Five years ago, I became the proud owner of one Mirena IUD. Shortly afterward, my usually painful, heavy periods ceased completely. By the time my IUD expired this fall, I had moved four times, held three different jobs, and — key to this particular story — fallen in love with and gotten married to my husband. With potential babies in the works, I decided against investing in another Fort Knox-style method of birth control after I had my IUD removed. And so, my period, missing for half a decade, returned. I felt simultaneously giddy and a little anxious to reenter the world of pads and tampons. I was like a dumb teenager all over again, mood swings and all.
This time around, however, I became determined to make my period as bearable as possible. After all, I assured myself, I am older and (fingers crossed) wiser. I decided to invest in a menstrual cup. For those of you who may not be familiar with such technology, a menstrual cup is a silicone bell-shaped cup worn inside the vagina to collect menstrual blood. Are you ready for lunch yet?
First, here’s where I’ll admit to silently judging my housemates at the quaint liberal arts college I attended in the early aughts who sang the praises of menstrual cups. At the time, I was rebelling against my hippie upbringing and parents who owned a first edition copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. I was all about tampons, scented antiperspirants, and monthly highlighting sessions that left my hair as crisp as straw. Like most 30-year-olds, however, I’ve since realized in my newfound maturity that my parents were completely right all along. In recent years, I’ve found myself returning to the world of Birkenstocks and natural fibers in which I was raised. Apparently, that also means investing in chemical-free sustainable feminine hygiene products. Who knew?
After extensive googling of several brands and hot tips (it turns out that menstrual cup fans are highly active on the Internet), I decided to go with the Diva Cup. While I would never describe myself as a diva, something about the name gave it an air of flair I could get behind. Plus, I think my uterine lining is probably deserving of attention normally bestowed upon divas, if only for four or five days per month.
With proper insertion, a menstrual cup creates a suction that lasts throughout the day, collecting your flow in its 1-ounce vessel. Six months in, I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve mastered the art of rendering the perfect suctioned seal, but there were a few tragic mishaps along the way. You’ve never known true fear until your very full menstrual cup tips over inside you, releasing a quantity of blood normally reserved for horror movies. God forbid I ever go missing and the police shine a black light in my bathroom.
After a few brief (and very bloody) learning experiences, I can attest to the fact that my menstrual cup is totally awesome. My periods are shorter, my cramps are lighter, and I can go for up to 12 hours without emptying it, thus eliminating many messy moments in public restrooms. At times I’ve even forgotten I was on my period until it was time to empty the cup. I may have eyelash extensions and still use antiperspirants, but I feel true to my hippie roots when I say that I’m more in touch with my body than ever. Like many devotees, I’ve become a menstrual cup pusher, urging friends to make the switch (as you can imagine I’m really fun at parties). While a cup might not be for everyone, I know I’m never going back to pads and tampons.
More on Female Health:
• 8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Period
• The Fascinating History of Tampons
• The Cancer Her Doctors Missed
Photo courtesy of Diva Cup