(No one's made a 12 Prop Ideas For Photographing Your Menstrual Cup post yet, so I had to improvise and this seemed thematically relevant. Looking back, I could have probably just used tampons and pads...)
I've got to say, I've been holding my TMI self back on this blog. As someone who went to an all girls school and is currently studying medicine, I'm possibly the most TMI person I know and am quite comfortable with talking about periods and related anatomy very very loudly in public. In the past year, this has involved preaching about my discovery of menstrual cups, and since I've converted two of my friends, I thought I'd bring it onto the blog.
Basically, menstrual cups are another option for things you put inside your vagina during your period to catch blood and other uterine gunk. (It's in the middle in the photo if you hadn't realised). You fold it to insert, and it opens up to sit above your pelvic floor (you don't feel it there). You empty and reinsert as needed depending on your flow, but you can have it in safely for up to 12 hours. They're made of medical grade silicone and reusable - just wash once a day when you're menstruating and sterilise when you're done for the month. I've used mine for ten periods now, according to my period app. Apparently they can last for years if you take care of them properly.
I'd heard about menstrual cups a few years ago and thought they were a bit ick; but because last year I was looking at a trip which involved camping, I decided to give it a go for the convenience factor of being able to have it in without needing to change for so long. Other advantages are that even though the initial cost ($50 here in Australia) is high, you save money over time since it's reusable; it also reduces landfill (although I don't like the angle of guilt tripping about the environmental aspects of menstrual products - getting periods is not our choice and for some of us it's already hard to find products that work with our bodies and lifestyles).
I won't go into the finer points of usage because there is a lot of Google-able information out there (I've linked some below) and everyone's bodies are different so what works for me might not for you. I found it easier than expected to insert; taking it out and emptying was a bit of a challenge in the beginning (if you go over my bathroom with a UV lamp it would light up like a murder scene). Taking it travelling was great, I just brought along some alcohol wipes for situations where I didn't trust the water. I've found that on my first and maybe second day, I would need to empty it after about six hours because it would leak. The next couple of days I'm able to have it in all day. I don't have to keep so many pads and tampons stocked anymore, and although I still wear a liner with it just in case, I only need one per day. But the greatest thing about it is being able to wear it at night with no leaks at any point. I used to use night pads while I slept for fear of toxic shock with tampons, and would always get "buttleak". You know, when you're wearing a pad and lying on your back and the blood tracks down your butt to leak out and stain the back of your underwear? Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about! So, if for nothing else, I would recommend the cup for buttleak prevention.
I have a Lunette cup, which is from Finland (link is to the Australian site). Juju cups are made in Australia, but I'd read that the silicone is harder to get a grip on for beginners. There are loads out there, and all the brands have different sizes and materials and such, so you can choose the one that sounds the best option.
For more info
- Most of the company sites, e.g. Lunette, Juju, Mooncup (UK), Diva Cup (US/Canada) (to name a few) have comprehensive FAQs and guides,
- The Menstrual Cups community on Livejournal is really useful.
- Size comparison of a range of cups if you want to get really detail-oriented.
- Precious Stars Pads on YouTube does a lot of helpful videos, e.g. How to choose your first menstrual cup.