I’ve seen Mooncup stickers all over cubicle walls for several years, but I was never that keen to invest and try one. The reasons to use one always seemed to be focused on the environmental benefits and emphasising how much plastic waste is produced when menstruating.
I don’t choose to be on my period, and I choose products that I know I can trust and use without thinking. The emphasis on the environment left me with a similar feeling as the tampon tax did, suggesting it’s a choice and a luxury to use sanitary products and I should put the environment’s needs before my own comfort. I don’t appreciate that pressure when I am involuntarily bleeding, whilst men can shave with their plastic razors seemingly without any guilt. And like contraception and quite often childcare, it seems like yet another responsibility that has been thrust upon women.
In 2002, Mooncups became the first reusable menstrual cup made from medical grade silicone and have been spread through word of mouth recommendations ever since, which is exactly why I eventually decided to try one. It wasn’t until friends shared their experiences of Mooncups that I began to be tempted. It became much more appealing to me when I was told how much more convenient and pleasant it was for them as a menstruating adult, regardless of the environmental benefits.
What made me determined to try one was the practicality whilst travelling. I’ve been in situations without bins and reluctantly had to pocket my used pad, wrapped in plenty of tissue, until I found somewhere I could finally dispose of it. With a menstrual cup this wouldn’t have been a situation, instead I could just pour the contents away, re-insert and be on my way.
I was finally sold. I was kindly gifted a Mooncup, which funnily enough arrived on the first day of my period, so I had no choice but to get stuck in straight away.
When I first unboxed my Mooncup I stared at it in disbelief, much like I did staring at my first tampon many years ago, thinking how one earth will that fit? But this time, I knew my body and my vagina better and knew it’s capabilities, all I had to do was learn the appropriate folds.
Having prepared by watching several YouTube videos I knew there were two common folds – the C-fold and one which makes a funnel shape. There was certainly a lot of trial and error to insert it at first, but eventually it was successfully in place. The initial sense of pride was quickly replaced by a mild panic – at some point it would have to come out. But remember vaginas aren’t a vortex where menstrual cups get lost, never to return.
When I waddled around my small bathroom I kept feeling this bizarre pain so I figured I must have put it in wrong. I was so used to the comfort of seeing the string of a tampon outside of my body that I did the same with the stem of my Mooncup. But this is not how the stem should sit. Following advice from the Mooncup website I slowly trimmed it to the correct length so I could no longer see or feel it and ta-da it was so comfortable I thought I might forget there was a Mooncup inside my vagina.
So, my first period was over and I had learnt how to insert it and remove it without struggling or panicking– it does take time to master but it’s worth persevering. And, I learnt how to use my pelvic floor muscle – the muscle that helps remove the cup by tensing your stomach.
A month or so later, it was my next period and it was time to level up and remove my Mooncup outside of the comfort of my home. Before I did so I had to text my Mooncup-using-friend for some reassurance that I am not the only person who has had to stick their fingers up their vagina to remove a menstrual cup in a public toilet. After some words of encouragement I’m pleased to say this was an uneventful experience. My second period was almost effortless, except for a couple of bloody mishaps and spills, although there is nothing a bit of tissue can’t clean up.
I’ve been menstruating for almost half of my life and know so little about the colour and texture of period blood, quickly throwing away whatever product into the bin without looking at it or giving it a second thought. We reluctantly accept our periods and learn how to manage them, without understanding or being taught what is actually happening. I know it’s cliché, but it’s been fascinating learning about my body and my menstrual cycle and I now have a whole new curiosity around it.
So, after two cycles am I over the moon? I was nervous about using a menstrual cup as someone who dislikes tampons, I hate the feeling of pulling them out, but I found Mooncups much more pleasant to use. It doesn’t feel icky like a soaked pad during those intense and heavy days where you’re just in awe that your body can produce a seemingly endless supply of blood. And, it’s perfect for the tediously light days at the end of your period where you need a pantyliner or pad all day, instead just whack in your Mooncup and go about your day without thinking.
Whilst trying this menstrual cup there were some days where I just felt like using traditional sanitary pads, and I think I will continue to use a combination of the two. Even if you like zero-waste products you are also allowed to use conventional sanitary products. It’s your period, you get to decide what is the most comfortable and convenient for you.
They do cost £21.99 but if you can afford one I would recommend trying one out, but only if you are comfortable with and know your way around your vagina – it can be quite an involved process. Ultimately, never feel pressure to like and use reusable sanitary products because of our climate crisis, there are other changes to be made that people who don’t menstruate can take responsibility doing as well.