I got my menstrual cup in December 2014, and for the first time in my life, I was excited to get my period.
I began researching for alternate methods of dealing with my monthly cycle when I saw how much waste a woman who used napkins or tampons accumulated throughout her lifetime: 62,415 pounds of plastic and cotton—and that doesn't include all the chemicals used to make napkins or tampons.
Rather than purchasing one every cycle, menstrual cups last around two to five years and are made of medical grade silicone. They may cost a bit more, but are cheaper in the long run. Plus, you don't need to go running to a convenience store when your cycle begins. In fact, if you know when to expect your period, you can insert it to prevent stains and leaks.
Menstrual cups are also a whole lot better for your body, allowing your vagina to breathe rather than choke it with a napkin or tampon. The way a cup functions is it forms a vacuum inside you. You remove it by "bearing down" using your pelvic muscles, and can safely and with no mess dispose of your fluid.
I woke up earlier than usual because I was sure that inserting the cup would be a struggle. I didn't know how right I was: I spent around 10 minutes in the bathroom, inserting, removing, and reinserting the cup until finally I didn't feel any discomfort—which, by the way, is caused only by improper insertion.
I also timed how long I would wait before cleaning and emptying the cup. Unfortunately, I was still at the office when I had to empty my cup, but thankfully we had a single service bathroom which had a toilet and sink, allowing me to do my business with minimal awkwardness. After 12 hours of use, it wasn't full. The cup I use came with little measurement lines on the inside, which was helpful and instructive.
I went to sleep with the cup inserted, and hoped for the best.
When I woke up, I immediately checked to see if I had leaked. Amazingly, I did not. I was beyond happy, and began to talk to my friends about my menstrual cup.
Once again, I spent a significant chunk of time in the bathroom inserting and reinserting the cup to my satisfaction. According to the online forums I read, this learning curve was something every woman who'd switched to using the cup went through. It usually lasted two to three cycles into use.
I rushed to work and went about my day. When I went to the bathroom to pee, however, I was horrified to see that I had leaked. Being the Girl Scout that I am, I had panty liners and that was that. I was a bit let down that I leaked, though.
Other than it being my first cycle using the cup, it was also the second day of my period, when my flow was strongest. These two factors were likely the reason for the leaks, which lasted despite the attempts to reinsert properly midday.
I was hoping that the cup wouldn't let me down on my third day of use because I had to do field work. I think most, if not all, women know what a hassle it is to find a bathroom just to change your pad or tampon.
Despite running back and forth throughout the day, there were no leaks. But I still wore a liner just in case. So far, so good.
On the last day of my cycle, I was confident enough to leave my cup inserted for more than 12 hours. I felt like a god, going through my day like my uterus wasn’t screaming bloody murder, and being able to walk around in khaki pants with no fear of any untoward incidents.
A year later
I can say with no exaggeration that in the crazy year that was 2016, one of the best decisions I made was to purchase and use a menstrual cup. Other than the financial investment, using the cup makes me feel secure and free every time Aunt Flo comes for a visit. But most importantly, it feels great to know that at least in one aspect of my life, I’ve significantly decreased the waste I produce.
Whenever I tell people about using a menstrual cup, usually the reaction is a mixture of amazement, curiosity, and ultimately, slight disgust. But come on, we’re willing to put other things in there. ;)
Follow Nadine on Twitter.