A few months ago I wrote about some of the small steps towards sustainability I was taking, including reducing my meat intake and ditching wet-wipes. One of the areas I said I really wanted to work on was period products and I’m pleased to say I have!
There are a few sustainable period options out there, but I’ve gone with a combination of a menstrual cup and period pants (underwear that absorbs blood flow). There were definitely some teething problems to start with and I’m still pretty early on in my menstrual cup ‘journey’, but as the first thing I did when I started looking into menstrual cups was read blogs and watch YouTube videos, I thought writing a blog about my experience would be helpful.
A reminder here that this is all coming from my personal experience, so please bear in mind that if you choose to go down this route, your experience may be completely different.
I ended up buying the lily cup one, mainly because it was on offer in my local Sainsbury’s (!!) but I had also seen some positive reviews, saying it was a good one for newbies.
Inserting the cup
Now, getting the cup in is probably the biggest hurdle both physically and mentally to get over. I would love to sit here and say it was a breeze – totally easy, but well… it wasn’t.
After watching many tutorials online (I found the Precious Star Pads YouTube channel helpful) I took myself into the bathroom with my cup in one hand and determination in the other. I’ve never used anything other than applicator tampons, so this was a totally new experience and, yeah, you get to know your anatomy pretty quickly.
In all honesty I found the process of inserting it quite painful – BUT, I do have a condition called vestibulodynia which makes me extra sensitive to pain in that area. After about 15 minutes, I managed to get it in.
After a couple of times getting it in and out, it began to come more easily. The trick is to stay as relaxed as possible, and in my case, push it up a little further than I think. If you can really feel it after inserting, it might not be in the right position. Once I got the hang of it, I didn’t feel it at all.
During that first cycle I spent a lot of time feeling paranoid about leaking. Interestingly I never leaked because of incorrect insertion. I did however leak because the claims my cup had of lasting ‘up to 12 hours even with heavy flow!’ were grossly misleading. I do have a pretty heavy flow and on my heaviest days I need to empty my cup every 3-4 hours.
After ruining some underwear during my first cycle with the cup, I decided to invest in some period underwear. I got one pair to start with, because a) I wanted to see if I liked them and b) they are expensive!! Luckily the pair I got, from ModiBodi, fitted like a dream and really helped me feel more comfortable during the heaviest day of my second cycle.
I’m about to go into my third cycle as I write this and I have another two pairs on the way so I feel protected during the three heaviest days of my period. When my flow is lighter however, I can go without and need to empty my cup a lot less, which makes me feel *almost* like it isn’t even happening. Which is pretty damn freeing.
Emptying the cup
For someone who has only used tampons, seeing your period blood collected in a cup was pretty eye opening. And, erm, messy (let’s be real). But after a couple of cycles I feel like I’ve managed to hone my skills of emptying and rinsing without making my bathroom look like a crime scene.
My main concern with getting a menstrual cup was how I would empty it at work, in public toilets. Thankfully, we do actually have a disabled toilet which has a sink in the same room, so I have been using that. But I have seen some other tips (some from the comments section of this Instagram post) for times this isn’t possible:
- Take a bottle of water with you and use this to rinse your cup.
- Just wipe with tissue and re-insert, giving it a good rinse when you get home.
- Invest in a second cup! Empty the one you’re using, wipe it and put away, use clean cup and boil used cup when you get home.
After two cycles of using the cup I’m feeling much more comfortable with it and think I can safely say I’m a convert. There is definitely a learning curve, and I do still carry tampons with me which can be helpful in a pinch. For example, when I started my second cycle using the cup I was at work and couldn’t face the hassle of insertion (I’m still new to it and it takes some time initially) so I used a tampon and waited until I was in the comfort of my own home to tackle that first insertion.
I know the more I use it, the easier it will be and I LOVE not having to buy packs of tampons every month. It’s worth noting too that the upfront cost of cups and period pants can be a lot and even inaccessible for some. Of course, in the long run you save so much money, but the initial cost can feel off-putting.
What helped me was spacing out my costs, buying the cup first (and using liners to protect from leaks) then one pair of period pants, then another two pairs (total cost of cup and three pairs of pants adding up to £84) and this made it more manageable. So this could be an option for you, if this is something you’re up against.
Overall, it’s been super positive and I’m really happy that I have another sustainable step ticked off the list! Do you use menstrual cups? Let me know how you get on with them in the comments.
I’ll be back next week with a post I can’t quite believe I haven’t written yet… how to make time for self-care.
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