If talking about periods makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip this post ;). Otherwise, prepare for some TMI.
I was first introduce to the menstrual cup about a year ago from a friend who was just starting to use it. She showed me this video, which does a pretty good job of highlighting what to expect.
Even though menstrual cups aren’t that expensive, I wasn’t ready to spend $25 on something I had a high chance of giving up on after one try. I knew it would take at least a couple of cycles to perfect and I wasn’t ready to make that commitment.
When I turned 30 this past August, I decided to kick my zero waste efforts up a notch by working on having zero waste periods. So I finally took the plunge and bought the pink LENA cup in small.
My first time I using it was a disaster. I had a really hard time getting it in – I couldn’t get a good grip on any of the folds so sometimes it’d pop open before it was completely in. And once it was in, I couldn’t really tell if it opened all the way or if it was positioned correctly. But when I’d see how much blood had leaked onto my pantyliner, I knew I was doing something wrong. Taking it out the first time was just as (if not more) challenging as putting it in. I remember it was suctioned so securely and so far up, I started to panic a little. But once I “bared down” (i.e. relax as if you were going number 2), the cup lowered enough to where I was able to grab the stem and wiggle the cup down even further. Once I was able to reach the bottom of the cup with my index finger and thumb, I squeezed the bottom to “pop” the suction and slip it out. I rinsed it with warm water and slipped it back in for another try.
The next few cycles were pretty similar. Some days it wouldn’t leak much (or at all) and I’d think I was getting the hang of it. Other days it would leak so much I’d have to keep changing my pantyliner. I couldn’t consistently get it to not leak.
The breakthrough came during my last cycle. I finally decided to try to find my cervix, which I was really squeamish about. I didn’t expect to feel it because I assumed it was really high up (inside me) but when I reached in, I was able to feel it pretty quickly and clearly. Feeling it helped me visualize what my cup would look like if it was suctioned properly below it. Between my last cycle and this cycle, my friend (the same friend who introduced me to the cup) also showed me this video, which helped me realize I was always trying to insert the cup straight up instead of at an angle.
During my most recent cycle, I only had one instance where I leaked and I’m pretty sure it’s because I inserted it straight up again so it didn’t suction properly. Once I reinserted it at an angle, I didn’t leak any more.
For those of you who are going to be trying a menstrual cup for the first time (or if you’re having a hard time perfecting it), my main tips are:
- Try it for the first time when you’ll be at home for a long period of time. It makes dealing with leaks and reinserting it over and over again a lot easier. You don’t need the stress of someone wondering why you’re in the bathroom so often or for so long.
- Try to find your cervix when you’re on your period so you have a better idea of what you’re try to work around/contain. Yes, your hands will get dirty. Yes, it’s kind of gross at first. But you’ll get over it pretty quickly. The reason why I say try to find your cervix when you’re on your period is because I think it’s lower during your period (at least for me it is). I can’t reach my cervix when I’m not on my period.
- Try different folds. I like the punch fold the best.
- Try to pop it open as soon as the tip is in. I feel like doing this makes it impossible for your cervix to be outside of the cup.
- Slip it in at an angle, NOT straight up. When I tried slipping it in straight up, it was very difficult and not very smooth (almost like I was trying to force it in). Now that I have the angle down, once I get the tip in, the cup literally gets “sucked” up.
- My biggest tip is: DON’T GIVE UP! I don’t think anyone gets it perfectly their first cycle. I think part of the reason is because we’re not that comfortable touching our lady parts (especially when we’re on our periods!) so the first few tries are more about getting more familiar with your body.