I've been lurking on this comm for a couple of months now, and thanks to the wonderful people and informative posts on this community, I've finally managed to take the plunge and make the transition from pads to menstrual cups!
Some background details: I'm 5 ft 2", aged 30, Asian, with a normal-type intact hymen and definitely not used to putting stuff in down there, to put things mildly. I don't even use tampons. I do a lot of sports, among them cycling, yoga, aerobics, swimming, and I seriously started considering using menstrual cups when someone mentioned them in a scuba diving forum, saying their Diva cup was their solution to dive trips coinciding with that time of the month. This caught my attention since nothing ruins an expensive and meticulously-planned dive trip to a beautiful tropical island like not being able to dive in inviting crystal waters because of The Coming of The Red Tide. Oh, and in case anyone asks, no it's not because of the fear of attracting every shark in the vicinity that you can't dive on your period- apparently that doesn't really happen. It's because the water pressure keeps your flow contained while you're underwater, which is great until you surface, get out of the water and step into the dive boat... which is when it decides to gush out everywhere to make up for lost time, which makes the boat look like a murder scene and an incredibly, incredibly awkward place to sit with a whole bunch of other divers. (And yes, how I found that out is not a very fun story to tell. Lots and lots of shark jokes though.)
Back to the topic, it wasn't the first time I've heard of cups, the first was actually well over a decade ago, when in uni someone mentioned something called a Keeper as part of a joke and being clueless, I didn't get it. I vaguely remember looking it up afterwards, then
Back to the present, in addition not able to swim and dive during that time of the month, I'd also been suffering from pad rashes and allergies for years, owing to sensitivity to something in commercial disposable pads I've never been able to identify. That pretty much scared me off tampons, and even with frequent changing and sticking to the simplest pad type with the least amount of fancy 'features' I'd still end up with itchy rashes where rashes really shouldn't be allowed to exist. All in all, that made my periods a very miserable well... period, and made the cup a very very attractive option, so I decided to find out more and eventually found this community.
I'm sure you all know that feeling of how it's a whole new world, and though it's exciting, it's also scary. Because of conservatism and cultural factors, people around me in RL are extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed about talking openly about anything regarding with the southern end of female anatomical peninsula, so usually, they don't. In the days that followed, thanks to the links to some websites provided by posters on the comm, I started exploring what was uncharted territory for me. Let's just say it was a very very educational experience, and very overdue. I really wished I'd had this information while I was a teen instead of an adult, it would have made my life much better.
One of the things I did find out was that I had an intact hymen, and not only was it intact, it was rather erm... space-hogging, taking up about 1/3 of my very small entrance. This made me worry that I wouldn't be able to use a cup, but The Virgin's Guide to Cups was a godsend and being a sporty kind of person, I figured that like muscles, even parts down there need conditioning before proper use, and proceeded to treat it as I would a training regime. I spent about two weeks consistently exploring and stretching that area every night until it went from "Where the heck is my vaginal entrance?" to "How the heck am I supposed to put anything bigger than a pinky in there?" to "So this is where it goes in!" to "Ok, it's in, this feels really weird and where the heck is my cervix?" By 'it' I meant 'finger', of course, I hadn't gotten a cup yet. Eventually, I finally managed to find my cervix, but it was pretty deep, and I could just barely brush the tip of it with my longest finger. And so I found out that despite being petite, corresponding vagina size is a myth and I had a mid-to-high cervix and I should aim for something long and narrow, so on to the next step: Shopping.
Getting a cup in my part of Asia isn't very easy, people even look at tampon users funny and our supermarket 'feminine care' aisles are usually pads pads pads everywhere and a tiny discreet section with maybe two brands of tampons. After agonising over different brands of cups (there are just so many!) the choice was between a M Meluna, a S Yuuki and a S Si-Bell. I ended up getting the Si-Bell because someone mentioned it worked for both high and low cervixes, and to be honest, I thought the shape and stem looked really pretty in the photos. I did have some concern about whether my pelvic muscles would squish it flat since it was a soft cup and I did aerobics and yoga, two sports that would tone that area, but the
10 days later it arrived with cloth pads/liners (another thing that I wished I'd discovered earlier) and like everyone apparently does I went straight into the bathroom to try it out. The dry run went surprisingly well, I guess the two weeks of conditioning and the embarrassment of having to ask the shop assistant where the KY Jelly was in the pharmacy really paid off. I had some trouble with folds; I started with the labia fold which seemed like a good idea at first because it was so small, but I found it hard to hold on to while inserting. Punch-down worked better despite being bigger but wouldn't unfold properly because as expected, I was quite tight and cramped down there. Eventually I found the best fold for me was the 7-fold, or at least, it was the only one I could get to unfold properly.
I finally got it in and opened and went for a swim. While not painful I could feel the cup there, sort of in a "There's something in my thingy" way. Also the long stem poked out a bit, but because the Si-Bell has such a soft and squishy stem, it wasn't uncomfortable and kind of comforting to a newbie because you know it's there and within easy reach and not going to get lost. The cup performed well in the pool, no problems and I was very happy.
Removing on the other hand was a lot harder. The cup had migrated up, so I had to bear down to get the stem within reach (yay Kegel exercises in yoga). Actually getting it out was painful until I learned to use the 'hot-dog-in-a-bun' method where you stick one finger in and squish the cup into a C-fold. I bled a little bit after removing, I think I chafed the inside of my walls because I didn't use lube on removal, but overall I considered it a success.
Weeks later my period showed up and to my surprise, it was way way way easier than the dry run. I couldn't even feel the cup when it was in because I was so much more looser, and removal took barely a minute instead of the ten in the dry run because everything was much more stretchy. The first two days were almost fairytale perfect- no pain, no leaks, no allergies, super dry down there and this feeling of Freeeeeedom where I could go aerobics and yoga and despite being a soft cup Si-Bell held up well even with all the energetic jumping and prancing and crazy poses.
Come the night of the 2nd day, when I went to bed with cramps and woke up with this strange bubbling sound at 3 am... what's going on? Is that blood argh it's everywhere! As I found out later in my mad dash to the bathroom, my cup runneth over. My flow had decided to ramp up operations a bit to stress-test the Si-Bell and since I had gotten a small, it could fill the allotted 20ml capacity in 3-4 hours and the Si-Bell will leak if it's full. So day 3 was a bit of a challenge, since I had to change it every 4 hours at work, which meant I had to learn to change my cup in a public stall. It wasn't as bad as I feared though, one advantage of being in my part of Asia is that we prefer water over toilet paper for washing, so almost every stall has a little tap and attached pipe or a hand bidet to clean up, which makes washing the cup easy if you can find a way to first take care of the bloody hands.
Other than the capacity issue on heavy days, it's been smooth sailing. What are the odds of finding your goldilocks cup on first try? Overall, I'm definitely sold on cups, and I am never ever going back to pads, EVER. Well, unless they are cloth and even then only as backup. My rashes are gone, I can do whatever I want during my periods (well I haven't tested my cup scuba diving yet, I'll post again if there's anything interesting during that experience), and I'm even considering getting a large cup for my heavy days since there seems to be more space in there when I'm on my period. I'll probably get a large Si-Bell since I like my small one so much, especially the stem which I keep untrimmed, and you know, if it's not broke, don't fix it?
So thank you all for your help and advice, and in hopes of giving back to the community I would just like to include a list of things I learned in my first cycle:
- Do your finger stretches in the area at least a few days before you put in cup in.
- Use lube on yourself, and not the cup, before inserting cup, unless you like escaping cups.
- It's more important to have a fold that allows you to keep a good grip on the cup than it is to have the smallest fold possible.
- It's more important to have a fold that is small at the point of entry than it is to have the smallest fold overall. A small point that tapers opens the entrance as you insert and makes the larger end of the fold easy to slip in.
- Open the cup lower down, right inside the entrance. It gets harder to open the deeper it is in (at least, if you have my kind of anatomy it is).
- Use lube on your 'hot-dog' finger first if you are removing using the 'hot-dog-in-a-bun' method. It makes it much easier.
- Use the index and middle fingers of your hand to scissor pinch the part of the cup right at the entrance when it is being removed by your other hand. This keeps the cup small and narrow and provides a backup grip should you lose your hold with your other hand, thus saving you from the cup popping open at the entrance (ow!)
- If you feel a bubbling sensation, that's your cup telling you: "Boss, I'm being overwhelmed! I need immediate EVAC now!" Listen to your cup, don't hesitate and head for the nearest bathroom for immediate extraction. (Unless you have a backup pad, then you have a bit more time).
- A used contact lense case (sterilised) makes for a very handy and discreet container to hold your lubricant and mild soap when the go. No one gives you funny looks when heading to the bathroom with a contact lense case in your hand.
I <3 my Si-Bell!
ps: I'm newish to LJ, so I hope I'm doing this right. I tried to following the rules, but if I missed anything, please let me know :)