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Are Menstrual Cups Really Better?

In light of International Women's Day, I would like to talk about something a little more intimate for us as females...

A year ago, I only knew about 2 types of products to use during menstruation. It was either a tampon or a sanitary pad. I stayed mostly away from tampon unless I have to because:
a) it was freaky to use
b) I sooo do not want toxic shock syndrome.


So for most of my menstrual cycles, I stick to the good old sanitary pad. But they also have their own set of issues:
a) leakage
b) pad rash due to the humidity in Singapore.

Then, on one random day, I saw a video on menstrual cup and it got me curious.

So what's this cup all about?

A menstrual cup is type of feminine hygiene product which is usually made of medical grade silicone, shaped like a bell and is flexible. It is worn inside the vagina during menstruation for about half a day or overnight to catch menstrual fluid (blood).


They vary in shape and designs. Some are slimmer and longer, others are shorter and rounder. They also come with different stem styles.


First Usage Experience


So as I embarked on my journey with menstrual cups, there were lots of concerns and knowledge gaps with the usage and safety of it. Coming from an Asian culture, we were brought up to use pads because:
a) It's just weird sticking things up the who-ha
b) You might get infections from such products
c) It's a big thing when it comes to anything and everything that might affect our virginity.
In a way, I feel like I'm embarking on a quest against this social stigma... which is kind of challenging and scary at the same time. So, ladies~ if you have been considering to switch to these menstrual cups, it would be my honor to lead you down this path.

Here's some of the questions that arise during my first experience:

How to wear it?

Ok, I'm going to be honest now. Insertion is going to be one of the biggest challenge. It took me awhile to overcome the "inconceivable" reality of how this cup was going to be inserted and how it would remain in me for a period of time. So I did what anyone of this age would do, I researched online for the way to fold the cup and on roughly how it should fit in me.

Here are the best 3 folds that I used:

This fold is the most common and most recommended, all you have to do is to fold the cup in half. I find that out of all the folds, this is the easiest to hold for insertion. You will need to relax the muscles to insert this as the circumference is bigger than a tampon but with repetition, the insertion would be easier. 

I find that this fold would work great if you are new to using the cups because it creates a smaller circumference than the C/U Fold. However, it's slightly harder to secure and hold during insertion, especially if your hands are wet. Some cups may not be able to pop open properly with this fold. So my advice for this fold is to experiment with your cup to test how well it pops open with different folds.


If your cup doesn't pop out as well with the Punch Down Fold, you may want to try it with this fold instead. It creates an even smaller circumference for insertion but as with the Punch Down Fold, mid insertion may be challenging as both folds result in an even bigger circumference than C/U Fold towards the base.

I would say that it would be pretty much like inserting a tampon emotionally and mentally, but physically, it takes more practice and experimentation to find the best type of fold for you. Personally, after trying various folds, I find myself using the C/U Fold more often than any. If you have difficulties, feel free to try wetting it with very warm water. For me, mentally, it helps to be able to feel the cup during insertion and the warmth of it helps me to relax for the insertion... just make sure that it's not too hot that you end up burning your sensitive whoo-ha!

Do read up if the brand of cup you are using is compatible with lubricants, because as far as I know, most aren't. Water works best.

How deep should it go?

So after insertion, the next issue I had was knowing if I pushed it "deep" enough for it to be secured.

To be honest, I have yet to figure this out to give you a definite answer. I still end up leaking a little. That being siad, I usually just push it in until I can't feel the "body of it" (ie. the cup), pretty much the same with a tampon, but with the end of the stem leveled with my vaginal opening.

The most uncomfortable portion of the cup is the stem, especially if the steam is a ring. But the solution to that is simple, just ensure that the ring loop is parallel to the lips of your labia.

How to remove?

Removal isn't as difficult as inserting it in, but I find removal the most challenging when the cup moved higher up because that require me to "dig" for the stem to remove. This usually occurs when I sleep with it, because of all the movement in my sleep.

Once you locate the stem, all that is needed is just a little wiggle to remove it. There is a slight suction sensation upon removal but nothing too alarming, just be prepared for it and the menstrual fluid.

Cleaning it is the easiest, simply empty the menstrual fluid (blood) into the toilet and wash it with mild soap before reinsertion. So far, I have yet to spill any blood during removal, so I think that's something that you most likely do not have to worry about as long as you remove it properly.

So, then here's the question:
Are menstrual cups really better than pads and tampons?

Here are 7 reasons why I think that they are better:

1) Cut down on waste
Depending on the brand, they can last for a decade but most of them recommend changing them annually. I did the calculation, on the assumption that you use a minimum of 2 pads per day for a menstrual cycle of 7 days, that will equate to 168 pads a year. 

Imagine how much waste we can cut down by just using 1 cup!
And dont get me started on the ecological footprint of cotton vs. silicone production:


2) No fuss over depleted stock of pads/ tampons
Now, because all you need is 1 cup. You no longer have to go out to buy more or worry that you don't have enough for your next period! This is great if you are always short of shopping time.

3) It is a "Cleaner" product
Not many of you may be aware, but most sanitary pads and tampons are made with bleached rayon, cotton and plastics that may contain some very nasty chemicals.

To produce Rayon, the chemical procedures includes carbon disulphide, sulfuric acid, chlorine and caustic soda. Side effects from exposure to too much Rayon can include: nausea, vomiting, chest pain, headaches and many others.

While pristine-white tampons and pads are created via bleaching that uses chlorine, which results in the production of dioxin that is linked to breast cancer, endometriosis, immune system suppression and various other ailments.

4) No more rashes
Now, like I mentioned~ I'm a user of pads rather than tampons. In a climate like Singapore, where it is hot and humid, it is not uncommon for me to develop rashes from the humidity and chafing from the material. This doesn't happen when I use the cup.

5) No more discomfort during sleep
I find that like a tampon, there is no discomfort while the cup is in place. Most of the time, I end up forgetting that I'm on my period! I also find myself sleeping better because unlike tampons, I can leave the cup in overnight and unlike sanitary pads, there is no stuffiness!

6) You get to know your body better
Now, I know this may seem like a weak reason~ but it is actually one of the best reasons.
Before using cups, I was hell afraid of even inserting a finger into my who-ha to the point that I don't use tampons unless I really really have to. Now, I find myself more comfortable with my own body and I find it very enlightening to know how much I am really bleeding.
Because, before using cups, I always describe my flow as "bleeding like someone stabbed me/ there's a murder scene in my pants". Now, I can tell you roughly how much I really bleed... which is still quite a lot, and yes~ I'm seeing a doctor for it. In fact, I just did my PAP smear. Have you done yours?

7) It really is cleaner to use
Tampons leave a dangling string that gets soaked with pee and pad leaves a bloody mess all over. With cups, it's way cleaner because the stem doesn't soak up anything and because it collects the menstrual fluid inside, so there is no bloody mess!

Now, with all these positive reasons~ I find that it is not a holistic overview without some contrast. So, here's 5 reasons why you may need to think twice before switching or using menstrual cups:

1) You may tear your hymen
As an Asian, I understand that our virginity is very important and the age old tradition of telling if you are a virgin involves your hymen which is why we are advised to stay away from tampons (Read here for facts on Hymen). 

That being said~ If you are a virgin, it is still safe to use menstrual cups, however you should be aware that the hymen may break during the insertion or removal of the cup.

2) You may still contract infections
As with all sanitary products, the chances of infection is highly dependent on personal hygiene. Always wash your hands before insertion and removal, and always wash your cup thoroughly and properly.

3) You need to be mindful of your kitchenware
Now, talking about hygiene, you are advised to boil the cup before and after each cycle to ensure that it is properly disinfected. Boiling it would require your own personal pot to disinfect it properly. I strongly advice you to keep this pot away from the kitchen and to label it properly, because no one wants to eat out from a pot used for this purpose right?

You may also choose to disinfect it by soaking it in a solution of 1 part of vinegar to 3 parts of water for 5 minutes instead. I find this method more discreet.

4) There is a huge learning curve
Compared to pad and tampon, the learning curve to understand how to use the cup properly is huge. It is recommended to give yourself 3-5 cycles to fully understand how to use the cup.

5) Leakages are still possible
In my learning process so far, I find that there are moments when leakages occurs (mostly during the day and right after insertion). So at the present stage, I use pantyliners along with the cup.

~~~

So in conclusion, I would say that menstrual cups are really better. Sure, there is a huge learning curve, and I will need my own pot for disinfecting the cups~ but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

Personally, I decided to switch to menstrual cups because I tend to get rashes from the use of pads and, because the amount of wastage created bugs me.

At the age of 25, I am secure in myself to know my own worth and somewhat wise to know that my self-value is not solely tied to my virginity or to an intact hymen.

And lastly, I think cups are really the safer and healthier choice when used properly.

I leave  it to you to decide on your own.
In the meantime, you can follow me on my journey with menstrual cups.
I will be reviewing the cups after a year, yes~ a year, because a woman can only bleed so much in one for sufficient practice.

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