MENSTRUAL CUPS — A VIRGIN’S STORY BY SURUCHI PRABHU
There are many articles on the technicalities of using cups, the how’s why’s and what’s but hardly a few describing their actual journey to “cupverting”. I ever so often come across doubts, questions and fears among virgins about using a menstrual cup. So I thought this piece might help people relate in some way and inspire them to take the plunge. So here’s my story, A Virgin’s Story.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
I’ve been extensively researching online about menstrual cups ever since I got to know of their existence in October 2014.
I was absolutely fed up with the whole torture of periods. I’ve used sanitary napkins since I reached puberty at the age of 12 and it was utter harassment for me. (That was about 8 years of disposables then, and I’d still be grudgingly using them for 2 more years before finally finding a savior in the form of my first menstrual cup but more on that later). The constant chafing, the horrid odor, the all-consuming fear and possibility of staining while doing even the most mundane of tasks, had all really gotten to me. I hated periods, hated being a woman, abhorred the whole concept of menstruation and detested “The Creator” for bestowing this harrowing thing on us, even animals (yeah I was that frustrated!)
Now let me tell you, I have always had a very normal menstrual cycle: always on time, doesn’t last too long, no cramps as such; so I really shouldn’t be complaining so much considering the kind of problems/medical issues many menstruating women have. But managing the blood was such a nightmare that I googled “Hysterectomy” at an extremely young age.
I knew about tampons since my mom used them, but I had also read about Toxic Shock Syndrome so hadn’t considered that option. I came across plentitudes of articles stating how they are chemical-laden, absorb the vaginal fluids leading to dryness and what a pain it is to remove a dry tampon. Great! My quest for period sanity had come to a dead end, or so I thought.
Then I came across this word the best menstrual cup for the second time in an article, so I finally googled it.
All those articles glorifying menstrual cups in ways I couldn’t imagine. That one could actually forget being on my period. I could not find a single negative review or shortcoming of the magnificent menstrual cup price. I was enchanted! But then I found two not so glorious accounts of the cup: one was when it had got stuck and the lady had to go to an emergency room to get it removed and the other was about a lady who had forgotten it inside for almost a fortnight and how her body shot it out at the most inopportune time. That got me a bit worried, especially the first story. So I started frantically searching for more negatives about the menstrual cup. But that was it. So I relaxed.
I had read and re-read enormous amounts of literature online about how to use, maintain and troubleshoot problems with the cup. But I didn’t have the nerve to go ahead and buy one since no one in my close circle knew anything about it or even heard about it. It was a radical idea to my conventional self. It took me almost 10 months to gather the courage and confidence to decide to buy one. I checked on an online shopping portal and it cost Rs. 600 after the 40% discount. I was worried that if it did not work I would waste so much money (I think I may be a borderline miser). Anyhow, I discussed with my mom. She had never heard of it but she told me I could at least give it a try if I was so convinced. And so I placed the order in August 2015 and eagerly awaited the cup. I ordered the Silky Cup M for the following reasons:
- It seemed reasonably priced.
- It was made in India (unlike some other made in China options which were even cheaper but I was skeptical of them).
- Having the stem which could be trimmed as per my requirement seemed like a safe option.
- Also, there really weren’t many options back then.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE
I received the cup earlier than expected and I was all crazy with excitement! I opened the box and guess what, I was shocked with the size of the cup. My first reaction upon seeing a best menstrual cup in India face to face was like “Holy #%@$! How in the world is it supposed to go where it’s supposed to go?!” In spite of having compared all the dimensions with a scale before ordering, I couldn’t digest the size of it in my hand. So I just put it back in the box, in a corner of my cupboard and mentally chided myself for wasting the money. But when Aunt Flo appeared that month, I decided I might as well try it since it had been paid for.
That first time was a disaster to say the least. In spite of having read number of articles and tips for virgin beginners, I couldn’t get the cup to even go 1/3rd of the way in. And in my over-enthusiasm in making it work, I got myself sore. So I put it off till the next month. This drama went on for about three months after which I erroneously concluded that I wouldn’t be able to use cups until I lost my virginity (which didn’t seem like it was happening any time soon), so I pushed the cup in the back of my cupboard again and forgot about it. Now I knew cloth pads were an option but the whole washing thing seemed like a big deal to me and I couldn’t handle it so I grudgingly stuck to my disposables.
In August 2016, a year after I’d bought the cup, I was having a particularly bad period and was extremely sick and tired of chaffing. On the night of my 2nd day I had dinner and prepared my bed and was getting ready to sleep when suddenly on whim I decided to give the cup another try. And this time, it went in, like all the way in without much discomfort! I almost squealed in joy! I went to sleep peacefully that night, knowing that this finally has a chance of working out.
In the next few days and months I realized that the stem would stay out and hurt me so I snipped it off bit by bit until there was nothing left to cut anymore. Still the base would irritate me. This was around the same time I’d chanced upon this group called “Sustainable Menstruation India” on Facebook.
Everything was discussed in detail and it was a treasure-trove of information and tips. I spent endless hours reading through each post down till the last comment because I was hell-bent on making the cup work for me. So after reading about flipping cups inside out I gave that a shot and that was it, period bliss!
But then I realized that this did not solve the cup’s leaking issues. I tried different folds, angles everything but the leaking wouldn’t stop. So I started looking into buying another cup. I was worried that it might have the same issues and again won’t work so I obsessively went over the cup comparison chart on HygieneAndYou website. Then came the launch of Stonesoup Wings cup. It was stemless, the dimensions seemed to be perfect for me plus it had a much higher capacity compared to the MeLuna shorty range which I was considering. Also, it was way more affordable too. So again, a lot of overthinking later, I placed an order for the Stonesoup Wings Green cup in Feb 2017.
GOLDILOCKS FINDS HER BED
The cup arrived pretty soon just in time for my period. It seemed quite tiny compared to my old one but considering all the calculations I’d done, I just knew this was going to be it! Yes, the first two months were a slight learning curve, since the cup had no stem. So the removal was a little different than regular cups, but it was just a matter of technique. I figured it out soon enough and I have never looked back again. I had found my goldilocks cup! In fact I started looking forward to my period so I could make it an even better experience each time. I realized how much time I had been wasting, dreading my periods earlier. My life changed completely. I started looking at it for what it was, just a normal bodily function, no big deal. And for the first time in my life I experienced body positivity. And all this in spite of being a virgin!
In this euphoric state of body positivity I decided to do something for my body. I was the sort of person that hated any kind of physical activity which was in fact really doing more harm to my body. So I joined a gym. A major reason of not joining a gym earlier had been what about when I’m on my period? But that was not an issue anymore thanks to my cup! I don’t have to miss a single day thanks to my cup. In fact I’ve realized that workouts during my period are much more satisfying than other days. So getting the cup has touched my life in more ways than I can begin to comprehend. (I know all this might sound totally utopian and overdramatic but I swear this is exactly how it changed my life!)
I wanted everyone to experience the freedom of a cup so I introduced my friends and cousins to the concept. But even though they showed interest I couldn’t get them to actually take the plunge. However, surprisingly, my mom turned around and told me to buy one for her! I got her to measure her cervix and got a cup for her too. She instantly took to it and I couldn’t be any happier! We now have a sanitary-trash free house!
Another advantage of the cup, you can travel the world trash and worry free! I work for our family business in corrugated box manufacturing and had an opportunity to attend SinoCorrugated 2017 exhibition regarding the corrugation & packaging industry in Shanghai, China. When we flew out, I was on my periods. On the flight journey, I was pretty nervous about being able to manage. The flight was some 6hrs and then 3hrs with a layover of 3hrs in between. Even though I trusted the cup, I hadn’t yet tested the limits of the cup since this trip was before I started gymming. But the travel went as smoothly as it could ever go. Since my heaviest days were done I had to only check on the cup twice a day and I could go on with my day as if I wasn’t on my period. Imagine the freedom of not worrying to change or dispose pads and clean up in public toilets! It gave me a new sense of freedom!
The exhibition was huge. We walked about 7–8km everyday from 9am to 5pm to explore the various stalls. And my periods were an absolute non-issue thanks to the cup.
AND IT’S MY CUPVERSARY!
Now it’s been a year since I’ve been using a menstrual cup and I think I’ve pretty much become a pro at it (I don’t intend to brag, or maybe I do! LOL) but the point is, since I’ve tried a lot of things to make it work I can now help others troubleshoot their problems and make their transition easy. I don’t want another person to waste all the time that I wasted in finally cupverting.
A SMALL PIECE OF ADVICE
I see so many people asking questions like “am I doing it right?”, “is this the way it’s supposed to be done?”, “the instructions state this but I am not able to do it so is this not for me?” or something like that. To all those filled with such questions — There is NO right or wrong way to do it. You gotta do what works for your body. Everyone is unique so what works for one may not work for another. So try out various tips but listen to your body in the end. You’ll figure it out. Just be patient and open to suggestions. I believe if I can do it, then anyone can do it.
If you’re still reading till here thanks a lot! This is my first attempt at writing an article since school. I hope it was fun to read and that it made you to at least consider trying the menstrual cup. Sorry for the long post. Good luck!