periods. am i right?
in the last decade of bleeding, my menstrual cycle has been a point of contention for me. when i was in university, i saw it as a nuisance to my social life, even though i sometimes celebrated it’s arrival with a sign of non-pregnant relief. when i decided to go off the pill to see how my body functioned, it was no where to be found and led me to discover other medical problems. while i’m happy to have regulated my cycles again – yes, i went back on birth control – the act of shedding my uterine lining has never been a joyful week for me.
i’ve almost always used tampons. i got my first period when i was on family vacation in Georgia, and was given my first pad, like most adolescent girls. i remember them feeling bulky and uncomfortable, and was convinced you could always see them. i was also in the dance studio three times a week, and a pad did not lend well to tights and a bodysuit. i was asking for a leak. i asked my mom to make the switch to tampons and the rest is history.
that is until this cycle.
i started reading about menstrual cups a year ago. i was ramping up my hiking and i wanted to know if there was a better and easier way to menstruate in the wilderness. on a six-plus hour hike, where was i supposed to change my tampon? and where was i supposed to put it? i did not want to carry a used tampon around in my backpack, but that was the only option available to me as the majority of trails do not have restrooms at the top.
i did nothing about it until this month, due to the fact i was down to three tampons at home. i walked to shoppers to restock and there beside my usual brand of tampons was the diva cup. “why not?” i thought to myself and decided to bite the bullet and give it a shot.
so here we are at the beginning of my new experiment.
study: to find out what happens when you decide to switch from tampons to a diva cup.
hypothesis: i will be driven to madness.
sounds fun, doesn’t it? let’s find out!
the diva cup looks like a funnel made out of silicone. it can hold up to an ounce of liquid and needs to be changed every 10-12 hours. each box comes with detailed instructions for insertion, removal and proper cleaning, as well as a cotton storage pouch (in a pretty pink and purple design *eye roll* when will periods and women’s things ever not be pink and purple? i’m surprised the cup itself isn’t pink or purple). there are two sizes of cups. diva 1 is for women under 30 who have not given birth to a child. diva 2 is for any lady over 30 or any woman who has given birth to a child. (sorry ladies, after 30 or childbirth, your vagina is now a bowling alley and you need the large size.)
now let’s get down to business.
i took it out of the box, read all the instructions, cleaned it with “divawash” and made my first, second and third attempt at insertion.
first diva cup thoughts: it’s like reaching for your kidney through your vagina.
you have to fold up the diva cup to insert it, and once it goes in it’s supposed to open up and then form a seal, but sometimes (like when your nervous about inserting a diva cup for the first time) you clench your vagina and it might not open, so you have to gently coax your vagina walls to the side so the cup will pop open.
with the cup inserted and open, i retreated to the couch having no idea if i’d put it in properly. i spent the rest of the night a bit crampy. my vagina was weary of the foreign object i decided to stick in it.
vaginas. the weirdest.
i somehow woke up being a diva cup master. with a little bit more confidence under my belt, i wasn’t so clumsy trying to insert it.
i emptied it a total of three times (when i woke up, mid-afternoon and right before bed) and i mostly forgot that i had it inserted. there was no more cramping.
removing it was a bit of a funny feeling, as you have to pinch the cup to break the seal. if you don’t do this, you may suction out your cervix while you’re at it. kidding, of course, but you can feel a little tug, which can be uncomfortable.
this was the first weekday of my cycle, and i was taking my new menstrual companion to work and to a media event. luckily, my office has individual bathrooms, not multiple-stall rooms. i have the same amount of privacy there as i do my home bathroom.
i made sure to empty it before i left the office, as the media event didn’t have much privacy in the bathroom. it is not really something i want to wash out in front of others.
it was the last day of this cycle. i was still bleeding, although very lightly. i decided to keep the diva cup in to see how it functioned with an extremely light flow. often when i use a tampon on these days, it feels like sandpaper when trying to remove a dry tampon as it has absorbed any moisture there may be inside my vagina to lubricate its exit. because the cup is silicone, it did not do the same thing, and it wasn’t painful trying to remove it, even with very little liquid in it.
i ended up really liking the diva cup and will continue to use it for my future menstruations. i did not deal with any leaks, probably because i took a lot of time in the beginning to double and triple check that i followed the directions and had the cup inserted and opened properly. it was also interesting to see how much i actually bled. i always thought i had a heavy flow, but being able to inspect the cup upon removal i saw that it wasn’t even a quarter full any time i removed it. the average period produced 1.3 ounces of blood, and the diva cup can hold 1 ounce, so i wasn’t concerned about it overflowing.
every time i “changed” the cup, i would dump out the contents and clean it under running water. i would also cleanse it with divawash at least once a day. i spoke to Mary (she’s a nurse with very outdoorsy sisters) about the public washroom cleaning thing, and she said her sister would just dump the contents out in the toilet, wipe out the cup with some toilet paper and when she was home again she’d cleanse it with divawash or a mild, oil-free, fragrance-free soap.
note from divacup: they do not recommend cleaning the cup with an antibacterial soap, or using the following ingredients: vinegar, tea tree oil, scented/ fragranced soap/castile/peppermint soap or any other oil based soap, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, baking soda, pre-moistened wipe, hydrogen peroxide, dishwashing soap, bleach or harsh chemicals as some have been known to damage or compromise the silicone (such as a sticky or powdery film, severe discoloration or order, etc.) and the cup may need to be replaced to avoid irritations and/or burning.
you do need to get up close and personal with yourself. if you have never masturbated, or feel uncomfortable with touching your own vagina, i wouldn’t suggest this for you. i would suggest you get to know your genitalia, though, and maybe give yourself an orgasm while you’re at it.
since i am on a contraceptive pill, i have a better understanding of when my period will start, so i’ll be able to bring the diva cup with me on certain days, if i’m not lucky enough to begin my bleeding at home. if your cycles are less predictable, you may want to still keep a tampon or two in your purse or desk drawer for those surprise starts.
no leaks, and no descent into insanity. i think my first cycle with the diva cup was a pretty successful one.
curious about anything else? i’ll try to answer any questions you might have.