Rookie Review: Mooncup
I don’t know if you’ve already figured this out about me, but a big part of my identity is wrapped up in doing something and then yapping on endlessly about my experience to anyone who will listen. I secretly admire the people who can do things without saying anything about the things they just did. These people know how to conserve their energy. And are probably getting loads of shit done in the time I spend running my mouth at warp speed.
Anyway, I am me. So, can you guess what I’d gone and done now?
Enter: The Mooncup
WHAT IS IT?
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a menstrual cup, it is a form of period protection that you insert into your vagina, in place of the more widely used tampon or pad, to collect period blood. It is just a little smaller than a shot glass, but shaped like a tiny plunger. You are advised to remove it every 4-8 hours, empty its contents, rinse or wipe it, and then it’s ready to be reinserted.
The Mooncup (a brand of menstrual cup) comes in two rather counter-intuitive sizes:
Size A is the bigger size (46 mm in diameter, 50 mm in length), designed for ladies such as myself, who have either pushed a spawn out of their vag or are old (i.e. over 30), because apparently the vag slackens slightly at that age.
Size B (43 mm in diameter, 50 mm in length) is for youthful nymphs under 30 with silky tresses who have never given birth.
They are made of a non-porous silicone, which means you can remain loyal to the one cup and reuse it safely and hygienically for years to come. My cousin Emma who swears by the Mooncup gave mine to me. But I did a quick Google and found they tend to cost between $30 and $65 – which may seem steep at first. However, if you do the sums, a box of pads or tampons is around $5 a pop, so if you’re in it for the long haul, it’s a bloody good investment.
Given what I know about waste and plastic pollution, and the fact that I'd intended to use cloth diapers with Poppy but did not (for the sake of my own sanity) … Oh, and the fact that I built this hobby-turned-venture-turned-hobby on values that ‘truly serve people, their communities, and the planet,’ I felt a responsibility to at least give it a try.
Sticking a menstrual cup up your vagina can put you at risk of developing toxic shock syndrome – a rare but potentially life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. Classically, this syndrome is thought to occur in menstruating women – with those using high-absorbency tampons at greater risk – but it can also affect men, children, and postmenopausal women.
Truth be told, it took me a little longer than you’d have expected to jump on the menstrual cup bandwagon. Around the time it started really going mainstream around here, I’d just become pregnant. And when I eventually began surfing the crimson wave again 9 months post-partum, I was hesitant to fossick around the meaty folds of my innermost femininity. A kind of irrational fear of my own vagina had developed in me after childbirth and I hadn’t plucked up the courage to look it in the eye since.
Unfortunately, my periods postpartum were noticeably different. They were heavier than before. I was also sweatier than before. And lemme tell ya, that’s not a good combo to have down there. As a woman who has been encultured to be uncomfortable most of the time, I ignored my discomfort and stuck to using pads the first few cycles that my period returned. At times, feeling resentful that more hadn’t been done to try to make this element of a girl or woman’s life better. Then I remembered the Mooncup.
INSERTING A MOONCUP
Inserting a menstrual cup is no mean feat. Real talk: it’s larger than a tampon, but (hopefully ;P ) smaller than a dick. It’s doable, but daunting.
The best thing to do before putting it up your vag, is to practise outside of your vag. You’re advised to fold it like a taco, then – for want of a better word – you just kind of shove it up, and then let it pop open. It’s good to visualize and go through the motions externally so you know what to expect internally.
After hyping myself up by recalling how Poppy (33.5 cm head circumference) had gone through that same path, I stepped into the shower area with chalice in hand and I lowered myself into a sumo squat. Some fiddling later, I finally found the hole. I felt like a 14-year-old period newbie again, taking deep breaths and contorting into strange positions to relax my muscles and open up comfortably. I’m no stranger to gore but by this point, I had blood all over my fingers and started to feel a bit squeamish.
Before I knew it, 20 minutes had gone by and zero progress had been made. I had to go nurse the baby so quickly washed my hands, lay on my back in bed and got Scott to insert the cup instead.
I initially felt a little defeated, but quickly decided to think of it as me doing my own bit of period activism to break the taboo – starting with giving my man an education on what really happens down there during a period. One small step towards the sun in the often-archaic world of women’s health, I thought.
WEARING A MOONCUP
Once it’s in correctly, it’s quite easy to forget that you actually have a cup inside of you as there is no discomfort.
The cup from Emma was a Size B and I fretted over whether it would fall out each time I had to squat to lift Poppy up. “Size A is 3 mm bigger than Size B – a small difference but it is important!” stated the Mooncup website. Turns out I’m still a saucy lil minx after all and the Size B cup worked just fine. The cup kind of moulds to you and creates a suction to prevent leakage.
Full disclosure, my cup did runneth over the first few days I used it. Not because there was more liquid than it could hold, but because it takes time and practice – and tolerance – to find that sweet spot for the cup to sit.
REMOVING A MOONCUP
To empty the cup, you just pull it out by its ridged stem, tip its contents out into the toilet, and clean your cup in the sink. Sounds simple enough, but this is the part that nearly broke me.
Getting a firm grasp on something about the size, shape, and slipperiness of a peeled hard-boiled egg, which was now lodged in the folds of my blood-engorged tissues, was a lot harder than I’d anticipated. Also, my own fingernails were starting to really hurt me, so I took another small step towards the sun for womankind and set Scott to work.
Life hack: make your husband watch the entire birthing process so that he appreciates the kind of goddess you truly are. And also, so that he’ll forever be in your debt and have to help you with any task.
ACTUALLY INSERTING AND REMOVING A MOONCUP
I sat in the bedroom listening to Justine huffing and puffing for a long time as she struggled to get the cup in. "Do you want me to help?" I offered every couple of minutes, but on she struggled until finally fatigued. I have some experiences around that part of the woods, so was able to judge the angle, depth and level of firmness needed to get the cup in. The whole thing took me less than half a minute. Justine looked genuinely annoyed but also impressed. – a husband's perspective.
Despite having a partner who is willing to roll up his sleeves and pitch in for the cause, I knew I had to learn how to get it done by myself eventually. And all I can say is that it was like stuffing an oddly-warm raw turkey.
The reality is, I really wanted to love the Mooncup. And so, I did. No way was I going back to running after Poppy with a squishy, foul-smelling sponge rubbing against my lady bits. (The chafing!!!) Emma reassured me that I would get used to the cup – and even grow to prefer using it. And well, she was right. Now, I can’t imagine using anything but the Mooncup.
If you’re considering giving the cup a chance, I say go for it! Give yourself and the cup a couple of cycles to get into the groove of things because once you get the hang of it, you’re set for life. It’s like riding a bike.
MORE REASONS TO GET BEHIND THE CUP
Good for you and your hoohoo
Most cups are actually made of medical-grade silicone, and are generally BPA-, latex-, and phthalate-free, they don’t soak up any of your vagina’s natural juices or leave any fibres behind – making them better for your vagina compared to most disposable options that dominate the marketplace. HOOYAH!
Life with the cup is more convenient than before. I go about the day in an easier, less stressful way – no more rushing to the bathroom or worrying about sweaty activities. I’ve used my cup on heavy days and light, throughout the duration of my period. I now even pee and can – but prefer not to – poo with it in. What a rock star. Oh, and the freedom to lay in bed in any position!
Perhaps one of the more unexpected but noteworthy benefits of using the cup is becoming more conscious and connected to my body. The cup requires you to get up-close-and-personal with your delicate rose of delight, thereby getting comfortable – confident, even – exploring your own anatomy.
The cup also gives you a clearer picture into your flow. Up until then, I’d only ever experienced my period blood watered down in the toilet bowl, or else absorbed into a sanitary napkin. Seeing a pure, unadulterated collection of my menstrual blood (the clots!) was riveting (gaggggg). It also helped me realize that I haven’t been gushing as much as I had previously thought.
Unfortunately, menstruation is still seen as something that’s disgusting, even though it is the very thing that gives life to us all. It’s so baked into our society that I actually asked Emma if she had set aside a particular pot for boiling her Mooncup. She laughed a big laugh and asked, “what’s the difference between my blood and chicken blood?” It’s a rich question.
There are so many women who still hide tampons under their sleeves, miss out on fun activities due to their periods, and find it difficult to discuss menstruation without expressing some awkwardness or shame. The Mooncup has certainly helped me speak more openly about my experience painting the town red each month.
On balance, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for women regarding period management. In the end, it’s all a matter of personal choice. Thankfully for us, there are loads of alternative products now available. From biodegradable tampons you can compost at home, like the those from TOTM, to washable, reusable knickers that absorb your period from brands like Thinx and BONDS. Or better yet, bleed freely the way Kiran Gandhi did during the 2015 London Marathon.
You do you, gurl! Besides, every woman is doing it all wrong, all the fucking time anyway.