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Fed-up Of The Messiness During Periods? Try The ‘Menstrual Cup’ And You Will Never Go Back

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By Archeeta Pujari:

Periods. As if the pain, discomfort, swelling, acne and mood swings weren’t enough, there also comes the added dampness, messy leakage and stains associated with the use of sanitary pads. I only remember all too well the horror of my school days, surreptitiously asking female friends to check my backside for tell-tale signs of impending disaster, and inevitably during the most inconvenient moment possible, i.e., during an exam, discovering that my precautions had been to no avail and the back of my white PE skirt resembled the gory remains of a medieval battlefield. This was always followed by a shame filled slink to the filthy school loos, panicked washing of said skirt under the taps and a trip to the condescending school nurse who repeatedly admonished me for not behaving like a lady and allowing the same disaster to occur repeatedly. But try as I might, even well into adulthood, my clumsy school days far behind, I just don’t have the time, desire and mental togetherness to be singularly focused on stemming my menstrual flow throughout those 4 days, and the hassle associated with trying to balance periods with a normal working life has become no less challenging than it was all those years ago.

girl holding sanitary napkin banner

The problem with sanitary pads, for me, was that far too many things can go wrong. They can fill up, they can be in the wrong position, they can slip, they can be wet and messy and smelly. Until very recently, I wasn’t even aware that there existed even a single alternative, if not in fact several. My second foray into menstrual-related sanitary items was my short-lived tryst with tampons. I found that they solved none of the problems of pads, and in fact added a few extra dimensions of inconvenience to the whole sorry picture: they leaked freely and wildly on the days of heavy flow and had to be changed more often including in the middle of the night, they became fluffy and painful on days of light flow and couldn’t be used at all, and then there was the added risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, a potentially fatal disease associated with leaving tampons in the body for too long.

It wasn’t until I was well into university that I discovered menstrual cups on some obscure online forum, and wasn’t until years later that I actually plucked up the guts to try it out! In fact, I am shocked that awareness of these products is so low, not only in India, but worldwide, despite the fact that the advantages of using cups over other forms of sanitary items are endless, while the downside is virtually non-existent. I have never met a woman who has had an unpleasant experience with the sanitary cup, and the online reviews are full of praise. I for one can definitively say that it solves all the problems associated menstrual hygiene that pad and tampons fell short on, and it makes periods an easier and less stressful experience overall.

The Basics: Nice and Simple

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a reusable device, around two inches long and made from soft medical grade silicone.

How does it work?

It is worn internally a lot lower than a tampon but, while tampons and pads absorb menstrual fluid, the menstrual cup collects it. A light seal is formed with your vaginal walls, allowing menstrual fluid to pass into the cup without leakage or odour. This seal is released for removal, allowing you to empty the contents, rinse or wipe and reinsert.

How do I use it?

The menstrual cup is designed to be folded and inserted into the vagina, then removed, rinsed and reinserted up to every 8-12 hours. To remove, gently pinch the sides of the cup to break the seal and slide out. Since the cup is worn low in the vagina, it is easy to reach and remove. Although the prospect of inserting/removing a full-blown cup may be alarming at first, it is in fact quite easy if you follow the instructions carefully, and it gets easier over time. Additionally, since the cup holds up to 3x more fluid than a pad, you don’t need to worry about frequent removal/reinsertion.

How to clean it?

During periods, the cup only needs to be emptied 2-3 times a day, and can be left in all night. During periods, once removed, you can empty the contents into the toilet, rinse with plain water and immediately reinsert. Since medical grade silicone is used, this inhibits the growth of bacteria, ensuring the cup is always safe and hygienic. If you are in a public toilet, and too shy to go out of the cubicle and rinse in the basin, you can take a small bottle of water with you to rinse in the toilet. Or if you forget that, you can just wipe with toilet paper and reinsert immediately! Be careful not to use soap or disinfectant, as this can cause irritation.
At the end of the period, you may choose to clean your cup more thoroughly. You can either immerse in boiling water or use sterilization tablets. Again, don’t use harsh detergents/chemicals as this will damage the silicone.

menstrualcups

Advantages

No leaks, no leaks, no leaks!

When inserted correctly, the menstrual cup forms an airtight seal with the walls of the vagina. This means that as long as the cup is not full to the brim (this is unlikely), there is virtually no possibility of leakage and it cannot become accidentally dislodged.

Comfort and convenience

Since the cup is worn internally, there is no feeling of dampness or stickiness at all. It is also completely invisible from the outside. In addition, when inserted correctly, you should not be able to feel the presence of the cup within the body at all. While removing, all of the blood is contained within the cup, so it should be virtually a mess-free experience. It is painless to insert and remove.

Fewer changes

The menstrual cup contains up to 3x more fluid than other methods of absorption, which means it can be left within the body for up to 8-12 hrs. At any one time, a cup can hold up to a quarter of total monthly discharge, so you can avoid emptying in public toilets altogether. Medical grade silicone prevents the growth of bacteria/allergies/fungal infections. Since the cup does not absorb any fluid, it maintains the natural pH balance of the body. There are no known cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome associated with leaving menstrual cups within the body for too long.

Can use on all days of the cycle

The menstrual cup collects fluid rather than absorbing it. This means that it can be inserted before or after a period, or during days of very light flow without causing dryness or irritation.

Cheaper

On an average, a woman spends anything between Rs. 100 to 150 on sanitary packs every month. This amounts to Rs. 3,600 in two years and Rs. 9,000 in five years. The SheCup (an Indian manufactured menstrual cup) retails for Rs. 760, and can be re-used for up to 5 years! You do the math!

Environmentally friendly

Only 12% of the 355 mn women of menstruating age in India can afford disposable sanitary napkins. Despite this, these 42.6 million women will throw 21.3 billion sanitary napkins into a landfill in their lives. Again, the menstrual cup is reusable for up to 5 years after a single purchase.

All sports/activities including swimming

The cup cannot be felt after insertion and cannot become dislodged easily, as it forms a tight seal. The seal is also completely water-tight. This means you can go about all every day activities while wearing it, including sports and swimming.

Discreet

For the shy people out there, most brands of the cup come with a discreet pouch. The cup can be placed in the pouch and left in the schoolbag/handbag between use. It can also be inserted before the period starts, to avoid any messy surprises! You don’t need to carry any spares or worry about disposal.

Healthy

The cup is made from soft medical grade silicone and is latex-free, hypoallergenic and contains no dyes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins. It is not associated with TSS or vaginal infections. It is non-absorbent, it will not cause dryness and does not disrupt your body’s natural pH levels (35% of the fluid tampons absorb is natural moisture!). The cup has measurement markings, enabling women to report menstrual blood loss to a doctor or gynaecologist. It does not contain any absorbency gels, additives or perfumes. Unlike some conventional cotton sanitary products, it is also free from pesticides and GM materials.

Any Downside?

These are few and far in between, but worth addressing none the less.

Takes some getting used to

As with any method, removal and reinsertion of the cup takes some getting used to (maybe 2 or 3 cycles). Always read the instructions THOROUGHLY. Also, take some time to practice and find positions that work best for you. However, you will most likely have no difficulty and be a pro in no time! If you are worried about incorrect insertion, use a pad simultaneously to catch any leakage until you get it right.

What if it gets stuck inside?

The menstrual cup cannot get stuck inside. The worst that can happen is that it travels too far up to reach. However, the cervix acts as a wall at the end of the vagina, so it cannot escape the vagina and get lost inside the body! If you can’t reach the cup, first of all relax! Tense muscles will send it higher up the vaginal canal. Sit down or squat and use the pelvic muscles to push the cup down till you can reach it. Then pinch the sides to release the seal and slide out.

Will I come into contact with blood?

The cup is actually un-messy to use. Yes, when you insert it you may come into contact with some blood, but no more than any other method. When you remove the cup, the outside of it is relatively clean, with the vast majority of the blood collected inside of it. It stays upright (and is rarely full anyway) until you tip it up to empty it down the loo. Then you simply rinse, or wipe, before re-inserting. You will see your blood, but you will not have much actual contact with it.

Hymen

The use of menstrual cups will stretch or tear the hymen. However, this is NOT the same as ‘losing your virginity’ (the definition of ‘losing your virginity’ is pretty tenuous, but it does hinge on having some kind of sexual contact). The hymen often breaks before adulthood due activities such as sports. However, if you or your family feel strongly about keeping the hymen intact, it is probably best to not use internal methods of menstrual sanitation.

Where Do I Get A Menstrual Cup?

SheCup is a menstrual cup manufactured in India. It retails online for Rs. 760. Mooncup, a UK distributer of menstrual cups also delivers to India. Other brands include DivaCup, FemmeCup and Lunette.

Useful links
shecup.com
mooncup.co.uk
menstrupedia.com

You must be to comment.
  1. Rdk285

    No mention of how to pee while using menstrual cups? Is it an inconvenience?

    1. tarang

      No. You pee from a different tiny hole, that’s above the vaginal opening. So pee tension free.

    2. hitesh

      LOL. this comment was hilarious.

    3. Rdk285

      yes i know there’s another hole to pee… thankuverymuch… i wanted to know about the inconvenience factor… like pee trickling on the cup… kinda weird and unhygienic right?

    4. Sufia Banu

      Sorry, how is it hilarious! Its a fact.

    5. Archeeta Pujari

      Well as someone else mentioned, you don’t pee from the vagina, you pee from the urethra, which is a different ‘hole’. If you mean does it get in the way while you pee, then no. No part of it protrudes from the body.

    6. sweta

      The pee even trickles in the sanitary pads u use.

  2. Jigna Kotecha

    This is really useful! I did not know about it before I read this article.

  3. tarang

    Although the menstrual cup has been really going places abroad, it still hasn’t planted its feet here in India. The ‘Shecup’ that this article mentions has only one size that’s supposed to fit all women. Strike that, women who’ve had babies. What I’m saying is, it’s too big to fit into my vagina easily. I’ve tried it many times. Funny as it sounds, it’s not meant for the tiny, pre-pregnancy vaginas. Maybe more awareness can urge the companies to come up with different sizes. But, then again, even tampons aren’t advertised here.

    1. Archeeta Pujari

      You make a good point. I’ve never tried the shecup, I use the mooncup, which does come in two different sizes…

    2. Dee

      Hey – Just tried the SheCup for the first time. Yes, it’s just in one size which I realized a little late. Day 1 (yesterday) was a bust asI gave up trying to wear it after some thirty minutes of struggle.

      Got smarter and lubed up today and it’s much, much easier – slid in quite easily. Give it some time and even if you’ve not given birth (I haven’t either), this should fit.

    3. Priyanka Jain

      you can view different cups on http://www.hygieneandyou.com.
      the chart posted at this link is very helpful in picking the right cup: http://hygieneandyou.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=13

  4. tootieFrootie

    The best part(s) for me? – no smell, no stinky dustbins, shorter period and guess what! No cramps!

    1. Archeeta Pujari

      I do find that they help with cramps a bit, not sure about the scientific explanation though…

  5. Fauzia

    Where can I get it? If available online, then which website?

    1. Anna

      shecup.com
      mooncup.co.uk

    2. TootieFrootie

      She has added the link to the shecup site in her article, if you click on that, you can find a link for purchase too. Or try Shycart.. they will mail it to you in a very discrete way, no way anyone will know what it is

  6. Anusha

    But I will LOSE MY VIRGINITY ?

    1. D Gill

      Anusha pls read the other comment I posted.

    2. sweta

      If tearing a hymen means losing virginity, then i have lost it at 5 yrs of age. Now i am 22. And i am a dancer from 3yrs of age. So don’t worry about breaking the hymen JUST by the use of Shecup or Mooncup. Coz u might not even know that yours is already torned and when was it torned. Nobody can feel it. It’s just a social stigma.

  7. pulled muscle pain

    What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious
    know-how regarding unpredicted emotions.

  8. Vidya Kosseri

    Dear ladies,
    There is now another menstrual cup available in india. The name of the brand is “VCup”. Check out their site http://www.vcup.co.in. I have been using vcup for almost 9 months. The VCup comes with accessories like , Hand Sanitizer pen and coin tissues. I found them very helpful during travelling . I wish more women knew about menstrual cups.
    Have a greener period everyone.
    Bye Vidya K

  9. D Gill

    Ladies & gents, pls inform yourselves.
    This line is just pathetic “However, if you or your family feel strongly about keeping the hymen intact”. What exactly are you suggesting women keep intact article writer? What are the parents going to do anyway? Check your vagina? Girls, your bodies are your own business, no one else’s.

    More importantly, are people still thinking that there is some skin covering the area?? If so, you wouldn’t be able to menstruate!
    http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/2008/12/the-hymen-breaking-the-myths/
    http://iwhc.org/2010/05/10-myths-about-sex-and-virginity-debunked/
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cristen-conger/sex-myth_b_1154683.html

    Pls lets stop propagating age old myths. Things like this are why India needs proper human biology/sex ed classes.

    1. Archeeta Pujari

      So, firstly thank you for your comment.

      This article is to raise awareness about a cheap, convenient method of sanitary protection. It answers frequently asked questions about menstrual cups. Unfortunately, the MOST FREQUENTLY asked question I have got, before and since this article is will it tear my hymen/ will I lose my virginity.

      You understand that I cannot provide false information in an article. The truth is that it does break the hymen. I have made it CLEAR in the article that hymen breaking does NOT mean losing your virginity.

      I am sad and ashamed as you that indian girls in the 21st century will still shun a safe and convenient method of sanitation for the sake of an outdated and ill-informed desire to keep the hymen intact, or even keep virginity intact. However, as a writer, I think its necessary to respect other peoples beliefs and views, to address their concerns and provide them with enough information to make the best decisions for themselves.

  10. sweta

    Author, thanks for the information. I never knew tampons had so many disadvantages including fatality. Sometimes i really feel like shifting to tampons from pads for more comfort. But this post cleared my view. So i have cancelled my tampon thought. I would really like to try these cups. But u know, most of the people would find these cups unhygienic. Because they have to touch a cup filled with menstrual blood. Even if it’s their own blood!! So??? LOL…so they will check themselves from using this and hence won’t allow their daughters or sisters or friends to use this cup. That’s our society, how we have turned a simple physiological process into a taboo!! We can’t even touch God during those days…another LOL …i still wonder why!
    Most importantly, u have mentioned about hymen getting teared off. Considering our modern lifestyle, does anybody think that our hymen really persists all through the school life even?? We walk, run, jump, play!! So i really don’t think that using this cup will tear any hymen. Coz we don’t even get to know how and when it is torned!! I have seen the comments on fb under this post.and i am shocked to see that how just this topic of ‘hymen’ is creating a horror among few girls.they are not bothered about the advantages of using the cup but concerned only with the hymen part.how they r determined to show their husbands on the first night or boyfriends while making out first time, that they will bleed if they have sex and that will prove the hymen is still intact n they r virgin. Or else…they r characterless!! I wonder if half of them still have the hymen intact that they r thinking this way!!
    It’s just a request author, pls remove the ‘hymen’ portion from your post. It’s creating unnecessary illusion and disadvantage of the cup. Some people will overlook the advantages of the cup n just tolerate the disadvantages of pads (however disgusting or painful it might be) just for the sake of intact ‘hymen’. Thank you, with all due respect.

    1. D Gill

      Absolutely correct. It should be removed from the article as it contributes to misinformation that belongs in the dark ages. Here’s another one worth reading: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/women-suffer-myths-hymen-and-virginity-test

    2. Archeeta Pujari

      So, firstly thank you for your comment.

      This article is to raise awareness about a cheap, convenient method of sanitary protection. It answers frequently asked questions about menstrual cups. Unfortunately, the MOST FREQUENTLY asked question I have got, before and since this article is will it tear my hymen/ will I lose my virginity.

      You understand that I cannot provide false information in an article. The truth is that it does break the hymen. I have made it CLEAR in the article that hymen breaking does NOT mean losing your virginity.

      I am sad and ashamed as you that indian girls in the 21st century will still shun a safe and convenient method of sanitation for the sake of an outdated and ill-informed desire to keep the hymen intact, or even keep virginity intact. However, as a writer, I think its necessary to respect other peoples beliefs and views, to address their concerns and provide them with enough information to make the best decisions for themselves.

    3. D Gill

      Article writer, I really dont mean to offend you or put you on the spot yet again but I don’t agree with the following:

      “However, as a writer, I think its necessary to respect other peoples beliefs and views, ”

      Pls let’s not pander to ignorance by encouraging people to continue obsessing over hymen by “respecting” their harmful disproven religious/cultural beliefs. How can one respect beliefs/values if they are false and a detriment to society and women as a whole? What is respectable in that?

      How about reminding girls that they are the owners of their body and that hymen is of no value and that no one can know if A/you have it B/when you lost it C/ if you were even born with one.

    4. Archeeta Pujari

      I think I made all those points (A, B and C) clear in the article. Again, I appreciate why you are indignant, but this article isn’t meant to be a tirade against people who care about the presence (or absence) of a hymen.

      I got a lot of fb messages following this article from girls saying that even though they were keen to try the menstrual cups, their families are so strict they fear they will be disowned or physically harmed if they are discovered using such a device. In a situation like that, I think it’s better to avoid using the cup than to risk physical harm. That’s all I meant.

  11. sreya

    What about the risk of infection s?

    1. Archeeta Pujari

      As I mentioned in the article, there is no risk of infection. The cup is made of medical grade silicone which does not breed bacteria. Blood inside the body is completely sterile. It can only breed bacteria if it accumulates outside the body, e.g. in a pad.

    2. anita

      I used the cup for few months and ended up having an ovarian cyst, luckily it wasnt an endometriotic cyst.so i stopped using cups.because when i was using pads i never had any cyst .so choose it on your risk.there is a dirct conection between cups and endometriosis.i dont know how many of you even know about this.

  12. Priyanka Nagpal Jain

    To read more about menstrual cups, and see comparison between various cups available in India, kindly visit:

    http://hygieneandyou.com/index.php?route=bossblog/blogcategory&path=20

    To compare and buy various cups available in India, please visit:

    http://hygieneandyou.com/menstrual-cups

    1. Anita

      You are telling everything about cups but not telling about the possibility of getting endometriosis .

    2. Priyanka Jain

      Its possible that the cyst you got after using cups was a coincidence. I have been using the cup since 2006 and have had no problems.. I did read “A LOT” about cups and did NOT come across any proof/study/evidence that says cups are associated with endometriosis or any other infection/side effects. I certainly read about numerous infections and diseases that are associated with sanitary pads/tampons. If you can share any links that explains the connection of cups with any disease or infection, please share it.

  13. Evelyn Hamlin

    Thank you for sharing such an informative post.

  14. Swati Rayasam

    Hey! Love this piece but it kind of misses the complexities of using menstrual cups (and their hit or miss sizing issues) as well as the plethora of other reusable options outside of menstrual cups (some even homegrown in India).

    Also, maybe clarify this should be for women in places like the US/UK and not in India, as you can not guarantee safe water to wash the cup with.

    Love everything y’all are doing but that was just nagging at me as a MHM person and a menstrual cup user myself.

    1. Archeeta Pujari

      Hey, thanks for the comment, some great points. I was shocked at the lack of awareness of menstrual options other than pads and tampons and was trying to raise awareness and start a discussion. I do believe the cup is a better option than disposable methods for the vast majority, being cleaner, safer, cheaper and more discrete. Water to wash doesn’t need to be drinking quality, any tap water will do as medical grade silicon does not allow bacteria to breed. There have been trials of the cup in schools in Nepal, which have been a great success.

      Maybe you could post about other reusable options, to help raise awareness?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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