The average woman will have her period for 40 years and have approximately 13 cycles per year. Totaling approximately 520 periods over her life. Within each period she’ll use about 20 tampons (5 tampons per day for a 4 day period). This totals 10,400 tampons in a lifetime. These often end up in landfills (or worse, the ocean) and have detrimental environmental impacts. I am absolutely NOT here to place the blame of environmental issues on women, but I do believe if everyone did a little more we, as a planet, would be much better off.
Using a menstrual cup is the “little more” that you, as a woman, can do. It’s one change to your life, that if enough women replicate, will have concrete and lastly environmental benefits. Additionally, most tampons include chemicals, such as dioxin, chlorine, and rayon, that can be harmful if absorbed into your body. Ladies, if you wouldn’t eat, don’t put it into your delicate area. We’ve known as far back as the 80s that chemicals, proteins, etc can be absorbed through the vaginal wall and yet those dangerous chemicals have yet to be banned from tampons.
The cup I’m going to talk about today is made with medical grade silicone – safe! I’ve used Intimina‘s Lily Cup Compact for over 2 years and cannot imagine going back to tampons or pads for several reasons. Not only for the environmental and biological reasons I just listed, but also because using a cup is so much easier and has made me more in tune with my body. I’m much more aware of the heaviness of my period, the days that will be heavier, and am always prepared with exactly what I need. The case for the Lily Compact is so small it’s easy (and discrete) to have it with me at all times.
So the big question is typically a “how to” about the insertion. While it does require a certain comfortability with yourself, putting in a cup quickly becomes second nature. If you can check the strings of your IUD or chase a tampon that’s wandered too high you can absolutely insert a cup with ease. If that sentence made you nervous I would suggest starting with a cup like the standard Lily Cup. This one doesn’t collapse so you can actually push on the cup itself a little to adjust it (doing this to the Lily compact results on it collapsing on itself).
Below are several fold techniques for inserting the cup. I recommend trying each 2-3 times in your own bathroom to find which one works best for you! Ex: I cannot get the C-fold to work, but the Half-V fold is super easy and makes insertion just as easy as a tampon for me.
One of the important things to remember with insertion is that once it’s in place you want to double check the seal. Personally, I like to run my finger all the way around the cup to ensure it’s fully opened and then give the stem a small tug to make sure it’s has a small suction. It’s a mini, post-insertion ritual that mentally puts me at ease knowing that I’m “covered”.
Earlier I mentioned that using a menstrual cup meant I was always prepared because the Lily Compact is so small and discrete. Not only is it easy to have with you prior to the start of your period, but it also alleviates the need to stock your clutch or bag with tampons and do the “hours math” where you figure how long you’ll be out and therefore how many tampons you need to carry with you – and maybe one or two extra, just in case! 😅 With the Lily Compact, you don’t even need to carry the case with you throughout your period because instead of “changing” you’re “emptying”. I think this (emptying the cup) is one of the largest hurdles for people who want to switch to the cup so here are a few FAQs…
Isn’t it super messy?
- Not at all. Part of inserting the cup is a gentle “tug” to ensure that there is a strong seal, which will prevent any leaking. However, for peace of mind, you may want to wear a liner your first few times. When you remove the cup it’s at an upright angle and the contents don’t “spill” until you dump it.
How often do you change it?
- Personally, I can wear a cup for 10-12 hours. For reference, I would normally use regular or super tampons (depending on the day). I typically change it once in the morning and once in the evening. Occasionally (on the heaviest day of my period) I’ll throw in a mid-day change for peace of mind, but I’ve never actually needed this or had issues with leaking.
What do you do if you need to change it in public?
- Probably the most nerve-wracking part of wearing a cup is the “What happens if I can’t wash it in public?” question. Don’t stress, it’s easier than you think. You don’t need to rinse the cup every time you change it, all you need to do is dump it and give it a wipe down with bathroom tissue. If you have bottled water you can give it a little rinse in the privacy of the bathroom stall, but you never have to rinse it publicly if you don’t want to 🙂 Another option is to use these wipes from Bloomi (code MOLLY10 will get you 10% your entire order!)
We’ve covered why it’s safer and the logistics, but why is it sexier?
Using a menstrual cup requires you to get up close and personal with yourself. There’s nothing sexier than being incredibly in tune with your body and your anatomy. Remember when your health teacher recommended using a mirror to meet your vulva or insert a tampon? Well, class is back in session and this time you’ll be learning by touch. When figuring out your menstrual cup and where you like to wear it (high or low in the vaginal canal) there will be lots of shifting and adjusting that help you learn about the nuances of yourself. Additionally, throughout use, you’ll be learning more about your period, daily menstruation, heavy v light days, etc.
While I hope you do try out (and fall in love with) a menstrual cup, remember that the choice is your own. For plenty of women (especially those with Endometriosis), a cup may not be an option. What I hope and want for you is that no matter how you choose to address your period that you 1. have access to all the medical and hygienic resources you need and 2. you remember that your period is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed by. It’s a beautiful and radiant piece of you.
*photos courtesy of Intimina.com*