TMI of the Month! (Mooncup Review)

WARNING: Graphic vagina-based content. I would only read this if you’re interested in getting a Mooncup. Or are curious and not averse to period chatter.

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On a daily basis I struggle to communicate everyday normalities to people. In a combative effort to force myself into sharing information, once a month(ish) I bring forth what I call my TMI of the Month. It branches into oversharing, but is always based on the things I believe should be talked about more often, in theory. So this month’s offering is a hearty review of a well-known brand of menstrual cup: the Mooncup.

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SHALL WE BEGIN?

Quite a long time ago I purchased one of these odd little wonders from Boots, for I think £21.99 or thereabouts. I’d noticed a poster for one on the back of a toilet door, and the idea quite appealed to me. In a terrifying and medically invasive sort of way. The whole process just sounded so much healthier for my body, and significantly less wasteful than a disposable period kit. Unboxing revealed a larger-than-anticipated silicone cup, and I immediately questioned how this would ever sit comfortably inside my body. Post-sanitisation I attempted to pop it in, using the ‘push-down’ fold. Remarkably (for my level of general dexterity), it felt absolutely fine. Getting it to pop open, I found very difficult. Removal was a tad more unnerving, as unfortunately, as you’re pulling it out all the bloody thing wants to do is pop open, which created quite a sharp pain at the point of exit. I was perturbed, and thought surely tampons/pads are just the easier option. I tried it a few more times on and off, but I never really felt 100% confident with this new-fangled system.

[MANY YEARS LATER]

This weekend just passed, I decided to give it another whirl. My Mooncup and I were going to have to bond, like a full-on Ed Sheeran drunken weekend of intimacy bond. I am so sick of tampons, and the grating feeling of somehow having to shove this dry cylindrical clump of cotton into yourself upon changing. So with a tampon and pad-less weekend in store, I boiled the cup once more and gave it a solid go. The results? I am 99% sure that I am now converted.

FRIDAY (Little Elvis Day One) – Okay so the popping open thing. What I was waiting for was a quite satisfyingly timed POP once I had delicately placed the cup in its appropriate nesting area (which is quite low in the vagina, much lower than a tampon). What I got was silence, and as I felt around the base of the cup I realised that one side was still dipped inwards. Balls. I tried to wiggle it around a bit with my finger and thumb, twisting the night away in my bathroom, but it wasn’t having it.  This went on for a while, and soreness dictated my next move as I was feeling the effects of a five finger death punch. With a weakened sigh I decided to leave it in for half an hour and then try again. Whilst doing some stretches I felt what can only be described as a THUNK in my vagina. What the fuck. Initially forgetting that the cup was present, it suddenly dawned on me that this was the magical pop I had been waiting for, and I hurriedly checked to confirm this. Hurrah! All subsequent insertions have therefore been sealed with deadly vagina magic, using my muscles to kind of ‘clench’ it in place, if that makes sense. It may sound bizarre but you do what you gotta do, I’ve taken to touching my toes once I’ve popped it back in and this seems to help a lot. Signed, sealed, delivered. Let’s begin my Mooncup adventures. Some time later, as I’m walking around the house I keep feeling a little pinch. It’s pretty irritating. Back for another bathroom consultation (oh the horrors you have witnessed, bathroom walls) I discover the source of the problem – the stem is poking me. I had read about this, and learned that you are encouraged to cut the stem to fit your body. Not wanting to dispose of my lifeline before I’ve mastered the process, I cut off two rings, and found that fitted much better. Still in reachable distance, and no poking to speak of. No feeling whatsoever, really. It’s so strange, you look at it and think that it will be cumbersome and stocky, which surely can’t be pleasant in such a small area. Little confession, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “Jeez you would not expect a whole cup to be in there.” Like it’s a Sports Direct mug.

SATURDAY (Little Elvis Day Two) – I had to be up early for work, and last night I bravely made the decision to overnight this business, and we slept together for the first time. Not a stranger to researching horror stories, I had unfortunately read many an account of menstrual cups going for a little wander into town as you sleep and becoming nigh-on impossible to remove in the morning. Obviously it can’t go missing entirely, but apparently they have a tendency to wriggle up a little further than you’re used to comfortably reaching. Safe to say I was quite anxious, and all any medical professional tells you when they’re reaching inside you is to not be anxious, as that will not help. Thankfully, when I reached up expecting a vast cavern of nothingness (well, not vast), I felt the reassuring stem in its usual place, and tugged it out. I find the best way to do this is to use the stem to get a good grip on the base of the cup, squeeze it, then sort of walk it out, a little bit at a time. I still get the slight pain as it comes out entirely but I’m getting used to it now, it’s much milder than I’d originally gauged. There is also, a bit of a squelch upon breaking the seal, which I am not a huge fan of, but I’m sure we’ve all had these moments and chosen to nervously laugh it off. What overshadows this moment is the downright fascination of your period itself. I think it’s kind of wonderful that you can actively measure how much blood you lose while you’re menstruating. It can’t be just me? I had to resist the urge to hold the cup up and offer a toast to the human body. Cheers!

Anyway, so once I had given it a good clean, it was time to go back in for a bit of a test: A 7 hour shift at work. One of the most appealing prospects of the Mooncup is that you can leave it in for these longer stints, which is so much longer than a tampon (more like 3-4 hours). As it sits so low and is simply held in place by your muscles, there’s nothing pushing bacteria up against the cervix. It’s much more organic, and doesn’t absorb any of your natural fluids. No Toxic Shock Syndrome up in this house, let me tell you. I prepared myself accordingly, for a potential change, and potential shifting. I wore a thin reusable liner as a backup just in case of any issues, and I did have the tiniest bit of leakage, like a couple of miniscule spots. So perhaps that’s something I need to work on, but it didn’t bother me at all. With regards to emptying the cup, I was faced with what is definitely one of the downsides: public toilets. The only sink I would feel comfortable washing my cup in is my own, and as such I’d taken it upon myself to bring a little ‘kit’ with me – a small bottle of water, to rinse the cup ever so slightly from where I sit, and some natural handwash to give my hands a more thorough clean and scrub afterwards. It was a bit fiddly, but the change was pretty unnecessary for me, as the cup was nowhere near full. Tampon habits just keep creeping back in. I had worn it overnight and yielded a small capacity too, so the changing frequency I find has lessened dramatically. Medical-graded silicone is thankfully a material that does not harbour bacteria, so it is perfectly fine to let it work its magic for longer than tampons or pads. Marvellous! And to those who may consider the public changing gross, admittedly it is a tad awkward, but the procedure is no more invasive than using a non-applicator tampon. You also collect five hippy points for every correct removal/insertion.

SUNDAY (Little Elvis Day Three) – Getting used to this now, almost arrogantly so. I was also a tad hungover, the kind where you are still drunkenly dizzy so my manual skills were also compromised. The temptation is to move around quite a bit to put it to the ultimate test. I don’t go swimming so I can’t offer advice on how one would fare underwater, but I did do a fair bit of stretching and pilates. Expecting issues when I bent over or squatted to pick something up, but thankfully everything stayed in place. I say everything like its a full orchestra, but I have to keep reminding myself of the simplicity of the situation. I bleed, the cup collects it all, and I flush it down the toilet. It’s not being soaked up by cotton, or sitting outside of your body on a pad for hours, its just blood being collected inside your body. How can I not approve? One of the odd feelings I did not expect was slight disappointment upon removal, when the cup is generally 1/8th full.

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On reflection I think it’s because you feel like you lose so much more, the pain and ibuprofen-induced weakness seems to exacerbate the pitiful amount I actually lose each month. But as I say, with little markers on the side of the cup it is remarkably interesting to measure how much blood you lose in a whole period. I’m aware of how graphic I’m being, but if there are any gentlemen here under the impression that we bleed a blue Kool-Aid substance as is depicted on sanitary pad adverts, then I am sorry to say we do not, but wouldn’t that be canny.

MONDAY (Little Elvis Day Four) – It seems this has been the shortest period of all time, as I’m down to drops at the moment, so it is time to retire my Mooncup until its next appearance. All you do to complete the process is boil it for approximately 6 minutes (in a designated pan!) – then leave it to dry, and store it in the cute little cotton bag it comes with. It might be time to reassess the contents of my period drawer, as there are all sorts of tampon paraphernalia in there that I will probably rarely use. I do want to keep some in case a) I want something super quick and I’m not in the most sanitary environment, such as a festival, or b) if a person with a vagina is visiting my house and is in need. But overall, I hope to commit to the cup for each subsequent period. They last for years and years, so no further sanitary-wear purchases are necessary. In summary: How nice!

I would definitely recommend this product. As you saw in my adventures, there is a bonding process. I never thought I would take to it after my first go, but I persevered and now I actually feel a fondness for this new system. Initially yes, it’s quite expensive, but it is an investment. Also a cheeky way of evading the tampon tax. For my last couple of menstruating days, when there’s just a minimal amount of blood, I will probably use my trusty washable liners, or perhaps invest in the Thinx underwear. But I think the cup will be my main port of call. A couple of people have spoken to me about it after I mentioned it on a previous blog, claiming it was weird and disgusting. I understand that it’s different, and an odd idea to get used to, but I don’t really see how tampons or pads are any less intimate? You’re gonna see some blood any which way you go about it. Yes, you do have to get a little more acquainted with your vagina, but anyone who has one or has been in the vicinity of one, should be at least a bit familiar with it? If you’re not I encourage you to go out for a drink together, they are pretty cool things. With regards to cleaning, I imagine its something I will get used to and find mundane a few periods along the line. So if you’ve made it through this lengthy review, I urge you to give it a go. There are all sorts of brands, some softer cups, some in various adorable colours, some with rounded stems for minimal pokage. All you need is one, and that one will be your little mascot as your womb does its thing. How to naturally counteract the feeling of dragon claws churning up your insides however, is something I’m still working on.

 

Until the next TMI of the Month!

Rosie

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TMI of the Month – My Time of the Month!

I urge you to read no further if the topic of periods is not something you wish to venture boldly into at this present moment. Not that it is disgusting (I would describe it more as a tad grim from time to time), or something we shouldn’t discuss, or a basis of knowledge only available to females – but I consider this topic vaguely under the branch of TMI, and what do you know, it’s time for the TMI of the Month. Let the bloodbath begin. (No further blood references will follow, I promise.)

I’m just going to discuss my “routine” of sorts, in short the products and tools (tools? maybe not) that I use during my time of the month. Perhaps this is a strange thing to discuss, but the main idea is that I am leaning more towards processes that are better for my body and better for the world, and I would like to urge others to think about this. I feel that these days there is a heavy focus on the disposability of products, that the evidence of our reproductive systems doing their thing must be concealed. Which is fair enough, and I generally operate on a 60% versus 40% balance, the former being looking towards reusable products and the latter being disposable, organic products. It’s entirely down to personal preference, as above all I think we can all agree that a certain degree of comfort is sought when you’re struggling with cramps and headaches. Similarly we are not always able to stick to reusable products without compromising hygiene or general transportation, for instance if you’re travelling. The cost is also a significant factor, as for a lot of women these products are required on a monthly basis – though I won’t delve into menstrual products being taxed as non-essential luxury items in the UK, as I feel that’s for another post. What I want to focus on is the products I currently use, listed in no particular order. The frequency of use depends entirely on my circumstances at the time. All of these have been researched and collated over time, as this is (clearly) important to me, and I should specify that since committing to the contraceptive pill I have been largely blessed with slightly lighter and less painful periods than before.

  1. Organic Tampons (disposable)

I have a weird relationship with tampons because at their very core, I am not keen on the idea of putting something absorbent into a part of my body that is not designed to be dry! And yet I have relied on them for so many years simply because they make me feel so much cleaner, if that makes any sense? It feels strange to continuously buy something that I don’t necessarily agree with, but they are admittedly so easy and quick to use, that it’s hard for me to “give them up”. So as a transitional move, in recent months I have discovered two companies that promote the idea of a ‘chemical-free’ period. There are obviously many more, but these are the ones I have purchased from. The first is Cottons, based in Melbourne (I buy mine from Boots), who have traded bleaching for oxygen-cleansing and push the idea of finding out what your tampons are made with, and the impact they can have on your body. The second is TOTM, who offer similarly biodegradable, 100% cotton, chemical-free and hypoallergenic products, and they also offer one-off purchases or a subscription service if it suits you, delivered in packages slender enough to fit through your letterbox. They are admittedly pricey at roughly £2.95 a box for 14 non-applicator tampons, though UK delivery is free if you buy two products or more. My usage of tampons has become less of a reliance, and more of a “I’m going out for the day, and things are getting heavy – I want a quick and easy way of addressing my period, with minimal stress on my body.”

2. Menstrual Pads (reusable)

At the risk of TMI-ing all over the place, I really hate disposable pads, they just do not feel comfortable to me, in the slightest. So I did a little research, and discovered reusable menstrual pads. The two companies I have purchased from over the years are Honour Your Flow, and Luxury Moon. They both supply organic cloth/wool/fleece pads of all shapes, sizes and absorbencies, which are, if possible, made from fairly traded natural materials. To me they are extremely comfortable, never itchy or prone to shifting around, and obviously easy to use. They are expensive, but definitely an investment, as they last for as long as you take care of them. The cleaning process is something that may scare people away, but it doesn’t bother me at all. There’s always the option of just putting them in the washing machine (avoiding fabric conditioner as it meddles with the absorbency), and the tumble dryer fluffs them up a treat. I don’t really need any of the heavy-flow ones, but it was a very easy transition to switch from small disposable liners to these. Honour Your Flow also sell wash bags and “moon purses” (for ease of transportation), reusable make-up pads which are fab, and all sorts of other goodies. If you don’t approve of them, at the very least you can say these pads are kind of hippy-cute? Insert “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die” reference.

3. Mooncup (reusable)

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Like all of the best things in life, I first discovered the dawning age of the Mooncup on the back of a toilet cubicle door. At the age of 19, I had never heard of such witchcraft in all my days. I finally plucked up the courage to try one about a year later, and I am still on the fence about whether I can commit to it more. First of all, it’s intimidating. Second of all, I was in a bit of a blind panic as to whether I was ever going to be able to retrieve it once it had gone past the point of no return. In assessment of these worries post-trials, I can say that there is a bit of a learning curve, or at least there was for me. But once this is mastered (after a very long hiatus I’m willing to try it again), it is a fantastic product. To distil everything that we have established necessary during our menstrual cycle into one handy-dandy silicone product, well that’s just lovely isn’t it? It lasts for years and years, and the cleaning process is very simple – you can either boil it for 5-7ish minutes (though I recommend buying a small pan specifically for this process!), or you put it in a sterilising solution such as Milton’s tablets (generally used for baby bottles and such.) The only major flaw for me is the pressure of being in a public toilet, it’s a changing process that I wouldn’t want to rush or be anything less than highly sanitised. But again, we all have different preferences and our needs can change, so I would definitely consider it if you want to look after yourself, and the environment.

I would like to say before closing that I am by no means an expert in any of these products, nor a purveyor of wholly organic lifestyles. This is just my personal experience, and it is subject to adjustment. Does anybody have a rave product review or recommendation on this topic?

Contrary-wise to specifically menstrual-based products, I think above all to establish a comfortable setting for myself on a particularly painful day, I like to indulge in one of my favourite comfort foods, that is vanilla shortbread dipped in Nutella, which is the buttery biscuit base of heaven. And if that’s all you take from this post (if you have read this far), well then I urge you to treat yo ‘self.

Until next time (of the month!)

Rosie

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