My reasons for switching from tampons and pads to a menstrual cup were numerous; I was sick of spending money each period on pads and tampons, I heard that menstrual cups help relieve cramping, I had this weird fascination with cups, and I bought into the green marketing scheme (which in this case actually worked).
The Diva Cup is just one brand’s version of menstrual cups. There are different brands, shapes, sizes, and materials used in the different kinds of menstrual cups out there. The Diva Cup is pure silicone; meaning it’s non-porous, sanitizable, phthalates free, and hypoallergenic. You can sterilize it the same way you would silicone sex toys; boiling, 10% bleach to water, good old soap and water, or even sex toy cleaner. I prefer soap and water, and I sometimes boil mine since I noticed the clear silicone can sometimes discolor a bit and boiling seems to remedy that. When using soap and water, I like to fill the cup then close my palm over the opening and turn it upside down. Then I gently squeeze the cup so that water and soap flood through the tiny suction holes along the rim and get rid of any residual blood and crud.
Prior to switching from tampons to the cup, I had serious menstrual cramps that usually kept me in bed for two days. It got to the point that I sometimes couldn’t even eat or keep any food in my system for the duration of my cramps, and clearly that’s a pain in the ass and reason enough for me to try anything that is claimed to be helpful. I had heard that menstrual cups can help alleviate some of the cramping. The theory is that during menstruation the cervix lowers into the vagina, and tampons jabbing it can worsen the cramps. The difference between cups and a tampon are that tampons are just a cotton cylindrical chunk whereas cups are literally a hollow cup that sits around the cervix (if the cervix is low enough for this to happen). Mine tends to descend pretty low into my vagina. Some women have even said they’ve felt their cervix just a little less than an inch inside their vagina. Ever wonder why you pull a tampon out and only see the lowest part of it bloody while the top is still dry? I never understood that til I wrapped my mind around this concept.
So since the cervix tends to ascend and descend during the various stages of a woman’s cycle, it can also move from one side to the other, putting positioning the menstrual cup on a bit of a learning curve. My cervix sometimes creeps over to one side mid-way through my period, usually around the time that it’s ascending back upward in its usual position. It took me FOREVER to figure out just where I need to put the cup and why it wasn’t catching blood when it was completely inserted and opened properly. Turns out it was likely that my cervix opening was outside of the rim of the cup.
General insertion is pretty easy. Most of the how-to’s I’ve read say you should first try to figure out where your cervix is. It feels like the ball of your nose when you insert a finger and feel around. I can feel the little hole of the opening on mine, so I know which way to aim my cup. I usually fold my cup over once and push it in, parallel to the ground. Once I release my grip, the cup pops open and I push it in a little further until the stem is passed the opening to my vagina.
Insertion is rather easy when my period is heavy, but when I’m towards the end of it the silicone can be a bit draggy. Not as draggy as Tantus, but nowhere near as buttery smooth as a Lelo silicone. I just use a silicone-safe lubricant and lube up the rim of the cup.
I wish I was one of those wonder women who can wear the cup for the full duration of my period, but I can’t. I also can’t only wear my cup. I need a pad to feel secure, and sometimes I just have to switch to tampons because I’m paranoid of break through bleeding. I also usually do have some break through bleeding the first couple of days. I think there’s only been one period where I successfully wore only my cup for the full length of my period, and I sure did feel happy about that. One of the problems is that I’m a heavy bleeder. When I exclusively used tampons AND pads (that’s SUPER tampons, and overnight pads, every single day of my period), I had to change my tampon about every two hours or I’d bleed through and have an accident. This is just for reference to give you an idea of how much I bleed. With the cup I can go 4 – 6 hours before I absolutely have to empty it. Now, even though that’s a longer time than with tampons, it’s not the same kinda break through bleeding. With tampons I’d just get some spotting or a few gushes, but if the suction of my cup breaks, a good portion of the blood it’s holding will come out. And that’s a LOT. Like, more than my little pad can handle when I’m out running around at school or work. So I tend to empty it often when I’m out and about, or if I know that day is gonna be a particularly heavy bleeding day I just stick to pads.
So has my experience been perfect or foolproof? No. Sometimes I get so frustrated with breakthrough bleeding and the finnicky insertion that I go back to tampons. I also hate futzing with my cup in public bathrooms, so I avoid that at all costs. But I’d never toss the cup. I use it for about 70% of my period, and that’s definitely saving me some money.
Here are some additional resources if you’re looking for more information on menstrual cups, sizing, brands and the like:
- Vagina Pagina’s Wiki post on Menstrual Cups
- Vagina Pagina’s Community Menstrual Cups tag
- Menstrual Cup Community on LJ