Right, straight up you are getting the warning that this post is likely to be full of too much information for you. So if you’re going to get squicked out by the very thought of menstrual cups, discussions of consistency of discharge, or the use of the word ‘rummage’, I’d just click away now, because there is going to be a lot of it due to the nature of the topic.
Disclaimer out to the way, I’m a bit of a hippy (what the solar panels and electric car didn’t givce it away?), but I have always used tampons when menstruating. I find them easy to use and they mean that I don’t have to look at anything, just give that cord a pull and try not to think about it. No fuss, no muss. It being zero waste week (apparently) is the perfect opportunity to talk about my recent foray into using menstrual cups as an alternative to tampons.
I have a lot of friends who have been raving about their menstrual cups over the last few years, but I have issues with blood (probably due to some childhood trauma I’ve blocked out, certainly my mother telling me, in great detail, the best ways to slit your wrists didn’t help) and so I’ve always dismissed using them, figuring that I would be too squicked out by the whole process.
I decided that it was finally time to confront the issue and at least give it a go, as I don’t like the amount of waste generated (but am not bothered about monitoring volume or consistency or any of that, so no need for the Loon cup). I’ve never been told by the nurse during smear tests that I have a high or low cervix, so decided to go for a medium sized cup and settled on a couple of MeLuna cups (with ball stems), and a Yuuki (they might want to consider renaming that for an English speaking market, a bit too close to ‘yucky’).
The different colours are different hardnesses of cup, as I exercise a lot everything I read told me that I should use a slightly firmer cup (the Yuuki is also considered one of the firmer cups) so that my internal muscles didn’t squash the cup flat and render it useless.
I watched a lot of videos during my research, I particularly liked those by Bryony Farmer (because it’s always good having someone 20 years your junior school you on your body) and Put A Cup In It. I also did not shy away from videos about things that could go wrong, such as this one below:
So when the time came I was pretty happy that I knew what I should do in terms of insertion and removal, as well as a whole range of different folds to try out. I started with the MeLuna classic (in medium) and thought I’d get all fancy with the origami fold as this gives the smallest tip size for insertion:
Everything went in alright, but I wasn’t sure that the cup had opened up, and after about an hour I decided to try removing it. Now insertion is (for me at least) a whole lot easier than removal. You’re putting in something all folded up that is going to pop open during insertion, but on the way back out it’s a whole different story.
It quickly became obvious that I wasn’t going to get this out whilst sat on the toilet (preferred location for obvious reasons since any collected discharge could then be tipped straight into the pan), so I followed the instructions I have watched about squatting to help bring the cup down and eventually managed to wrestle it out.
I say wrestle because whilst my cervix may not be especially high (as far as I know), my thumb seems to be disproportionally short (which came up when I first got a runbell). This means that getting a grip on the base of the cup to be able to squeeze it (and ‘break the seal’) was tricky, even with the squatting and the bearing down (how do you bear down and relax at the same time, anyway?).
In order to get a grip, I had to insert my thumb and forefinger deeper than I would have ideally liked, and as you can see the pinching action creates quite a large width between the knuckles:
Undaunted, I washed out the cup (I had sterilised them all before first use, as recommended) and decided to try the Yuuki next as it had a longer stem which I thought might be easier to use to wiggle down the cup before gripping it for removal. This time I went for the punchdown fold and I could feel that it had opened up (which was a relief).
I also adjusted my angle of insertion, which I found out during more video research should be more horizontal than you would use for a tampon. Everything felt fine, so I got on with my day. I couldn’t feel the stem or any other part of the cup, so all was well.
When it came to removing the cup after about 10 hours (you can leave them in for up to 12 and I decided that leaving it a decent amount of time would give the cup a chance to fill up and the weight would bring it down closer for the grabbing), it did not want to come out. Or rather I could not get a grip on the damned thing. The stem was longer, but unlike with the MeLuna where the ball stem was rigid the Yuuki stem was stretchy, so pulling didn’t really do anything other than stretch it out. Squatting didn’t do squat, and things were getting tender from all of the rummaging around (which my body isn’t used to) so I resorted to a nice hot bath to relax and lubricate everything. Eventually I managed to extract the cup, which had some clumpy clots in it but not much more (I am on hormonal birth control so my monthly uterine eviction is lighter than someone not on birth control), and took a 12 hour break to let my lady parts recover.
I still wasn’t going to give up and decided to bring out the MeLuna sport, which was the firmest of the three cups I had, on the basis that a firmer cup might be easier to get a grip on and as I had already experienced that the ball stem was firm and did not stretch. I went with the punchdown fold again and felt a definite pop on insertion, checking with a finger that it had opened up. Removal was easier than with the Yuuki, but still required squatting and a certain amount of rummaging. I still wouldn’t call it ‘easy’, but I was aware that when I embarked on this journey there would be a certain amount of learning curve involved. Removal was helped by instead of trying to squeeze the base of the cup and twist to break the seal, instead punching the cup down whilst it was still in place (trying to c-fold it didn’t work, it just scooted around inside) as recommended here:
I wasn’t thrilled by the amount of rummaging involved, not from a getting blood on myself point of view (if you’ve inserted the cup correctly all of the blood is on the inside of the cup away from your fingers), but more from a tenderness position, so I decided to try out some longer cups on my next cycle. I decided to buy a couple more MeLuna cups (in even more colours, because why not and then you can easily tell them apart), this time with ring stems which can be used with a special little tool for insertion and removal, or have cotton cord threaded through them to help with extraction.
I also decided to get them in softer materials to see if that made it easier to break the seal. They arrived yesterday, so I will see how they perform on my next cycle. As you can see they are longer than the other cups:
A quick comparison of a medium and a long MeLuna cup when gripping the base to give an idea of the improved reach:
Hopefully that extra few mm will make for an easier removal while I am still learning to use the cups and I anticipate being able to use the medium and large length cups once I get the knack of it all. All that’s needed now is to wait a few weeks until my cycle comes back round again, then you can be treated to even more too much information.