during your cycle.
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Once the cup is placed up there, it sort of “pops” open, filling with blood and staying in place with a suction-like grip. To empty it, say after 12 hours or so, just gently pull it out, pour the blood out of the cup, give it a rinse and stick it back in.
Does that weird you out a little?
Yes? Not really? Maybe just a little? We get it: the menstrual cup concept can feel jarring and strange if you’re just coming across it for the first time. But people swear by this method, and we wanted to learn more about it.
After all, it could save you money in the long run. A cup costs between $25-$40 dollars upfront, but then the cost of tampons or pads each month is eliminated. Bye, late night runs to CVS in your pajamas!
Also noteworthy: menstrual cups are not porous, so there’s a lower risk of toxic shock syndrome associated with them, according to Dr. Kristen Sharp, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
“I think cups are actually a great option because it involves a lot of knowledge about your anatomy,” Dr. Sharp told AwesomenessTV. “It gives you a good visual for [the volume and what is happening with the blood] — and it demystifies it.”
It’s really true. The only way to get comfortable with using a menstrual cup is to get comfortable with your own body. As we explained above, ya really gotta get up in there, and make much closer contact with your own body than you do with a tampon applicator or a pad.
But that’s just beginning of the cup’s cool benefits. As the women below explain, there’s a ton of reasons to try a cup. It’s not perfect though; the method poses a few challenges as well. Keep reading to hear what they had to say:
“I feel like I have my own tool.” – Scout V., 27 years old
“The cup is simple and I like that I don’t have to think about carrying anything with me. It’s really comfortable. I don’t feel it. I change it once at the end of the day. And I kind of hated wearing tampons, like there was some big funky thing inside of you — I just really didn’t like it at all.
And the frequency of maintenance, like worrying about it and kind of feeling like something was just dangling out of you, all of that. It’s also cost effective. There’s something about having your period every month and having this one thing that I use every time and it works. I never had any ownership over my tampon boxes,” Scout said, laughing. “Now I have this item. I have a tool.”
“Cups are convenient.” – Ariana C., 34 years old
“I think it’s made my life a lot easier. Especially traveling to places where they don’t necessarily have the kind of tampons you use, then you have to worry about finding that specific kind of tampon or brand you like.
I started using it when I went to Argentina. They didn’t have applicator tampons so I thought it was really good option because it’s something that is familiar and you just take it with you. And when I started working in an office, I didn’t have to carry a tampon in my hand.”
“Pads and tampons make your period look much worse than it really is.” – Dafna P., 24 years old
“Inserting and taking out tampons is really annoying. I find it really convenient that you can leave the cup in for 12 hours and not be at any increased risk. And for periods that are really light, you don’t have to feel like you’re pulling out a dry tampon (which is a horrible feeling). You also don’t have to feel like you’re sitting in a diaper, which is an equally horrible feeling.
I also found I don’t have to think about it when I’m out swimming. [With] tampons, in the back of my mind, I’m like, ‘Oh, is my string going to pop out?’ It used to limit what type of bathing suit I’d wear.
And tampons and pads are really nasty when you look at them. When you use a cup, you see how truly little blood there is. Even with a heavier flow, it’s still shocking what a little quantity of blood there really is. It’s like two ounces.”
“It’s way better for the environment.” – Tara B., 29
“I think it took me a really long time to figure out that it’s my body and I can do what I want with it. And just because it’s not something that’s common doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome for you. So I would say give it a shot.
The cup is convenient and I can sleep through the whole night or get through an entire workday without changing it. Although, now that I have an IUD there are some days that I have a heavy flow and I change it more than once.
I’m not too eco-conscious, but when I think about the impact of tampons and applicators sitting in landfills, it actually feels really nice to know that I’m not contributing to that all. And it’s so small and inconspicuous. I don’t have to pack a whole box of tampons anymore.”
“I used to use a cup, but I switched back to tampons.” – Andrea L., 30
“I liked that I was no longer contributing to waste in landfills. I saved money every month. People expect it to leak, but I don’t remember it ever leaking (and I get a heavy period for the first few days). I also avoided the bleach and other chemicals or fragrances that are used in tampons and pads.
But I also felt a pressure [in my pelvis] from the cup, so I stopped using it. Some of the extra steps needed for the diva cup were challenging at work or in a public bathroom, like emptying the cup and washing it out. That’s fine to do at home but not out in the world or in a public bathroom.”
“There was a bit of a learning curve, but now I love it.” – Mary J., 27
“I have a pretty heavy flow and I’ve been afraid of leaking through my pants for the last 15 years! So for me, it just meets my needs a lot better.
The way that the cup sits inside the vagina, I don’t feel like it’s bumping up and I don’t feel it at all. As far as things I don’t like: it sucks a little bit as an upfront cost and is there’s definitely a learning curve for figuring out how to use it. It comes with instructions, almost like origami methods for different ways to fold it. But it’s a similar thing with learning how to use a tampon.”
“I am all about that diva cup.” — Brielle M., 28
“It is the best thing that has ever happened to me as an adult woman. I always run out of toiletries. I was always the person forgetting to buy tampons and having to borrow them from people. I would inevitably end up ruining my underwear. With cups, that just doesn’t happen. I have a moderate-level flow, so I literally just put it in and don’t have to think about it.
If you’re comfortable using a tampon, I really don’t think it’s a big step up from that. It’s your body. Be comfortable with it. You gotta learn it anyway! The cup has made my life a lot more pleasant.”
The above interviews have been edited for publication.