By Jessica Fletcher
I remember the day I got my first period. I was on the cusp of turning 14, and fortunately I was at home, in the bathroom, getting ready to go to bed. I had finished taking a shower, brushing my teeth, when suddenly I apparently and abruptly lost control of my bladder. I felt the warm trickle of telltale moisture make its way dow-… oh, no! I heard about this shit. It had already happened to most of my friends and I was hoping to be one of the lucky ones who wouldn’t catch it until I was much older. Like 15. No such luck. It was here, and it was hitting me hard. Also luckily for me, I had two older sisters who’d already been through this and I knew what they used. I rummaged under the sink for that box of cumbersome pads. I removed one from its neon green, crunchy plastic wrapper and applied it to the inside of my granny panties — the only acceptable type of underwear allowed by my mother for my sisters and myself. I told my mom what happened and she just laughed. She has a good sense of humor, and having gone through this with two daughters already, she didn’t make it seem like a big deal. She refused to buy me tampons and said I’d have to wait to use those until I’m older because those kill people if you forget about them, and they also might turn you into a slut. I was shocked that anyone could forget a wad of painful dry cotton up there.
When I turned 16 and being in enough activities, like track and cheerleading, I decided to try a more discreet way of enduring this curse and invested in my first box of tampons — sluttiness be damned. I bought the smallest size possible. The upside was that these did not hurt nearly as much to use. The down side was that I leaked like a sieve and had to use a huge bulky pad anyway, as back up. There wasn’t that much time between classes, and basketball games were hours long and sometimes we had to travel a long way for them. I needed something bigger. Something that could handle all the intensity that was my womanhood. I finally worked up enough courage to use regular sized tampons with a medium pad. This seemed to be the best solution. At least, the medium sized pad didn’t create the illusion of carrying a torpedo sized turd in my undercarriage, and the regular sized tampon allowed me a few more hours of freedom.
Of course, I had long harbored unfavorable opinions about the usage of these pads and tampons. However, I dealt with them because it was all part of being female, right? First of all, I didn’t understand the need for the gaudy colors. No excitement there. I knew what I was opening up, and it wasn’t a package of happiness, for crying out loud. And also, could the wrappers be any louder? Try opening one of those in the high school bathrooms without announcing to the world that you’re on your period. The crackling positively reverberated off the cement floors and tile walls. Who needs acoustics like that… in a bathroom? It’s like discretely opening a bag of Doritos in a movie theater.
Fast forward to when I had my first child, and was traumatically introduced to a period from the seventh layer of hell. The period that stayed with me for weeks. The clots, the cramping, the endless leakage. The special underwear from the hospital that I stole extras of. How I mourned those when I had used up the last of them. I continued to steal chux pads from the clinic for my follow up appointments. Four months later, I finally stopped bleeding so heavily. I down graded from hospital issued postpartum pads, to a store-brand overnight pad for usage during the day, and nothing but super-plus absorbent tampons from here on out. I didn’t think my periods were anything to be concerned about. They came every 21 days, and lasted for 7-9 days. I could set a clock by them. Now I wished I would have changed the way I ate and started exercising regularly years ago. A lot of how your flow behaves relies on hormones. Hormones influenced by your activity level and what you’re eating. If you’re eating fast food constantly and binge-watching anything, you might have a lot more cramping and discomfort associated with the monthly treat. In the last few years that I made my lifestyle changes, and especially since I had my tubal ligation, my periods have become more sporadic and lighter overall.
I thought I was now in the clear and eagerly awaiting the next change. Or the removal of my uterus. I wasn’t picky. Then one day, one of my friends told me she was going to try something called a menstrual cup. I nearly gagged. Much like how a man might gag if he reads this post…unless he’s a gynecologist or something. Anyway, I digress. My friend Phyllis tried this thing called a Diva Cup (menstrual cup) and she instantly loved it. After listening to her gush (pun intended) about this curious object, I decided to look into myself.
The cup itself is made of silicone, and it appears to be rather larger than
necessary. How was I going to get it in THERE? How was it going to stay? How do I clean it out if I don’t have access to a sink to cleanse it of its sin immediately? How much can it hold until it leaks? Does it leak? Can I wear it while I’m exercising? Can I wear it while I’m sleeping? The answers were mostly provided on Diva Cup’s website, in the package inserts, and via other users. The cup folds in on itself, and is inserted just like a tampon. It unfolds on its own while it’s inside you, and is held in place by the muscles. I would say this particular device is most easily adapted to if you’ve had children, or if you’ve used a contraceptive that you’ve had to apply to your cervix before. Since I’ve had a history of both, I have a good relationship with my lady parts, and strategic placement of this cup is usually uneventful and quite simple. Placement is key with this cup. If you happen to insert it too high, you get the Exxon Valdez. If you place it too low, you get the British Petroleum incident. Read: Huge leaks like you’ve decided to pull a period-shaming protest during a marathon. Did you hear about that? That’s the lady who ran a marathon while on her period, and just let it flow, because… period shaming is a thing, I guess. She wore nothing, and ran 26.2 miles to make people think women don’t care about biohazards, probably. I can’t think of a single thing she accomplished by doing that besides ruining perfectly good running pants and shoes. Once you have your placement figured out, all you need is that cup, here on out. No back up pads. No tampons. Nothing but that cup. I am so grateful that I tried it. I absolutely love that cup. For 5/7 days, I have my period, but I mostly forget that I’m bleeding, until I use the bathroom. Then the cup goes back in, and my blissful, bulk-free, pad-free, tampon-free existence continues.
Now, it did take me some practice to get to this point. I know my body well enough to realize I can’t get away with this pad-free nonsense on the first two days, because while my period is nowhere near as deliberate and unrelenting as it used to be, it’s still pretty damn metal. For example, my friend confessed to me that she only has to take out her cup and dump it out once a day while she’s using it. I must empty mine at least 6-7 times a day on Day 1 and Day 2. Day 3 is markedly less intense and I then also only dump it once a day. The cup can handle 10 ml of girly goo in there before it reaches Titanic-level crisis. Yeah, my flow is metal. Heavy metal. The normal amount of flow for a woman per day is between 5-10 ml. That sounds like a lot, but it’s only one to two teaspoons. The cup is not without its drawbacks. If you have to defecate, and in doing so use your pelvic muscles to push at all, the cup does respond to this pressure and will evacuate also. However, as tampon using females are aware, this happens also with the tampons. The difference being that you can just wash out the cup and wash off the extra bacteria. The tampon just gets thrown away because, if you get that business on a tampon and reinsert it, you are asking for trouble. So really, the cup beats out tampons and pads for managing periods. It’s cleaner, easier on the environment, and they last for years. This saves you money on buying endless stocks of pads and tampons and cutting coupons for deals on the good kinds. I still have some of those pads, but I keep them for guests and the occasional reinforcements. I now buy them a few times a year, instead of buying them every month to replenish my supply. Washing them out in public restrooms can be tricky if you’re not in the habit of carrying flushable wipes in your purse. Even though you can use toilet paper to accomplish the same thing, I prefer the pre-moistened wipes to reduce the risk of tearing the toilet paper and leaving small bits of it on the cup. You wash this cup with mild soap every day at some point, and it stores in an adorably discreet little cloth bag. It is so simple, and so easy, and I wish I would have learned about this in the girls’ health class back in 6th grade we all were subjected to.
So, if you’ve made it to the end of this without gagging, I congratulate you, and I urge you to purchase or consider purchasing this incredibly convenient device and make that time of the month a little less uncomfortable. I don’t get paid by anyone to recommend them or advertise for them. I just love the product and what it does that much. I hope this helps anyone who is looking for an alternative to what we all are used to. Keep calm, and bleed on, ladies.*
*Unless you don’t have a uterus. If you don’t have a uterus and you’re bleeding from down there, get to an OB-GYN as soon as possible.
Jessica Fletcher is a guest writer for Mommy Perfect.
(This NOT a paid advertisement. I am not paid by Diva Cup, or anybody else, to promote this product. I simply like it and think my readers will too. You can purchase a Diva Cup by follow this link or use the store finder for a location near you. For more information about The Diva Cup please visit their website. Disclaimer: this article does contain affiliate links.)