I’m not going to hold back in this post and I will be sharing some pretty gory details, so if you feel a little disgusted at any point, tough luck! You don’t read a post about menstrual cups and cry when the writer talks about period blood, labia and the vaginal canal.
Despite the title of this post, my period tends to only last around 4 days so it’ll be a struggle to stretch it out over a whole week. But I wanted to lump it in the 7 Days series anyway to keep things consistent.
As with all the posts in this series, I’ll be sharing lots of silly anecdotes and doing a fair bit of rambling below. Over the next few days I’ll write some factual and concise blogs on the topic too.
This is a long read, so you can jump to a particular section by clicking the links below:
Researching menstrual cups
I’ve been wanting to try the menstrual cup for a long time, in part because of the financial benefits of no longer having to buy disposable sanitary products, but also because of the impact these throw-away products have on the environment.
Did you know that the average woman uses around 11,000 disposable sanitary products throughout her life? The worst part is that each of these towels and tampons can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, meaning they end up in landfill or even worse… the ocean!
And according to one study, British women spend as much as £18,000 on their period in their lifetime. This figure isn’t made up of sanitary products alone. Painkillers, replacement underwear and treats for a night in are just a few of the expenses that come with menstruation.
Eliminating cramps and an animalistic desire to hibernate can be challenging, but there are ways to reduce the cost of your period on both the environment and your bank balance. And this is where the menstrual cup comes in!
Choosing a menstrual cup
After deciding to finally take the leap and give cups a try, I watched a ton of YouTube videos in an attempt to decide which cup to invest in. DivaCup comes widely recommended by YouTubers; Saalt has an empowering social media presence, and The Pixie Cup promises to donate a cup to a woman in need every time a sale is made.
In the end, my decision came down to the brand I’d known the longest. I purchased a Mooncup for £18.42 because in my eyes it’s the O.G of the menstrual cup world. In fact, the Mooncup brand is so imprinted in my brain that until now I don’t think I’ve ever used the term ‘menstrual cup’. I’ve always called menstrual cups ‘moon cups’ in the same way we all call vacuum cleaners hoovers. A quick google suggests Mooncup was launched in 2002 – the same year I started my period. So I’m gonna take this as a sign these bad boys were made for me!
Finding the right size moon cup
When ordering a moon cup (or another type of menstrual cup), you’re likely to have a selection of sizes to choose from.
Mooncup offer two sizes:
A – Select size A if you’re over the age of 30 or you’ve given birth vaginally
B – Select size B if you’re under the age of 30 and you’ve not given birth vaginally
This is where I found myself in a bit of a predicament. I’ve never given birth but at the age of 29, I’m just a few months away from hitting the big 3-0. Since moon cups are meant to last you a decade, this left me wondering whether to follow the rules or plan ahead for the future.
Do I get size B and upgrade on my birthday as a treat? What the fuck will happen to my vagina when the clock strikes 12 and my 30th birthday arrives? Not only will I be heading into a new decade with increased societal pressure to get married and have children, now I’m being told my vagina will instantly have aged so significantly that I’ll have to upgrade from the vaginal equivalent of a small teacup to a Sports Direct mug. Fantastic.
This is the kind of shit that keeps me awake at night.
At the end of the day, as far as vaginas go, I reckon I’ve got a small one. Don’t ask me why. I’ve gone with the B. It’s too late for you to change my mind.
How to use a menstrual cup
I waited in all day for the my cup to arrive in the post and when the Amazon man rang my doorbell at 4pm, I was both excited and terrified.
When I tore open the Amazon box, the Mooncup packaging was a little uninspiring. So uninspiring that I didn’t feel compelled to take any pictures of the box or the little bag that the cup came in. According to Instagram, Mooncup has undergone a wee bit of a makeover so I guess what I received was old stock. Thankfully, the cup itself is exactly the same so that’s all that matters.
I didn’t feel ready to insert the cup straight away so I popped to the shops to buy some chocolate and whiskey (just in case). When I got home, I sterilised the cup in boiling water and had a nice bubble bath in an attempt to relax.
Inserting the menstrual cup
Having watched countless YouTube videos on the subject of moon cups, I got the impression that putting it in would be the easy part and removing it would be the tricky bit. Oh boy how wrong I was!
After having a bath, I waited a little while before getting started. I wanted to give my vagina time to self-lubricate with period blood so that I could get the cup in. I’ve heard that some people use lube, and that’s something I might try later, but I thought I’d let my body do its thing first time around. After a few minutes I felt suitably moist and got to work!
As you could probably have guessed by its shape, you can’t just shove a moon cup up your muff as it is. You need to do some serious vagina origami first by folding the cup up so it’ll enter more easily. One of the most common folds is pictured below and this is the one I tried first.
With my cup ready for take off, the first position I tried involved standing in the bath with my legs wide apart. That didn’t work.
Next, I tried standing with one foot on the side of the bath. No luck.
After that, I tried sitting on the edge with my feet in the bath and my legs positioned as if I was manspreading on the bus. No bueno.
My next move was to sit on an old towel on the floor with a magnifying mirror in front of me, watching myself trying to push this wobbly piece of silicone into my vag. It just wouldn’t work! I started to get worked up and frustrated, convinced that my teeny tiny vagina was to blame for my struggles.
Of course, I’d been documenting the whole process on my Instagram Stories (from the waist up), so I was getting increasingly distressed as time went on. If you’d like to watch the drama unfold, head over to my profile and catch it on my highlights. I think the word ‘highlights’ is subjective in this case because this was arguably a low point in my life.
After a 20 minute break, I vowed to give it one more shot before calling it a night. This time, I stood on the floor with one foot on the bath, in a slight squat position. It worked! It went in so easily that I couldn’t help but cheer.
The time was 10pm and with a vagina full of silicone and a sense of accomplishment, I climbed into bed to watch some more YouTube videos.
Removing a menstrual cup for the first time
If you’re skimming through this post, please note that although this is ‘Day 3’ of my moon cup adventure, I only wore the cup for 4 hours before removing it for the first time. It’s advised that you keep it in for a maximum of 12 hours.
At 2am, I was still awake. It wasn’t that I felt any discomfort; I was pissing about on the internet. I popped to the bathroom to have a wee and check on my cup. I had a little poke around and could feel the end of the cup’s stem quite close to the opening of my vagina. Figuring this was as good a time as any to remove it, I got stuck in.
I followed the stem upwards until I found the base of the cup and pinched it slightly.
I’d read somewhere that using your vaginal muscles to push – as if you’re having a baby – can help to lower the cup and make things that little bit easier. I did as instructed, while slowly pulling the cup out of my vagina.
A common concern is that the blood will spill out of the cup when you remove it. I’m the clumsiest fucker I know, but I managed to avoid this by being careful and keeping the cup upright.
Removing the moon cup was so much easier than I thought it would be and I think that might be down to the following reasons:
- I was feeling relaxed
- I knew to remove the cup by pinching the base rather than by tugging at the stem
- I knew that if I couldn’t get it out, only 4 hours had passed so I still had plenty of time to try again later
- I knew that even if I couldn’t reach it, the cup cannot get lost inside my body and I would not die
I’d heard that one of the key benefits to menstrual cups is that they don’t dry your vagina out like tampons do. And when I removed the cup, I was surprised to discover just how lubricated the vagina naturally can be. It was as if Alexander Skarsgård had been sucking on my earlobe for half an hour.
What if the menstrual cup gets stuck?
There were a couple of times when I struggled to remove the cup throughout the day, but a few deep breaths and a slightly different position soon fixed the problem.
The absolute worst thing that can happen from being unable to get a menstrual cup out of your body is that you have to get a medical professional to do it for you.
I have friends who are nurses and every time I see them, I ask them for their most entertaining stories. Not once has one of my nurse friends excitedly told me about the time they had to remove a menstrual cup from someone’s vagina. On the one hand that could be because it’s so unlikely to happen that they’ve never done it. On the other hand, it might be because it’s a terribly uninteresting story compared to the traumatic tale of the old man who crawls into A&E every week with a different Toy Story figurine jammed up his arse from the week before. I imagine Slinky Dog would be particularly troublesome to remove.
If a nurse has to remove a menstrual cup from your vagina, I can assure you this is going to be way down on their list of entertaining anecdotes. They’re also not going to be judging you.
Cleaning the menstrual cup
It’s often recommended that you tip the contents of the cup into the toilet and then rinse it in the sink. I totally ignored this advice and poured it right into the sink because I was interested to see what the blood looked like without it being diluted by toilet water.
This is going to sound super hippyish but it was such a beautiful colour. You don’t realise this when you’re using tampons or pads.
I ran the cup under the cold tap to start with because apparently this is the best way to prevent it getting stained. Once I’d removed most of the blood with cold water, I ran the cup under hot water.
Reinserting the cup
Since putting the cup in the first time was such a nightmare, I tried a different method of insertion this time around.
Let me tell you, the below method was so much easier! It seemed to make it more streamlined and it just glided right in.
I went to bed shortly after and slept like a baby.
When I woke up a few hours later, ready for the day, I repeated the process.
Overall, the cup itself is really comfortable. The only discomfort I have is from the stem, which I can sometimes feel around the entrance to my vagina. It’s not a horrible feeling and it doesn’t hurt, but I just know it’s there. It’s generally advised that if you can feel the stem, you should trim it with some scissors.
I know I need to do this eventually but I’m reluctant. Over the last 24 hours the stem has been giving me peace of mind. When I feel it at the entrance to my vagina, I have the reassurance that the cup won’t be hard to find when I come to remove it. It acts as a guide and helps direct me to the base of the cup. Maybe I’ll chop the stem down when I’ve gotten more practise.
Going to the gym with a menstrual cup
Today, my cup faced the ultimate challenge… a workout session. This review would be incomplete if I didn’t find out what it’s like to wear a menstrual cup at the gym. I emptied and washed the cup minutes before leaving the house, figuring that if it a vigorous squat forced my moon cup to leap from my vaginal walls like a silicone humpty dumpty, at least all the king’s horses and all the king’s men wouldn’t have a bloodbath on their hands.
First stop, the spin bikes. I climbed on, fully expecting the stem of the moon cup to rub against the seat, but I couldn’t feel a thing. It felt the same as working out when I’m not on my period.
Next, I grabbed a mat and headed over to a quiet part of the gym to do some kettlebell swings, walkouts and sit ups. With a kettlebell in my hands, getting into a slight squat position for my first swing raised some concerns because I felt a little bit of movement down there, but as soon as I started swinging, this sensation went away.
After that, I headed over to the cross trainer. I don’t know about you but there’s something about exercise that gives me an overwhelming need to poop and sure enough, 10 minutes into my stint on the cross trainer, my bowels started to grumble. I’d read that pooping with a menstrual cup inside you can be challenging because the pressure can dislodge the cup or force it out of you completely.
While this is good news if you’re ever struggling to remove the cup with your hands and you’re looking for an alternative way to eject it, it’s not great for those of us who tend to poop at least twice a day, often at the most inconvenient of times.
Removing a menstrual cup in a public bathroom
I rushed to the toilets, grabbed my bag from the locker, placed it on the door of a stall, and washed my hands at the sink. Eager to keep my hands as clean as possible, I managed to close and lock the door of the stall with my sleeve covering my fingers.
I got into a squat position and removed the cup like normal. Imagine my frustration when I grabbed my water bottle to rinse the menstrual cup over the toilet and realised that in order to get water out of the bottle, you need to suck! I was tipping it and nothing was coming out.
So, with my moon cup in my left hand, water bottle in the right, and my pants around my ankles, I had to put the bottle between my knees and unscrew the lid with my right hand. I then held the lid in my mouth and poured the water over the cup. Unfortunately, the struggle did not end there. Rather than the trickle of water I’d hoped for, a waterfall emerged from the bottle, causing blood and toilet water to splash all over the seat. Expressionless, I stared at the damage and figured I’d deal with it later. First, I had to figure out what to do with the cup.
I don’t know about your gym but mine is rancid. I feel like the dirtiest person in the world as soon as I step through the door and the thought of putting my cup back into my body in such an unclean environment didn’t sit right with me. I know I’ll have to get over this eventually, but after the destruction I’d caused in that bathroom, I didn’t want to take any risks.
Thankfully, I carry what I like to call a Slut Kit with me everywhere. It’s a small makeup bag I keep in my handbag that contains a spare pair of knickers, tampon, liner, wipes, condom, dental floss, a few tablets, and a couple of plastic food bags (the idea being I can use these bags for a dirty tampon if I’m ever unable to throw it away). The Slut Kit’s primary purpose is to allow me to freshen up a little if I get lucky and stay at a guy’s house, but I also keep some period essentials in there too. Having lived a life of semi-involuntary celibacy for quite a while now, my Slut Kit has been out of action, but I was grateful of its presence today. I placed the bottle on the floor and reached for the plastic food bags, popping the cup in one and wrapping that bag in another. Not the most environmentally friendly option, I’ll admit, but considering how much waste I’ve saved by using the cup over the last few days, I think we can let this slide.
By the time I cleaned the toilet and sat on it, my urge to poop had disappeared and I went home cursing the whole ordeal.
All in all, working out with a menstrual cup was better than exercising with a tampon in. Removing the cup in a public bathroom, as you can probably have guessed, wasn’t quite so smooth sailing. But we learn from our mistakes, don’t we? Next time I have to change my moon cup in a public loo, it’ll be easier than it was today.
My period is much lighter than it was for the first few days, so I’m having to change the cup much less frequently. I’m feeling really proud of myself today because I feel like I’ve really mastered the menstrual cup already.
How much difference does the menstrual cup make to the environment?
Already I can see just how much of a difference the menstrual cup can make to the environment. I’m no longer having to throw disposable sanitary products in the bin and it’s been nice not having to make regular trips to the wheelie bins outside to empty the bathroom bin before it starts to smell.
I’m not certain how many tampons I usually go through each month, but if I had to guess, I think I probably change it every 4 or 5 hours, aside from when I’m sleeping. That’s as many as 6 tampons a day aka around 24 tampons a month, assuming my period lasts 4 days.
This month’s period hasn’t been totally zero waste. I think I used two tampons and two liners while waiting for the cup to be delivered. And for the first 24 hours of using the cup, I wore pads for backup incase I leaked. Thankfully, since I didn’t leak at all while wearing the cup, I didn’t change the pads as often as I would if I actually bled into them. I can’t get over the fact that not once have I leaked while using the menstrual cup this week. That’s incredible and a sign I’ve really mastered it already. Go me!
How much money can I save by using the menstrual cup?
Seeing as this is a money website, obviously this is a question that needs to be answered.
The Mooncup cost me just over £18 and if the promises are to be believed, it should last me up to 10 years. With tampons and liners costing £2-£3 a box from budget shops, it’s easy to see how savings can soon be made. It’s difficult to say exactly how much money each individual can save with the help of the menstrual cup because that will depend on your own usage of disposable sanitary products.