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Just before my last period I bought a menstrual cup. They've been around for over a century (and seem to have improved greatly over the years!) but haven't gotten much press, probably because of the taboos on discussing anything relating to menstruation. (Back in the 1960s there was an advertising campaign by one company that made them, but they were hampered by the fact that the ads couldn't actually say what they were talking about!) A menstrual cup fits in the vagina a bit like a tampon would, but because it's a cup (made of medical-grade silicone, or there's one made out of latex) it doesn't soak up the vagina's natural moisture along with the blood, so there's less risk of TSS and (IMHO) it's far more comfortable.

Mine is a Moon Cup (not to be confused with the Mooncup made in the U.K.). I've got the smaller size, which is almost too big for me, but there are other brands that make other sizes. There's an excellent chart to help figure out what's likely to be the best cup for a given person. Two brands are available for sale here in town (at co-ops and the like) and there are other brands available online.

I'm extremely pleased with it. It took me a little bit to get used to putting it in and taking it out, and I ended up cutting off the stem entirely* because it was poking me, but I got used to it quickly. Using it is miles better than using tampons and even better than using pads, which I'd been doing until now (I use reusable cloth pads, which I like much better than disposable pads--if you're curious, ask me and I'll tell you all the reasons why). After I got the stem the right length I could barely tell I had the cup in, and my flow is light enough I only had to empty the cup twice a day, so I could do it in the privacy of my own bathroom.

The cup I bought cost around $32 at the co-op, which is part of why it took me a while to get around to buying one. However, they last for years, so it averages out to a very small cost per cycle. (I've never heard of a cup wearing out. The only reasons I've heard of for having to replace a cup are: dropped it in the toilet and flushed it, dog used it for a chew toy, woman gave birth or body changed over time and had to switch from one size cup to another size.)

If you're interested in learning more, there's an LJ community full of helpful information: menstrual_cups. I've seen the community members patiently answer the same newbie questions over and over, and they use tagging to group posts so one can research more easily in past entries. One of the helpful things I found was a discussion of different ways to fold the cup for insertion--the way that's in all the cups' instructions is actually not the favorite of most women who use cups.

* I cut the stem off in stages, to make sure I wasn't cutting off too much. First I took off 1/4 of its length, tried it out for a day, then I cut off another 1/4, etc. I'm glad I had the whole stem at first while I was still getting used to removal, though.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
Of course there's an LJ community about menstrual cups! I had never thought of such a thing, but it stands to reason. Thanks for the link - I had no idea there were folds besides the C-fold, nor any knowledge of the business ethics drama of the company that makes the Keeper, which is what I have. Now I know both!

I got my cup in college, but had all kinds of insertion problems and gave up for a while, then started back up using it maybe 3 years ago. Something clicked that time and I haven't spent a dime on pads or tampons since! Glad to see someone else singing the praises of cups!
Apr. 7th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
Yeah. I ended up buying the Keeper Moon Cup despite the business ethics drama, purely because of the two available at my co-op it's the one that could possibly fit me. But I was disappointed to hear about the name stuff. They're also either the same company, or connected to the company that makes GladRags, the reusable cloth pads I love so much, which made me extra disappointed about the news.

I'm using the fold suggested by kuradi8 in the community: a punchdown fold with the folded side down, held between thumb and middle finger (or so) with the index finger to guide it in. It's been working well for me so far! (Before that I tried a simple face-up punchdown fold, which worked OK but not as well as this.)
Apr. 7th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
I'm intrigued by the other folds - almost disappointed that it will be a while before I can *really* try them. I'm particularly interested in the 7-fold - it looks easy and effective. C-fold has never worked quite right for me, but it just never occurred to me to try something different.

I've had several housemates who've used and loved GladRags. It's a shame they're part of it all too.
Apr. 7th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
I think they must just put the C-fold on all the packaging because it's easy to draw and describe!

There are other companies that make cloth pads, I know, but GladRags is the one I found first. Though one of the ones in the stores here is named Party In My Pants, which I have to love!
Apr. 7th, 2009 04:05 am (UTC)
Over in the vaginapagina community there is lots of good commentary on menstrual cups and other topics of interest to vagina-owning and vulva-loving persons.
Apr. 7th, 2009 04:40 am (UTC)
It's nice that there is such a community! Very high-traffic, too, it seems.
Apr. 7th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC)
What's more, that community makes a genuine effort to be gender "safe space" because people are more than the sum of their parts.
Apr. 7th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
Diva Cup
I've been using my Diva Cup for about two years now. I don't believe in taboos against discussing menstruation, so I've been vocal enough in my evangelizing that Neil's now capable of delivering the pitch. My unfortunate experience is that my 'size 1' is no longer large enough for my heavy days. I'm pretty much guaranteed that it will leak at problematic levels for two to three days, even though it's not necessarily full when it does. I'm considering getting the larger size for those days to see if that fixes the problem . . .

In the meantime, I've gotten a "Party In My Pants" pantyliner for those days, and I'm also generally impressed by these cloth pads. Won't replace the cup, though. It's just too fantastic.

A hint you may or may not have encountered - when (it's really not an if) your silicone cup starts to discolor, put it in hydrogen peroxide for the better part of a day. It'll come out looking like new!

Welcome to the club of menstrual cup users! =)
Apr. 7th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Diva Cup
Thank you for the welcome! Are you who got Katie interested? She's who told me about them in the first place.

And thanks for the tip about the color. Yes, it's already picking up the colors of the liquids it's exposed to! (Also, I tried soaking it in some cider vinegar to clean it and it picked up the scent of the vinegar! Nate started thinking there was something rotting in the pantry, until we figured out it was the vinegar smell clinging to the cup.) I'm surprised, I assumed silicone would be impervious to that sort of thing.
Apr. 7th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)
After using Instead I decided to try a menstual cup. I bought a Diva cup, but I am a very heavy bleeder and I also found the cup itself painful, so it sits on the shelf in its little cloth bag. It hurt so much I shudder when I think about trying it again on a lighter day.
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)
I have also used Instead, and still do for "special occasions." I also have had heavy periods. At the moment I don't know what I'm going to get, because I am winding down. Instead never worked for my heavy or even medium days.

Right now I am a short-timer in this department, so I'm gonna coast until I don't need anything!
Apr. 7th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
The nice thing about instead is that it hold back the sea until I can get to the privy. By, "cagling" I can empty it and clean up. It also holds more that a super plus Tampon...sorry if this TMI. I can go through a Super plus tampon in 10 to 15 minutes at my heaviest time. The instead cup will sometimes hold for 20 to 30 minutes, which will get me to a destination. I don't like going anywhere during that time. I'm also almost at the end. I've heard about the deep freezing the Uterus lining, but I am so close to menopause I don't want to do anything drastic.
Apr. 7th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
According to that chart I linked, the Diva is about the largest cup out there. So if you ever wanted to try again, you could try a smaller cup. The tradeoff is the smaller cup holds less of course, but if it's more comfortable... OTOH, if you're nearly done maybe you just want to coast until you're done, like sal_e_peters. :-)
Apr. 7th, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)
I've been using sea sponge tampons for about 8 years. Last year I ogt a box of instead cups and really liked them, so I got a more permanent diva cup, tried it and tried it and could not make it work, and then about 2 months later I got pregnant. But I think when my cycles return I'll probably go back to the sea sponges. I highly recommend them, especailly if you don't like cotton tampons. Since they're moist when you insert them, you avoid almost all the icky feeling of cotton tampons; they conform to your shape immediately; and they don't dry out your vag.
Apr. 7th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you have something that works well for you! The problem with the Diva may merely have been that that's about the biggest cup out there, according to that chart I linked. Though after you give birth, you might want to give it another try--they say that that often changes what size cup you'd need.

Your description of the sea sponge tampons does sound far and away better than traditional tampons!
Apr. 7th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I would love to try cups, even bought one a year ago. It sits unused, though. After I bought it, I read the directions which include the caveat that you should not use it if you have an IUD. I love my IUD even more than I'd love to try cups, so there you go. No cup for me.

(The problem with an IUD is that it as a string hanging out of the cervix. There's the possibility of the string getting caught in the cup, or between your fingers when you remove the cup, and the IUD being pulled out of place. Which could be painful. Or, even worse, be unnoticed until pregnancy occurs -- ulp!!!!!)
Apr. 7th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
There's actually information about cup use with IUDs in the LJ community, too. I didn't pay too much attention because I don't have an IUD, but I gathered that it's possible with some precautions.
Apr. 7th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
*cheers* I've had one of those for two years now - my roommate told me of their existence and about two months later I was like "Shit. I could be, you know, through with this tampon silliness! ... I'm going to the co-op."

So awesome not to have to worry if you've got the right supplies on hand ^_^
Apr. 7th, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
Apr. 8th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
It's not something I give much thought to, but I first learned of their existence in, of all places, a link from the web page of the amazing singer Susan McKeown. I went looking after she and her group of the time came to Des Moines and I was lucky enough to attend. (Just checked; a link is still there, and if you've not heard her, you have a fine experience ahead of you).

After the initial surprise, the second reaction was "Gee, that's an elegant bit of engineering; I wonder why I've never heard of or seen that before?"
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )