One of my fondest Christmas memories is waking up to Mariah Carey on the speakers, presents under the tree, and bloodstains in my panties. (Yeah, this is going to be a TMI article, but menstruation is a TMI topic.)
While starting the first chapter of “womanhood” wasn’t on my wishlist that year, I’ve reasoned Santa’s choice as this: good girls get Lego sets, bad girls get coal, and hot girls get their period.
Being the hot girl that I am, I’m trying to live more sustainably. That includes ditching regular pads and tampons since stats estimate the average person who menstruates will use 11,000 (!) disposable period products in their lifetime. That’s a lot of plastic waste—like 4,125 plastic bags worth if you’re a pad user.
During my journey to reduce my plastic footprint, I’ve tried everything from period panties to applicator-less tampons to menstrual discs.
My favorite by far, though, is menstrual cups. I sing their praises constantly, but my friends typically respond somewhere between, “I’m a bit nervous to try” and, “OMG, you just stick your fingers up there?! I could never.” But counterpoint: You can, and hopefully after this article, you will.
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What are Menstrual Cups?
Menstrual cups are reusable, usually silicone-based cups that sit at the base of the cervix to catch your flow. Depending on how heavy your period is, they can last up to 12 hours before needing to be removed, cleaned, and reinserted.
The reinsertion is usually what puts people off, but 2 women recently made a menstrual cup applicator to help that process along. Cups are similar to menstrual discs, but there are some key differences:
1. Compared to cups, discs are flatter like a shallow bowl.
2. Cups form a suction seal along your vaginal walls to prevent leaks, while the disc naturally rests behind the pubic bone.
3. Discs were designed to be worn during sex, while cups are a no-go in that department.
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Are Menstrual Cups Safe?
Short answer: Yes! A 2019 study found that menstrual cups were just as safe and effective as pads/tampons. There have been occurrences of menstrual cup use leading to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), but gynecologist Dr. Mary Jane Minkin says that’s extremely rare and also a possibility (though again, very rare) with tampons. (Sidenote: Cups and IUDs don’t get along that well, so it might not be the best option if that’s your current birth control method.)
On another safety note, if you’ve heard the stories of menstrual cups getting stuck, allow me to calm these concerns. Like I said before, the cups work by forming a suction seal along your vaginal walls, and if that seal is really tight, it might be difficult to pull the cup out. If that happens, you just need to pinch the base of the cup to release that pressure.
Cups can also wiggle up towards your cervix, just out of reach for your delicate fingers. In that case, try to remove it while in different positions, or if push comes to shove, ask a medical provider or friend to quite literally give you a hand.
Why do you love them so much? Besides the environment.
I could tell you, or I could tell you in a list. I think I’ll go with the latter.
– When I use tampons, I have to change them every 4 hours during heavy days. Cups last over twice as long for me, which means I don’t have to plan my schedule around bathroom breaks.
– It’s giving savings: One cup lasts for years, which means one $40 purchase instead of a $10 box of tampons every. single. month.
– They’re so comfortable! Once you get the hang of placing cups properly, you barely feel them.
@periodnirvana There really is a cup for almost everyone. @periodnirvana Finding it can be the hard part but my resources are designed to help #menstrualcup #periodnirvana #periodtok #periodcup ♬ Cute – Prod by Rose & Artsounds Chill
Fine, I’m Convinced. Which One Should I Buy?
The OG is DivaCup, which I use in a model 2. But unless your flow is like Niagara Falls (which mine sometimes is), start with the smaller model 1. Cora’s cup is also nice and easy to learn with, which is why The New York Times named it the best cup for beginners in 2020. Lastly, if you’re interested in trying out a disc-style cup, Nixit is a good option. Of course, the best option would be some kind of magic vacuum that sucks out your whole period in 10 minutes, but unfortunately, science is way behind.