When I first heard of menstrual cups, my eyes were rounded, glittering orbs of hope and expectation. They seemed, after doing some decent preliminary reading, to be better in every way: more environmentally friendly, more hygienic, more cost-effective, more capable.
But they aren’t. Not for me. Many articles have been written to a similar tone. They begin with hope, cover the complaints and tribulations, then end with a happy conclusion where the writer/user manages to find their goldilocks cup (just right). This isn’t one of those. I never got cups to work for me…
Two years ago, I purchased my first cup. I was prepared for a learning curve, so I didn’t expect to ace it on the first cycle. It was awkward to insert, I didn’t quite know how to fold it, it felt uncomfortable once it was inside me, and the first time I tried to remove it, I panicked. Fair enough. This was not surprising.
The cycles went by. I kept trying. It was still uncomfortable, and I couldn’t leave it in for more than an hour before the feeling of deep uneasiness would overcome me and I couldn’t take it. This is a peculiar sensation that I will take a moment to describe. When I was using non-organic tampons and pads, I used to get this feeling, sometimes just in the lady parts, sometimes all over, of a vague, anxious pain. It was almost the feeling you get before passing out. Dry in the mouth, dizzy, almost headachy. This is what I would find from using my first menstrual cup.
Also, the stem dug painfully into my pelvic recess (whatever the medical term for it is; if I insert a finger and feel the wall to the front of my vagina, I can feel my pelvic bone, which is apparently not far off the urethra) and made me feel like I had to pee constantly. So, I thought that my initial decision to buy a large cup was a mistake. I always had long, heavy periods and figured that the increased capacity would be perfect for me.
It would never pop open properly, therefore, always leaked. I tried twisting it – friction exists, so this technique has forever eluded me – pressing on the sides of it, clawing at the wall of my vagina to get the damned thing to sit right.
I bit the bullet three or four months later and spent another $60 on the smaller model, hoping that I was simply too ambitious. It was an improvement because I wasn’t getting the feeling of doom anymore. At the time this felt like a small victory. I was making progress!
But I just couldn’t get it to perform. The stem was still irritating me, so I heard from a friend that I should try turning it inside out so that the stem doesn’t stick out. Great! I thought this would fix it.
Still leaks. I will note that every single cup I have owned does one of two things:
1. comfortable but leaks, as in, I would need to change my “back up” pad and found that there was little to nothing in the cup, or less commonly;
2. sealed but painful. Based on number 1, I am forced to assume that I have had a cup successfully pop open and seal about 3 times ever.
What about different folds? There’s more than one?! Tell me more! I tried the C-fold, the 7-fold (which is AWFUL because the cup has to drag its way up the vaginal wall to open), the M-fold, the Origami-fold, the Punch-Down fold. No luck.
So, I kept reading. What was going wrong? It’d been 9 months into the process and I was frustrated that I hadn’t come out of the learning stage yet. What was I missing? Someone piped up on a RUMP (re-usable menstrual products) page on facebook about lube. Lube = slippery and harder to fold and just a terrible idea. The blood was already doing a fine enough job, and even when I did manage to wrestle the silicone-stumpy-tailed-eel into my snatch, it still presented with the same issues as before. Leaky and/or painful.
A few months and more reading later… I need a different cup! I bought a sister pack (large & small size sold together) of a different brand and hoped for the best. They were a different shape, so I had expected that to change the way the folds would perform. With or without lube, using any number of folds, on different days of my cycle, same results. Leaky and/or painful. Still needing to use pads and tampons anyway!
Too big! I need a smaller or softer cup! I bought three more: a much smaller, soft cup, another smaller, firm cup, and one of a similar size to the small cups I had used previously but in a softer silicone.
Soft one was too soft. It just crumpled whenever I tried to insert it and would not hold its shape. Damn. Firm one felt like I was trying to eat an eraser with my cooch, which STILL leaked! Damn. The “standarder” size one? Still the same issues as before.
I gave up.
Every so often I have a crack at a cup, but it never works. Several hundred dollars and two years later, the whole exercise has been a waste of time and money and hasn’t been any better for the environment. On the plus side, I have been making and using my own reusable cloth pads to help me feel better about my landfill contributions, but sadly, my dreams of being able to live manageably with a period in the zombie apocalypse will never come true. I will be among those women squabbling over who gets the last box of tampons from the derelict supermarket.
I have tried 7 cups of different sizes, shapes and silicones.
I have tried every fold I could find (more than those listed above).
I have tried with and without lube.
I have tried on different days of my cycle to account for the movement of my cervix.
I have tried inserting in the shower, on the bed with a towel, squatting, one leg up on the toilet, curled up on the floor in the foetal position, on my back with my legs up like a frog.
I have tried any number of range-of-movement exercises once inserting to get the bastards to pop open: star jumps, the splits, rolling on the floor, squats, touching my toes, downward and upward dogs.
I have tried rotating the cup and running a finger around the cup to get it to open (again, friction exists. Have a look at slow-motion footage of high-powered drag racing cars taking off from the line, specifically what the tyres are doing. This is the texture I want you to see).
I have tried cups with and without stems.
I have tried turning them inside out.
Dear reader, be prepared for the possibility that you will be like me. One of the very small number of women for whom menstrual cups do not work. You may be lucky. I genuinely wish you the best on your journey for an easy, manageable period. I hope that if you do decide to try cups, that they work for you. I just thought it would be good to put an article out there that wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine at the end, because that faff is more common than chewing gum on the footpath.