How to make your period less sucky (or, why you should get a menstrual cup)

how to make your period less sucky

Ok, so this post is going to be chock-full of stuff that’s probably a little TMI, but oh well. Periods are a fact of life. They can be messy. Slimy. Stinky. Inconvenient. (Or, if you’re like this person, they’re a form of art and should be celebrated.) If reading about periods bothers you, this is not the post for you.

Moving on…

If you’re like most women in the U.S., you’re probably pretty familiar with the fact that tampons and pads are the most popular go-to options for that time of the month. It’s sad that, in all of this time that humans have been in existence, cottony torpedoes of uncomfortableness (i.e. tampons) and glorified diapers (i.e. pads) are the best we’ve come up with. If you actually look back at the history of tampons, it’s interesting to note that the person who invented the tampon, as we know it today, is actually a dude (Doctor Earle Haas). I don’t know about you, but to me, that explains a lot right there.

Tampons have been something that I’ve been battling with for well over a decade. They were usually alright for me to use in the beginning of my cycle, but because they REALLY dried me out down there, they became almost unbearable to wear towards the end of my cycle (and I attribute some of my UTIs to their use… stupid things).

Even though tampons weren’t ideal, it seemed like anything was better than a pad (I mean, who in the hell wants to feel like they’re wearing a freaking diaper all day??). Pads keep all that moisture right up against the skin, creating rashes (and overall feelings of uncleanliness… at least in my experience).

Oh, and don’t get me started on the costs of pads and tampons (coughing up that money every month on something that I’m just going to throw away seems ludicrous and wasteful to me). But I made due with pads and tampons all these years because I thought I didn’t have any other options (at least, non-surgical options).

Enter the menstrual cup.

Lunette menstrual cup | Get Wellified

Apparently menstrual cups have been around for quite a number of years, but I’d never heard of them until a few months ago. I don’t remember how I came across them (maybe I was in a bad mood and entered something like periods are f-ing stupid into Google… who knows), but I wish I’d found them way sooner. To me, menstrual cups are a complete game-changer when it comes to your period. Let me explain.

In case you’re not familiar, a menstrual cup is a soft, bendy little vessel that you insert into your vajayjay that holds your menstrual fluid. When it’s inserted properly (and you have one that fits you properly), it creates a suction, which prevents it from falling out (bringing all the blood with it… ewww). There are a few things that are awesome about the menstrual cup…

It’s reusable, so you pay for it once, and it’s good for several years.

This means that you’ll never have to worry about running out of your period arsenal again. It’s also…

Cheaper than pads and tampons in the long run

Let’s say you typically spend around $10 on traditional period supplies every month (if you’re a heavy bleeder, it might be even more than that) – multiply that by 12 months and that’s $120 in a year. The menstrual cup that I purchased was around $40, which might last me 10 years or more. Just for fun, let’s multiply that $120 that we previously spent a year on period stuff by 10 years – that’s $1,200. Versus $40 for the cup. The cup is definitely a better bargain.

Scores: Cup: +73, Tampons: -82

Better for the environment AND your waste management system

Since you’re no longer needing to flush or dispose of tampons, they don’t clog up the plumbing/septic system or end up in a landfill somewhere (we humans create enough waste as it is – anything to reduce that burden is a plus for everyone).

Scores: Cup: +84 , Tampons: -106

They can hold more fluid than a tampon.

This means you might only need to empty it a couple times a day (maybe more if you have a heavier flow). The less time that I have to spend tidying up my nether regions, the better.

Scores: Cup: +109, Tampons: -183

It’s more comfortable to use.

Tampons, as I pointed out previously, can be painful to use, especially later into your cycle because of the dryness that is all-so-common. I usually ended up having to switch to a pad towards the end of my cycle (the horror!). Menstrual cups, however, don’t cause drying or irritation at all (at least, not in my case). In fact, I used to avoid being active while on my period because of tampons – that’s not the case at all with the cup (I could do everything from yoga to an intense 60-minute Insanity sesh and not have any issues).

Scores: Cup: +136, Tampons: -203

It’s made from safer materials.

The menstrual cup that I use is made from medical-grade silicone. Silicone that is medical-grade can safely be used when in contact with living tissue (it’s the same type of stuff they use to make feeding tubes and medical implants). Medical-grade silicone is also manufactured in tightly controlled environments to avoid potential contamination that could affect the safety of the final product.

Tampons, on the other hand, are typically made from cotton (or a rayon-cotton blend). The problem with conventional cotton is the fact that most of it is genetically modified and it’s very heavily polluted in terms of pesticide use. The cotton used for tampons is also typically bleached, leaving behind potentially damaging chemicals (such as dioxins). Tampons may also contain “fragrance,” which can disrupt hormonal balance. (Definitely not something you want in your lady regions.)

Scores: Cup: +152, Tampons: -326

It keeps menstrual fluid contained in a more favorable way.

One of the big negatives of tampon use is the fact that it can promote strong odor downstairs.

This odor is actually a result of your menstrual fluid coming into contact with air. Because of the menstrual cup’s design and suction, menstrual fluid doesn’t come into contact with air until the cup is removed. This reduces odor DRASTICALLY (in fact, my husband is usually one to comment when it’s that time of the month because of the lingering menstrual odor in the bathroom; he hasn’t commented on odor once since switching to the cup – yay for less bitching from hubs!).

Scores: Cup: +125, Tampons: -402

Tampons keep the menstrual fluid pressed up against your vaginal walls…

This (combined with the oxygenation of the menstrual fluid and the irritating compounds from the tampon itself) might increase your chances of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), especially if tampons aren’t changed frequently. The menstrual cup, on the other hand, keeps the menstrual fluid contained, yet out of constant contact with your vaginal tissue (and, again, away from air). There have not been any reports of TSS in menstrual cup users to date.

Scores: Cup: +134, Tampons: -486

Overall Score (according to my completely made up and illogical scoring system):

Menstrual cup: 813, Tampons: negative 1788

There are tons of different cups on the market – I chose the Lunette brand of menstrual cup because it had such favorable reviews (even from customers who previously were using other brands of cups) and because I thought the shape of the Lunette was ideal for the size/shape of my vajayjay. Lunette also offers a couple different sizes for their cups, depending on your needs. The video below compares some of the brands of menstrual cups that are out there, so you can get a feel for the different shapes and sizes.

One thing that I will say about the menstrual cup is that it can be a little tricky to insert and remove for newbies – it just takes some practice. There are tons of different folding techniques to help with insertion (see video below).

The best way that I’ve found to remove the cup without spilling the contents everywhere is to push down with your pelvic muscles, gently squeeze the cup on either side with two fingers to release the suction, then remove and dump the contents in the toilet. You can do a quick rinse with water, then reinsert. Prior to storing between cycles, it’s best to do a more thorough cleaning – cleaning recommendations will vary depending on the brand of cup that you purchase. The Lunette menstrual cup that I use can be boiled in water, or it can also be washed with a very mild cleanser or wiped with rubbing alcohol.

Overall, after years of discomfort and money wasted on tampons and pads, I’m super happy with my menstrual cup – and it’s definitely made that time of the month much more bearable.

Cheers to a less sucky period. 🙂

7 Responses to How to make your period less sucky (or, why you should get a menstrual cup)

  • It’s great you found something that you like, but as I read your article, a few things popped into my head. Now, every one is different, and there is no shame to anyone’s bodily functions, but my first thought when you mentioned how uncomfortable tampons are is that towards the end of your cycle, if you are feeling “dried” out, it sounds like you kept using the same absorbancy tampon when you maybe ought to have switched to a lower absorbancy. If you can wear the things in the beginning and only feel uncomfortable as your cycle tapers, you are probably needing a smaller absorbancy towards the end or to switch to liners. Genrally speaking, when tampons are in properly, you should not feel them at all. The main problem I have with them now is that…well, I can “push” them out of place with my kegals sometimes. lol…
    The second thing that struck me was your comment…”my husband is usually one to comment when it’s that time of the month because of the lingering menstrual odor in the bathroom.” No offense, but, is he a jerk or something? Who MENTIONS stuff like that to their wife?? It would be like you going in after he took a massive crap and being like “It’s a bit ripe in here…”
    Also, if the smell lingers that much, is it coming from the trash can where you place used products or you? And if it comes from you, perhaps that is an issue that needs addressing from your doctor? I’m not being glib, it’s just, the most odor I have ever noticed was from using pads as a teen, and barring that, it seems like if the odor is strong enough to linger in the bathroom, perhaps there is a health issue that is going unaddressed.
    Also, when you pull that cup out…doesn’t the blood kind of …splash everywhere when the cup resumes it’s normal shape?

    • When I was using tampons, I did switch to a lower absorbancy as my flow lightened up, yet still experienced that discomfort. This may be partly due to the length of my cycle (usually a full 7 days), but many other women have noted how uncomfortable tampons can be because of their drying affect as well (I know I’m not alone in that experience). Aside from the drying affect, tampons can be particularly uncomfortable for me because my cervix hangs pretty low during my cycle.

      When I said “lingering menstrual odor,” I wasn’t referring to a strong, something’s-out-of-balance kind of smell – just the normal menstrual stuff. My husband has a very sensitive nose, so it’s easier for him to pick up on things (plus, to be fair, other peoples’ smells tend to be more prominent since people often go “nose blind” to their own scents – if that wasn’t the case, our senses would get overstimulated all the time).

      I guess I’m a horrible wife since I do make comments to him like, “geez, turn the vent on” or “what the hell did you eat??” after he does his business. 😉 In all seriousness, I don’t take offense to his comments (and he doesn’t to mine) – they’re usually made lightheartedly (and neither of us has much of a filter around each other).

      There’s definitely a technique to removing the cup (so the first couple times, there may be some unintended spilling), but once you get used to it, it’s not messy at all (at least, not in my experience).

      You’re free to use whichever product you’re most comfortable with – I just wanted to present another alternative for those who are sick of pads and tampons and didn’t realize that there are other options available. To each their own.

    • I was thinking these same things. And also don’t you get blood on your ha d inserting the damn cup back in after you empty it?? I cant be at work in a bathroom of 5 stalls rinsing a damn cup when there’s others in there with me

      • Some cup manufacturers sell their own brand of wet wipes that you can get… or you can just bring a water bottle in with you to rinse. It also really depends on the heaviness of your flow – most days, I only need to empty my cup 2x per day, so I haven’t really needed to empty it while away from home.

  • Nice read, but I have 2 questions. Does your hand/fingers get bloody during the removal and reinsertion of the cup? How do you quickly rinse the cup before reinsertion when in a public bathroom (since the sink is outside the stall)?

    • There was definitely a little bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but after I got the hang of it, there’s really minimal blood on fingers (comparable to using tampons without applicators). Depending on the style/brand of cup and how heavy your flow is, you may only need to empty the cup once every 12 hours or so. If I know that I’m going to be out for a while, I just empty it before leaving to avoid having to do it in a public restroom. If you absolutely need to empty the cup in a public restroom, there are definitely ways to do so discretely. Several of the cup manufacturers sell disposable wipes that you can use that won’t harm the cup. If you carry bottled water around with you, you could easily use that to flush out the cup as well. You could also use toilet paper in a pinch (or bring some paper towels into the stall with you if the restroom has them) then do a more thorough cleaning when you get home. Hope that helps!

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