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The Cup

The Cup

Menstrual Cups can be daunting. No one looks at the idea of putting a cup up your hoo-haa and decanting it as a pleasing activity. Then again no one used to look at wearing a small nappy or sticking a cotton rocket up there pleasing either. Women certainly go through a lot so let’s remember when trying something new, that we’re strong, independent warriors!

So why the cup in the first place? It’s a much friendlier option when it comes to the environment your bank account, and your delicate lady parts (aka THE VAGINA).

On average, per person, we use 12 000 tampons in a lifetime. That’s costing us around R56 000 for 40 years. If you chose the cup, which you would only have to replace every 3 years, that would cost you around R5000 for a LIFETIME. You’d be saving R51 000! 

Tampons also contain a bunch of harsh chemicals that if you knew about, you’d never imagine inserting them inside your body. These chemicals include pesticides used to treat the cotton, dioxins used in the bleaching process (these chemicals have been linked to cancer), GMOs – as the majority of cotton is genetically engineered, and fragrances which are added to many brands of menstrual products. You all should have heard about Toxic Shock Syndrome by now, and if you haven’t, be sure to check the extremely fine print on your tampon boxes or paper inserts. TSS is a potentially fatal bacterial infection often caused by tampons. There are significantly less cases of TSS associated with menstrual cups however with any period care product, it is necessary to keep it clean, don’t leave it in for too long and use a trusted brand. 

A major negative result of tampons is the wastage. 450kgs of tampons, pads, and applicators end up in waste in a woman’s lifetime. This equates to 1 million tons of this specific waste which is equivalent to 2.8 Empire State Buildings, and this is in the US alone! The majority of this waste ends up in landfills and sewage systems. 170 000 plastic applicators were found along US coastal areas in one year.

Menstrual cups are reusable. You only need to replace one every three years. This means that you will probably only use 4 cups in a lifetime versus 12 000 tampons. 

Trusted menstrual cup brands are 100% medical grade silicone or latex with no hidden chemicals. They don’t cause dryness and leave no fibers in the vagina. There are also no cancer-causing chemicals in a menstrual cup.

When it comes to comfort, menstrual cups are different for everyone. My personal experience with menstrual cups is a good one. Putting the cup in Is not uncomfortable for me. What I can suggest is, for first timers, to coat the top of the cup with some lubricant. Secondly, make sure you’ve practiced the various folds and find one that works for you. Once the cup is inserted, if done correctly, you will feel it unfold inside. This is good. However, sometimes if I’m in a hurry or I didn’t insert it properly, the cup either doesn’t unfold and I have to wiggle a bit or reinsert the cup, OR the cup can unfold too quickly before sitting in its correct spot – this causes some uncomfortable for me because of the air pressure. If this happens, I either stick my finger up and press on the side wall of the cup to release the air pressure then I push it up till it’s sitting correctly, otherwise I’ll take it out and reinsert. Sometimes if the cup isn’t inserted properly it can cause some discomfort in the abdomen and lower back area. I have before, felt crampy and heavy in that area, so I went have adjusted the cup and it gave instant relief. My favourite thing about the cup is that you can leave it in for up to 12 hours! This is SO much easier than having to go to the loo every 2 to 4 hours to dispose and reinsert tampons! 

Removing the cup is the hardest part for myself, and remember I’ve only been using the cup for half a year now. With removing the cup, I make sure I’m sitting correctly and that I’m fully relaxed – this assures that my vaginal opening doesn’t tense up and make it more difficult for the cup to come out. I then find and grab the tail of the cup, slide a finger further up and try to release the air pressure by pressing it against the wall of the cup. Then, what works for me, is to pull the cup while wiggling it side to side. Once the air pressure releases and it’s in the lower canal of the vagina, it causes a slight pain for myself just as the ring of the cup meets the opening of the vagina. I then breathe deeply through the slight discomfort until it’s out – it gets easier every time. The experience is different for everyone and it is ideal to find out what works best for your own body. 

Here is a good video that shows how to insert and remove the menstrual cup:

Cleaning the cup is important. After use, I follow my cups instructions which are to rinse the cup off from blood, then place into a deep dish of boiled water making sure the entire cup is covered by water. Then I place in microwave for 7 minutes, drain the water and wait for it to cool for the next use.

Another tip which is exclusive to cup use is that you can check your blood before flushing. Your blood consistency and colour can be a great indication of your hormone balance. 

The Cup
Here is a good infographic to indicate period colour and its meaning.

I know a few women who have tried the menstrual cup and it just doesn’t work for them. Whether it causes them discomfort or they just can’t get it right. If this is the case, there is another eco-friendly option! There are organic tampons and pads, cloth sanitary pads, and natural sponges. 

Menstrual sponges are natural sea sponges. It is a renewable source that biodegrades after use. They are devoid from chemicals and pesticides. What’s great about them is that they naturally contain enzymes that fight odors and bacteria growth. They also contain beneficial sea minerals. Menstrual sponges last from 3-6 months and you can wear one for 4-6 hours. They can also be worn during period sex to avoid mess. You can also add spermicide to the sponge to use as a contraceptive. You can also trim your sea sponge to fit your body perfectly.

Period cloths are basically reusable menstrual pads. They can be washed and reused indefinitely. You can wear one for 2-6 hours. 

Organic tampons are like regular tampons but contain no chemicals and pesticides. Organic cotton is a lot more breathable and soft, it’s also less likely to leave residue behind. The farming uses much less water and energy being lighter on the environment than non-organic tampons. The framing produces up to 94% less greenhouse gas emissions. Natracare is a great brand of organic sanitary wear. 

If you are interested in trying a menstrual cup, Thrive offers a very good brand called MPower. The brand has a very good mission statement and they also provide two sizes. Thrive also sells Natracare organic products.

What ever you choose, make sure it suits you best, don’t be afraid to try new things – especially if its a more conscious choice!

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