The GST in 2016-17 led to an increase in the price for menstrual pads, which for me and many others were already quite expensive. While we were discussing the gendered effects of both these changes in my TYBA Sociology class, my professor Poulomi Ghosh sarcastically commented, “women should be punished because they bleed!”
The satire hit me and I went to speak to her about what we could do about menstruation as women in the presence of such an apathetic patriarchal state.
It was then she introduced me to menstrual cups. At that point, I was amazed that such a thing exists, but was also anxious about using it.
Anxious not because I had biblical notions of virginity and modesty, but because of the illusion of pain. Therefore, I initially refrained from using menstrual cups.
Time and again, I would chat with people around me about menstrual cups and the benefits of using them. However, I could not gather enough courage to talk about using these cups with my mother (“good girls share everything with their mothers!”) until my classmate actually ordered it online! Once she had got hers, I felt less scared and hearing about its benefits finally came to action:
1) It’s extremely pocket friendly! One cup will last you for minimum 7-8 years. The cost of one cup may vary as per different brands, types and sizes. However, cups are available online between the price range of ₹200-2000.
2) It’s an environment friendly product! Imagine the waste that plastic/cotton pads generate. Cups collect the menstrual blood instead of absorbing them. Hence, the collected blood can be easily flushed in toilet like urine and stool.
3) It’s also a body friendly product! Using cups unlike other menstrual hygiene products (pads, or cloth) causes lesser risk of infection. Also, cups enter the woman’s body without any discomfort and leave without rashes (given that you have placed the cup in the correct position).
These benefits lured me and a year ago, I got my menstrual cup. I ordered it online for ₹240, including delivery charges. Its been a year now and my cup hasn’t changed.
To maintain hygiene and cleanliness of the cup, it needs to be sterilized in boiling water for about five minutes after it is used for one menstrual cycle. If one does not sterilize them, they may terribly stink! Sterilizing your menstrual cup will also maintain its lovely color. (Mine is pink!)
Which size of cup to buy was another question. However, its not a big deal. It is important to know and love our own bodies and therefore, one must not fear to discover our body parts, especially the private ones.
Our fingers can be of real help (atleast to me they were) in determining the cup size. If only one index finger goes into your vagina and you feel there is no more space for another finger to enter, a small size will be appropriate. If two fingers (index and middle finger) can enter and you feel there is no more space, then go for a middle size cup. If even after two fingers, one feels there is still space, a large size is best suited. This method helped me determine my size and I am happy with my cup.
After I figured my size out, learning how to use it was another hurdle. A lot of research went into this but finally what worked for me was my body. A cup easily enters your body only when the menstrual blood acts as a lubricant. Otherwise, even if the cup is of a suitable size, it may be difficult to insert and may cause pain.
Which position to be in while inserting the cup completely depends on your own comfort. Initially, I could only insert my cup lying down on my back but with practice, I can now insert my cup even while squatting. C-folding the cup did not work for me but the method where you push one side of the cup down did work.
Disposing of the blood is easy, just empty it into the commode and flush; wash and reuse the cup. I feel removing the cup is the easiest while squatting (the way we sit on Indian toilets). Push the tail of the cup out till you can pinch it, and take the cup out of the body. Do not try to simply pull out the cup through its tail, its important to push. Firstly, it will not come out and secondly, if you force it to, it may be dangerous to your body.
Disposal has been the best part of using cups, I feel. Especially with the lack of dustbins in public toilets and in public spaces. Additionally, with so many taboos surrounding menstruation in Brahminical patriarchal families, I used to feel that disposal of used pads has been the most difficult aspect of menstruation. Now, there is nothing to worry about!
When I am wearing a cup, I actually don’t feel constant irritation that I used to feel while using pads. Cups make you feel happy during periods. I have also noticed less staining. However, it may leak if not positioned correctly and may overflow if not emptied on time. How long does the cup holds depends on how heavily are you bleeding.
For me, my cup generally holds for around 5-6 hours except on the second day of my period because on those days, bleeding is usually heavy. On the fifth and sixth day of my period, my cup lasts for more than 12 hours. Ideally, one must not keep the cup within for more than 12 hours at one go to enjoy a safe, odor free period. Adapting to a menstrual cup may take some time, but it’s worth it.
I have been so happy using menstrual cups, that I have also been suggesting it to almost all women with whom I have had conversations around menstruation and guess what, three people in my circle are now happy users as well!