Menstrual Cups {Another Thing I Wish I Knew About Sooner}

in Natural Medicine4 months ago

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If you are at all squeamish about the monthly occurrence that most women of a certain age(s) go through each month, then this post is not for you. However, I'm not going to apologize for how gritty I'm going to get on this one. Though I will share a nice pretty flower for my cover photo in case anyone perusing my page doesn't want to see a period cup, haha. Certain topics tend to be taboo in some settings and cultures, meaning too many of us don't get all of the information we need that could really be life-changing because people are scared or too "polite" to talk about them. Just like when I wrote about my experiences with the decision not to have children and how little that was spoken about growing up, this is another aspect of life as a woman that I wish I had more perspectives on earlier. I feel the need to do my small part to perhaps help shed some light for someone else and just keep the conversation going.

Still with me? Alright then, let's talk about periods! Just like people, they come in all shapes and sizes, if you will. What I really mean is that each woman's experience can be completely different. Some get them as early as 8 or 9 these days, while others don't start until their teens or possibly even later. You're lucky if you have a nice "regular" 28-day cycle, but it could be longer or shorter or completely erratic. Certain flows are very light and only last a few days, others are extremely heavy and seem to last forever. You could have terrible cramps one month, the next month your back hurts or your boobs hurt so bad the lightest touch makes you want to cry. Many of us turn into weeping messes or snap at the slightest provocation. All could be perfectly normal, but there are also plenty of disorders linked to hormonal issues or anatomical anomalies.

Here in the US growing up I do remember learning about the very basics in health class, though they really only scratched the surface. With two sisters (one older), my mom definitely did her fair share of discussing the ins and outs with all three of us, as well. However, there wasn't really a whole lot of options as far as how to deal with that monthly flow. I think it was basically start out with pads--and not re-usable eco-friendly ones, I'm talking the mass-produced stuff you can get at every grocery store and pharmacy here. I also remember some young girls talking about how only girls who had sex could use tampons, so as a girl who hadn't even had her first kiss yet the thought of using those scared the crap out of me initially (as I know now they possibly should have).

What's the problem with pads? Well, as I hinted to above they are not very environmentally friendly. They create a lot of waste and who knows what kind of materials are really in them. They do have organic options now, but growing up I don't ever remember seeing any other than a few of the big brands. Also, for a gal like me with an extremely heavy monthly flow, they just don't cut it on their own. I can still feel the flush of shame of my 12-year-old self having to call home because I didn't change my pad in time and bled through my pants. Told you I was going to get gritty here. It's definitely not a pretty experience each month. That is one thing that no matter how healthy I am and how well I treat my body--I'm a heavy flow gal. Two days out of the month I know what's going to happen and I try to deal the best I can.

When I finally realized that tampons were not just for non-virgins (where the heck do some of these ideas come from?), I jumped on that bandwagon to make my monthly experience just a little bit easier to deal with. Especially as a young athlete, I didn't want to sit out for a week every month during basketball or volleyball season. I think the first time I used one was actually at the lake with my best friend. Everyone was going in the water and I didn't want to miss out, so her aunt actually gave me the rundown. Just like pads, though, tampons are another pretty wasteful item in the long run, and even worse since they are in full contact with sensitive areas of the body, you don't want them filled with chemicals. There is also the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome if you use them incorrectly (using one too absorbent for your flow or leaving one in for too long). Even today you read stories about women dying and they still have warning cards in the tampon box.

Up until about 5 or 6ish years ago I didn't really even know there were other options! How crazy is that for living in a country that is supposed to be so advanced? As I started learning more about all aspects of health and wellness, I finally found some of those other options that are a little bit kinder in a number of aspects--to my own body and to the environment!


The biggest victory in my quest for alternative options came in the form of a cup. I really wanted to touch on this particular option because I almost gave up on it, so I felt like I should add my experience to the wide world of the internet to give others some hope that given enough practice and finding the right brand, it can be a really awesome option to use each month! You just have to get past some of the names. I sure don't feel like a Diva most months... 😂

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First off, holy moly are there a lot of brands these days! I did a whole lot of research and YouTube viewing to try to find suggestions on which ones might work for me. That would probably be my first suggestion if you are just exploring the option. Though they all look a lot alike, they differ slightly on the shape, design and even the thickness of the cup. Personally I have found that even a small difference in design can make a big difference in how the cup fits. A few years ago I started with a Blossom cup, but never really got the hang of it as it never seemed to seal. In case the design isn't obvious--the cup gets inserted into the vaginal canal and when it is positioned correctly it forms a seal whereby the cup can collect the flow. You then periodically have to remove the cup, dump the contents, then re-insert. So unlike a tampon, you can use it over and over without causing waste! There's also a much lower chance of TSS when used correctly.

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Once I decided to give the cup a second chance, I opted to try the Pixie brand this time around. Besides just sounding like the Luxe version would be a good fit, I love that they also donate a cup for each one sold. Gotta love a company that gives back! The difference in this version versus the regular Pixie is that the silicone is slightly softer, so it gives a little bit easier and the shape is more conducive to women with a low sitting cervix. I also decided this time to try a combo pack to see how the different sizes worked.

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The sizes are a great option for different levels of flow, or other variations in anatomy and general preference. The little tabs on the end can also be snipped off depending upon how low the cup sits. If yours sits higher you can leave it on to have something to easily grab for removal, and if it sits lower you can trim it to be more comfortable.

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I also found it interesting to use the lines on the inside of the cup to determine just how heavy my flow is. No surprise there, though it's really hard to tell what normal is with so much variation among experiences, I am still definitely on the very high end of the spectrum. The kit did include convenient pouches to store the cups when not in use, and a few samples of wipes. You don't need the wipes, though, as you can easily use a mild soap and water to clean the cups and sterilize them in boiling water. They're not really waste-free if you use wipes every time, but a great option in a pinch if you are in a public restroom I suppose.

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Though I have only been using the cups successfully for a few months, I am sold on not having to use tampons anymore. It will save me money in the long run, reduce my waste, and the more I get past the learning curve, the more I like using them versus tampons. Can they be messy? Yep, it's a messy business in my opinion, but I've got quite a few more years of dealing with it so might as well try to make the best of it. I do find it is easier to use in a private bathroom versus a public one with stalls, but I've made it work either way. I do still have to empty frequently on my heavier days, but I find my trips to the restroom are much less than before. Sometimes I have a little trouble getting the fit right, but there are so many different ways to fold and insert that I continue to play around with my method each month to find what works the best. Seriously, some of the videos are a life-saver as far as learning that side of it, so look some up if you really want a more in-depth tutorial!

Period panties are a great addition to the line up, as well. They are a great alternative to a pad or panty liner as a backup to the cup, or on a light day. They're a little tough to hide underneath workout pants (my usual daily attire), but are great to use at home or overnight for me. The good ones can be a bit of an investment at first, but end up costing much less in the long run when you think about how many uses you can get out of them.

These are only a few of the options, as I know now there are plenty more. There actually are cloth pads and liners that you can wash and use like the panties. One of my girlfriends has also recently started using a sponge. Some even choose to free bleed. What other options have you tried? I would love to hear in the comments what has worked for you! Though single use pads and tampons were my only realm of experience for so long, I know in the total human experience they've only been around for a short time.

As usual in this type of post I am only just barely scratching the surface of the topic. Perhaps I'll come back to it soon to share some of the natural methods I like to use to ease PMS symptoms like consuming more ginger to help with cramping or eating extra lentils during to make up for loss of iron. I'm even curious to give seed cycling a try to see how that impacts my monthly cycle. The human body is a truly interesting thing. I am continually in awe of all the things I learn and enjoy always trying to incorporate more natural, holistic methods to deal with all of the seasons of life!



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LOVE that you posted this!! I'm a long-time mooncup devotee and was the first person to retail them here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, about 6 years ago. I will never forget the lovely Thai lady who whispered her question: "What kind of tea are you supposed to serve in this special moontime cup?"

Wonderful work, woman! More please!


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Thanks @artemislives! I have enjoyed reading a lot of the other #ecotrain posts when I make my way around for great ideas and information, so I'm so happy I was finally able to bring such an important topic to the table. It is easy to sometimes feel like I'm not doing enough, but I keep trying to find more ways to be a good steward for my own body and this planet. And love the tea comment, haha. ;)

Eh, I barely made it through the first paragraph Aunt Plants and skipped right to this section and typed the sentence you just read. That’s read, with an A.

Haha, well I did warn you, so you can be thankful I didn't slap you with a scene from Carrie right away. ;)

@traciyork, can a get a giphy right here that says “that was a good one, Plants!”

plantstoplanks that was a good one, dandays says.gif

Hahahaha! Perfect! ! 😂😂😂

Talk about asking and receiving.. thank you, Traci! I should’ve known you’d make it even better than I was thinking.

The good juju queen of gifs don't play. 😜

Well said .. this are really important for woman.thanks for share your valuable information. I appreciate this.

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Thank you! I think everyone has women in their life who have to deal with it, so it's something we can all learn from and share even in some small way.

Thank you for writing this post! Hurray for talk about it! And I am glad you did. Lots to say!!!

I had a few friends tell me about the cup and I questioned it myself. Without comparing it to the alternative crap we use, what are the bad things that can come out of it? Then, what happens if we don't change it in time? Apart from a leak like the other things, this is a cup, so will the leak be disastrous? Could be a silly question but we all know what happens when a cup tips over... Does it happen?

I haven't had the chance to research it and then of course, I forget about it.

The other things about the panty one. I am also a heavy flower and thought that it wouldn't be enough. Especially during those times where we stand up, or sneeze and cough. Oh will that make a problem for the cup too? LOL

I don't know many of the alternatives either, and never heard of using a sponge...and free bleeding... how does that work? Sounds messy.

this is definitely a topic that isn't talked about enough, or taught about enough. I know for myself, I had to figure out everything, on how to put on a pad, how use a tampon (I cant use those anymore) etc. Today kids have the internet to help which helps them a lot. Would have helped us avoid many stains and pains.

It would be awesome if you could cover the nutrition side for that time. Would probably help me with figuring out the major energy loss days before and during. All I want to do is sleeeeeeeep. And perhaps help with those cramps that keep us from being able to stand straight....or even stand.

BTW, Im the snappy, dont touch me, 1 km wide personal space person LOL

Hhhmm, perhaps I need a whole moon time series! I'm really grateful for all the other folks who have shared their experiences for me to learn from online, so I'm happy to pay it forward to do my part to keep the conversation going. There really is so much to discuss!

So I probably need to stress again there is a really big learning curve with the cups. And I think if you get one that doesn't fit, it really just won't seal so you will get leaks. Even when you do find the right one I have found occasionally I still don't get it in right, but at least I generally notice pretty quickly and can fix it. Yes, it can start leaking once you've filled it up, as well. I am still figuring out based on what day it is in my cycle how frequently I need to empty it, so I pretty much always have some form of backup if you will. One or two nights I know I have to get up in the middle of the night, as well, but that's no different than usual.

I've also read differing experiences on having to take it out or not when going to the bathroom. The pressure can push it out of place, so generally I find if I'm going to the bathroom anyway I'll just go ahead and empty it. The shower really is the best place to change it, though as you don't have to worry about the mess!

All that being said, I can imagine for many women the cup may just not work. I was pretty darn determined to keep on trying since I was pretty sick of using tampons and really wanted to lower my waste output each month. I got a bit discouraged the first few times, so I was so excited when I started having some success! It was nice doing the research to find that there are actually a whole lot of other women my age who had similar experiences to me.

I would definitely recommend finally taking a look around and doing some more of your won research. It is really enlightening and can help you find the right options if you do decide to try something else. If nothing else, it will help you be more informed when your girls need the info! I'm totally looking forward to seeing some of the other Steem ladies weigh in here, as well.

Research is definitely the key to this and talking about it makes it less stressful and less embarrassing. We shouldn't have to feel that way or even shameful for what our bodies do naturally and have no control over.

Im hoping my questions sort of broke the ice for others to help engage a conversation with others, maybe making them feel like their questions are not bad questions and are ok to ask away if needed or even just give them ideas on what to look for when researching.

I know I have my homework to do for when my girls get there. Emma is 6 right now and seeing as how some girls can get them so early, I need to be properly prepared. She will be 7 in April! EEK! My mother and I haven't had this kind of talk before and it left me in a shitty spot when trying to figure it all out. I don't want my kids to go through the same thing. And if need be, that they could be that friend that helps out another in such a sticky situation.

Spread the word people! If it wasn't for us women, there would be no population! :P

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It's late for me and I wish it was available back in the day! But I will share it with my daughters! 😍

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Okay, I have a novel's worth of stuff I want to write in reply, but pressed for time at the moment. I'll be back later, but for now I gotta say...

plantstoplanks you're awesome.gif

Oooh, can't wait! I love sitting down with a good novel. :)

That was a great article. Your experience is that of every woman's and I wish I had some of the options that you do today. I am sure the younger women are thankful for the options you've mentioned. That cup idea sounds great and reminded me of my mother's diaphragm....lol.

Isn't it crazy that even though we all experience it, there hasn't always been a lot of discussion about it? The more I do talk with friends about it, the more I realize we are all interested in different options and ways to make it that much more manageable each month. I remember hearing about diaphragms, but don't think I ever saw one! My mom had a hysterectomy after my younger sister was born. So maybe since she didn't have to deal with those issues anymore she didn't think about them as much once my sisters and I came of age. I think she was always open to answering questions, but I didn't know which ones to ask.

Having used one for 17 years, I can absolutely attest to how great they are. I haven't used a tampon in 20 years - before that it was just shoving toilet paper up there (more as I couldn't afford tampons, nor want to pay for them due to their environmental cost) or free bleeding. I still free bleed when I can, usually at home in the garden when it doesn't matter. I love it, but it's not for everyone. It's only blood - or awesomely blood, because WE ARE WOMAN and that's amazing. Even as a young girl I loved bleeding onto the earth - it felt like I was fertilising it or that it was some kind of relationship there. Weird, it wasn't as if I was taught that, it just felt natural and right. The moon cup is amazing - I haven't even changed it. I just rinsed in vinegar at end of cycle, and when it started, quick rinse and off I went. Was more tricky at public restrooms, but you get used to it, and if you are okay with your own fluids it's not even a problem. Really important article, and I'm so glad you wrote on it. xxx

Better late than never! I'm so glad I finally came across them to be able to do my research and give them a try. I've made it through 2 cycles without tampons now, and I hope to never have to go back! It's been a fascinating experiment, which makes it even more fun to talk about, haha.

I can totally get the idea behind returning all those nutrients to the earth. I don't think I'm ready for that "freedom" just yet, but I have the utmost respect for the ladies who can go full on natural during that time! No wonder your garden is so fruitful. 🌼😉

Great post. My partner tried one of these but she has a high cervix and she had real trouble getting it out - it became so stressful she dare not try again! However all was not lost as you can buy washable pads instead so that's what she does now :D I can't believe those throw away pads/tampons are the norm!

Oh gosh, that would probably freak me out, too! It really can be a challenge for us ladies to find what works for us, and for the environment. We live in such a disposable society, so I think most of us just grew up not thinking about how much harm those one use items can be. I'm still working on some of my habits, but at least this one is checked off the list!

Yeah it's a bit crazy how disposable everything is. I said I can't believe it, but really I can. We live in an anti-economy, where efficiency, sustainability and preservation are enemies of the economic system!

Well you were right, I DID learn a lot about this not often talked about subject so thank you for being brave to talk about something that is actually completely natural yet finds itself a taboo topic in Western society.

I went to an all boys school and there was next to no sex education there, which had basically left me in this kind of "not knowing anything" state about pretty much most things related to sexual organs and the like.

So reading this is adding to that part of my education that is lacking (and I may not be as surprised now if I come across a menstrual cup and even get in a relationship of course 😁)

Oh gosh, I can only imagine if they had taught you anything. I'm sure an all boys school wouldn't be biased at all on women's health issues, haha.

Happy to help give you a little peek behind the red curtain if you will. And you can have a one up on @dandays since you actually read the article. 😉

Make that a two-up!

(I had girls in my school, Plants) <— na! na, Nicky!

Well done! I would have given anything to have read an article like this when I was in my teens! Back then a pad and tampon were my only choices, and on heavy days I needed both of them!

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I am so with you there! I was so embarrassed by the whole thing that I was too afraid to ask anyone about other options even if there were some available. Hopefully the next generation of ladies growing up now have an easier time of it and at least have more access to information!

You’ve been visited by @porters on behalf of Natural Medicine. Happy to say I am past that stage in my life and glad to hear there are some eco-friendly ways of managing the monthly flow! Thanks for sharing the info, hopefully it will enlighten other women to what's out there!
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Although I am a mere male and of course not personally knowledgeable plus at my and my wifes age with no plans of having any more children its not somehting i need to know about, but that said I did find this very interesting and informative, the cups is something I was not aware of but great to know of an more envioronmentally freidly option that may work well for some

Thanks for popping by @tattoodjay! It really is interesting that this is one area I think the US lags behind in. We're catching up now thanks to the spread of information these days, but I think I looked and even though the cups have been around since the 1930's the US only got on board in the late 80's!

WOW they have been around that long I dont think they were around down under that I know of maybe they are now

I got mine in 2003 in England, but had wanted to for a few years.

I am coming over to write a proper comment missive on this important post before it expires. As you might have guessed, this is an issue which resonates....

I'll be back... :D

Take your time. :) At least that's one good thing--even after the post reaches payout, you can still come back and keep commenting indefinitely!

I am back. My own story and a rant follow. Get coffee....

Before I get to my own story, the advent of menstrual cups is something that's very recent in South Africa and even now, now sufficiently widespread. The cost of sanitary towels and tampons is so high that a large proportion of young women miss between 10 and 20 days of school a year because they are menstruating. Teenagers do not want the "luxury" of free bleeding and in a country that has the biggest Gini coefficient in the world, this is a huge issue.

That girls miss school for a normal biological function exacerbates the already huge gender disparities in this country. There was a campaign, not so long ago by one company that for every package of sanitary towels or something similar that they sold, they would donate one to a designated charity.

So, on one level, and before I even think about sustainability issues, I find myself faced with a conundrum: how to make what should be available to all women, readily and easily available? Condoms are free in this country: the state distributes them and they're freely available in all bathrooms in state institutions - and beyond. That, I hasten to add was in an attempt to stop the spread of HIV rather than to encourage family planning. The two issues, IMO should go hand in hand especially as this country tackles the scourge of gender-based violence and the rape culture.

Now, to my own story. I went off to boarding school at 12, armed with cloth belts and a packet of sanitary towels which my mother had given me, shown me how to use, but not really explained what would happen, i.e. pain and blood. At boarding school, I learned that from my peers. I witnessed it, firsthand. The "curse" (my mother's word) struck me after it had struck my younger sister, by which time, I'd given up schlepping the things backwards and forwards. It was heralded by excruciating pain and then the blood - a lot, for 7 days. And my cycle was like clockwork, along with the breast tenderness and mood swings that predicated the bleed. I was 16 when I started, and except for the occasional patch, on which I shall not dwell, that was what happened every month for thirty years. Frankly, hot flushes and night sweats (both of which are now much diminished), are a much happier occurrence.

Returning to the "equipment": by the time I started, self-adhesive pads had been introduced, as had tampons sans cardboard. My peers were a great source of information. Not my mother. She'd also had a hysterectomy some ten years prior and was still in the throes of menopause. A large chunk of my meagre allowance was spent on the monthly requirements and after I fainted at school, I was schlepped off to the GP who prescribed strong pain meds. WHICH. DID. NOT. WORK. How strong were they? Very strong: the same meds that were prescribed after my car accident and broken bones. They worked for that. Every month, until the contraceptive pill helped, I declared: "If this is labour, I shall never give birth." That was the extent of the pain - first the back ache and then the cramps.

Returning to "equipment" again: had I known about menstrual cups, I'd have been a very early adopter. Even though I've never used one, I can see three major benefits: economic after the initial outlay, convenience and, of course the issue of sustainability.

Thank you @plantstoplanks for tacking such a sensitive and important topic and kudos to the men who've taken the time to not just read your post but also the comments.

So I was drawn to the Pixie Cup as they donate for every one bought, but I finally looked at the website to see the extent of this program. Pretty darn awesome to see: https://www.pixiecup.com/buy-one-give-one/

If every company did such a thing, imagine the improvement in quality of life for so many women across the world. It is unfathomable in this day and age that there are still girls who have to miss school for that. I can imagine I would have to do the same if I didn't have access to sanitary products. Every month is messy enough as is, I would need a whole new wardrobe monthly if I didn't have access to these types of products!

Thank you for coming back and weighing in on such an important topic. It's one that had been on my mind to tackle for some time, but I wanted to make sure to do it justice. I hope to keep the conversation going in the future as it is one that warrants continued discussion and awareness!

Finally back with my novel...LOL!

Kudos to you for tackling this difficult and cramptastic topic! I agree, I wish I'd had more information on the subject at a younger age - of course, when my visits from Aunt Flo first started, we were still in the days of cloth belts and diaper-sized pads... shudder

Also unfortunately my visit coincided with my 13th birthday pool party - I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say my mother sent my older sister to the store to pick up tampons so I wouldn't "miss the fun" but forgot to mention they were for me and not the woman who'd had four children. Needless to say after that first horrific experience, I didn't touch those evil cardboard contraptions for many years after.

Funny thing too that even though I've moved in witchy circles (and even attended a Red Tent ceremony), I didn't learn about Moon Cups until the final years of my monthly visitor (and my first was a Diva Cup). And wowsers, what a difference using the cup, combined with cloth pads! And even at that, I only ever had the one, and never got the chance to try other varieties and sizes - I'm sure if I had, my experience would've been even better.

In fact, for about a half minute, a local friend and I talked about coming up with Moon Cup accessories for the bathroom - a toilet tank top cabinet (decorated in witchy fashion, of course) to store supplies, handmade cloth bags for storage, various handmade cloth pads.... we had tons of ideas, but sadly no time (or capital..lol) to see it through.

I also tried sponges, and found they worked best for me on the last days each month. The concept of free bleeding, given how Carrie-esque most months were for me, just never seemed a possibility.

And as you said, all of this barely scratches the surface. Over the course of my many fun and fantastical health issues, I discovered something I found counter-intuitive - the more iron deficient my body became, the heavier and more horrific my cycle was. Raspberry & nettle leaf tea was a wicked help during that time.

And with that, I should stop before this turns into a GRR Martin sized tome! Keep 'em coming, P2P! 😊

(and you knew there had to be a gif, right? 😂 )


via GIPHY

Oh my gosh that is frickin' hilarious! How the heck did you find that??

Don't we all just have those horror stories from youth? I suppose some of it is a rite of passage, but some of it comes down to we just need to be more open about educating young girls so they are better prepared to deal with it when the time comes. That way we can do better to celebrate our bodies instead of trying to fight them.

I would still love a cute little cabinet! Perhaps shaped like an old outhouse with a moon on the door? ;) I'm just glad I came across the cup before it was too late. Definitely makes my surf through the remaining years of menses much smoother, haha.

Thanks for stopping back by to add your thoughts to this one!

OMG @traciyork, that gif is bloody awesome! :P