I recently completed my 8th cycle on my Boondh Cup and I’m extremely happy with how hassle-free it makes the process of being “on the rag”. I had a lot of doubts at the beginning of my journey with the Menstrual Cup and getting accustomed to it cycle after cycle I can say that I’ve reached a stage where I can use it without blinking an eye. With my sister who’s been recently cupverted, there’s no better time to pen down this article. But take my word for it, you don’t have to worry so much with the insignificant details like some other articles on the internet will have you believe. If you understand your body and the process of menstruation quite well, you’ll easily understand how a menstrual cup works. Nonetheless, I’m going to share a bit of what I know about the elusive menstrual cup and make the process a tad bit easier for you curious souls, and hence let’s get into this post!
Note: You can get your Boondh cup here. You can also look at other options (including the Boondh cup) on Amazon. Happy cupverting 🙂
Life before “The Menstrual Cup”
Imagine changing sanitary pads every 3 hours on days with heavy flow and about every 6 hours on days with light flow. And to make matters worse, face unwanted obstacles like rashes, the smell of period blood, stains, some foreign object rubbing against your crotch and infections creeping in from time to time. Life as a female shouldn’t be as penalising and as complicated just because we are who we are, just because nature created me as the female of the species, now should it?
But it’s not like I made the switch directly from Sanitary Pads to a menstrual cup. I stopped using Pads approximately 3 years ago and used tampons till I made the switch to a Menstrual Cup late last year. It definitely didn’t seem worth it and Menstrual Cups for the Win!
Wondering what a Menstrual Cup is?
A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product that’s inserted into your vaginal opening when you’re menstruating. It’s basically a bell/funnel shaped cup with a stem or bub at the bottom, made most often out of medical-grade silicone. The stem is provided for grip during insertion and removal. The bell-shaped cup seals itself to the vaginal walls below the cervix, creating a vacuum. It stays put in a sensationless area of your vagina, collecting your blood, while you go about your day unhindered by its presence and unrestricted movement during the shark week!
So, how do you use one?
First thing’s first, Sterilise it!
There are various methods of sterilising your cup and you could use either one of it according to your convenience.
Boiling: You boil water to remove impurities from it, right? Same principles apply here. Boiling a cup before and after is of utmost importance as it sterilises the cup, ridding it of any unwanted microbes or substances that might harm or cause infection and keep your vagina happy 🙂
You put your menstrual cup in just enough water required to completely submerge it and boil it for around 10 minutes, that’s all! This is the most common method to sterilise your cup and I use this method to sterilise it (which basically doesn’t require you to spend a single penny).
Another alternative to boiling it on a stove or firewood is to put it in a microwave safe container and microwave it for 5 minutes.
Chlorine Tablets: We all know about the usage of chlorine to purify water and it can sterilise your menstrual cup in the exact same process. And this method is known to remove the bacteria that causes TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), though there is no reported case of TSS associated with the usage of menstrual cup.
You don’t need a whole tablet for this, just a quarter or less should do. You keep your menstrual cup submerged in the water for a minimum of 15 minutes, and done! You can also keep it for 24 hours with no consequences but the work is done in about a quarter of an hour. You can get Sterilising Tablets here.
If you’re out and about aka. Travelling, you can carry a metal mug just like I do and sterilise in it. Though I haven’t found a problem with boiling my menstrual cup while travelling; if circumstances don’t allow you to boil it, or you’re too squeamish about it you can use something like Lunette Cup wipes.
Inserting the Cup
Inserting the cup is quite easy, though it might prove to be time-consuming in the first 2 months. I took a good 15 minutes the first time. But I also used tampons and I’m very familiar with my body so the shift didn’t feel completely alien. You fold it to make the opening as small as possible for it to enter your vagina and insert it just enough so that the whole cup is inside you and not protruding out. There are various types of folds – I started out with a punch down fold in my initial days as my body was not used to the menstrual cup yet but over time I have begun to use the C – fold and find it the most comfortable now.
After insertion, the cup with open and its edges will seal around your vaginal walls creating a vacuum. While the cup opens inside you will hear a faint pop sound (but I have come to realise that it’s more of “feel” the pop) which is the cup popping open. You have to make sure it’s sealed correctly and there are no air bubbles present. I twist it a bit, bear down or move around to make sure it’s inserted properly. And then go about your day just like any other day- minus the discomfort. In fact, it doesn’t even feel like your chumming. Sounds nice, doesn’t it!
Removing and Reinsertion
You’ll need to empty it from time to time depending on your flow. On the first two days, when I have heavy flow; I empty it every 4 – 6 hours (this time frame depends on your flow) and on other days when my flow is relatively less I empty it every 12 hours.
So how do you do it? When you feel that your cup is probably full, you push your cup a bit with your vaginal muscles and reach inside to feel the bob/ stem that is at the end of your menstrual cup. Pinch the bottom part a bit, just enough to break the vacuum and not spilling the blood and pull it out and empty it. I use an anti-bacterial mild soap to clean it with fresh water. And don’t forget to wash your hands before and after you remove or insert the menstrual cup to maintain hygiene down there!
Here’s a really helpful video to guide you through the process:
Why switch to a menstrual cup?
Apart from making periods comfortable and the whole process easy – peasy; which means no spotting, no smell, no rashes, no risk of infections, no changing it ever so often – I think menstrual cups are a boon to the “Womankind”. A menstrual cup is a product that collects blood in liquid state as opposed to absorbing it and storing it in a semi coagulated state. And since it seals along the vaginal walls creating a vacuum, it implies that it doesn’t turn into a breeding ground for bacteria or foster any microbes and since the blood doesn’t come in contact with air and oxidises, it doesn’t produce the distinct smell we have come to associate with our periods.
Being the person who tries to follow a zero-waste lifestyle, I also wanted to reduce my impact to a great degree. Sanitary waste disposal is a huge problem in India – if not “the world”. Just consider how much sanitary waste we’d generate or how much we’d spend in a lifetime if we’d use reusable products all our menstruating age. We don’t really have to turn a normal monthly bodily function into such an expensive affair now, do we? An average girl starts menstruating at the age of 11 and this goes on till you’re 50 – that’s basically our whole lives yeah? But I’m just going to leave you with some facts to think for yourself about this issue.
- Of the 586 million women in India, at least 355 million women bleed every month.
- ~80% of women in urban India and ~50% of women in rural India use disposable sanitary napkins.
- A menstruator who uses 6 sanitary pads a day, 4 days a month for 30 years (ages 15 to 45), would use ~6000 sanitary napkins. On usage and disposal, that would generate 120kg+ of bio-medical, solid waste per person.
- Bangalore, the city I live in, with 17 lakh menstruating women, generates 19.2 tonnes of menstrual waste every day i.e. 33,0000 tonnes a year.
Let’s bust some myths about menstrual cups and menstruation now shall we?
Do you think emptying period blood and cleaning your menstrual cup is gross? Well, picture some stranger picking up your used sanitary pads and tampons and segregating them. Not so gross now, isn’t it? It also eliminates the risk of animals being exposed to bio-medical waste. I think you’re doing a kindness on the person who would end up picking “your trash” by preserving the dignity and well being of the community.
And menstrual blood is not your normal blood, and there’s hardly anything eek about it. It’s extremely nutrient rich and contains mucus and tissue in it. This is the same blood that is used to nourish a fetus during pregnancy, it’s just the uterine line shedding unused blood and unfertilised egg and it is in no way “unwanted”.
Also Read: Feeling 22: Birthdays, Learning and Goals
Lately, I have come across girls who also have doubts about peeing or pooping while using a menstrual cup, which honestly is a laughing matter for me. For this, I’d just say know your body better and you should have paid some attention during your biology lessons.
And don’t be sceptical about using it if you’re a virgin. First, absence of a hymen doesn’t necessarily imply that you aren’t a virgin (a hymen can break in many other ways) and the hymen stays intact in most of the cases while you use it. Many girls around the ages 13 – 15 are perfectly comfortable using it, there’s no reason who you shouldn’t too.
What was it like using a Boondh cup?
I made a switch directly from tampons to a menstrual cup and my first cup was a Boondh cup. So, in the area of using different brands, I’ll have to say that I haven’t really a lot of experience. But I was very confused about which brand to pick and with a bit of help in resolving the dilemma by Sharanya Iyer from Truly Nomadly, who recommended Boondh cup to me; I went ahead and ordered one. Please note that I was completely open to the idea of trying out other brands but since my experience with Boondh cup has been so great, I didn’t have the need to do it. In fact, I got myself another one of their cups to act as a spare!
I finally ordered and got my Boondh cup, and I was elated to finally receive this sustainable magic. I was still 2 weeks away from my next period so, I decided to sterilise it and put it to test when the time comes. But funnily enough, I got my period right before I had a gig at The Humming Tree – and I got to work in its washroom; it was quite a while before I figured which fold would work for me (which at that point happened to be the Punch down fold), every single article I’d read kept referring to the pop sound which signified the opening of the cup, that I unfortunately never heard. I wasted quite an amount of time to wait for the pop sound even though I’d managed to insert it properly. It was only later that I realised that it was a more of “feel the pop” rather than “hear the pop”. The whole process took me 15 minutes on my first go and I stepped out, killed it at my performance and came back late at home to notice no spotting at all! Since then, I’ve loved using it and the process just takes about a minute now, including all the washing emptying and inserting.
It’s one of my best companions while travelling
Having Aunt Flo come knocking unannounced while you’re a solo female traveller is far from a pleasant experience. My menstrual cup made travelling during that time of the month very comfortable and convenient. Life was – dips in the Ganges, getting drenched in the rain, going on strenuous hikes, experiencing snowfall etc., all while on my period! I’m sure I’d have never been able to completely immerse myself in life, with my period always in the back of my mind; the way I was able to on a menstrual cup. I think the most pleasant experience about it is the fact that it gives my mind the freedom to think and clears up space in your brain that had been occupied by this worry for close to a decade.
I never have to skip another workout!
People who know me in real life would remark about how enthusiastic I am about working out and physical and mental well-being. Since menstrual cup usage reduced my cramps up a bit and gave me the freedom to actually move like the rest of the days, I don’t have to skip exercising solely on account of my lady business. So that results in me being fitter, both physically and mentally as body releases endorphins which are good for your mental health when you engage in physical activity.
Did I manage to convince you to consider alternate options to Single-Use menstrual products? When are you planning to Cupvert? 😉