We’ve talked about the menstrual cup a couple of times before – from our first introductory post to it, to our more recent on the Looncup, but we’ve never actually gone into the nitty gritty of actually using a menstrual cup. So as the honorary menstrual cup tester, I will talk you guys through my experience with the menstrual cup, and give you guys a few tips and tricks I learned through trial and error (unfortunately). Just a little disclaimer, I’m still no expert in the usage of the cup, I’ve only used it for one cycle, so I still have a lot more to learn about it too. Also, this is going to be a pretty detailed post (but don’t worry, it’s not going to be too gross), so be prepared.
Phase 1: Pre-Insertion
I don’t know about you guys, but for me it wasn’t the thought of having to insert a cup into my vagina that made me hesitant to try the menstrual cup, but it was more of the fact that I’d have to change up my routine of pad usage that was the main turn-off. But other than the hassle of having to change up by comfortable habits, I’m pretty open to trying new things. I’m also not that queasy when it comes to blood, especially period blood. So keep that in mind as you read on, because some of the things I don’t get grossed out by may be pretty cringe-worthy to some of you.
Before anything, what I did was I trimmed the stem of the cup from it’s initial length of about 2cm, to roughly 1cm (as shown in the picture). This is because I had read that a longer stem was what made the cup uncomfortable, especially it if were to *ahem* protrude. But don’t trim it too short, as this will make it hard to find the cup (when it’s inside you) later on. After this, I placed it in boiling water for a little while for it to disinfect.
Phase 2: Insertion
I did quite a lot of research as to the different methods of cup folding, and eventually chose to use the “punch down” technique, (which you can see here), because it seemed to be the most straightforward method of folding that minimised the surface area of the cup the most. So then it was time.
I’m not sure if it was the accurate way, but I inserted it while standing up, as it seemed like the easiest way. Be sure to wipe down before you insert so that you don’t get (too much) blood on your hands. Without getting too detailed, basically you’re supposed to insert it, then let the cup open up when it’s still not too deep in the vaginal canal, then slide into place. Technically, if it’s inserted properly you should not be able to feel the cup, but because it was my first time using the cup, I did not insert it properly the first time around, and it didn’t open up properly inside. But fret not, if you don’t succeed the first time, try and try again! The second time I tried, it was able to go in without any issues, and I didn’t feel anything after it was in place. As a first time user, I was still concerned that there would be leakage so I did still use a pad.
Just a word of advice, to make sure that the cup is sitting at the correct spot, what you can do after you insert the cup is run your finger around the base of the cup to make sure that the cup is opened fully and inserted fully. Also, try clenching your vaginal muscles a couple of times to help the cup move into place easier.
Phase 3: Wear
The cup is supposed to be able to hold up to 12 hours of blood, even on heavy days, so technically you shouldn’t have to change it out when you’re in a public place (unless you intend to stay out for longer than that). After inserting the cup I just went about my daily activities, and I have to say that the menstrual cup was surprisingly comfortable. At first, though it didn’t hurt, I think it’s the knowledge of having something there that makes you hyperaware of any sensation that goes on down there, so you do kind of feel it in a sense, but after a while you get accustomed to it, and you stop paying so much attention.
After 3 hours, I checked the state of my pad, and found that there was leakage. But the amount of blood on the pad wasn’t particularly significant, as the pad was far from full. I left the menstrual cup as it was because I was in a public bathroom, and while it is totally possible to empty and reinsert the cup, the thought of having to go through the whole process of insertion there was just… unappealing. So I just changed the pad and continued on with my day, and this was pretty much what I did while I was still out.
Phase 4: Removal
By the time I had gotten home, the cup had been in for a good 7 hours, so a pretty decent amount of time, but not long enough that the cup should overflow. However removing the cup, honestly speaking, was way worse that inserting it. First things first, make sure you clean off any blood that may have leaked out before removal. Just as a warning, when you remove the cup, you do need to get in pretty deep (if you know what I mean), especially if your cervix sits higher. So in hindsight, I realise the way I removed it was wrong. What I did was I grasped the stem and pulled the cup out, and this was extremely difficult and uncomfortable. This is because doing so actually increased the suction seal that the cup has with the vaginal walls, which makes removal very hard. Instead, the stem is simply supposed to be something that helps you find the cup, instead of what you use to remove the cup. What you’re actually supposed to do is to pinch the cup firmly at the spot where the stem meets the cup before removal, and this releases the vacuum seal, making removal much easier.
The next thing was the blood. Though the cup didn’t overflow, actually seeing all of it in a cup was really… something else. Like I said before, I’m not that queasy with things like this, but this was some next level stuff. And even after you pour the blood away, you would still have to look at it as you wash the cup. So if you can’t deal with the sight of blood, I suggest just doing it very quickly to minimise whatever contact you have with it. There really isn’t any other way to get around this, but it honestly isn’t as bad after you get used to it. After all, your periods are natural, not something that should be considered dirty or gross!
That was my first experience with the menstrual cup, and the second time I used it, I had already gotten slightly more accustomed to the whole process. So insertion wasn’t so daunting, and I was able to insert it such that leaks were less than before, and removal was done correctly this time around (never again will I make the same mistake), which made it many times less uncomfortable. The sight of so much blood was also not as shocking as the first time, and I honestly think it’s just something you need to get used to. I think the menstrual cup is definitely something worth looking into if you want to find a more environmentally friendly alternative to pad or tampon use. Though it is something that gets used to, I’ll definitely be trying it out again 🙂 This is just my personal experience, so be sure to take my words with a pinch of salt, you’ll never know how it is for you, unless you try it for yourself!
Chen Wei Chua
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