Probably worth noting that this is a blog all about my period – and it gets graphic. If you don’t like blood or menstruation, I would skip this one.
I can’t believe it took me this long to try the Moon Cup. Well, I can, in that the main thing that made me put it off for eighteen months was my chronically inflamed urethra, and the fact that having anything pressing up against it for hours at a time was incredibly uncomfortable. Seriously, I couldn’t even use tampons because my poor urethra was so sensitive and sore. So even though my lovely friend Sophie gave me a Moon Cup for Christmas in 2017, it took me until now to get it out of its box and use it, which seems fair enough given the circumstances.
Why do I want to use one? It’s partly a feminist thing, partly an environmental thing and partly a financial thing. From a feminist perspective, I am always keen to try new period products, and I felt like a lame modern woman for never having tried the hottest menstrual innovation on the block. Also, periods create so much disposable plastic waste. For the decade that I’ve been getting my period, I have used both tampons and sanitary pads, often together, because ya gal’s got a heavy flow. Many bed sheets have been sacrificed to the ritual shedding of my reproductive system. But each tampon and pad are, obviously, only used once, and between the wrappers and the hygiene slips and the applicators they create a whole host of plastic waste that goes straight to landfill. Menstrual cups are reusable – in theory, a single Moon Cup can be used for years – cutting down the boatload of waste periods typically require. Another benefit of menstrual cups is also that they save you money! I think cups tend to cost around £20, but that’s a one-off expense, and mine was ‘free’ because it was a gift. Buying boxes of tampons and pads every four weeks for decades will end up costing thousands of pounds, so over the course of my menstrual life, the savings are not insignificant.
I decided to put it in just before some friends arrived for dinner on Wednesday, for reasons that I now can’t really understand. Menstrual cups are silicone cups that need to be folded before you insert them into your vagina. Then, they pop out and create a seal with your vaginal walls, catching the blood as it drips out of your cervix. A new Moon Cup also has a long silicone stem to make removal easier, which you are encouraged to trim down as you become more comfortable with the cup. You have to sterilise the cup before use, which is most easily achieved by boiling it in water for a few minutes. I did this and then immediately tried to stick the boiling hot menstrual cup inside myself. Long story short: like any other part of your body, your genitals will respond badly if you touch them with boiling items. That’s all I’ll say about that. I rinsed it in some cool water and tried again.
This fucking stem immediately was not going to work for me. Maybe I’ve just got a short vagina, but that thing was sticking out and it was not pleasant. I decided to give it a go with the stem still attached for the whole evening, partly to give myself time to get used to it and partly because we were sitting down to eat a parmigiana and I didn’t have time to run to the bathroom and wrestle that cup out of my crotch after I’d only just got it suctioned in place. The-fold-then-insert move is made to look easy, but it took me several tries to get it far enough in before the whole thing popped out to its full cup glory. Dinner was served and I was just going to have smile through it, bizarre protruding silicone stem be damned.
I felt like I was getting used to it – then I moved imperceptibly. It was not comfortable. But I knew that it was just the stem poking me in places that only like to get poked by bigger and more fun items. After dinner, I plonked myself down on the beanbag to try to get more comfortable. It was then that I felt the unfortunate seeping feeling that I knew all too well: I’d bled through onto my trousers. I ran to the bedroom and changed from jeggings to leggings, a move that was more for hygiene than comfort but managed to kill two birds with one fresh pair of Lululemons.
I was feeling good. Still being poked inside my body by a piece of silicone, but good. Then I bled through my leggings.
Turns out I hadn’t mastered the seal element of the Moon Cup. I had naïvely assumed that it would simply suction into place, but of course, it took a little more skill and lot more bearing down with my pelvic floor muscles to make it happen. Our friends had just left, so I took out the cup, emptied it, washed it out, washed my hands because it looked like I’d murdered someone, grabbed a pair of scissors and promptly cut the whole stem off right at the base of the cup. The pamphlet suggested cutting the stem down in increments, in case you need a bit of the stem to actually get the bloody thing out. I’m pretty comfortable with my body – the fact I’ve posted this on the Internet must be proof of that – so I just thought fuck it and removed the whole stem in one fell snip. This would prove to be a bold move.
I cycled to work the next morning and I’m pretty sure the process of cycling wedged the cup further up. This theory will be tested many times over the coming months, but the result was that when I came to empty the cup at work just before meeting a friend for lunch, I could not get it out. It was wedged so high up in my vagina that I honestly could not get it to budge, because it was suctioned in place and I had ill advisedly cut the entire stem off. I was in a tiny stall, my hands covered in blood, the cup barely accessible no matter how I contorted myself and I just thought “I’m going to have to explain that I was late for lunch because I’d suctioned my new menstrual cup around my cervix.” Or I saw myself at the doctor later, explaining that it had been in there for twelve hours and could they please help me in a way that I’m sure doctors are not paid enough to help.
Finally, finally, I coaxed it out. I emptied it and then reinserted it, literally looking I’d murdered someone in my pants. I would later read an article with tips for the new menstrual cup user, one of which was “pick a day when you are just at home. Don’t make it so you’re figuring this stuff and ending up covered in blood at work!”
Thanks Internet. I snuck out of the stall and managed to wash my hands before anyone called the police.
Things got better after that. I read some tips about improving the seal and that has helped, though I have still leaked a little every single time (I have been wearing pads too as a backup while I adjust), though every single time is still concentrated to the last thirty six hours as of Friday morning, so there’s definitely room to improve. Every article says that they take time to get the hang of, sometimes even a few months of use during your period, so I’m persevering. I think it will be worth it. I like that they are reusable and as someone who is deeply comfortable with their own body and menstrual cycle, I think it is so cool to get a better look into what’s actually happening in my reproductive system every month. That being said, I am a little concerned about scratching myself in places that should just never get scratched, so there’s still stuff to think about. I hope you enjoyed this graphic insight into my period management that nobody asked for!
Have you ever tried a menstrual cup? Do you have any tips?