The menstrual cup, or as my 11 year old brother calls it, muff plunger.
You’ve heard of it, but you don’t really get it and it sounds kinda gross and you don’t know where to buy them from so you just kinda don’t.
Ever since I bought my own menstrual cup 2.5 years ago, I try to surreptitiously bring up the topic to my female friends (usually unsuspecting coworkers), attempting, and usually failing, to convert them to The Way Of The Cup. So, it’s high time I wrote an elaborate blog post putting forth my case.
I can honestly tell you that the m-cup changed my period/life – and this is a common statement from cup users. It’s more comfortable, more convenient, cheaper, safer, sexier, way better for the environment, and generally makes me feel like I don’t even have my period.
I want as many other menstruating humans as possible to experience the liberation of the m-cup.
Piqued your curiosity yet?
What: A (usually) silicone flexible bell-shaped cup that you wear internally, the m-cup collects rather than absorbs your monthly rosy shedding. It’s reusable, designed to last up to 10 years, and holds three times as much as a tampon or pad.
How: Fold like a soft taco, squeeze into your taco, and allow to open to form a seal. There’s many ways to fold it, and it can get surprisingly small. Once you learn the best way to do this for you, it’s rather easy. (See the resources below for handy hints). It may look quite big compared to a tampon, but no worries, vaginas have magical stretchy properties.
When inserted correctly, there shouldn’t be any leakage and you shouldn’t be able to feel it. I repeat: you can’t feel it inside of you. Further, it can be left in for up to 10-12 hours (depending on your flow). That’s a whole waking day without worrying about leakage, or funky smells, or having to change gross tampons for fear of toxic shock syndrome... If that doesn’t make for cruisy crimson surf conditions I don’t know what does.
The Argument For
So why make the switch? Because the benefits of this thing are truly endless. In a randomized controlled trial comparing menstrual cups to tampons, satisfaction for the m-cup was higher, and 91% of women who tried it said they would continue using it and recommend it to others.
Comfort & Convenience
In addition to the fact that you can’t feel it and you can leave it in worry-free all day, you can’t see it and can consequently do pretty much any physical activity whilst wearing it. It is perfect for all sports, especially activities such as hiking or skiing, as it doesn’t need to be frequently changed. For anything involving swimwear, there’s no risk of a little string peeking out. And golly gosh, for travel there is nothing so convenient as your whole menstrual kit being a teeny little cup – not only does it save bag room, but say goodbye to awkwardly trying to locate a convenience store on a Croatian island or Vietnamese countryside when Aunty Flo visits unexpectedly. In fact, say goodbye to emergency tampon-hunts ever again, no matter your geographical location – when the red moon is rising, just whip out your m-cup, bby. Furthermore, some women say that using an m-cup actually reduces cramping.
It will save you cash dollars
The average Australian woman’s annual expenditure on tampons and pads is between AU$120-$200. Menstrual cups cost between AU$40-$60. Whilst an initial outlay, they last for 5-10 years – you do the math, hunni.
Safety and peace of mind
Tbh, you’re pretty safe with disposables. But the m-cup definitely gives me peace of mind in the safety department. Made from medical-grade, hypoallergenic silicone, the m-cup has none of the chemicals contained in other period products. There has been one very rare documented case of TSS associated with the menstrual cup – but it is still considered very safe. As it collects rather than absorbs, your natural moisture is retained and your pH levels remain in balance – goodbye itchy dryness. A benefit of this is that it is safe to wear the cup if you’re spotting, or in anticipation of getting your period.
Less messy sexy times
You can’t have vaginal sex whilst wearing your cup, however, you can still do all other sexies that don’t involve finger-or-penis-or-whatever-else-you-may-be-into-in-vagina. You and your partner can capitalise on that characteristic period-lustfulness and rest assured that there is no extra mess to deal with (if blood during sexy times ain’t really your thang).
Good for you AND the planet
This, for me, is the most important point. I believe we have a moral imperative to do what we can to address climate change, and reducing our carbon footprint and waste is one of the most tangible things we can do.
The average woman throws away between 110 to 135kg of feminine hygiene products in her lifetime, and approximately 9600 tampons are used in the menstrual life of a tampon-user – that’s a helluva lot of landfill. The production and disposal process of tampons and pads is also quite impactful, including the water-intensive production of cotton, harsh chemicals including pesticides & herbicides, chlorine, rayon and dioxins, non-biodegradable plastic wrappings, and transportation costs. Admittedly, almost everything we buy has an environmental cost, but for something as regular and unavoidable as periods, it is worth choosing an option with minimal environmental impact.
It’s also worth considering the relationship between disposable products, capitalism and consumerism. Disposables sustain the need for us to keep buying them, creating endless purchasing for us, and profit for capitalist companies. Reusable products, however, defy the consumerist mantra of buy-buy-buy. So, if you wanna bleed and Fuck The System whilst doing it…
Sounds Awesome – Now what?
Who: Brands include Lunette, Diva Cup (the most popular), JuJu (Australian-made), Moon Cup, MeLuna and Keeper Cup, among many others. Make sure to read the instructions specific to the brand as they all differ slightly! I use Lunette and would strongly recommend it. Lunette comes in pretty colours, is a little shorter in length (better for those with low cervixes), and has a longer stem which can assist with removal. Tip: stems can be trimmed for better fitting.
Where: You can check out this website which includes useful info, cup comparisons, and where you can buy cups for quick Australian delivery: www.menstrualcupsaustraliaonline.com.au. For those in the Wollongong area, you can find Lunette at Martin’s Pharmacy Corrimal, or Flametree Co-Op in Thirroul.
It sounds too difficult, other options seem way easier…
There is definitely a learning curve that needs to be overcome when first using the m-cup. But using a tampon wasn’t easy at first either. The initial buying and learning does take a bit of time and effort, and it does take longer to insert/remove, but you get used to it after maybe 2-3 cycles and for a whole day’s worth of bleeding-fanny-freedom IT IS SO WORTH IT.
Does it hurt?
No. Or at least, it shouldn’t, when inserted correctly. Follow the instructions of your specific cup brand, check out some online tips, and if it does continue to hurt, consult a medical professional.
What if I have to change it when in public?
You can avoid this most of the time, as the cup can be left in for up to 12 hours. Definitely wear a pantyliner when you’re first starting in case of leaks. If you do find you need to empty the cup whilst out and about, and can’t find a self-contained bathroom, you can take a bottle of water into the cubicle for rinsing. You can also simply wipe with toilet paper and rinse later when you have more privacy. Wipes specifically designed for cleaning menstrual cups are available for purchase.
Isn’t it gross and messy?
Yes and no. I personally don’t find it any more ‘gross’ than a tampon, although it is more hands-on. You have to get up close and personal with your vag. You probably definitely will get blood on your hands, especially when you clean it. One way to make it less messy is to empty and clean the cup in the shower – but in fact it’s really much less messy than you’d think! Although slightly confronting at first, after a few times using it, you don’t really care about the supposed ‘ick factor’ (because there are bigger things in life to care about). I actually liked getting more intimate with my period – I see it as a benefit. It’s pretty cool to see how much blood falls out of you each day, and I feel like I understand my body better. It discourages body-shame and encourages body-love and, I would even say, empowerment. If the whole idea of blood and vagina freaks you out… half of me wants to tell you that there’s nothing to be scared of, it’s natural, it’s fundamentally you, get over it because environment, and embrace the opportunity to overcome your ingrained shame and disgust over naturally occurring bodily functions that are crucial to the existence of humankind. And the other part of me says, no worries girl, it’s your choice.
The blog post accompanying the above video, including all your need-to-know info about m-cups
10 tips for first time menstrual cup users (by Menstrual Cups Australia)
Troubleshooting & Tips (by JuJu)
A video by Lunette demonstrating the different types of folds for cup insertion
Put A Cup In It – Quiz that suggests your perfect m-cup (plus lots of other useful info)
Virgins and Menstrual Cups – A great resource about choice considerations including sizing, culture, and personal beliefs
Header illustration by Jim Cooke.