According to Women’s Health, menstrual cups are ‘having a moment’ and, since I’ve been using one for a decade now, I thought I’d add to the conversation with a story of my love affair with the Mooncup. If you’re squeamish or embarrassed about this sort of thing, I urge you to read on. Talking about periods is perfectly okay whether you experience them or not, and the only way we can move forward and break the taboo is to break the silence!
DISCOVERING THE CUP
I got my period aged 11 and used tampons for the first couple of years, having used pads for the first few months before hearing that it was ‘cool’ to use tampons (the concept of one kind of sanitary item being cooler than another is a real thing in secondary school). Then one day, in Year 9, I saw a sticker in the girls’ bathroom advertising the Mooncup: "safer, greener, cheaper". I went home and ordered one for myself online - there are two sizes and I got the one recommended for 'pre-birth/under 30', I think for around £18, and boasted to my dad about my eco-friendly purchase.*
It came in discreet packaging shortly afterwards, and I took it up to the bathroom and stuck it right in. It took a little fiddling around and you have to sort of fold the cup in half vertically as it goes in, but it was pretty straightforward. The stem is quite long and you have to cut it shorter if it’s sticking out - take it out before cutting it of course!
POP IN, POP OUT
During the next period, I got used to popping it in and removing it quickly and easily. I could leave it in for an entire day because my flow was never very heavy, and didn’t need to worry about toxic shock syndrome or whether my bag was stocked with tampons. I’d carry a water bottle (as I still do now) and pour the blood into the loo, pour a little water onto some tissue and give the cup a wipe down before putting it back in. I feel as though people picture blood-covered hands and a murder scene going on behind the cubicle door, but the fact is I don’t touch the blood anymore than you do with a tampon. It’s quick and easy to use, and probably much cleaner than you’d think. I’m someone who always has a bottle of water with them, but maybe that’s something extra to think about for people who don’t carry water. Again, nothing disgusting about using the same water bottle for drinking and for cleaning your Mooncup. The bottle doesn’t touch anything other than your clean hand!
Between periods, the Mooncup is kept in a little hessian bag that comes with it upon purchase. I have one small mug in my room that I fill with boiling water and a fragrance-free soap - I wash the Mooncup in there and then keep it in the bag till next use.
Somehow, despite having long left the playground, I still occasionally get called ‘disgusting’ by friends of friends for using a menstrual cup now. Sanitary hygiene is a personal choice, and I would personally rather pour my menstrual fluid into the same place everyone’s pee and faeces goes (since it’s already going there) than put bleached cotton inside my vagina, mess with its pH which can cause bacterial vaginosis, toss it on top of everyone else’s bloody soggy cotton sticks in the bin and have it trucked off to a landfill site where it’s dumped in a pile with all the other sanitary pads and tampons. Whilst menstruation as a topic is not the prettiest, I really, really don’t think it can be argued that people who use menstrual cups are ‘disgusting’ whilst those who use tampons are doing the right thing.
Plus, menstrual cups work out far cheaper than tampons and pads. I bought my first Mooncup in 2006 and my second around 2012, after sanitising it too vigorously one month led to me tearing one of the little holes around the top rim. It takes under 10 seconds for me to insert now and a couple of seconds to remove - I do it sat on the loo and don’t need to squat, although others might find differently! If you’re new to menstrual cups and still finding it fiddly, that’s normal and I’m sure you’ll get used to the fold-and-pop-in technique soon. It’s so so worth it; I haven’t had to use a single tampon since I was 13 and it’s one of the most useful purchases I’ve ever made.
Let me know if you try out a menstrual cup (there are loads more on the market these days, but I’ve been happy with my Mooncup so have stuck with it) and if you love it or if you’ve faced any problems with it - and if you have any questions from “can you feel it inside you?” (you can’t) to “why would you share this on the internet” (YOLO) then comment or get in touch here.
Happy bleeding! (Sorryyyy)
*On a side note, if you’re father to a daughter, why not further break the taboo and have those kinds of conversations with her growing up? I couldn’t have been closer to my dad, and being able to talk with him about everything from periods to break-ups made the 17 years we had together last a lifetime.