Dear (male) readers, If open and honest chat about periods is not something you are comfortable with, this is probably a good time to check out some of my other blog posts! If you're able to pull up your big girl pants or are OK with it, then I highly recommend reading on.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
– Robert Swan
Since having our girls, I have become more conscious of the footprint I am leaving behind. I am constantly looking at how I can adapt our current lifestyles, to more sustainable and eco-friendly ones. A while back, I had my eyes opened to how much sanitary waste I produce each year, and the cost of these products over my lifetime – I would dispose of approximately 950-1050 items per year (none of which are recyclable), and spend around £300 per year on these products. This equates to approximately £11.5k, and upwards of 35.5k items of waste over my lifetime (based on 38 years of menstruating).
I will admit, that up until this point, I had been somewhat naive to the alternative options available; and I was used to the ease and convenience of the disposable items I had been using. However, upon discovering the sheer amount of waste I was producing, and knowing that many of these products would take 500-800 years to decompose; I was ready to make a change.
I was first introduced to the idea of menstrual cups about 18 months ago, when one of my cousin-in-laws told me about her experience using them. I was instantly intrigued at the idea of using a menstrual cup, but it was easier to stick with what I knew, so I continued using my usual products. However back in November, last year (2019); I had contact with Fialuna who produce and sell menstrual cups; the more I researched the cups, the more it felt like this could be the perfect option for me. So I felt it was the right time to give them a try.
My experience using Fialuna’s Menstrual Cup;
Upon telling some of my family and friends; and announcing on Instagram that I would be working with Fialuna, testing out their menstrual cup; I received so many questions. What is it like to use? How do you get it in? How do you get it out? Does it hurt? etc. The same questions I had before using it. Hopefully, I will be able to answer all of the questions I received below.
What is the menstrual cup, and how does it work?
If you’ve never heard of the cup before, here is a quick overview of what it is and how it works. The cup is a small and flexible bell shaped cup, which is made from silicone. It is designed to catch and collect menstrual blood. It completely replaces the need to use disposable sanitary products. Once inserted properly, the cup creates a vacuum seal, leaving you with leak free periods.
How do you insert it?
This didn’t actually take too long to get used to. It is about finding the right method for you. The more you stick with it, the easier it gets. The cup can be folded in a number of different ways (you can google examples of this); once the cup has been inserted, it springs open into its original bell shape. It may need a little adjusting (small tug on the tail), to ensure it has created its seal.
How do you remove it?
OK, so this can be tricky to start off with! I had one incident when I first used it, where I genuinely had visions of me turning up to A&E asking for help to remove it! Fortunately, after persisting for some time, I managed to sort it out myself (thank goodness!)
The trick to remove it, is the break the seal. There are two little holes near the top of the cup; when the cup is fully inserted, these holes create a vacuum seal. If you don’t break the seal fully, you’ll find it difficult to remove. The trick to do this, is to pinch the bottom of the cup (just above the tail). In doing this, you should be able to start moving it down. As you bring the cup further down, try to fold it in a little, as it will make it easier to remove. WORD OF WARNING: If you don’t pinch it properly, it springs back open! All I can say, is I learnt that the hard way!!
How do you clean it?
The cup only needs to be rinsed through before reinserting it. It could admittedly be difficult to do this in public toilets, however, these can be wiped down if needed, rather than rinsed. Because the cup can be used for 12 hours, I have yet to need to remove it and clean it in a public setting. Your menstrual cup should be sterilized in between cycles. You can sterilize your cup by completely submerging in boiling water for 5 minutes. Once sterilized, store it in the cotton bag it comes with.
There are so many!
- Leak free.
- Plastic free.
- Less waste…
I think it is clear I am now a cup convert, so here were the main pros for me;
As someone who has struggled with the side effects of endometriosis and adenomyosis; constantly worrying about when my next toilet break would be; dealing with heavy periods, and spending an extortionate amount of money every month on sanitary products. All of this disappeared when using the cup. From the moment the cup was inserted, until it was taken out; I could forget I was on my period. I didn’t need to keep watch of the clock, making sure I was keeping my bathroom breaks frequent. I could do my job without any worry!
The cup can also be used for up to 10 years. In theory, once you have one (I’d recommend having a couple), you would never need to buy anything again until it needed replacing! This saves you an extraordinary amount of money in the long run. If you do not require any other sanitary products in this time, you would have zero waste periods.
There are really very few downsides to the cup, apart from the obvious; it takes a little bit of time to get used to. I found the first couple of months were a learning curve (more so than when you are using tampons for the first time). At times I found it frustrating; but once you’ve given it time, you quickly get the hang of it.
My personal experience?
I have nothing but positive things to say about the cup. As with anything new, it took a little time to get used to. I had some moments of frustration, but I quickly figured it all out.
Since using the cup, I have found my day-to-day life a lot easier whilst on my period. I no longer watch the clock; and can forget I am on my period for 12 hours of the day. I very quickly got into the routine of using it. So much so that I forgot to take it away with me for a wedding weekend; I figured it wasn’t the end of the world as I could just buy some tampons instead. However, I found myself utterly frustrated and annoyed that I had to use them instead. It felt like such an inconvenience, even though I’d only been using the cup for a couple of months at this point. The cup made all social engagements stress free, and now I suddenly found myself clock watching, worrying about when I could slip away discretely to go to the toilet.
I now take it in my bag wherever I go, and dread the thought of having to use anything else!
Things to know before using the cup?
- As stated above, it may take a little time to get used to using. I would highly recommend giving it a good couple of months before making your mind up.
- You really will save money. The cost of one cup is the equivalent of 1-3 periods (depending on how many products you usually require).
- The chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is almost non-existent – although this is the case, it is important to not leave it in over the 12 hour mark, and clean appropriately.
- If the holes at the top of the cup are blocked with water, it will hinder the cup’s ability to create a vacuum seal. Ensure these holes are free from blockage before use.
- It can be a little messy to begin with – so I would recommend planning the initial removals/changes in the comfort of your own home whilst you grow in confidence.
- You can still use this if you have an IUD.
- It may get stuck! Don’t panic! Take a deep breath and relax. It is likely that the seal hasn’t been fully broken. If it has, you may need to change the position you are in.
- Know your size. Unlike tampons, which are a one size fits all; the cup comes in different sizes. You may need to try a couple to figure out which is the right size.
- The cup will stain over time; this does not mean it can’t be used. As so long as the cup is being cleaned and sterilized, it is perfectly usable. To reduce the level of staining, rinse in cold water prior to cleaning/sterilizing.
Hopefully, this post has answered a lot of questions you may have had; if you have any other questions or there is anything I missed out that you’d like to know; drop them below in the comments section, or on my latest Instagram post.
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Thank you to Fialuna for partnering with me on this post.