Menstrual Cup Review
7 months ago I bit the bullet and ordered my first Menstrual Cup (the Australian made Juju brand*), just a measly 6 years after having a good friend tell me I should give it a go. She was right!
I think there were a couple of factors that made me hesitate long enough to get distracted and forget about it over and over again- the initial outlay, the risk (what if I couldn't get it to work for me?) and the hassle of figuring out something new and weird. But what made me actually buy a menstrual cup 7 months ago was stumbling across someone's review of them which said "I actually forgot I had my period". What the what! Amazing. Add to Cart, Checkout, Pay Now.
Anyway, I have now tested my cup for 6 periods, and I'm happy to say there's no going back - the cup is here to stay! Apart from having my own blissful 'forgot I had my period' moments, I have also greatly appreciated the clean & fresh feeling, sustainability factor (no disposable pads/tampons bought or used), the money I've saved, and freedom from the discomfort of pads. I've also read that compared to tampons, menstrual cups are healthier for your vaginal flora/biome as well, and show no association (yet) with Toxic Shock Syndrome. I can't back either of those claims up, but they sound pretty good.
I also love that the Juju is made in Australia.
In case you need some more convincing, check out this great infographic showing how cup use could save you ~$4000 and ~453kg of waste compared to tampon use. That's a lot of clams, and a lot of filthy stinking landfill. Juju have also made a very informative animated video.
Be scared inferior feminine hygiene products. Very scared.
For anyone thinking about giving it a go, here are some of my tips to menstrual cup success:
- It will take a few periods to figure out the best techniques. This includes how best to insert the cup to avoid pain and leaks, how best to take it out without causing spillage, where to empty it, how often to empty it (and how this changes on different days of your period), how to clean it, how to store it etc. The FAQ page on the Juju site (and plenty of other sites) answer a lot of these questions, but I'll also share a few ideas of my own below.
- The first and most important thing is to figure out which insertion fold works best for you. The first time I tried to insert my Juju, it was so painful that I didn't use it for that period. Then I figured out I just needed to try a different cup fold. Turns out there are stacks of different ways to fold the cups to insert them, and this is because every woman has a differently sized and shaped vagina. See this page on the Juju site for a list of cup folds and videos on how to create them. Try different folds until you find one that doesn't cause you any pain and inserts easily. Make sure you're inserting it at the right angle too - not just up, but also tilted towards your tailbone.
- Try not to stress about how far you're putting it in or whether you will be able to get it out again. You might freak out a little when you first try to get it out, I did, but you should be able to get it out easily if you follow the advice given with your cup (especially around breaking the air seal). The biggest tip I could give for this is to stay calm and breathe slowly and deeply, and then use your pelvic floor muscles to push down which will help with the removal (they can help with the insertion, too). Clench your muscles to help the cup move upwards into the appropriate place, and alternate between fully relaxing them and pushing them down to get the cup out. I've been surprised at how well these muscles can work to move something – but I guess that's what happens in childbirth. In contrast to my first few tries, I am no longer worried at all about the possibility of putting the cup 'too far in', because I am 100% certain I can get it out again easily.
- You also need to figure out how to ensure the cup has opened up (expanded) once you have fully inserted it, rather than staying in its fold (which can cause leaks). I've found that I can do this by releasing my hold on the fold just after I've inserted it and it's a little way in. If I then give the side of the cup a push, and the tail a slight pull, the cup usually expands and opens up. You should be able to feel and sometimes hear this happening.
- I wouldn't recommend travelling with a cup until you've used it for at least 3-4 months and are confident with it. I recently took it camping (at a site with toilets and showers) and was pleasantly surprised at the ease in using it in this setting. I mostly cleaned and emptied it in the showers, so I could rinse it off properly. For me, camping or travelling without access to clean water and a private spot where I could rinse the cup would make me reconsider using it, in favour of reusable pads or organic cotton tampons.
- I'm already over halfway towards paying off my Juju, through money saved by not buying disposable pads. The Juju cost me about $50, so for me it would pay off in around 10 periods (4 to go!). Because it lasts so long, in a few months time my cup-use will be comparatively free.
- To avoid leaks, for the first 3 months I was still using the Juju in combo with my reusable pads, while honing my confidence and technique. And it has only leaked twice in 6 months- both times when I wasn't wearing a pad! Once was when the cup was full at the time, the other was when the cup hadn't sealed properly after I inserted it. It was tricky but I could at least feel this happening, so just needed to act fast. Real fast.
- The only con I have found, after solving the inital trial and error issues, is that I don't enjoy removing the cup. It feels like a real hassle, especially if I leave it too late at night when I'm super tired. But it's getting noticeably easier each time as I get used to it, and I can do it much more easily, quickly and comfortably. I've also started doing it around 7pm instead of later (it stays in safely for ~12 hours) so I don't have to worry about it until when I wake up around 7am.
- You'll need to adapt your juju use to suit the progression of your period. Eg. On my heaviest 2 days, I will empty the cup three times (morning, noon, night). But all other days I only need to do this twice, in the morning and before I go to sleep.
- I clean my Juju at the end of each period in two stages. 1. First I scrub it with an old toothbrush (which I only use for this purpose) that has some gentle olive oil based bar soap on it. 2. Then I add it to an already boiling pot of water for no longer than 5 minutes (as per instructions). I remove it with clean tongs, and then let it air dry on clean paper towel for a few hours, before stowing it away inside it's breathable pouch til next time. During a period, I just rinse the cup with water and reinsert.
- I still want to try reusable absorbant 'period-proof undies such as THINX for my lightest days, because if they work as well as the cup, I reckon it would be way easier to pull on a pair of undies once than having to empty and re-insert the cup every 12 hours, and I'm sure any plain undies would be more comfortable than reusable cloth pads.
*Just to be clear: I am not being paid or compensated in any way to endorse Juju. I've just become a massive menstrual cup fan.
Image credit: http://menstrualblog.tumblr.com/post/63329914489