After Cycle Two, when there was much talk in the comments thread about the Diva Cup, I resolved to give “menstrual cups” the old college try. For the uninitiated, a menstrual cup–like The Keeper, Diva Cup and Lunette–is a pliable cup made of latex or silcone that sits in your vagina and collects your menstrual blood. You remove the cup a couple times a day, dump the blood, wash with soap, and re-insert. One cup lasts up to 10 years, so it’s very eco-friendly. No more trees being sacrificed for your period! And there’s no leaking, so you can say goodbye to the infamous period stains.
I bought a Diva Cup last month from my local health-food store and kept it on standby until the time came (you can also buy them from Drugstore.com or go to the Diva Cup website and find out which store near you carries them). Now I’m ready to report on the results. Included are excerpts from conversations I had with Harpyness’s resident Diva Cup advisor, PhDork, who was an invaluable source of advice during the process. I e-mailed her to say “Mine’s in! Let’s post about it!” and she wrote back “I’m using my presently, too! Harpy Hormones, activate!”
Warning: The ‘Dork and I are about to get really graphic, so if you’re squeamish–or one of my brothers or my dad–you should go here instead for some laffs while we women take care of business.
The basic concept of the Diva Cup is fairly straighforward. It comes in two sizes. Size One is for women who are under thirty and have never had a baby. Size Two is for women over thirty, or those who’ve had children. I qualify for the Size Two. Yes, just one more opportunity for me to worry about my size/shape/firmness.
BeckySharper: Apparently our vaginal muscles get all saggy after 30.
PhDork: Yep, you hit 30 and your bits just go all lax and gross. No one will ever love you again, et cetera et cetera.
BeckySharper: And I haven’t even had children yet! It’s all downhill for my poor vagina…a few more years and a couple of babies and soon it will be whistling Dixie as I walk down the street.
Despite my loosey-goosey 33 year old vadge, the size of the cup still gave me pause when I took it out of the box. It’s about the size of a shot glass.
BeckySharper: It’s…uh..bigger than I thought it would be. You really can’t feel it when it’s up in there?PhDork: Once it’s in, no. Getting it in the first few times is a change, if you’re used to tampons. It looks more formidable than it is. I was totally sold on it by Day 3.
PhDork’s Diva Cup Tips:
1) Practice folding it before you need to use it–they talk about the C-fold, but there’s another one they show on-line that looks more like an arrow.2) Make sure it’s warm and super-pliable before you insert it (run it under hot water).
3) It helps if you’re not dry as a bone; a little lube isn’t bad to have on hand at first. Once you’re flow-y, it’s much easier.
Sure enough, once I got the cup nice and warm and pliable, it was fairly easy to fold it in half and push it up in my vagina. There’s a little stem at the bottom, but it’s not so that you can pull the cup out–more on removal in a minute–it’s so that you can give the folded cup a twirl so that it springs open from its folded shape. Once it’s open, it should feel kind of like an upside down bell. My first insertion attempts led to a phone call to PhDork where she coached me on how to tell if it had opened right. I held the cell phone in my left hand and used my right to scrabble around in my vagina to make sure I’d gotten it to open all the way. I had.
PhDork’s Diva Cup Tips, Part Deux:
If it doesn’t pop open once it’s in your vadge by twirling it around by the stem (and I’ve never had any issues of irritation or poke-y-ness w/ that), it will open and create it’s little suction-y vacuum seal once you start moving around/walking/doing normal life stuff, and the sensation is decidedly odd. Not like a cramp, but it feels deeply located in your body, and it can be surprising: whawazzat?
This also proved to be true. I found that if the twirling didn’t work, I could duck-walk around my living room for a few minutes until things shifted and it popped open. That does create an odd, painless, suction-y feeling, like getting a hickey up in your vagina.
Once the Cup’s in there, though, it does not go anywhere. My pelvic floor muscles hold it in place, and I really don’t feel it. The only time I was aware of it was when it dropped a little lower during the day and if I shifted around, I might feel the stem poke my labia. Then I’d just push it back up a bit. The stem actually hangs pretty low–you can feel it when you put your finger tip about half-a-knuckle into your vagina. That was odd to me because I was so used to having a tampon be way deep in my vagina where I’d have to get a couple knuckles deep to feel it. I trimmed the stem with a pair of nail scissors and that stopped the poking.
BeckySharper: When I, ahem, had a bowel movement, the cup feels like it’s shifting around because my pelvic muscles are moving.
PhDork: Totally right on about the poo-thing. Weird but true.
But despite that, it never comes out and nothing ever escapes. The beauty of Diva Cup is that there’s no leaking whatsoever. SRSLY. I wore it at night, first with a pantiliner just in case, and then realized I didn’t need any backup protection at all. No leaks. I ran a 5k with it in. Nothing. The only time you might get a little schmear is if you’ve just removed the cup and a little blood trickles down into your vagina before you put the cup back up in there. I found that a good wipe took care of the problem.
Removing the cup, though, takes a little getting used to. Unlike a tampon, which you just yank out with a string, with the Cup you have to reach up into your vagina and pinch the cup a little so that the suction breaks and it slides out. It can be a little tricky because the cup is bell-shaped and wet, so my fingers slid around on it until I got a finger on each side, gave it a hard pinch and pulled. Out it came.
BeckySharper: If you get woozy around blood, pulling a shot glass full of your own blood out of your vadge might be a little traumatic. (Esp. because the blood kind of congeals in the cup and gets all slimy. Okay, sorry, that was really gross). But I’m not squeamish and it’s weirdly fascinating to see how much blood I’m actually producing.
PhDork: Yeah, it takes some getting used to. If the blood thing is an issue, you might consider the Keeper, as it is reddish-orange and blood in that might be less shocking than the clear-ish DC. It’s made of latex rubber, though, and was out for me because I have latex sensitivity.
The good thing, though, is that unlike a tampon, which can feel abrasive and ouchy if it’s a little dry, the Cup just slides out. You don’t get all dried out the way you can with tampons. This bodes well for period sex, if you’re into that.
I’m a relatively light bleeder except for one or two days in my cycle, when my cycle is about medium. Even on my heavier days, I only had to empty the cup twice. PhDork reports that she only empties hers every twelve hours too. Having to attend to it only twice a day is so convenient, especially if you’re traveling or busy or just get a good night’s sleep. I couldn’t change it in the ladies’ room at the office, but I didn’t have to–I could put it in when I left home and change it when I got home.
After you’re done with your period, you just boil the Diva Cup in the microwave or on the stovetop to sterilize (it’s made of heat-resistant silicone, like those silicone baking pans. I suppose if you wanted you could bake a really tiny bundt cake in it). Then you pop it into its little carry bag and put it away until next month.
To sum up: the Diva Cup rocks. There’s a learning curve, and I think it might be tougher to use if you’re young or for whatever reason not used to rooting around in your vagina. It does require you to be very comfortable putting a few fingers in there. But if you’ve felt awkward with that in the past, well, this may be a good way for you to get comfy with it. At any rate, I’m sold. I have a mostly full box of tampons in my medicine cabinet that I kind of wish I hadn’t bought last month. I will definitely be using the Diva Cup from now on.