I purchased the Mpowercup (because at the time I was only aware of the Mooncup and the Mpower - I live in South Africa) and believed all the testimonials I'd read about menstrual cups being so easy to use - easier than a tampon! I was so excited and couldn't wait to start. Well, what a horrible surprise! Maybe it's easy for most women, but unfortunately I wasn't one of them. After struggling the better part of a day getting nowhere with the recommended c-fold, I hit the Internet and saw a video demonstrating the punch-down fold. Eventually I had "success" but the pain pushing it in was excruciating! I've never hurt so much in my life. I tried it twice (and with "try" I mean struggling for ages before getting it in) and both pushing in and pulling out were terribly painful. Once inside it was fine - didn't feel a thing - but I just couldn't bear hurting myself that much. Then I went back to the Internet and found this site - what a relieve to see other women have problems as well.
And what a revelation to see how many other types of cups there were! I never even heard of the Miacup before, the other cup available in South Africa (btw, I think the Mpowercup's measurements on this site are incorrect - my cup is smaller, about 42 x 54). But I only found one post dealing with the awful pain I was experiencing and many people criticised the woman for being so negative and speaking about "calluses/being callous". Well, I actually totally sympathized with her because the pain I experienced inserting the cup was so agonizing and I felt a complete failure because it seems nobody else had such problems.
Obviously I was doing something wrong, so the next day I tried again, following all the advice I read. I tried in the shower; no luck. I tried every fold; didn't help. I explored with my fingers and realised that though there's plenty of space inside, my opening was very small. I tried to tense and relax my muscles, but to no avail. When I'm tense, it's like hitting a brick wall; when I'm relaxed, it's still too small. I tried to trim the hair down there because when they get pulled in it contributes to the pain (does anyone else have such a problem? Does anyone actually have hair down there?) I eventually tried with a mirror in front of me, which only showed how small the opening and how big the cup is, and I just couldn't get it bigger. Eventually I broke down, convinced I'm a freak of nature and that I'll be struggling with vaginismus for the rest of my life and that I'm a failure of a woman. After crying for a long time I decided to take a break. Eventually, by telling myself I can't be a freak (I did after all had 2 "successes") I FINALLY, after lots of practise and even more patience, had relative painless success, first with the 7-fold, then with the punch-down and more recently with the origami. I did use a bit of glycerine at first (the only water-based lubricant I had on hand) so maybe that also help (water only doesn't). However, I have no idea whether it folds open or not (can't get a finger in to check, yet). I'm also concerned that if I'm using lubricant the cup will stick together because of it. Anyway, it's definitely a learning curve. It will probably be some months before I can through away my tampons and pads and be comfortable enough to wear it to work/other public places, but I'll persevere because this is the future.
I wish I've found this site before I bought my cup - the positive testimonials on the cup websites may be true but they create unrealistic expectations for first time users about how easy/difficult they are to get used to. To be fair, it's the same with tampons - I remember it took me also a few months to get used to but after 10 years I've forgotten about the initial struggle. Anyway, thanks again for the support on this site. It's wonderful how women all over the world assist one another and can talk about things that society unfortunately considers "gross" - why I don't know because after all, there are more women than men on this planet! I've also learnt/rediscovered a lot about my own anatomy, which I would usually just ignore. My advice for women struggling to insert the Mpowercup is: relax, relax, relax; be patient and really take your time; maybe do a few dry runs before your period; stop when it hurts because it shouldn't; move your body to help it going in; try as many folds as possible, with or without lubricant; and don’t give up. Maybe you're 3rd time lucky, maybe only 3rd day. And if you feel like the biggest loser on earth - you're not alone. Be very patient with yourself and remember practice makes perfect.
On another note, I read on a post that one woman was concerned about the water-quality in Africa and wondered whether menstrual cups should be used here. Well, first of all Africa is a very big continent with more that 50 different countries, and each country has a huge number of different nations, tribes, cultures, races, religions, languages (SA has 11 official languages), infrastructures and circumstances. African people don't look, talk or act all the same and the worldview of poor half-clothed Africans living in mud villages with nothing to eat is a very limiting and misleading picture. South Africa has large urban areas with drinkable running water. Granted, there are some poor areas were houses don't have running water inside, but there is access to water nearby. And yes, there are still a few people living in the middle of nowhere who have to get water from a river, but I doubt that they will be considering buying cups. I live in a big westernised city and very few women know about these cups. However, it is an important alternative - tampons and winged pads are getting more and more expensive, and poor women often use newspapers instead. Waste is also becoming a huge concern so there is more awareness about menstrual cups than before, but not nearly enough. I think a few months ago Mpower subsidised cups for poor women. Unfortunately, menstrual cups are still very rare and expensive - mine was about US$40, and the Miacups and Mooncups cost almost twice as much (if there are other cups available I don't know about them).