The Day I Tried a Menstrual Cup and My Thoughts on the Tampon

Menstrual Cup

It all started with my frustration with pads and tampons. Pads being the mainstream menstrual care option in the Philippines despite it being literally a pool of oxidizing (read: smelly) blood we have to sit through for 8+ hours a day, and the tampon supply in this country, or lack thereof. I chalk it up to the Filipinas’ sad aversion to this godsend of a female hygiene invention, thus providing only a small market for the nifty period product, but why must we avoid it so?!

Common theories are as follows:

We are still conservative (some of us, pretending to)

Lack of reproductive health education may lead those who don’t know any better that a tampon will de-virginize you. This is a myth. A tampon can be as small as the size of a fat pinky, so no, it won’t, unless that’s your idea of getting your cherry popped.

It’s expensive

Now this is no lie. A box of it can cost as much as P400, compared to a pack of pads, which can cost more or less P70.

People just haven’t heard of it enough

I hope to be alive for when tampons are endorsed on non-cable channels by Nadine Lustre or Isabelle Daza—and that’ll be the day you’ll find it at your suking tindahan for P10 a pop the next time your mom sends you out to buy patis.

If you haven’t attempted at switching from pads to tampons, here are great points to consider:

a) you can swim in it b) you can dance, do splits, high kicks, sweat it out in hot yoga without getting your meditation interrupted by thoughts of blood and sweat coagulating slowly in the heat c) you don’t have to feel that Second-Day-Red-Sea-Surge when you sneeze, cough, or laugh d) Blood isn’t exposed to air, which means there is no odor e) you can’t feel it.

Nah, tampon companies did not pay me to write this. What we’re here for is that point when I realized that man, tampons are just as much waste as pads. And that, man, tampons are an expensive necessity—they should really make female hygiene free across the world! Not like we chose for this to happen, right? When I was 14 and The Visitor had yet to ever visit, I was partly wishing for it to just never arrive (it was late anyway, compared to normal girls). I mean, I would only probably grow a girlstache in its absence, no big deal right, but your period will always exist. (Til you menopause I mean.)

Anyway, this isn’t what we’re here for today, while that leads to the heart of our discussion which is: The Sinaya Cup. What is that, you ask? It’s a menstrual cup. Basically, it’s an environmentally and wallet-friendly substitute for tampons. It goes in similarly, you’re not supposed to feel it, but it goes out in a totally different manner (more on that later). Why did I consider this? Here’s why.

More value for money and you get to help save Mother Earth

Let’s do a little math. Compare this with tampons and pads, which you buy every month, every year, until you menopause. If you’re a tampon user going through an average of three boxes a month (let’s say, P250 each) every year (P9,000), for 40 more years, that’s P360,000. For pad users going through three packs a month (P70 each), every year (P840) for 40 more years, that’s way less at P33,600. The reusable menstrual cup lasts you two years for P1,300. After 40 years, you will only have spent P26,000. Way less than both pad and tampons, and you would have left way less waste in the world. Nifty, right?

So. Much. Freedom.

Remember all the good points I brought up when using tampons? It’s pretty much the same. Don’t worry about it getting stuck in there or leaking—we’ll get to that in a bit.

No Toxic Shock Syndrome

TSS is a legit concern for tampon users, but only if you’re gross with your hygiene. You can only keep it there as long as five hours, especially for those with a light flow. With menstrual cups, Sinaya Cup in particular, you’re not exposed to this risk because it’s made with medical grade silicone. Hooray for not dropping dead for no reason! Not to scare you, though.

It’s a local brand

Yay, go local Philippine businesses.

The Day I Tried the Menstrual Cup

Now, let’s get to the fun (???) part. You must have so many questions! You’re not alone, as I still do, too! The cup is about as large as a shot glass, and you can wear it inside for as long as 12 hours, if your flow allows. If not, it can still hold up to six hours—which is not bad. The day The Visitor arrived, the cup had already been waiting, but using it for the first time also required some preparations.

Before your first use

As per the instructions, I boiled my cup for 10 minutes, making sure it’s submerged. This was a bit of a trouble since it kept floating. I ended up locking it down under the cover of the nearest thing I grabbed, a cocktail shaker (lol) which required picking up with tongs (and which I realized had to be blanched to cleanliness too). After that, you fish it out and place on some paper towels to dry off. Submerging it in water in a rolling boil is required, cocktail shaker optional.

Getting it in there

Ah, so it was time. Know this: getting it in is way easier than having to maneuver it out. So fear not. As a longtime tampon user, I thought I should be used to getting contraptions in there made for collecting my menstruation (I wasn’t, heh). I made sure my hands were clean, washed with soap and dried, because I had no intentions of splashing alcohol anywhere near my lady parts. To insert it, you have to get into a bit of menstrual cup origami and learn how to fold.

There are two basic methods: the C-fold and the punch-down fold. The C-Fold is where you simply fold the cup flat into a straight-face mouth and then fold it into a C or U. Simplest way. However, if you find this too large or too detailed to slide into your vag, try the second option.

The punch-down fold is way easier and kinder to period cup noobs, because the tip of the apparatus will be smaller. To do this, punch down one side of the cup inwards, then fold as you would the C-fold, but this will produce a smaller C. So now it’s ready you just slide it in there. If your flow isn’t strong enough you might want to consider lube, but FYI, that will make it a bit of a struggle to get out.

You’ll know it’s locked into place when you feel it unfold into a circle again and creating a subtle suction. I know, strange. You won’t feel it though, but this is what locks it into place—the tiny vacuum makes sure it doesn’t leak when you move around. My big question when I first used it: what if I work out and find myself upside down for some reason? No biggie, apparently. Any blood can’t “go back” inside your uterus anyway. And neither will you burst if you don’t change in time—it’ll simply leak, like any tampon or pad.

The Menstrual Cup Experience 

Once it was settled into place, I thought, hey this isn’t bad. You can’t feel the cup. After watching plenty of YouTube videos, I realized that with its size, it fit comfortably within you. And it’s also very flexible. So I just went along doing my makeup, walking around the house dressing up and getting ready. The first hitch I encountered was the trip to work. Anybody living in Manila knows you’d have to sit in a vehicle for a minimum of 30 minutes to get anywhere—the longer I sat, the more uncomfortable it got. I realized the stem needed trimming. Which I couldn’t do in transit, obviously. I tried to suck it up (yeah pun intended) and just sit in a weird way throughout the work day, sort of leaning to one side, having to explain myself to anybody passing by my desk.

I was done with it in four hours, so I made up an excuse because how to explain trimming your new vagina cup apparatus thing in a workplace setting? Maybe in another article. But for now, I ditched and went home in discomfort. I was not fazed, I’m gonna go trim that b*tch and try it out again.

Now here’s the second trouble I ran into: it was a STRUGGLE to get out. I don’t know, maybe my lady parts had the suction power of an octopus tentacle, but the vacuum WOULDN’T break. I spent a good five minutes trying to bear down, reach in there, wash my hands, go on the Interwebs for sage advice, wash my hands again, and repeat.

Tips I tried (and did not work) were: use one finger to reach in, feel around for the edge, and slip in between your walls and the cup to break the seal THEN use another hand to pull it out by the stem. It did not work because I already had something in there. I know our nether regions were made to borne actual people, but I wasn’t there yet, and how could a girl fit in so many things all at once?! This was all so foreign to me. Another tip that didn’t work: bear down and pull. Again, the strong AF suction. I should apparently be proud of this, one Reddit user mentioned.

One tip that worked though: bear down and slip a finger between cup and walls to break seal, then just try your best to pull it out. That worked. Now this is not to say other methods wouldn’t work, because they do for other women—it’s a case to case basis, really. In any case, at this point I was whiny and sweating and a bit sore down there, TBH. Kind of like doing it, except it wasn’t enjoyable. But back to my mission: trim the stem.

After repeating the sanitation process, I sanitized a pair of scissors and trimmed down to half and put it back in again. It was way less uncomfortable, but still noticeably digging into one side. Again with the Internet advice: vaginas are differently shaped, and mine might be tilted to one side. It could be the only explanation. I was dead set on giving this a try, so I messaged the Sinaya page and they advised me to file the corners with a clean file, sanitize again, and try again. So I did, but the file just wouldn’t work on silicone. Take note, I went again through the ten minute removal ordeal. And again, put it in place. It really wasn’t the cup I could feel—it was the stem. I was convinced that, no Sinaya Cup, it’s not you, it’s me—I’m just tilted inside. I truly, deeply, earnestly wanted to give this a chance because, no period expenses for two years, hello? But I felt like I couldn’t sleep through the discomfort, so I replaced it with a tampon and went to sleep. I was exhausted. And that, ladies, was my day with a menstrual cup.

The Burning Questions

How often do you change?
As someone with a light flow, I was confident in leaving it in for a full day. But when I went back to trim the stem, after about 8 hours of use, I was truly surprised of how LITTLE blood it had collected. Only 1/5th of the cup was filled, so I’m pretty sure this can work as well for those with a heavy flow.

What if the available bathrooms are poorly equipped, as it is usually the case in this country?
Bring wipes and tissue, as you would on your period. Chuck the contents into the toilet and clean with your wipes, simple. Just make sure your hands are clean, too. Don’t forget to flush!

Will this break my hymen?
Again, a myth. This will not de-virginize anybody because it is not sex. Also, hymens break often without you knowing it, even during sports, or dancing, and some people aren’t even born with hymens.

What about outdoor activities?
It’s actually the best option for outdoorsy girls, because aside from your own comforts, think about the rest of the world. Let’s say you go camping. If you’re using a pad or tampon, where would your waste go? If you’re a decent person, you’ll have to carry your trash around. If you’re a horrible person who only thinks of herself, you add to the waste of the world and ruin the spot you just captioned “such beauty” for your Instagram. With a cup, you can bury your blood (it’s biodegradable, duh), clean your cup, put it back in, and you’re good to go.

Would I try it again?
Yes, maybe, if I found a way to make the stem more comfortable, because as far as current technology goes there is no way to reposition or tilt your vagina. Also, maybe I only need more practice, but I don’t feel like practically performing blind surgery on myself with bare hands every single time I have to change. But, other girls have had better, happier endings with the cup—so don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

 

Photo courtesy of Slate, Sinaya Cup’s Facebook Page, and Carly Puch

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