It’s a fact that men’s shaving essentials have grown at a much faster rate than women’s menstrual care products. After all, sanitary pads are the only options that line supermarket shelves — this is decidedly a step-up from cloth napkins which were used in the past. While a few tampon brands have recently infiltrated the market, the availability of menstrual cups is still niche knowledge.
Of all the menstrual products currently available to us, the cup comes out on top for a number of reasons: it’s eco-friendly, economical, enduring, and easy to use. But, many women who haven’t tried it are averse to the idea of inserting a foreign object that looks so big into that part of their bodies that cannot be named. But whether you choose to call the vagina by its name or not, most women will desist from coming in contact with their own vaginal blood. Since we live in a country where menstruating women are marginalised, it is no surprise that there are very few practical mainstream conversations about ways to navigate that time of the month.
Since the menstrual cup has been mentioned in the media recently, I decided to order one online and see what the fuss was all about. I chose OrganiCup because I liked their simple packaging and design, even though other brands like DivaCup, Silky Cup, Boondh Cup are also available. It’s quite unnerving to attempt this behaviour change, when we’ve been used to using pads and tampons — which are quick to use and dispose — all our lives. There were some interesting experiences that
marked my journey.
As soon as the cup arrived, it had to be boiled and sanitised, as the silicone cup is inserted into a sensitive part of the body. The brand suggests two types of folds to insert the cup, and after practising both, I decided which one I wanted to use.
I went to the bathroom, took a couple of deep breaths and squatted down on the floor to insert the cup. Yes, squatted, because that’s the most comfortable position even while using tampons. But, should you ever find yourself in a public restroom with little space and having to insert or remove the cup, you might want to practice other, more practical positions we well.
The other women
Thanks to my extensive internet research, I knew a lot about the challenges other women faced in switching to the cup. Unlike many, I was able to insert the cup without much difficulty by following the instructions. The faint sound of the suction being created confirmed that the vacuum seal was in place. It was easy peasy, and not at all messy.
I walked around a little bit to understand how it felt, and soon grew comfortable with the cup. It was almost like it didn’t exist. And I was worried that was really the case five hours later, when I checked on the cup and found it to be missing. But, thanks to the experiences of other women that I had read, I realised that the cup had moved up the vaginal canal — it wasn’t anything a little tug of the cup’s stem couldn’t set in place.
A slip of the cup
As if to make up for the easy insertion, the first removal turned out to be a tug-of-war that lasted 15 minutes. All the while I was squatting on the floor. The more I tugged, the more worked up I got, till I realised that this was only making me clench and causing the cup to remain lodged in. So I breathed out a few times and then changed position — I stood up and placed one foot on the tap, much like a menacing movie villain. Decidedly menaced, the cup quickly popped out. But, since it was so quick, I didn’t have a proper hold on the cup; the blood spilled out on the bathroom floor.
A bloody affair
There was no question of applying the five-second rule here. So, for a whole minute, I just looked from the now empty cup in my hand to the floor and back to the cup, trying to figure out what to do next. First, I washed the cup, and then cleaned the floor, and then I washed the cup once more, before squatting down to insert it again. Then, I went to bed, and had the most comfortable period sleep ever, without the worry of any leakage.
Once I got used to inserting and removing the cup, I experienced a lovely sense of freedom. I’ve only used the cup for a month now, but in the five days my period lasted, I was on a 10-hour road trip, got fully drenched in the rain, and had to use quite a few public bathrooms. By far, of all the menstrual care products that I’ve used, the menstrual cup has turned out to be the best option and I know that I’m never going to turn back to pads or tampons, ever again.
A period of change
Switching to the cup requires an open mind. It’s common to worry about a foreign object that’s lodged in your body, and even get disgusted at the thought of getting blood on your hands. But, for me, the menstrual cup was a way to get closer to my body. There is nothing disgusting about period blood; if we can’t deal with what’s inside our own bodies, then the world will continue staying far behind in the conversation about periods and menstrual hygiene.
If you’re considering giving the cup a try, you’d be doing yourself and the environment a huge favour. It’s been estimated by Women’s Environmental Network that every woman gets rid of 11,000 disposable menstrual products in her life. These products take centuries to decompose. On the other hand, one menstrual cup can be used for up to 10years, making it a better alternative. One cup costs between `400 — `750, as compared to a bag of sanitary napkins which is priced at around `250. They might be a costlier investment up front, but in the long run, they are more cost-effective and safe.
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