BY RACHEL RICHARDS '17
They are an alternative method to dealing with your period, cost about $30, and can be reused for 10 years, which saves a lot on waste and the cost of buying disposable pads and tampons every month. Menstrual cups are silicone cups with a small — usually textured — tail that aids in removal. To insert it, you fold the cup into a C shape by flattening it and folding it in half, and slip it into your vagina. I cover mine in lube to ease this process, but I don’t think that’s a common practice. Once it’s in there it’ll pop back to it’s original shape. You want it up against your cervix, so push it up and back towards your spine, and run your finger around the rim to make sure it’s in the right place and has formed a seal. It’s that seal that will prevent leaking. To remove it, grab the tail to pull it down far enough for you to grip the base. Squeeze it to break the seal, and carefully pull it out. Empty the contents into a toilet, sink, or my personal favorite—in the shower. Rinse it out, and pop it back in.
It takes practice to get it in and out easily, and can be a little clunky to do in public at first. I find that because it needs to be changed so infrequently, I can almost always do it in a place I’m comfortable. I only change mine once to twice a day, depending on the time of my cycle. Once I’ve positioned the cup, I usually can’t feel it. This means that once I put it in I hardly have to think about it for the day; this is a drastic change from traditional means of tampons and pads.
It relieved a lot of stress from my period that I had before, and helped me become closer to my body by being able to forgive it for doing this to me every month. Since I didn’t have to be thinking about tampons—when I needed to change them, if I was leaking, if I had enough packed with me—my cycle started to become a normal and easy thing for me. They also ease the stress of menstruating while hiking and camping. I spent a little under a month in the Rocky Mountains, and I don’t know how I would have managed to menstruate out there without this thing. On top of that, tampons and pads are a bleached, drying mess with the pH of a vagina and a breeding ground of bacteria. The non-porous silicon material of a menstrual cup is more vagina-friendly and bacteria can’t grow on it. Unlike tampons which pose the risk of toxic shock syndrome when left in too long, menstrual cups only need to be changed on a need-to basis.
Menstrual cups come in two different sizes. There is one size for people under the age of 35 who have not given birth vaginally. The other size will fit better for people over the age of 35, or those who have given birth vaginally. There are many brands of cup, and they come in somewhat different shapes and densities. A few brands to look at to get started would be Moon Cup, Diva Cup and Ruby Cup. It’s easier to find these online than it is in stores, but Whole Foods does carry the Diva Cup. The idea of having to handle a cup of blood does tend to turn people off of the menstrual cup. If it’s not for you, that’s okay—but I do want to say that it’s way less weird than it sounds.
If menstrual cups aren’t for you, but you are interested in alternative products for dealing with your period, I suggest looking into cloth pads and natural and synthetic sea sponges.
Rachel Richards is a peer health educator at Mount Holyoke College.