Menstrual cups were the solution to this writer's period problems.
Many women have come to accept the uncomfortable aspects of their periods as facts of life. Once a month, you'll worry about making it to the end of yoga class without bleeding through your tights. You wear your least favorite underwear just in case your pad leaks. And at the end of the week, you'll experience the discomfort that comes along with removing a dry tampon. In search of a better way, I tried menstrual cups...and I'll never, ever go back.
I eased my way in at first. I went to my local drugstore and purchased a package of Softcups. Softcups are disposable menstrual cups that last throughout your period but are discarded afterward. After one cycle, I was in love with the concept so much that I ditched the throw-away cups and bought my first reusable menstrual cup. There are a variety of brands such as The Lily Cup, The Diva Cup, Lunette, Lena Cup, MeLuna, and Mooncup to choose from, each one unique in its shape, size, and firmness. I opted for the Lena Cup.
Most menstrual cups come in two sizes, small and large, and it's usually recommended that women who have not given birth go for the smaller choice, while those who have kids go for the larger. Firmness is more of a personal preference—this helps the cup to expand and form a seal in your vagina, so the firmer it is, the more easily it opens. My personal favorite has been the Lena Cup Sensitive. It's the same size and shape as the regular Lena Cup, but it's slightly less firm and even more comfortable. (Did you know wearing a menstrual cup may motivate you to exercise?)
A menstrual cup is virtually painless and relieves the discomfort of having to remove a tampon during light flow days—no more cotton to stick to the walls of your vagina! Menstrual cups are also great if you're someone who wants to avoid a mess as you wait for your period to arrive—just pop in your cup, and you're ready for anything. Every cup comes with instructions and options for inserting the device, so you'll just figure out which way works best for you. There's a learning curve at first for new users, as the concept of inserting and emptying a ribbed plastic cup seems a little foreign. But you'll quickly get the hang of it. The best part? You only need to empty your cup twice a day (or every twelve hours), so there's no more worrying about running out of tampons or stopping whatever you're doing to run to the bathroom. You can swim, shower, practice yoga, or run as you normally would and it feels amazing, unlike what you'd feel with a tampon string or a bulky pad between your legs. Oh, and there's no risk of TSS—double bonus! (ICYMI, periods are sort of having a moment. Here's why everyone is obsessed with periods right now.)
Menstrual cups are not only beneficial to your health but also your wallet and the environment. One cup can last between five and ten years (yes, years) with proper care, putting an end to the monthly cost of tampons or pads. Cups usually come in nice cloth bags for storing. Caring for your menstrual cup is simple—boil it in water for five to seven minutes between periods and you're set for next month. You'll be saving approximately 150 pounds of waste from tampons and pads over your menstruating lifetime. (Yuck!)
Essentially, menstrual cups are much less costly and produce far less waste than tampons and pads, but the benefits don't end there. "For women who are traveling—particularly abroad or where access to stores might be limited—a reusable menstrual cup can eliminate the need to find tampons or pads," says Kelly Culwell, M.D., chief medical officer at WomenCare Global, a nonprofit focused on providing healthy, affordable contraception to women. "Women who find they have issues with vaginal dryness or irritation with tampons might have a better experience with menstrual cups, which do not absorb vaginal fluid or alter the vaginal pH." (Read up on everything you ever wanted to know about tampons and some stuff you probably didn't.)
Using a menstrual cup also gives you a unique, although somewhat too close for comfort, look at your cycle and your health. You can see if you've had a light or heavy flow, the color of your blood, or if you're clotting. For me, it was empowering to understand my cycle and to know how much I was actually bleeding. I was able to actually collect my blood rather than have something absorb it. I was always under the impression that my period was pretty heavy, but the first time I saw how much I bled, I was surprised how little blood collected throughout the day.
Even if you're not into learning about the inner workings of your vagina, the comfort of a menstrual cup is life-changing. Once I experienced a period with a smooth, soft menstrual cup, I couldn't imagine a future period without one.