I am new to LJ, and just wanted to share my experience, since this site has been so helpful for me (and I am sure, others!) :)
This is very, very long, so I'm going to attempt to use the cut feature (apologies in advance if I can't get it to work right!)
Background (you can skip this part if you aren't down with TMI)
I (probably like most people) had never heard of menstrual cups. I had always used tampons + pantiliners, for the past 20 years. For the first 10-12 years I menstruated, I had very irregular periods (actually, I pretty much bled/spotted every day for years--not cool). I attribute this to a combination of hormones, stress, and poor diet. When I was around 24-25, my cycle seemed to work itself out, and since then, I've (more or less) been pretty regular: 28-32 days/cycle, bleed for 5 days, with decreasing amounts of blood, cramps on day 1 (I treat with Midol Complete + heating pad), acne/breakout approx. 1 week prior to beginning of menstruating. What else? No children/births, have never been on birth control (high risk for blood clots), so always used condoms, but my husband had a vasectomy a few years ago, and we don't use anything now.
About 8 months ago I had an unrelated CT scan, and a paraovarian cyst and uterine fibroid were detected. Around the same time I started experiencing pain during sex, and seemingly chronic BV (which seemed to flare up during my cycle). When I had my annual gyno appt in April, they did an ultrasound and found that the fibroid and cyst were unchanged. My doctor prescribed another round of metrogel, and dismissed the pain during sex as nothing (I really like my gyno, so that part kind of annoyed me).
Fast forward to June, and when my cycle hit, instead of 1 day of cramping, the cramps lasted until the 3rd day. :( In July, the same thing. By day 3 I couldn't take it anymore, and started doing Google searches for ways to reduce cramping. That when I first heard about menstrual cups and cloth pads/pantiliners, and found this site.
I immediately ran out to the drugstore and bought a box of Softcups. I read the instructions and some tips online (all the while with a heating pad on my abdomen), then went to the bathroom, removed my tampon (which instantly relieved some of the cramping--yay!) and inserted the Softcup. EUREKA! My cramps were totally gone within a couple hours, and I was so excited, I started researching other reusable options. It all fascinated me.
I continued to use the Softcups for the last 2 days of my July cycle, and only had one leak (the first night I wore it overnight, probably for 8+ hours, and when I was getting out of bed the next morning I farted (sorry, again, TMI!), and caused a minor leak; luckily I was wearing a pantiliner). After making a huge mess the first time I removed it, I quickly learned how to remove it without getting blood everywhere, and even better, how to empty it into the toilet without completely removing it.
I was hooked. Over the next couple weeks I researched and (admittedly) might have gone a bit overboard purchasing reusable products for my new lifestyle. :) In total, in the past month I've spent $110 on products (yikes!), but figure I will be set for the next couple years without having to spend much more. (I live on a budget and am pretty cheap, but have justified the up front costs thinking of all of the money I have potential to save in disposable products).
Here's the breakdown of what I've purchased so far:
1. (1) package of Instead Softcups - $10 (so far I've used 2 out of the package of 14; I plan to use these as my emergency backups since they don't take up much room in a purse, and potentially might use these as giveaways to attempt to convert my friends! LOL)
2. (1) MeLuna menstrual cup with cloth pouch - $23 (I got the medium size, classic softness, ring on the end--which I love!, in green--super cute)
3. (2) Planet Wise wet/dry bags - $36 (I got one that is bigger to hold all of my supplies in the dry pocket, and my dirty cloth pads in the wet pocket, and a small/travel bag to stick in my bag/purse when I'm on the go! The idea is that the bigger one I can hang on a hook near the toilet in our bathroom during my cycle, and store on a shelf the rest of the month--after I've washed and refolded my cloth supplies + boiled my cup so it's all set for the following month; the travel bag also fits in the larger bag.)
4. (1) small pot - $8 (I bought this specifically to use as a dedicated pot to boil my cup in between cycles. No microwave, and still kind of grossed out at the idea of boiling my cup in the same pot I make popcorn in :P I know a lot of people don't boil monthly, but I used to work as a biologist, and with blood, and it just kind of grosses me out NOT to.)
5. (2) flannel pantiliners from Etsy (aprilmdesigns) - $12 (Soooooo pretty and well made! I bought these first, and then realized I could take a stab at sewing some myself *grin*)
6. (1) Bag of plastic snaps + snap pliers (Babyville Boutique Brand) from JoAnn Fabrics - $21 (I bought these so I could add plastic snaps to my homemade cloth pantiliners. I didn't even realize when I bought them, but the snaps I bought have super cute little animal designs pressed into each of the snap covers: turtle, frog, or dragonfly. I also like that I can mix and match the colors. These seemed pretty pricey, but I used a 40% off coupon for the pliers, and figure at some point I can probably sell the pliers if I use up all of the snaps--one bag of snaps has (60) sets.)
7 (18) flannel + fleece pantiliners, homemade - FREE! (Okay, not really free, but I already had the thread, flannel and fleece in my fabric bin from some Halloween costumes I made about 5 years ago, so I didn't have to purchase anything new for this project (yay!). I already had all of the supplies, too: a sewing machine, straight pins, fabric scissors, tissue paper (for my custom pattern), etc. The only thing I needed to purchase was #6 above, the plastic snaps.)
Like I said above, I don't really anticipate having to spend much more money for quite some time. I still have enough fabric/supplies to make at least (24) more homemade pantiliners. I am on my first cycle using my MeLuna right now (day 3!), and potentially would like to get another cup or two (right now I'm thinking about a small, sport, ring, MeLuna and/or a medium, sport, basic MeLuna), but would like to go 1-2 more cycles first to better determine what I like/don't like about my current cup before spending more money.
I potentially could spend some money on some H2O2, also, if stains/smells become an issue, but I feel like I might be able to just borrow some from my in-laws medicine cabinet. (It's not like it's that expensive anyway). And once I venture into the "using the bathroom at work" realm, I might invest in some alcohol wipes to stick in my travel bag, but we'll see how comfortable/efficient I become at removing and dumping the contents.
I'm happy that my current cycle happened to fall when I was at home on vacation, because I think I might have been a little nervous to start using my cup when I had to work--and use a public bathroom (it's been nice to be able to insert and remove in the privacy of my own bathroom, and with a sink right next to the toilet). So far I've still had 3 days of cramps, but they seem less intense (not sure if that's real or placebo effect!). I've seemed to figure out how to get the menstrual cup in there, and to have it open and seal (I haven't really been using one of the folds explicitly, but more of a I start to use the punch-down, and then just sort of smash the thing up and squish it in there--LOL). I had one tiny leak on day 1, and at one point I put it in, and about a half hour removed and reinserted it, because it just didn't feel right, and I think I prevented what would have been a second leak. This morning when I took it out, after wearing it overnight/12 hrs, it had that gross smell that a few people have mentioned in other posts. I rinsed it, and plan on cleaning it well, boiling it, and if necessary, sun bleaching it to get rid of that! I haven't noticed any pain (other than the cramps) or BV/YI symptoms/smell (other than that bloody smell from having it in for 12+ hrs).
I would also like to note that I'm also happy to have a husband that I can be comfortable with talking about this stuff with--he was a little grossed out in particular at the fabric pantiliner concept, but once I explained to him how they are made, how they are better than disposables, and the method to wash them, he said he was happy I was switching to something natural and not having to put all of those chemicals in/around my vag. It's not like I wouldn't use any of this stuff if he wasn't into it or need his permission or something, but it's kind of like an added bonus to know your partner is cool and supportive of your lifestyle change and that you can talk to him/her about it.
Thank you to everyone on this site who has shared your experiences, advice and questions--I have found the information on here very valuable! I'm going to add another post soon with information about how I made my homemade pantiliners.
This summer I am learning so much about my body! :) My husband joked that I was "finally becoming a woman" in reference to all of this stuff about menstruation and products, as well as another epiphany earlier this summer when I discovered this site and learned that I (along with something like 90% of women) was wearing the wrong bra size (that prompted me to want to throw out all of my bras and purchase all new ones; another expensive lesson--I agreed with my husband though that we couldn't really afford that right now, but have since been scouring internet shops for discount or clearance bras in my new size--heehee)!
ETA: I hope I made all the changes correctly. Thanks!!!