By Priscilla Francois, Period Pro from University of Central Florida College of Medicine
When I began my cycle at 10 years old, my immigrant mother called my relatives back home—it was horrifying, embarrassing, and confusing all at once. Flash forward to 2022 and I’m joining my peers at the Period Education Project (PEP) to proudly proclaim that periods are NOT shameful. Realizing this has not only connected me to my body, but it has empowered me. With some “PEP” I can use my knowledge to educate other menstruators and remove the shame associated with periods. So, let’s seek agency and empowerment together. Where should we start? Learning about which menstrual products are best for you!
The options can be overwhelming at first: tampons, pads, period underwear, and menstrual cups. There are so many choices to pick from! How do you know what’s right for you?
While many people have heard of or used pads and tampons, products like menstrual cups may feel unfamiliar. Well, worry not! My friend and fellow Period Pro Suzie Patterson, and I tried (and continue to use) menstrual cups, and I’m here to share our story.
Choosing the right period cup.
Maybe you’ve heard menstrual cup users rave about sustainability, dollars saved, low maintenance, and the simple pleasure of boiling a cup, you’ve finally decided to try it. If you want to learn more, you’re in the right place.
Although period cups may cost more upfront, when compared to monthly purchases of period pads or tampons, money is actually saved! Despite that, price is one of the factors that you CAN consider when choosing a cup. Some brands such as June have sales as unbelievably low as six dollars. Whereas the staple DivaCup brand is approximately 30 dollars. That’s quite the difference. Does it matter?
I personally purchased the JUNE cup and found it to be easy to use and comfortable. Don’t take it just from me, JUNE cup user Jaden shares that “it’s super helpful and great quality for the price…”. Period Pro Suzie reported leaking and a difficult time getting the cup to open (which I also experienced). This later prompted my purchase of the DivaCup, which I now prefer.
Both the Diva and June cup are made of medical grade silicone, but they have different shapes. The June cup is a bit shorter and thicker than the Diva. Which may explain Suzie and I both found that it doesn’t open as easily. To this, DivaCup reviewer and blog-manager of alittleadrift says “The Diva Cup is the most useful thing I pack when I travel. Using a menstrual cup gives me the confidence to go straight from a long bus ride to an epic hiking adventure. It never leaks. I’m never forced to schlep bags of tampons. It just works”.
But just because we purchased the June cup and the Diva cup, you would know there are a lot of other brands out there in similar price ranges. Sometimes you just have to buy what’s available in your store. Tampax, Saalt, Lena, and Intimina are all brands that get a lot of positive reviews also.
The spirit of the menstrual cup is to empower menstruators to live their life as they please—with nothing getting in the way. Pretty cool, right?
Menstrual Cup Hygiene.
Once you have a cup, it’s important to clean it before you use it, and again with each cycle. You do that by boiling it for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to wash your hands before handling the cup. Although you only need to boil the cup once per cycle- either before or at the end, but you should always rinse and wash it with water and/or an unscented soap or cleanser each time you empty it before using or re-inserting.
I know what you’re thinking, “how do I get it in there?!”
The insertion of the menstrual cup is one of the leading reasons why menstruators hesitate to begin using cups. Just like trying anything that’s new, inserting a menstrual cup can be surprising and “challenging” at first but become easier with time. My first try to comfortably insert the cup took over 10 minutes and now after just three cycles it takes less than 30 seconds.
Remember–it’s perfectly normal if you have to remove the initial insertion to try again.
Before inserting the cup, you must fold it. There are many different folds to try but the most popular are the c-fold and the push down fold. To achieve the c-fold press the sides of the cup and fold it in half. The top of the cup should now look like a “c” or “u” depending on how you view it. For the push down fold use your index finger to push a side of the rim down into the cup to create a point. Test both out and see what you prefer.
Once you have a folding technique that works for you, then decide if you’d like to stand with a leg up or sit on the toilet. Then, with the folded cup aimed toward your tailbone at the base of your spine, gently push the cup into the vagina. The cup may open early and that is normal, continue to push until the stem is in line with your vaginal opening. To prevent leaking, create a seal by gripping the base (not stem) of the cup and rotating it 360 degrees. It’s recommended that you take a finger and circle it around the sides of the cup to make sure it is fully open. If you find it difficult to rotate the cup, then you may circle your finger around the cup first to make sure it’s open.
And just like that, you have successfully inserted your cup!
Taking out the Cup.
DivaCup recommends that you change your cup 2-3 times during a 24-hour period. Those with a regular flow can wear the cup for 12 hours. When you’re ready to take it out, follow these easy steps
- Wash your hands
- Sit on the toilet or stand in the shower with a leg up
- Pinch the base of the cup to break suction (you may need to pull on the stem or bear down to bring the base closer, but do not yank on the stem to take the cup out)
- Pull gently and slowly
- Keep your stem upright then discard the contents
- Wash your cup with warm water and unscented, oil free soap or cleanser. Make sure to clean the holes in the cup!
One last note, be sure to always wash your cup at the end of your cycle. Never use products such as vinegar, antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, or hydrogen peroxide to clean the cup. It’s not good for the cup and it’s not good for your self-cleaning vagina.
Now, get out there and do what menstruators do—take charge!