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.

anigif_enhanced-10321-1405417867-3_preview

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.

mooncup2

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.

The-Fifth-Element-19974

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

x

Advertisements

TMI of the Month! (March Edition) – P&P, or Periods and the Pill

Hello my lovelies!

It’s time for another healthy dose of Too Much Information. Today I just wanted to have a little chat about my experience on the combined oral contraceptive pill, which I’ve been taking for four years now. When I first spoke to my doctor about going on the pill, I was popping in for antibiotics to deal with a rogue water infection. He was a tad condescending and asked about my job, my hobbies, if I had a partner, how much spare income I’d say I had – and then followed up with “So how would you feel RIGHT NOW if you found out you were pregnant? Right now.” “I would feel…not great?” “Exactly.”

So after some discussion of my options, and a healthy discussion on the risk of blood clots, he put me on the combined pill known as Microgynon 30. Containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel (synthetic versions of the natural sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone), this has been the basis of my pill-consuming life for a good three years.

microgynon

Largely, it’s been a good experience. To break it down:

  • PERIODS

I’m not going to beat about the bush, my periods have been infinitely more manageable. They used to be routinely heavy, very painful, and a bit of a battle for a good 6 days each round, with a final lighter day to finish it off. I would struggle to keep on top of tampon changes and live in fear of “The Leak”. Thank you to all of my friends who have been there for me to check the back of my skirt for unfortunate mishaps. There’s nothing more terrifying than the strong suspicion that your period armour has failed, and the boundaries have been breached. (Once at a wedding party, Christ.) Since the pill, my first period was much lighter, still pretty painful, but noticeably different. All subsequent periods (I should start referring to these as breakthrough bleeds) settled out into a very easy-going light flow, painful every few months but generally wonderful. Hypersensitivity in pre-menstrual stages however, remains just as horrific.

  • BODY CHANGES

I was informed that some side-effects such as weight gain may follow. I probably have gained weight in that time but I think it’s mainly down to my love of cheese, more than anything. My skin has stayed the same (always a magical combination of dry/oily/blemished), but what has definitely changed is boob size. A definite cup-up and the need to buy a whole new hoard of bras. It’s not a problem for me other than having to form a makeshift hoist with my forearms when I run up the stairs sometimes.

  • MOOD CHANGES

These have been my nemeses. I’ve always been a very anxious person, awkward and guilt-ridden. And about a year prior to starting the pill, I started having irregular panic attacks. I do not know where they came from or why they would be triggered, but they incited a vicious circle of fear, which probably encouraged them. A few months after taking the pill, I had an immense bout of them, and all I could conclude is that when I felt out of my comfort zone or was unaccustomed with my physical environment, they would come on, or even the pre-feeling of breathlessness which I sometimes found worse, as it could last for so long (or what felt like so long). Thankfully I have very understanding friends and family, and a most understanding partner. At the time he would talk me through these moments and ask me to focus on something, when my mind was concocting all sorts of worst-case scenarios. I also started to have horrendous mood swings, more than I’d ever had before. I would feel so bitter, terrified and uncooperative. I still have ‘down’ moments these days but to nowhere near the same extent – it was an incredibly poisonous feeling, as though I wanted to sabotage everything I had worked for. To this day I do not know whether to chalk my moodswings down to coincidence, or the reshuffling of my hormones.

 

One day I called my doctor to request another batch of pills, and I was informed that they would be switching over to “Rigevidon”, supposedly the same pill (well, containing the same ingredients), just under a different name.

rigevidon-contraceptive-pill

The only difference I feel after levelling out on Rigevidon, is that the days of the week are printed on the back instead of the front, where you pop the pill from. How silly!

 

I’m not recommending the pill by any means, when it all comes down to it this is a process of filling your body with synthetic hormones and overriding your menstrual cycle. It is a most unnatural experience and there are of course, side effects. I’ve considered other options however, and decided that this is the route I want to take at this time in my life, when I don’t particularly want any children in the next few years and I hope to stay with my partner. I try to take my pill at the same time every day, and if I’ve ever ventured beyond the 12-hour window then I’ve either been immensely careful, let my partner know, or used other forms of contraception. This is not something I wish to trifle with. In essence, I’m currently happy with my contraception, but I am still very aware that this is against the natural flow of my body. But then again, the natural flow of my body may want me to produce children on a regular basis and that is simply not my cup of tea. For now I take the synthetic route. I am very grateful to live in an age where contraception is a viable and free option for me, though having debuted in 1960, it is still a project in its infancy. Do the increased risks of cervical/breast cancer, migraines, higher blood pressure, infertility, blood clotting and strokes scare me? They certainly do. The quick blood pressure test and height/weight analysis every 6 months does little to calm my nerves on that front, but its a start. I honestly don’t know where I go from here. Should I have listened to my body as it threw increased panic my way and simply reverted to condoms? What will be will be? Also a scary prospect.

So how do you address contraception, and your body’s needs? I’m interested to hear stories of other methods, and the way the body responds to them. Until next time.

Rosie

x

 

TMI Of The Month: What I wish I was taught about Sexual Health

So yeah, this is happening!

Welcome brave wanderers, to my new series entitled TMI Of The Month! It is at the severe risk of oversharing that I begin this foray into Too Much Information, hopefully with some regularity – which I’m sure is a common aspiration for many bodily functions. (Yes, I got a poop reference in there with immediate effect.)

So my first Overshare is What I wish I was taught about Sexual Health (Part One). This was inspired by a video by Youtuber Hannah Witton, who is glorious in many ways. She talks of sexual freedom and general genitals with sheer abandon, and I would definitely recommend her series “The Hormone Diaries”, in which she searches high and low for the perfect contraception method for herself, with limited hormone-interference. It’s all in the aim of getting more in touch with her own body, and letting the female reproductive system do “it’s thing” without the pressure of pregnancy. She also tends to wear the richest of autumnal colours, which is nothing but a bonus in my books.

What I wish I was taught about sexual health – Hannah Witton

My experience of Sex Ed at school went something a little like this. Primary School: There was an odd air in the room that day. Perhaps it was the winds of adulthood sweeping through the desks and glitterpots, or indeed it may have been the lingering sweat of teachers,  facing the grim reality of talking to 8 year olds about sexual health. What I recall was that there was a lot of chair-rearranging, and the boys were ordered to LEAVE THE ROOM WITH A MALE ADULT while the girls sat in a neat little teaparty circle, to learn about how womanhood was going to RAVAGE THEIR INSIDES in the imminent future. The boys obviously didn’t need to know about periods as they would never have to even utter the word at any point in their lives, similarly we would never have to worry about their gender-specific issues. (Though I never did find out about what the Boy Talk entailed. Thoughts, boys?)

Secondary School was slightly different, I was given a form to be signed by my parents to consent to my learning about sex, and it came with more expectation and excitement than anything else. Okay so this was it! I was going to learn all about…all of the things! It was confirmed! I was allowed to access this information and know about the ways of the world. As a very savvy 11 year old who already knew about periods and stuff (that is so primary school),  I was genuinely under the impression that we would be learning how to have sex, all the ins-and-outs of how it gets going in the first place, and what it essentially required to make a baby. I’m not sure what I expected exactly…a pop-up book? What I was confronted with, was a video from the 1970s depicting a rather terrifying birth in our general science class. When it finished, there was no particular Q & A session that I had hoped for, just a reaffirmation that a man and a woman (probably in their twenties and probably married) didn’t want to just show their love, they wanted to make love. Then the baby came out, and then they never made love again. End scene.

Now other than being 99% confident that I didn’t want to be participating in anything of the sort at any point in my adult life, I felt disappointed and confused in the whole system. It already sounded awful, but surely there must be some side effects? Some concerns that people might have? I’ve heard about STDs, I saw that extremely unhealthy-looking penis in my biology textbook. The scars will never heal. So other than being given a little period-kit and watching Kevin and Perry Go Large in my Year Eight science class (I don’t think the teacher cared too much), my entire sexual education at school felt very limited. So with hindsight, what do I wish they had covered? Well!

  1. There are many, many options for your period. There are pads and tampons yes, but also menstrual cups, cloth pads and lesser-publicised varieties such as sea sponge tampons, period-pants, all sorts! You do not have to live your life in fear that you are “too small” for tampons and that inserting them will cause you immense pain, and you do not have to set a timer for 4 hours each time you change one as the TSS-dementors will arrive and suck the female soul out of you. Okay this is a tad overkill, but I think a handy-dandy pamphlet or how-to-use session would have been such a massive help. From the ages of about 13-17 I always felt as though evidence of periods was something to be covered up, like keeping a pad in your schoolbag or admitting to horrendous cramps or headaches. Based on comments from the girls in my year I also felt that there was a stigma attached to committing to one form of menstrual product or another – pads were “childish” in comparison to the more intimate and invasive tampons. I never felt as though it was an entirely personal choice, based on however you felt the most comfortable and protected.
  2. Contraception, same principles. To the credit of my schools I was informed that condoms were essential, and if I needed any I could go to my local sexual health clinic. God knows how I would go about using one – I am to this day, a tad jealous of all the bananapenis condom-fittings I have heard of from friends from other schools. Such fun! But otherwise, barely a mention to any other methods of contraception and protection. I had heard of “The Pill”, which sounded like a looming commitment I was not ready for, but there was little emphasis on all of the options available to me. This should have been covered regularly, I think, like a branch of Applied Science in itself.
  3. Masturbation, asexuality and non-heterosexuality. I have put these in the same category because for me they come under the “It’s all fine and dandy” umbrella that I had literally no education for in my school. The people in my year talked about masturbation, but always in a derogatory way as if it was your only option in life if you couldn’t find someone who wanted to sleep with you, which is nonsense. If people wanted to, it should have been encouraged! What better way to get in touch with your anatomy and physical needs. Asexuality was never covered in the classroom or out, it was something I researched myself as I suspected myself of it for a while. (I say suspected as if there is a criminal or clandestine element to it, which believe me I am not trying to convey!). Non-heterosexuality was generally discussed as the “alternative” lifestyle; it wouldn’t concern us so there was no need to go in depth, obviously. I recall my oldest and dearest friend telling me she was a lesbian when we were fairly young – I can’t remember my exact reaction, but it was along the lines of “Are you sure? Okay!”, and I felt awful that I didn’t know more about it, and that I didn’t know what I wanted myself. In essence, what I wish I was taught was that it is all absolutely fine, nothing is set in stone and we are all free to explore our own sexuality.
  4. Consent. Hannah covered this well, and for me this would have been such an empowering class, and made sex feel like less of a necessity to satisfy cultural expectations. The reminder to be in charge of yourself, to communicate about your wants and desires, is so very important. Communication could be a class in itself. If you want the thing, or if you don’t want the thing, or even if you’re not sure if you want the thing, please talk about it!
  5. Pee after sex! This may be very specific to myself and to the few other women I’ve spoken to about it, but this piece of advice is golden. There is a very unique and awful feeling of dread associated with the onset of a Urinary Tract Infection. Also, viciously downing cranberry juice will not be half as effective as drinking lots of water. (Final note on this topic, please see your doctor if this happens! Don’t wait for two weeks and try to deal with it yourself! Been there.)
  6. How to check your boobs. Only in the past few years have I reminded myself to learn how to check myself properly, to address any changes or concerns I might have, and to do it often. I am nearly 27! This was clearly a shortcoming in my own research, but having it covered at school would have been a good start.
  7. Cervical Screening . Granted this is definitively for women aged 25 and over, due to its rarity in ages below (something I am increasingly concerned about), I think covering the overarching health of the female reproductive system should include information about what to expect when the time comes. I have had my first, and what helped was a clip I watched, I think it was possibly on This Morning, of a doctor from Embarrassing Bodies having a smear test live on camera. It looked absolutely fine. I went for mine last year, it was a tad awkward and slightly uncomfortable, but over in minutes, and definitely worth it for the confirmation of everything working as normal in the cervical region. If it turned out there was an abnormality, I would not have regretted going for my screening when asked, so please do not put it off.
  8. Unrealistic standards in pornography. I’m pretty sure all of us had encountered some form of pornography by the age of 13/14, and my experience was already cynical – mainly pertaining to the amount of bodily hair these people had, which was largely nothing from the neck down. I considered this unrealistic but that was where the lack of realism ended for me – everything else I considered accurate! Perhaps I lived a sheltered life but in heterosexual coupling everything was centred around the man finishing first, or solely. That was the ultimate goal. He was also to be generally silent, and the woman loud, to show her appreciation, obviously. The setting was always spotless, and the lighting was always perfect. (Btw any adult film directors, if you can hook me up with some decent lighting sources for my dark and dingy flat, that would be great, I would like some proper light for reading.)

On that note of enlightenment I shall abandon this already too-long post, and will inevitably return with Part 2 shortly, as there are way too many things to cover. Granted this is all from a female perspective, I am interested to know of your thoughts. I will refrain from apologising for oversharing, as this was my goal.

Well done for reading this! What would you add? I’m very intrigued to know.

Rosie x