We don’t always enjoy being women.
Let’s face it, from the time that we hit puberty, we have a love/hate relationship with our bodies. The ways we develop and grow is something to be celebrated. Sometimes though, we dislike the changes. We’re uncomfortable, especially when our periods introduce us to a world we can’t escape from until menopause. In some cultures, this marks a momentous celebration. In others, certain aspects of this time in our lives teach us to regard it as a monthly shame.
Menstruation Is not a topic anybody enjoys talking about. My first conversations with my mother were awkward. The school system teaches you scientifically how to prepare with lengthy explanations about ovulation and procreation which pre-teens don’t comprehend, and honestly have very little interest in.
What does capture our attention is the fact that we will, on average, spend 65 days out of the year menstruating, then when we’re still reeling from that number, we’re told it’s up to us to deal with it. In the end, they hand us two options to deal with our monthly flow: tampons or pads. Very rarely is anyone taught there is another way.
Oddly enough, there is. In the mid-1800s, the menstrual cup was invented. But very few people paid attention to this significant development in the world of managing one’s period until a singer in the 1930s by the name of Leona Chalmers started promoting them. Sadly, while they enjoyed a burst of popularity at the time, they never gained much traction in our modern world…until now.
What is the Menstrual Cup?
Think of a small squishy bowl made out of latex, rubber, or silicone. The menstrual cup is designed to be inserted comfortably into your vagina and does precisely what you think it will. When worn correctly, the cup provides a seal that traps the menstrual blood in the cup itself until you can empty it, about once every 12 hours. The genius of the design means that the menstrual cup manages your period with no one the wiser. Wearers of a menstrual cup can be physically active and have sex while wearing one.
Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Let’s look at the benefits in a little more detail:
The best part about using a menstrual cup is, there’s less chance of toxic shock syndrome, which comes with using tampons. Also, your pH and the good bacteria stay in better balance using the cup—you stay healthier and are less likely to have infections while using one as opposed to other methods.
- Less Worry
How often do you need to change a pad or tampon? One beautiful thing about a menstrual cup is that you only need to empty it about every 12 hours (6 if your period is very heavy). This means you really can just forget about it for the day, and you don’t have to worry about leakage overnight.
Worried about your carbon footprint? Pads and tampons fill landfills and use unfriendly materials to the environment. One of the best features of the menstrual cup is just how reusable it is (although there is a disposable variety if you prefer). With proper care, your menstrual cup can last anywhere up to 10 years. This saves a lot of waste and the use of resources required to manufacture other sanitary devices.
Building on the last idea of being able to reuse the menstrual cup comes the financial factor. How much do you spend on pads or tampons in the course of the year? Would you be surprised to find that generally, this number is in the range of $60 – 120? While the cup costs about $40, it saves you more the longer you’re able to keep reusing it. This, too, is why menstrual cups makes such a good idea in developing nations. These are places where girls and women have a tough time finding proper supplies for their periods. A menstrual cup solves this problem, meaning no one has to stay home during their period, leading to less time lost for work and for school.
- Less Odor
Did you know menstrual blood only starts smelling bad when it’s exposed to air? With the menstrual cup, a seal is created, keeping the blood fully contained until you empty it. No odor. At all!
- Easy to Use
Some would really argue this point. In truth, the menstrual cup might seem a little challenging the first time you use it, but once you get used to inserting and withdrawing it, you’ll find just how simple the process is.
- No Vaginal Drying
Tampons have a way of drying out the natural moisture a woman has vaginally. With a menstrual cup, everything stays moist, so you stay exactly as you should.
How to Insert Menstrual Cup
- Make sure your hands are clean by washing them thoroughly.
- If possible, use a water-based lube or just get the menstrual cup wet, so it’s easier to insert.
- Fold the menstrual cup in half, keeping it firmly between your fingers. Don’t be afraid to pinch down, as the cups are designed to be very flexible.
- Insert the menstrual cup completely into your vaginal area. How far? Try to picture an inch or so below the cervix.
- Let go of the cup. At this point, it will spring open.
- Grasping the bottom of the cup firmly, twist it. Imagine turning a screw if that helps. What this will do is create a seal using suction between the cup itself and the vaginal wall.
How to Remove a Menstrual Cup
- Again, make sure you wash your hands first.
- Pinch the bottom of the cup. This will break the seal you created earlier.
- Slowly draw the cup out of your vagina.
This is going to take a little bit of practice so that you don’t spill the blood everywhere, so don’t be discouraged if this seems messy at first. It gets better – so much so that 71% of women who try a menstrual cup never go back to the old way of managing their periods!
Once you’ve withdrawn the cup, simply empty the blood into the toilet, and then thoroughly rinse the cup at the sink to clean it off before inserting it again.
…But What About That Ick Factor?
Not everyone feels comfortable with touching themselves in the genital area. Add the component of blood involved, and yes, it can seem icky at first. What you need to remember is this: menstruation is a normal part of life. There is nothing wrong with menstrual blood, and no need to be alarmed by it. Also, you should never feel squeamish about any part of your body. This is part of you after all, and your period is a natural body process.
On a more practical note? If you’re anxious about the blood, you might want to empty the menstrual cup a little more often until you get used to it. It’s better if you don’t let the cup fill all the way to the top.
A Final Note
When you are done with your period, make sure you clean the menstrual cup thoroughly. This is incredibly important as it helps protect your health and ensures your menstrual cup lasts longer, so you need to replace it less often.
Menstrual cups can be a lifesaver, especially if you’re on a budget. What’s even better? Being able to take back your life. No more stopping any of your favorite activities just because you’re on your period.
It really is time to celebrate being a woman, after all!
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