Kate Cunich investigates whether diva cups really are the superior menstruation product.
It is an unarguable fact that periods are an extreme inconvenience, but having to carry around all the necessary products ‘just in case’ can be one of the most frustrating things about the ‘curse’ that is the period. What if I told you that you could reduce cramps, risk of leakage and also not have to carry sanitary products with you wherever you go all in one swoop? Well, hold onto your hats ladies because that’s exactly what I’m telling you!
What is a Period Cup?
A period cup, also known as a menstrual cup, diva cup, fun cup or moon cup, is a feminine hygiene product that can be inserted into the vagina during menstruation. What makes a period cup stand apart from tampons or pads is that rather than absorbing blood, they are designed to collect the menstrual fluid and can also be used during ovulation to catch discharge.
Menstrual cups are usually made of flexible medical grade silicone which means not only can they be kept in for up to 12 hours (depending on the volume of the cup and heaviness of flow), but one cup can also be reusable for more than five years. This makes their long-term cost much lower than that of disposable tampons or pads, though the initial cost is higher.
Menstrual cups are also promoted as more practical and eco-friendly than tampons and pads. Given that the menstrual cup is reusable, its use greatly decreases the amount of waste generated from menstrual cycles, as there is no daily waste and the amount of discarded packaging decreases as well.
Menstrual cups are shaped like a bell with a stem. The stem is used for insertion and removal. The bell-shaped cup seals against the vaginal wall just below the cervix to prevent leakage. Every 4–12 hours, the cup is removed, emptied, rinsed, and reinserted.
A (Very) Brief History
While the menstrual cup has been around for centuries (the first one was literally invented in 1860), UK brand, Mooncup, brought them to popularity in 2001. This was the first cup to be manufactured using medical grade silicone rather than latex rubber because of its durability and hypoallergenic properties, although there are also brands that use TPE (thermoplastic elastomer).
Menstrual Cups in Developing Countries
Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and companies have begun to propose menstrual cups to females in developing countries such as Kenya, India, Uganda and South Africa, where access to affordable sanitary products can be limited for many women below the poverty line. Menstrual cups are regarded as a low-cost and an environmentally friendly alternative to sanitary cloths, disposable pads, tampons, or “nothing” which can be a reality for many females in developing countries.
Disposable pads and plastic tampon applicators can take 25 years to break down in the ocean and cause a significant environmental impact. Biodegradable sanitary options are now available, and these decompose in a short period of time, but they must be composted, and not disposed of in a landfill.
Each year, an estimated 20 billion pads and tampons are discarded in North America. They typically end up in landfills or are incinerated, which can have a great impact on the environment. Most of the pads and tampons are made of cotton and/or plastic. Plastic takes about 50 or more years and cotton starts degrading after 90 days if it’s composted.
Given that the menstrual cup is reusable, its use greatly decreases the amount of waste generated from menstrual cycles, as there is no daily waste and the amount of discarded packaging decreases as well.
So, what’s the verdict?
After suffering through years of pads and tampons, I heard about diva cups around three or four years ago and was intrigued. However, after a little research I was horrified by the thought of not only having to insert a cup into myself but also drain it every 12 hours… gah!!!!
I revisited the idea after I had my daughter. After a year with no periods, it was extremely depressing to be reminded that, yes, I am still a woman and unfortunately I will continue to get my period for many years. But why should I have to suffer!? Why should any woman have to suffer for three to eight days every month?
Enter the diva cup. I bought mine from SallyCoCo in Central (an intimate shop) and it is from the brand Fun Factory. I was still very unsure about what I was getting myself into and it took me at least two months after I purchased it to try it out, I was terrified!
Putting it in:
This can be very nerve racking and even after reading the instructions about 100 times over the course of about two months, I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing. You have to squeeze it together in a C shape and then insert it as far as it will go, to put it nicely! You then have to twist it so that the seals are activating, which prevents leakages. It took me a few tries to be satisfied that it was placed correctly and for the first few days I had a few spills but I eventually got the hang of it!
Once it’s in:
Here is the true miracle, once the cup is placed inside correctly, you will not be able to feel a thing. It’s very similar to wearing a tampon except without the string getting in the way. I was able to get on with my life without having anxiety about my tampon string hanging out of my bikini or my pad leaking a patch of red onto my new white jeans.
The long run:
I have been using my Fun Cup for just over a year now and I can say with confidence that I will never be returning to pads or tampons if I can help it. I’m helping reduce my environmental impact, I’m saving myself a lot of money and I don’t have to worry about taking extra pads or tampons wherever I go! The Fun Cup has truly changed my life for the better.
How do I remove the cup if there is no string to pull like with a tampon?
This was something I had a major concern about. It turns out that taking your cup out is much like having a baby… or a poo! You squeeze it down until you can reach the tip and then you pull, easy peasy!
Will my diva cup get lost?
NO! The vaginal canal is an elastic, muscular tube only about four to five inches long which means that the vagina does not connect to other parts of the body, therefore meaning that your cup literally has nowhere else to go!
Can anyone use a cup?
YES! Luckily there are all sizes, shapes, brands and styles of cups. Everyone can succeed with a cup as long as they find the right one.
Is using a cup messy?
Not at all! This was one of my other main concerns. I soon found that even when removing the cup it is a very neat and tidy process that is recommended to be done over the toilet or in the shower.
Should I wear a backup liner or pad?
Most users wear no back up at all (that’s part of what makes these cups so amazing and convenient) however, I would recommend wearing backup when you first start wearing a cup for peace of mind and extra protection while you are learning to use the cup.
Can I have sex with the cup in?
The short answer to this is no, but obviously people have tried! Penetrative sex is not recommended while wearing a period cup as it does take up most of the space. However, oral sex or masturbation is actually encouraged while wearing a cup! Did you know that orgasms can actually help with cramps!?
Can I go to the bathroom with my cup in?
Of course! Cups do not stop you from performing any normal functions (with exception to sex as seen above). If you find that your cup moves down after having a number two, it can be nudged back up into place. Cups with a firmer base are great for this.
Can I use a cup with a tilted cervix/uterus?
Yes! So long as the cup can sit below the cervical opening to catch flow, you are good to go.
Can I use a cup if I have an IUD?
Yes, but it is very important that you are aware of your strings and pinch the base of the cup when removing to break the suction. This should be done when removing a cup in general but is especially important for those with an IUD.
Can I use a cup if I have a latex allergy?
Yes. Silicone is not a form of rubber or latex and is safe to use for those with a latex allergy. Avoid rubber and latex cups.
How do I change my cup in public?
If you find yourself in a public stall without access to your own personal sink, you can remove your cup, dump contents, and wipe the cup with toilet paper and then wash as usual when you get home. There are also single use cup wipes available to keep on hand. If you have access to a sink in the public bathroom use only water and not the public soap since you won’t know what ingredients are in it that could potentially be too harsh.