• Emma

Menstrual cups – are they really that scary? Everything you need to know to have a waste-free period

If you’re curious about using a menstrual cup but are a bit unsure or scared by them, or you simply want to find out more about the waste you could save on your period, then you’re in the right place! This post will give you my experience with using one (someone who was terrified!) and also address some common misconceptions.

Menstrual cups have always been a bit of a mystery to me, something which I half knew existed but had no idea what they really were or how they worked. Part of this was to do with the lack of decent sex ed we received at school, where the only mention of menstrual products was the classic ‘put a tampon in some water and see how it expands’ and a small conversation about sanitary pads. At no point were menstrual cups mentioned as a way of managing periods, even though they have been around since the 1930s!

In around 2016-2018 I really started getting into the low-waste movement. Around the same time, a good, eco-conscious friend of mine told me that she’d started using a menstrual cup. Naïve me didn’t really know what this was, so I quickly hopped onto google. For those of you who don’t know, a menstrual cup is a flexible, silicone cup which is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood. It can be worn for up to 12 hours and then washed out and reused again and again. My initial reaction was something along the lines of ewww that is soooo gross…a cup that fills with your blood?! I bombarded my poor friend with questions – how do you take it out without blood spilling everywhere? Does it hurt? Are you allowed to lie down? Can you feel it when it’s up there? (Answers to these questions can be found below).

Although I was severely freaked out by them, the thought of me personally being able to save up to 2400 tampons and pads going to landfill was appealing, from both an environmental and money-saving standpoint. I left my friend alone and did some more research on my own. I was amazed at the amount of waste that people could save by using them. Did you know that in the UK each year, 4.3 billion sanitary products are used and that 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste goes to landfill! I was horrified. I was also surprised by people’s experiences of comfort and ease with using menstrual cups.

I took this curiosity to London Veg Fest where the company Moon Cup had a stall. I, along with a friend and a few other menstruators, listened to the Moon Cup lady describe how they work. However, at the thought of a cup in your vagina filling with blood, I suddenly felt very queasy (I’ve never been very good with blood). My friend noticed I’d gone white as a sheet and I ended up lying down behind the moon cup stall with my legs in the air and my friend force-feeding me a nature valley bar. Not ideal.

I was totally grossed out by the thought of menstrual cups, so much so that I almost fainted. However, I was so determined to get over this irrational fear as I hated the amount of waste I created each month and desperately wanted to cut down. Moreover, I had recently found out that most tampons are bleached and so are really not that great to be putting inside of you.

With this determination, I plucked up the courage and went into Boots to buy one. And then waited apprehensively for my period to come. I’m not going to lie to you, it took a lot of courage, googling, and YouTube videos for me to work out how to put it in and take it out. But, I got there, and after a bit of practice I had the technique down.

It’s been 2 and a half years since I’ve been using a menstrual cup and there is no way I’d ever go back to pads or tampons. Once you get the hang of it, it really is the easiest thing to use. My cramps are less painful, I can put it in first thing and then not have to worry about it until I go to bed (unlike tampons, menstrual cups collect the blood rather than absorb it, so there’s no need to worry about TSS), and of course, I’m saving on so much waste and money! If you’re scared or grossed out by them like I was, then I urge you to do a bit of research, buy one and try it out. You’ll thank me for it later, and the planet will thank you for it now.

Do any of you use a menstrual cup? I’d love to know your experiences with them down in the comments, or head over to our Instagram page to find out more😊

Ps. To those of you were wondering the answers to my questions above, here you go:

1) Doesn’t blood spill everywhere when you take it out?

No, blood doesn’t spill everywhere when you take it out. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t actually bleed as much as you think you do on your period. Before using a cup, I always thought I had relatively heavy periods, however, even on days 1 and 2, my cup is never full when I take it out, even after 12 hours. If you are worried about blood spilling when you take it out, then I’d recommend doing it in the shower the first few times, then you don’t have to worry. I'd also recommend not leaving it for the max 12 hours the first few times, just in case you have a heavy flow. Once you've used it a few times you'll get to know your flow better and therefore how long you can keep it in for.

2) Does it hurt?

I can’t speak for everyone on this, because I’m sure factors like whether you’ve had penetrative sex or have used a tampon before influence this, but for me (someone who has sex and used tampons) it doesn’t hurt at all. As I said earlier, it takes a bit of practice putting it in and taking it out, but it was never painful.

3) Are you allowed to lie down?

Yes, you absolutely can lie down. In fact, a lot of people keep their cup in overnight. When inserted correctly, the cup makes a seal around your vagina meaning that it won’t leak.

4) Can you feel it when it’s up there?

When inserted correctly, no you can’t feel it at all. I find using a cup a lot more comfortable than using tampons. The cup is flexible it can bend and conform to fit you, rather than a tampon which is just a solid lump…gross!

5) Is there a right way to put it in and take it out?

In terms of putting it in, there are multiple different ways to fold the cup and insert it. I personally find that the triangle fold (number 3 on the image) works best for me. In terms of taking it out, yes there is a correct way to. Most cups have a stalk at the bottom. Do NOT just tug the stalk and try and pull it out – this could damage your vagina. Instead, find the bottom of the cup and pinch it to release the seal before pulling it out. You'll get the hang of it!

6) Which cup should I go for?

This is a tricky question to answer, as there are lots of options out there (yay)! I went for a Moon Cup as I knew the most about them and they were on sale locally in Boots, so I didn't have to pay for shipping costs. To be honest, it doesn't really matter which one you go for as they're all pretty similar. One thing to look out for is size. Most companies create two different sizes, with the bigger one designed for women over 30/women who have had children. Make sure you get the right size! There are lots of websites out there which compare the different brands.

If you have any more questions then please leave them in the comments and I will try to answer them as best I can. Alternatively, feel free to send me a message on Instagram. I’m very happy to help. Also if you liked this post or think it might help someone then please share it. Let’s change the world one period at a time!

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