ht_murray: little girl, cheeks, blue rose (Default)
[personal profile] ht_murray
Some several months ago (I can't believe how infrequent my journal posting has become :( ) I made this post about... dun-d-da-DUN... menstrual cups. OMG. It was a funny story that I gakked from [livejournal.com profile] menstrual_cups, and you should all really go back and read it now for a good belly laugh.

*waits for you to read it*

Done now?

Good. I have to admit feeling a small amount of guilt for having posted that. And why should I? It's a public post, right? True. It's a public post, but while it was entirely appropriate for the community in which it was posted, it was probably unfair to post it outside of a sympathetic environment where that might be someone's first exposure to the product. The comments in my post drive home the possibility that I might very well have turned some of you off the idea entirely, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. But, not having tried it myself, I couldn't really argue one way or the other.

So, I finally took the plunge, and now I do have something to say about it. It gets long, rambly, extremely personal, and entirely TMI, and will therefore be behind a cut.

I'm not going to get into huge detail about what a menstrual cup is or how you use it, just my experience with it. The community I linked above is teeming with information as it Youtube. I highly recommend just doing a general Youtube search, especially check out GloZell's little spiel on the Divacup, because LOL, the woman has no shame.

This entire topic is so far outside of my comfort zone. I have never, ever talked with anyone about my period. The first time I got it, I tried to keep it a secret, but since my mother had the only box of pads in the house, of course, she figured it out. And we had a little talk, and I felt better, kinda like we had a real bonding moment, you know? But then, a couple nights later, we, and by 'we' I mean my entire family, Mom, Dad, two sisters and brother were all sitting in the living room watching television, and my dad turned to me and said, "So, your mom tells me you had a little problem this week." I knew immediately what he was talking about, and I just ran up to my room and threw myself on my bed and cried and cried. OMG! I think maybe he or Mom or both of them tried to come up and talk to me once, but I was so mortified, I don't remember anything else about it, just that I never mentioned my period to anyone ever again. In fact, the only other thing I remember about the topic is that, once I was helping my grandma sort laundry, and she got kinda PO'd that my sister "messed in these underwear, too!" and so I always washed my underwear before I put them in the laundry after that.

Erm, so, yeah... outside my comfort zone and flailing a little bit here.

So, why take the plunge? I've pretty much been a tampon girl since the first time I found a box of obs in my aunt's cupboard while I was over there babysitting one time. I've never been able to get used to pads. They just don't work for anything that I do, not running, not riding, not dancing, aerobics, bike riding... just, what exactly can you do in a pad? I don't know, but nothing I want to do. Heck, just try sleeping when you have a hacking cough, are on your heaviest day, and have to share a bed with your sister. I just... ugh, the trauma. Tampons have always worked out pretty well for me, except that they dry me out, and there's still the issue of getting caught without one when you need it. Plus, I never thought about it, but those things (pads, too) hang around in landfills forever. So, one day I read a post in the runners community where some kind soul was brave enough to ask what other women used, since running pants are generally tight, and over long distances, anything can chafe, yes even a string if it happens to get in the wrong crease or crevice, AND well, even tampons leak. The posters were quick to recommend menstrual cups.

My reaction was, "Ewewww, is that what it sounds like?" I checked it out online, and yes, it's exactly what it sounds like, and some are even pink!

I probably contemplated making the switch for the better part of a year. I really wasn't dissatisfied with tampons, but I did hate reaching into the box and finding it empty, and the little inconveniences like having to put the bathroom trash can on top of the toilet in order to keep the dog out of it. Just, yeah, like the world needed to know there's something in there the dog might want. :/ What really convinced me to try the cup is just the reaction of the people who use them. Outside of the OP from that earlier post, most people who use them, love them. Some people even give them as gifts, and if that isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is. So, yeah. I bought one. And I used it. This is my story.

As you might guess, it wasn't exactly as easy as they make it look on Youtube. Cups generally come in two size (some have a few more) one for under thirty/having had no vaginal childbirth and one for anyone having delivered a baby vaginally or is over 30. Believe it or not, I actually had some question as to which I should get. I'm definitely over 30. I'm over 35 now, but---here comes the TMI in case you wanna skip to the next paragraph or something--- I haven't had sex in over 5 years. Honestly, I found some condoms in my nightstand that expired in 2001, so it might very well have been even longer than that. :/ And I'm totally grossed out by the idea of dildoes and vibrators, and have never been to the OB/GYN, ever, so yeah. Nothing has been in there except tampons for the better part of a decade. I wasn't sure I really needed a large, despite being over 30, but the sites all say the muscles naturally relax a little as you age, so large is recommended.

I got the large. And I'm gonna be honest, it was not that easy insert. There are a couple of folding techniques, but even scrunching that sucker up as small as I could get it, the rim just felt huge and foreign. Now, they recommend wetting it a little with water or KY. I'm not buying any KY, because then I will have to explain to the mens in my house why I need it. And I wanted to not use water, because I wouldn't have that if I was in a public restroom. In the end, yeah, it was a little uncomfortable with no lubrication, but it was not impossible to insert. I'd say, if you have water or KY, use it, but if you have neither, the discomfort, for me, my body being what it is, was not any worse than inserting a tampon when you're all dried out from... inserting tampons.

That being said, you have to be very comfortable using your finger, all of it, and I'd recommend not wearing longer fingernails than what you need to grasp the bottom of the cup, because it's a tight fit in there when you're trying to get the cup to open or break the seal. I also had a little problem with getting it to pop open. That's supposedly a very common issue. Basically, when you scrunch something up to put it in, you have to makes sure it unscrunches or it won't suction onto the walls of the vagina, and the fluid will just skate on by. They recommend inserting it (not as far as you'd think, either, just to the point where it actually has room to open, which is lower than most tampons sit)and then sweeping your finger around it to see if it feels full and round or still scrunched up. You can also give it a little twist by grasping it by the base. Of course, that requires two fingers, which is why you really, really need to be comfortable with your body before you attempt it. But heck, even if you're not, what better reason to get acquainted with it?

I had a little trouble determining whether or not the cup was fully expanded or not, and I was also glaringly aware of how long it seemed to be taking me to get it right. I was like, "My God if this was a public bathroom, there'd be no question about what I'm doing in here." But here's what's awesome. Cups are made of medical grade silicone and are safe to wear even when you're not on your period. So, I did all my 'practicing' a week ahead of time, in the comfort and convenience of my own bathroom, with no mess to worry about if I didn't get it just right. Don't be afraid to experiment a little. In fact, and this might sound a little gross, but I actually got a pretty good sense of accomplishment the first time I did a 'dry run' and actually collected a small amount of vaginal fluid, which I could dump out just like menstrual fluid. I think I read somewhere that people even sometimes use these if they are going without underwear and don't want to have to worry about vaginal secretions in their pants. I didn't know people actually worried about that, but hey, if that's you...

I wouldn't say I had a huge amount of trouble removing the cup, even though, I did have that horror story in mind when I tried it the first time. I left the tail long on my cup, just in case, but what I discovered is that, if you have any control over your vaginal muscles at all, you can just bear down a little, and the tip of the cup is easily within reach unless you've put it in way too far. The hardest part about removal for me wasn't reaching or grasping the cup, but breaking the suction. You're supposed to bear down, grasp the base, and slide one finger up the side to the rim to break the seal. I either have very short fingers or a very long cup, because I could not reach the rim. But you can break the seal by pressing your finger into the side until you feel the seal break. Then, wiggle it back and forth a little and pull it out gently. (I've also found that moving it a little forward and back a couple times helps it to re-expand when inserting, too.) I was a little worried, because it seems counterproductive if you're going to fill something with fluid and then semi-collapse it for removal. Wouldn't that result in major spillage? As it turns out, no. Unless you've put the cup in and forgotten about it, I can't imagine it would get full enough for that to be an issue.

Saying that, I want to say that actually using the cup on my heaviest days is what sold me on using one forever. Y'know how, on your heaviest days, you're either doubling up pads or using super duper absorbency tampons, plus liners and maybe ultrathins, and you still sometimes get some in your panties, and you think you must be gushing gallons of fluid, because you can feel it looking for a dry place to soak in? Well, not only do you never, ever feel the fluid or the cup, but when you take it out to empty on your heaviest day and see how little fluid there really is (a couple teaspoons or even tablespoons is not really much at all) you will never be able to justify the trash can full of bulky, messy, non-biodegradable products that you've been using to clean up such a very small mess. I know you don't believe me, but you will. Caveat: Again this is my experience. I know some women have extremely heavy bleeding and large clots. This is only my personal experience. I cannot judge what yours will be.

So, there's that.

My first time using the cup wasn't entirely leak proof. I did wake up to find a little leakage one afternoon, and I'm not entirely sure what I did wrong, because the cup was not overful or anything. It most likely just hadn't sealed properly. There is a little learning curve there. But even that little bit of leakage was less than what I usually get on my heavy days with anything else. The only issue is that, once you've had a leak, there is blood lower in the vagina that you will get on your fingers. Getting blood on your fingers is not really an issue most of the time, because the rim of the cup acts a little like a squeegee and pushes it up along the vaginal wall while you insert it. However, if it's a really heavy day, and you've taken awhile to empty and rinse your cup, there's likely to be some to contend with. I didn't find it all that bothersome, but you know your tolerance better than I.

All in all, I think my first time went extremely well, and I'll never go back to using anything else. If you're worried about leaks, you might even try one of those cool reusable cloth pads I've seen around. I didn't find that I needed to go that far, but if I was worried, I'd definitely go with the cloth pad instead of the pantiliner, since now I'm suddenly hyper aware of how much waste I was creating using traditional products. I've never been able to convince myself the cloth pads were a viable option on their own, because who wants to carry that around with them after they've used it and before they can wash it. But if you're using it as backup, and I'd say you're not likely to get more than a few drops on it, why not get something cute and colorful and reusable?

Thumbs up from me.

Now, for the really curious and those from whom TMI has no effect, a couple more comments.

First, these things work on suction to stay in place. They will not fall out. They will not move around. No worries on that front. However, using suction involves air. I don't know if I was just really clumsy about my insertion or what, but there was once or twice when I definitely experienced what I once heard referred to as 'varts' Now, there are tiny little holes in the cup, at the rim for suction purposes, so I don't think it's possible to force enough air into your vaginal canal or to trap air in there using the cup. I'm no gyno. I could be wrong, but I don't think the air itself is an issue. I just know it was a little unnerving for me when I felt it come out. This happened once or twice, within a few minutes of insertion, and after that, I never felt the cup or knew anything was there at all until I went to remove it.

And for the really curious who are wondering about vaginal muscles moving the cup... hmm, it's been awhile since I took a repro class, but I'm assuming most women know that the purpose of orgasm isn't really just to feel good, but to create a wave of muscular contraction which aids the semen reaching the fallopian tubes and increases the likelihood of conception. So, if you were to experience orgasm while wearing a menstrual cup, would it force the cup higher up in the vagina and make it impossible to get out. I'll just say, not in my experience, and leave it at that.

Also, it's been a 'rule of thumb' for years that one shouldn't practice inverted yoga poses while on one's mences. I always figured this was a case of men trying to place more stigma on women for the sake of, well, being men, because I've never actually heard of anyone retaining blood inside their bodies as a result of standing on their head. I practice whichever poses I feel like practicing, but since the menstrual cup is open at the top and has no way of keeping the fluid inside once it flows in (outside the natural clotting of the blood which makes it more sluggish to do so anyway) I just wouldn't recommend standing on your head for hours and hours while on your period, whether you use a menstrual cup or something else. Why you'd want to stand on your head for hours and hours, I don't know. I've never had the urge to do so for more than four or five minutes, and I don't think I'll stop doing that now that I use a cup.

So, there you have it. I'm open to any and all questions, but keep in mind, I've only used it the one cycle, so I'm no expert. I know there are other people on my flist who use it as well and might jump in. Also, this journal is mostly flocked, but I'll leave this post open, just because I feel like it's something people should be curious about, TMI or not. So, if you're not ready to address the topic and maybe wanna mem it or link it to someone else, feel free to do so.

And now I think I want to go shopping for a pink one. :D

Date: 2011-01-20 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stjra.livejournal.com
Hmmm...you have definitely given me something to think about.

Everything you have mentioned here sounds great and for someone who (ok TMI part) uses liner due to excess secretions, an alternative to non biodegradable liners would be great.

I will definitely look into it. Not only does it sound like an environmentally sensible choice but, cheaper and safer.

Thanks hon, I will seriously look into this. :D

Date: 2011-01-20 11:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading. I know it was a lot to get through. I'm glad you're thinking about it. Nothing is for everyone, but I didn't want to think I scared people off. :P Definitely cheaper and safer, too, though I'm not sure what they cost or what brands are popular in your neck of the woods.

Date: 2011-01-20 12:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stjra.livejournal.com
No idea either, but I will find out now! :D

I'm always open to giving something go, especially when I've been given such an informative review of it. :)

Date: 2011-01-20 02:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saberivojo.livejournal.com
I have never...heard of this. At all. But I am a hemorrhager. Like a stuck pig. And I am sick and tired of all the stuff. Tampons, pads with wings and things just ug...it's too much.

I think this is a pretty great idea! I'm gonna check it out. I think the one thing I'm not so sure about is cleaning said cup. I mean, if you are introducing something into the vagina over and over again - is there a special cleaner? Is there a higher incident of UTIs with these?

I'm gonna go back and read the first post and see whats up with this.

Thanks for posting!

Date: 2011-01-20 02:17 pm (UTC)
ext_63196: (Amber Benson)
From: [identity profile] beelikej.livejournal.com
I use hot water, disinfectant soap and more hot water to clean mine: not a problem at all. Since the cup doesn't absorb the blood (but merely contains it) I would say it's a lot more hygienic than tampons or pads. It definitely feels -and smells!- cleaner.

Date: 2011-01-20 02:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saberivojo.livejournal.com
It's not so much the blood but the surface of the cup. Still, hot water, disinfectant soap and more hot water seems pretty smart. Do they give you directions in the cup for cleaning?

Date: 2011-01-20 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Sorry it took me awhile to reply. This was a case of post and pass out. *yawn* But I see Bee took care of you. Yes, you rinse it and use a little disinfectant soap between insertions (although if you're in a public bathroom can totally just wipe it clean with tissue or bring a bottle of water for rinsing) and then boil it or clean with rubbing alcohol between cycles. They say they can last up to ten years, and I haven't read any horror stories about UTIs, which would definitely concern me, as I seem to be prone to them.

Date: 2011-01-20 02:10 pm (UTC)
ext_63196: (AmyAdamsHands)
From: [identity profile] beelikej.livejournal.com
I already told you I chose the cup pretty much for the same reason as you (waste;) and am quite pleased with it. For the benefit of the curious, here's my story.
I never used tampons, but was a big fan of pads because despite having plenty of experience with toys*, I didn't like the idea of inserting tampons. But being environmentally conscious I wanted to give the cup a chance, mostly because it seemed convenient for traveling. I started using the cup in 2006 on a trip to Ecuador and loved it despite the first time struggles. One of the things I'm most pleased with is the lack of 'old blood' smell.
On workdays I put the cup in from 7.30 until 18.30; the first two days it will be filled right to the brim, but that is no trouble at all. During the day I will pee without removing it.

I recently learned my favorite way of inserting the cup. Before this I would hover above the toilet, but it wouldn't always expand properly right away. Now I stand and lean my arm and head on the sink while bending my knees just a little; I find it's easier to get my muscles to relax. An even better position is standing under the shower and approaching the above posture. It's all about relaxing; as they say: don't clench your jaw!

Some tips: I always carry a small waterbottle with me; very convenient for unexpected cleaning and -if you need it- preparing the way.
I cut the tail to about half a centimeter and use my muscles to push the cup down until I can grab it between my indexfinger and thumb. I then gently twist with the tail, until I can get a hold of the bottom. To break the suction I simply pinch the bottom before slowly pulling the cup out.

(*no sex -with a partner- for me since I was 21, what did I win?)

Date: 2011-01-20 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
I haven't tried leaving it in quite that long, but I have heard some people can go much longer between emptying the cup than they can changing a tampon. I haven't quite sussed out yet how long I can go. Plus, being the first time, I think every time I went to the bathroom, there was a kind of morbid, or maybe clinical fascination with how things were going. :P Definitely, as I gain more confidence I will probably be able to wait longer.

I can also get ahold on the cup using just my muscles to move it down where I can grab it, but I don't always feel like the seal breaks just from grasping it. Of course, it's not impossible to remove it without breaking the seal, but definitely more comfortable. I think I'll try your way a few more times and see what happens. I had also heard about carrying a bottle of water. I just worry because I don't normally carry a purse or anything with me, especially not into the bathroom. Maybe I'll figure out a way to make it less conspicuous, or just carry water all the time. LOL.

As for what you win... uh, ownership of your body??? Thanks for responding, BTW. This was great.

Date: 2011-01-20 05:27 pm (UTC)
ext_16597: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ysbail.livejournal.com
Your last post on this subject didn't put me off ... made me laugh like an idiot, but didn't put me off. I've been thinking about it off and on since then ... so ... umm .. maybe I should seriously give it a whirl. I know someone else who swears on them, says that they cut down on cramps and everything .. so, maybe.

Date: 2011-01-20 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Yeah. I know, right? From the description, you'd think women would be mortified, but everyone I know who uses them swears by them. There's gotta be something to that. I had also heard it cuts down on cramps. I hadn't really noticed, but I definitely noticed that after the first couple of days where I normally feel like I'm on my period, I really didn't think about it anymore at all. Whereas, even with tampons, I was often aware of the fluid moving and would worry when going from sitting to standing and the like. This was so much better.

Date: 2011-01-20 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vanae.livejournal.com
No "TMI" is TMI for me, hee. I'm definitely getting one. I know a few people who highly recommend it. I was worried about leakage because I bleed pretty heavily. I think I'll go for it... are they expensive?

Date: 2011-01-20 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Yay! A convert. I'll be honest. It was probably the initial cost that kept me from running out to buy one the first time I heard about it. It's not terribly expensive, around 30 dollars here. I got mine for 20 bucks by shopping around. Still a lot more expensive than a box of tampons, but since they last for up to 10 years, definitely less expensive in the long run. I don't know what the cost in your area or what brands are readily available. That's something you'll have to Google around for.

Oh, and happy birthday. I'm so terrible with dates. :/ Sorry, sorry, sorry. *hugs*

Date: 2011-01-20 07:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gatorgrrrl.livejournal.com
Okay, so they don't sound quite as scary and gross as before. And I'm totally pro waste reduction. But...I just don't know. I think I'm just very resistant to change.

And this: having to put the bathroom trash can on top of the toilet in order to keep the dog out of it made me snort. 'Cause yeah. It's the same with cats. I can't tell you the horror story of finding you know what scattered across my floor when I got home from work one day. Ick.

Date: 2011-01-20 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Well, I think we're all a little resistant to change. At least now you can make a little more informed decision. ;P

It's almost worse with cats, isn't it? Because, unless I leave the toilet lid down, my dog can't get on the back of the toilet, and he's not that infatuated with the contents to go seeking it out, anyway. But cats can get pretty much anywhere they want to. Do you put it under the sink? I'll say, though, yup, that's the exact experience I had. Not to mention the mommy worry about whether he actually ate any and would be able to pass it without help. :/

Date: 2011-01-25 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gatorgrrrl.livejournal.com
(I'm late responding here.)

Well, I first tried getting a trash can with a lid, but they just knocked it over to get the lid off. Now I just close the bathroom door. ;o)

Date: 2011-01-21 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apieceofcake.livejournal.com
I don't know if it's for me, but I appreciate you telling us your experience of using one :-)

Date: 2011-01-21 11:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Informed decisions are good decisions. Whatever works for you, right? *squish*

Date: 2011-01-21 05:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ewanspotter.livejournal.com
I'm glad you posted this! (And, honestly, this is the internet, so what's the harm?) I've always been curious. Don't know if I'd ever switch, but it's good to have the option and know what I'm getting myself into.

Date: 2011-01-21 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
LOL. What's the harm? I imagine my hubby would object to a few parts, but objecting don't make it not true, eh? Glad to address the curiosity. So far, I only know about them over the internet. Someday I might meet someone who actually uses them in real life! :D

Date: 2011-01-22 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ewanspotter.livejournal.com
Yeeeees, just so long as you don't tell him!

Date: 2011-01-21 09:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chocca2.livejournal.com
This post has certainly made me not only curiouser but also more at ease with the idea.

Thanks for putting it out there, I even went and did some more research after reading your post.

=)

Date: 2011-01-21 11:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Research, research, research. I'm glad I didn't scare you off, at least. I finally got the point, myself, where I just needed to see for myself how it all worked. Not nearly as traumatic as I thought it would be. Not to mention a little empowering. I'm glad I could help. *smoosh*

Date: 2011-01-21 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kasmodia.livejournal.com
Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this post.

I've vaguely heard about menstrual cups before (I think, I'm not even sure) but wouldn't have considered it without all that much first-hand information. I just ordered one and will give it a try but no matter if it's the right thing for me or not, it's awesome you took the time to share your knowledge/experience.

That first post? Yep, funny, but I decided to force myself not to laugh (much) until I've managed to get that thing in- and out of my body at least once. ;-)

Date: 2011-01-21 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Ooh, I'm so excited! You'll have to let me know how everything works out for you and what works for you. I've only tried the one, so I have no idea how other brands/sizes might work out. It'd be nearly impossible not to laugh at that first story, but yes, one of those cases, where it's only funny if it's not happening to you. I have the utmost faith that will not happen to you. *glomps*

Date: 2011-01-23 01:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frelling-tralk.livejournal.com
Thanks for this post! I've always been a little curious about them because I hate wearing sanitary pads, such an awkward feeling. The only thing that makes me hesitate is that, I don't know what it is about me, but everytime without fail it hurts to insert and to remove tampons. So I'm kind of thinking about the menstrual cup, but also wondering if it's going to be another of those things like tampons where other people seem to manage them without difficulty, and it's always more of a struggle for me *g* But it does sound tempting to not have to worry about sanitary pads because I am tired of the grossness of always being able to feel them as you're walking around

Date: 2011-01-23 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albeitslowly.livejournal.com
Well, I can definitely relate on the ickiness of pads. As far as pain of inserting tampons, I can't say whether or not the cup will work better for you. I will say that, at least with the cup, you have the option of lubricating it before insertion, which you don't have with a tampon, and the cup won't dry you out like a tampon. Also, watching a few videos about cup insertion really cleared up a few things with regard to anatomy. The vagina does not go straight up. It's really more horizontal and slopes back toward the tailbone. A lot of insertion problems can be alleviated just by changing the angle. Also, they make many different kinds of cups with different rim thickness and hardness, and there are a bunch of different folding techniques. It might take some perseverance to find what works for you, but I can't help but think anything is better than pads. :/

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