I will start this off by saying you should NOT stop reading now even if you’re squeamish. Please, read on. It’s just a vagina. Even if you were blessed with boy parts, you still shouldn’t turn away. You may find yourself in a situation where you’d like to introduce your lady friend to the outdoors and this may be what makes or breaks a potentially life changing experience for her. This is my experience with menstrual cups.
I’ve always used the type of tampon that doesn’t come with an applicator. Basically, for those that don’t know, you use your finger as the applicator. That’s not revolutionary or anything but it is a little embarrassing when you’re younger. Nobody really needed to know but if someone asked me for one because they were out, I always gave it to them knowing from previous experience they’d just make a face like I handed them a rubber chicken and give it back to me. They would rather use wadded up toilet paper than insert a tampon without the help of an applicator. I used them for two reasons, I didn’t like all the unnecessary waste that they created and our old toilet at my mom’s house had a hard time disposing of the applicators. I wish someone had told me a long time ago about menstrual cups. I love you, internet! There is even less waste than what I was using before and there is nothing to pack out when camping. <3
I started out with the DivaCup. The DivaCup is a reusable menstrual cup made of healthcare grade silicone that sits low in the vaginal canal. It collects rather than absorbs your menstrual flow, unlike tampons and pads. You can wear it for up to 12 hours and when you’re ready, you just break the suction with your finger, remove the cup, and empty it into the toilet (or cathole if you’re in the woods). Wash and reinsert. There are tons of helpful hints on how to insert and remove them all over the internet. There are different brands you can try so don’t be concerned if your first one doesn’t feel right. In fact, I settled on a different brand but only because of sizing. The DivaCup comes in two models:
- Model A – For women under 30 who have never had a baby.
- Model B – For women over 30 and/or have delivered vaginally or by c-section.
I got the B size because I’m over 30 and have had a baby. The problem with this is that there are several other factors that go into play. Obviously, not every woman is the same. For instance, athletes have stronger muscles … and in my case …
I’m a tiny Asian woman.
The DivaCup is too big for me. Not just too big, but too long. My cervix … wait … I take it back … if you’re one of my brothers, you should probably have already stopped reading but now is definitely your chance to get out while you can. My cervix sits super low. I, also, have an IUD (intrauterine device) for birth control. In order to get the DivaCup far enough into my vagina to not have anything poking out and be uncomfortable, I had to have it sitting up against my cervix which wasn’t uncomfortable but played havoc with my mind. What if the suction pulls my IUD out? What if the IUD punctures my uterus?! I couldn’t do it. Now, there’s a bit of confusion on whether I should even be using a menstrual cup and an IUD at the same time. The REI website straightforwardly says NOT to use the DivaCup with an IUD:
Do not use if you have an intrauterine device (IUD)
The DivaCup website basically says it’s fine as long as you’re careful and then quickly cover their metaphorical behinds by telling you to consult a physician:
The DivaCup is worn low at the base of the vagina and away from the cervix. This means that it should not interfere with an internal birth control device. However, please use caution when using any internal feminine hygiene product with an IUD as there is the possibility that they can be dislodged. When using The DivaCup, it is important to carefully follow the directions in our User Guide, paying close attention to inserting The DivaCup low in the vaginal canal and breaking the seal (suction) before removal. Many of our customers use The DivaCup with an IUD or NuvaRing® simultaneously, but we recommend that you become familiar with your birth control device’s risks (such as the body expelling the IUD, etc.).
See? Confusing! I went to my ob/gyn, a woman who I trust that has operated on my lady parts TWICE and did NOT kill me, and asked her what was up. She has several patients that use both menstrual cups and IUDs and said as long as I break the seal before removing it then it would be fine especially considering that I have had my IUD for several years already.
Back to the DivaCup… in order to get it inserted far enough to be comfortable, it was pressed up against my cervix which was a big no-no with the IUD. I consulted my trusty internet and tried trimming the stem and turning it inside out. Turning it inside out does shorten it but it still wasn’t enough and it made the rim stiffer.
Instead, I went with the MeLuna. The MeLuna is similar but made of TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) instead of silicone. It is not currently FDA approved in the United States but has been given the okay in several European countries including the UK so I had to order it online. Update 02/24/15: I just found out they received FDA approval in 2014! Their US website is here. The selling point for me were the options. You can choose between 6 different sizes, 3 grip shapes, and 3 degrees of softness that are right for your body type. If you’re a super girly girl, you’ll be excited to know they have lots of colors to choose from, too. While they did not have a “tiny Asian” option, they did have a “mini” that is meant for “women whose pelvic muscles has eased, in conjunction with a slight uterine prolapse” … close enough! This smaller size might not work for you if you have a heavy flow, but my IUD makes my periods really light so I’ve had no trouble with overflowing or leaking.
On a side note, my period is so light that sometimes I just use these cloth panty liners from Party in my Pants, instead:
Party in my Pants has lots of options. They have 4 liner sizes, 7 pad sizes, and cotton or flannel to choose from. The flannel ones feel better but not if the weather is hot or I’m doing something particularly sweaty. I use the cotton ones during the day and the flannel ones at night. I especially like that if I’m out and about or on the trail and I need to change them out, they fold into a neat little envelope:
Sure, you still have to pack these out like you would for regular pads or tampons but they’re washable and reusable like the menstrual cups so there’s still nothing to throw away.
For the record, I didn’t get paid for any of this. I just think they’re that awesome and I wish someone had told me about them sooner.
Any opinions on which one I should take on the AT with me? I’m still undecided.
*** P.S. I’m having a hard time letting myself tag “Party in my Pants” for this post … Don’t want to attract the wrong crowd! :) ***