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Monday, July 29, 2013

Dispelling The Mystery Around Menstrual Cups

Note: This blog post is about feminine products for menstruation. You've been given fair warning. :-)

Dispelling The Mystery Around Menstrual Cups

by Justine C. Tajonera

I got introduced to menstrual cups last year after reading about feminine hygiene product waste on PCIJ: A Feminine Challenge. My friend, Jenny, who owns Mama.Baby.Love (an online store) posted the link alongside reusable products that could take the place of disposable feminine pads. I got curious about menstrual cups. After some research, I realized that these products are safe (vs. tampons and even disposable feminine pads...because you're not exposed to bacteria build-up that happens in products with cotton), they are environmentally friendly (my favorite part about them), and many women around the world are already using them. In fact, I saw lots of forums and blogs dedicated to menstrual cups.

However, here in the Philippines, I hardly know anyone who uses menstrual cups. That's why I'm really advocating the use of it locally. Among people I know, they grimace when I tell them about using a menstrual cup.

But there's really not much to grimace about. Using a menstrual cup is much more hygienic than using a feminine pad! While it might sound like it involves a lot of effort...it's actually so easy to use as long as you get over your squeamishness about touching your own body. :-) Read about the benefits I personally experienced below.

So there. There's no mystery around using a menstrual cup. You just need to get used to your own body.

My first menstrual cup: The Lunette Clear Size 2

Photo from the Lunette.com website
The site mentioned that if I had gone through childbirth (yes!) or if I had heavy flow (yes!) then the size 2 was recommended for me. I ordered the cup late last year from Jenny and I was a bit apprehensive if the cup could even fit me. Here were some of my observations.

Putting it in

Apparently, you need to fold the cup before putting it in your cervix. Here's a link to folding instructions  and techniques from MenstrualCupInfo (a well-known blog about menstrual cups). The fold that worked for me was the punch-down fold. Unlike a tampon, the menstrual cup sits low on the cervix, so you don't really need to push it that far in. I felt some discomfort but nothing that I hadn't experienced before with a tampon.

Picture from Menstrual-cups.livejournal.com.


Taking it out

This was the part that I found a bit difficult. You see, the menstrual cup needs a bit of vacuum to seal it in (and gather your menstrual flow). To remove it, you need some vaginal muscle exercise (or what they call Kegels exercise) and you need to break the suction first. You shouldn't tug on it or else it will hurt. You need to move it from side to side, break the suction and then pull on the tab at the base to remove the cup.

I was worried that I might not be able to do this in the toilet when I needed to empty the cup on a heavy day. I didn't have to worry too much. After some practice, I realized that it's not so hard after all.

The Savings

Do you realize that you use thousands and thousands of feminine pads during your lifetime? All of these are non-biodegradable (similar to diapers). When I thought of making the change from feminine pads to menstrual cups, I wasn't even thinking about the savings, I was only thinking about the planet. The upside to using menstrual cups is that you can use them up to ten (10) years! That's thousands of pesos in terms of disposable pads.

The Big Benefits

The biggest benefit for me was not contributing to non-biodegradable trash in landfills. Apart from that, I had other benefits:

  1. Not having to empty my cup for hours at a time. In fact, I could keep it on for 12 hours straight (a good night's sleep without having to worry about leaks). I just use a reusable panty liner to avoid leaks on a heavy day. So far...hardly any leaks at all. 
  2. No smell at all. Not like using feminine pads. 
  3. Being able to swim, play sports and exercise without worrying about my period. 
  4. Being able to measure my flow. The cup I was using can hold up to 23 ml. So, every time I emptied my cup, I could measure my flow. 
  5. Being more attuned to my body. Doing the Kegels exercise and being able to measure my menstrual flow made me more aware of my own body and where my cervix is. That's a good thing for a woman! 
More choices

Recently, Jenny of Mama.Baby.Love sent me a sample of a new menstrual cup called The MeLuna and it's fantastic! I actually researched this before and told Jenny about it and now it's here in the Philippines. This menstrual cup uses thermoplastic elastometer or TPE (unlike other cups that use medical grade silicone) but is just as safe as those made from medical grade silicone. 

I've read about MeLuna on other menstrual cup sites and a lot of the reviewers really respect MeLuna for continuously improving their product. They are the only company that makes different types of tabs at the end of the cups. They have the following choices: ball, tab, ring, and no tab at all. Apart from this, they also made a "soft" version of their product based on consumer feedback. 

The one I used looks like the one in the picture below. 

Picture taken from the MeLuna Canada site. 
The ring at the end of the cup is really, really helpful in pulling out the cup. Also, I'm not sure if I'm using the classic or the soft version but it feels a lot softer than the one from Lunette. I hardly know it's there at all after inserting the cup! 

If you're interested about Menstrual Cups, check out Jenny's store: Mama.Baby.Love. They're sold for Php 900 to Php 1,680, depending on what brand and what size you choose.  


12 comments:

Jenny @ Chronicles of A Nursing Mom said...

Thank you for this Justine!! Glad you are having a happy period! ;)

Jafie Catequista said...

Are there shops in the philippines selling menstrual cups?

Justine said...

Hi Jafie, yes. Jenny (above) has an online store. Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/MamaBabyLove/photos/pb.204397429656.-2207520000.1406166485./10153091787169657/?type=3&theater

Anonymous said...

Pwede po kahit dalaga pa?

Justine said...

Hi Anonymous, yes, pwede siya sa dalaga. It doesn't really affect your hymen because the menstrual cup sits *low* in your cervix. Also, if you want a cup that suits you, some suppliers of the cups also have a soft version. Just ask the retailer (above) if she has the soft version available for the brand that you want. Here are links that might be helpful to you:
http://menstrualcupinfo.wordpress.com/virgins-and-menstrual-cups/
https://ph.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080820011623AAnBAcm
http://www.lunette.com/blog/2012/09/teens-menstrual-cups-tips-for-first-time-use/

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review and link to the MamaBabyLove store! Much appreciated :)

krizia otlucse said...

Pwede po Ba May sex basta gamit Ang menstrual cup,, wala po leak? TIA

Anonymous said...

Great article! I just wanted to comment on your previous comment. The hymen is at the entrance to the vagina (nowhere near the cervix), so the insertion and especially the removal of a menstrual cup (even the smallest ones) will usually break most hymens. Just an FYI for the dalagas. You'll still be a virgin, but you probably won't bleed on your "first time" if you've been using a menstrual cup. I don't trust Western opinions on this because they usually don't add the same cultural significance to an intact hymen as we Filipinas do. To most of us, an intact hymen IS virginity. Western culture has a different definition.

Justine said...

Thanks to Anonymous 2 for clearing up stuff about the hymen. :-) Honestly, it doesn't matter to me because virginity/ purity is a state of mind. At least to me. I think menstrual cups > hymen.

Justine said...

Hi Krizia, thanks for your question. Based on a quick search, using a menstrual cup is not recommended while having sex because it sits low on your cervix. Check out this link from DivaCup.com: http://divacup.com/how-it-works/your-first-questions/#Sex

Siah Badua said...

Hi Justine.

So I'm using Lunette cup size 2 right now (got it from Ms. Jenny too), and I experienced leaks. My first day was block buster like for only 2 hours it filled up and started leaking. I do have heavy flows. Funny I knew it was leaking because you could ACTUALLY feel the suction being broken because of obstructions in the holes, so there's air. So it went all through out the day. Even when it's not yet totally full, it just keeps.on.leaking! A bit frustrating. I researched a little more, did what they recommend to avoid leaks like ensure that the cervix is in the cup and that it opened properly, tried to feel the cup around to ensure it's opened correctly and I came to a realization that maybe the size is too big for me, because I could not easily feel the cup around bec its a bit tight. Im not sure if my cervix is low or average (i could reach it easily like 3.5" from the opening) so I'm not really sure what the problem is.

Also when I'm pulling it out, it hurts a bit when it's already around the opening. I feel that it's too big that it quite hurts a little.

Did you experience the same? What do you think about my situation? I hope you can enlighten me with my problem.

Thanks!

Siah

P.S. Please don't get me wrong. Using the cup is waaaaaay more comfortable than using pads.

Justine said...

Hi Siah! I have heavy flows as well. That's why I chose the bigger size. But you're right. It might be because of different physiology. It may really be that your cup might be too big for you. I actually have 3 cups: Lunette, MeLuna, and another MeLuna that I keep in my bag for emergencies. My last cup was medium (because the large size wasn't available at the time). I've had no problems with it. Pulling it out was difficult for me at first, too. I had to get used to it. You need to do Kegels and also break the suction before pulling it out. For leaks, which do happen, I bought two small re-usable pads (for light days) and two bigger bamboo fiber re-usable pads (for heavier days) -- both types also from Jenny -- and they work wonderfully with my cup. Just keep practicing! Wishing you hassle-free periods.

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