A woman’s first guide to sustainable menstruation
Committed to a greener planet and thinking of giving up sanitary pads for menstrual cups? Here are a few tips that will help you make that switch.
Almost two years ago, I tried a menstrual cup for the first time. I was 24 years old and was a newbie to the world of cups. As excited as I was about trying a cup, I was also equally apprehensive. A hundred god-awful thoughts crossed my mind as I gathered the wits to “do the deed”.
On the one hand, I was feeling guilty of not telling my mother that I was going to use an internal period product; on the other, my feminist brain screamed, “my body, my choice”. My first reaction on seeing the cup was – how am I going to insert something THAT big? And then I remembered where babies come from…
Within five minutes of trying, I was able to wear my menstrual cup. Alas, my happiness didn’t last too long. The cup got stuck inside, and I wasn’t able to take it out, however much I tried! As I found out much later, one doesn’t do a ‘dry run’ with a menstrual cup. In other words, you don’t use it when you don’t have your period. There are mostly three reasons for this.
Firstly, the vagina is naturally lubricated when you are on your period; so insertion and removal is easy. Secondly, the cervix is much lower during your period, but is pretty high up otherwise; so if you do try a test run, chances are that the cup suctions itself to the cervix and makes it impossible to remove.
Lastly, suction is easy to break when the cup is full. Alas, I knew none of these on that night as I was trying to get the cup out intact.
I was finally able to get the cup out with a friend’s advice – “Imagine you are pushing a baby out!” I heaved a sigh of relief, and wondered how difficult it is for beginners, who have never used any internal product to even fathom inserting a cup!
Here are some quick tips that will ease the process of trying out a cup for the first time.
This is the key factor that could literally change the game. From the time you decide to buy a menstrual cup till you eventually get one and are all set to go, explore! Get to know the female reproductive anatomy in detail. As beginners, many girls do not know where a menstrual cup should even be worn!
Exploring with your fingers will also get you accustomed to the idea of eventually using an internal product like a menstrual cup, especially if you haven’t used any internal product before. The idea is that you should first be comfortable with your own body before you try anything new!
Thanks to the Internet, we now have plenty of good YouTube tutorials, blog articles, Facebook groups and discussion forums that can be of great use for beginners!. For beginners, the YouTube channel Precious Star Pads is a great resource by a young girl who creates engaging videos that answer a lot of cup queries.
The Indian channel HygieneandYou curates and creates content on a variety of cup-related topics.
The Facebook groups Sustainable Menstruation India and Menstrual Cups Cloth Pads are open forums where cup-curious women can post all their queries and doubts.
But even before you go through these, let me share with you some basic facts and tips:
Measure your cervix
Before you make your first purchase of a menstrual cup, remember to measure your cervix. The cervix is a marble-like part of the female reproductive anatomy that connects the end of the uterus to the vagina. The opening of the cervix is where the menstrual fluids come from; therefore, it is not only important to learn where the cervix is, but also learn how best to place your menstrual cup so that it doesn’t miss the mouth of the cervix.
All you need to do is insert a clean finger and find your cervix. If it’s right at the entrance of the vagina (one-knuckle deep), then you have a low cervix; if it’s deeper, you have a medium cervix (two-knuckles deep); and if you can’t find it, or if your entire finger goes inside, then you have a high cervix. Choosing a cup based on where your cervix is located will ensure that you find one that fits you well! The cervix is highest during ovulation and lowest while you are menstruating. So remember to measure your cervix while on your period!
No dry runs
You may be really excited to try your first menstrual cup as soon as it arrives in the mail, but contain your excitement and wait for your period to arrive. Why? Because a menstrual cup is best tried when you are on your period, as is evident from my story. Unsuccessful dry runs may make you never want to try a menstrual cup yet again, which defeats the whole purpose of this exercise.
Use a lube
This is a highly recommended tip for beginners. While you may question if you ‘really’ need a lube, using a lubricant would ease the insertion of a cup, especially the first time. Once you determine what works for you, you could stop using it.
Though KY Jelly seems to be the most popular one, LOX Jelly is its Indian version, which you can buy at any pharmacy. Alternatively, you can also order any water-based lubricant online on Amazon on Flipkart. Just ensure that you don’t buy an oil-based lubricant as oil can degrade the quality of the cup. If you can’t get hold of any lubricant, just run the cup under cold water right before you try it on!
When I tried a cup for the first time and ended up having the cup stuck inside me, apart from having done no prior research, I also did the ultimate mistake of panicking. The simple rule to remember is that if you panic, then the vaginal muscles tighten and any kind of insertion/removal becomes difficult. Just before you try a cup, make sure you are calm and relaxed. Even while removing the cup, ensure that you are relaxed, and are not in a hurry. Breathe in, breathe out, listen to music and do a little jig. This will quicken the process for you!
Don’t give up!
First time users often get bogged down and feel demotivated if their first ever excited attempt is not successful. It is important to remember that it may take more than 2-3 cycles to get acquainted with how to use a menstrual cup.
You can try different positions and folds. For those who are trying out a cup for the first time, remember to use folds like Punch-Down fold, which make the rim really small, as compared to other folds like C-Fold. Videos of cup folds can be found on the YouTube channel Precious Star Pads.
As and when you get comfortable with using a cup, you can experiment different other folds/positions/techniques. The bottom line is, don’t give up!
Oops, the hymen!
Right before we end, you are probably wondering how I left out mentioning the hymen, whose presence (or the lack of it) causes much misery in most women’s lives. Will a menstrual cup TEAR or COMPROMISE your hymen?
Firstly, ‘tear’ and ‘compromise’ are too loaded to describe what actually happens during insertion! Whenever you try to put anything into your vagina – be it a finger or a menstrual cup, your vagina is going to naturally STRETCH to accommodate the new object. Initially, it may be difficult for you to insert anything inside your vagina, but over time, this should not be a problem at all!
So, keep the gory images aside, and have a period, cupping!
Things to Do:
Learn more about the Hymen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qFojO8WkpA
Read about how to measure your cervix: http://www.wikihow.com/Feel-Your-Cervix
Read a few FAQs from cup-curious folks: http://www.hygieneandyou.com/5-frequent-questions-of-cup-curious-folks/
Watch this video of a 15-year-old Indian girl talk about her menstrual cup journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyDoKFn2fB8&t=6s
Watch a video on how to insert your menstrual cup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLdn87RYhFrpCIEV7FbmrOzl_QlVgUAZir&v=FySg10iN9bo
This was first published on Citizen Matters, an online magazine published with the support of Oorvani Foundation. The original article can be viewed here http://citizenmatters.in/womans-guide-to-menstrual-cups-sustainable-menstruation-blog-3651