Menstrual cup Q&A with TOTM

We had a catch up with Nancy at TOTM to find out more about using a  menstrual cup for the first time. If you have any questions that haven't been covered here, please do get in touch at hello@bowercollective.com.

What made you decide to try a menstrual cup and what products were you using to manage your period before?

A friend of mine had switched to a cup and raved about it. I wasn’t fully aware of the amount of plastic in conventional period products, but I figured it would be a good way to reduce waste and spend less on tampons and pads. It took me a few months to get round to giving it a go, but I’m so pleased I finally made the switch.

Where did you go to buy your first cup?

It was around 7 years ago and at the time menstrual cups were difficult to find in mainstream shops. I spotted them in a local eco-friendly shop, so I got one from there.

Did you have any challenges choosing the right cup/size?

I did find choosing a size confusing when looking to buy a menstrual cup. I was just on the cusp of turning 30 and the sizing dictated that anyone over 30 and/or anyone who has given birth vaginally should go with the largest size. I figured my body wasn’t going to drastically change after turning 30 and I hadn’t had any children, so I went for the size recommended for under 30’s. 

What advice would you offer to those thinking about trying a cup and what size to buy?

Menstrual cups come with sizing guidelines, but (as in my case) it is important to assess what you think will work best for you. It takes a little practice when you switch to a cup and you may need to try a few times to get the hang of it. I recommend trying it for at least 2-3 menstrual cycles if you can. If you really cannot get on with the cup (for example, if it leaks or doesn’t feel comfortable) you might need to try a different size, shape or even a different material type.  I started using a silicone cup and used it for a few years. When I needed a replacement, I decided to try a TPE menstrual cup and found it was much softer which I preferred.

What was your experience when you first tried it?

It took me a few attempts get used to using a menstrual cup. I’d recommend trying it when you’re at home in your bathroom, and when you’re not in a rush.  Initially I thought “how is this going to get in there?” as it looks a lot bigger than a tampon. This is where folding comes in as there are many different cup folds to try out. I tried a few out until I found one that felt comfortable and placed the cup in a position that stopped any leaks. That’s how you know you’ve inserted the cup correctly and have found the fold that works for you!

Did you experience any problems or difficulties at the start? 

I had to try re-inserting it a few times to start with because it felt uncomfortable. I persevered and managed it by experimenting with different folds and techniques. I found giving it a little twist on the way in helped secure it into position. 

Taking it out for the first time was an interesting experience too. A cup collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it, so you can expect a little spillage until you get used to removing it. These days I’m a pro! It just takes practice and perseverance. I advise to always remove your cup over the toilet if you can. It’s also important to lightly squeeze the cup before taking it out to release the seal formed by suction.

Do you use any other products alongside a menstrual cup

 I used an organic cotton liner with my cup until I felt 100% confident that I was placing it correctly. But since using TOTM’s cup I find I don’t need a back-up liner.  I mainly just use my menstrual cup but when my bleed is very light, I’ll use pads or liners instead.

How does a menstrual cup compare to using other products such as tampons and pads?

Once I got the hang of using a menstrual cup, I felt a sense of freedom. You can leave it in for anything up to 12 hours so don’t need to stress about changing it as much throughout the day. I’m a huge advocate for menstrual cups now for ease, comfort, cost-saving and it’s also great when you’re exercising. 

What about cleaning the cup on-the-go? Is this challenging?

I would say it’s a better experience when you have easy access to a sink to rinse the cup when emptying/re-inserting it on-the-go. If I know I’ll need to empty my cup in a public toilet, I take a reusable bottle of water with me to make this an easier process. You can then rinse it in the cubicle and re-insert.

Have you noticed any major benefits from using a cup?

I’ve saved money over the years and I love knowing it produces less waste than disposable products. Another benefit of using a cup is that it’s has helped me to get to know my body and my flow. I feel more in tune with what’s going on and I understand what is “normal” for me on my period.

Are there any downsides or other things you noticed that were different?

It’s not really a massive downside, but you do need to sterilize the cup in boiling water between each menstrual cycle. This is much the same as boiling an egg, so not a lot of hassle at all. I love that the TOTM cup comes with a drawstring bag so I can sterilize the cup and keep it safe between cycles.

Are cups suitable for everyone to use?

Everybody is different and luckily these days we have even more choice over period products. Not everybody is going to get on with menstrual cups as it’s a personal decision, so you must find what works best for you!

If you do want to try a cup, I recommended doing some research so you can find the right one for you.  For example, if you have a silicone allergy it’s best to use a cup made from TPE to prevent irritation. If you have an IUD (coil) please check with your doctor before trying a cup. 

Is there anything you cannot do while wearing the cup?

You shouldn’t have sex while wearing a cup, same as with tampons. Other than that, your normal day to day activity shouldn’t be affected. 

What are your top tips?

  • Not all cups are made equal. Make sure you buy a good quality menstrual cup that’s made from medical grade materials. Remember, it’s designed to last for years so quality matters in this case.
  • At first, try to relax and take your time. It’s a good idea to be at home for your first few cycles using a menstrual cup. 
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try again. It takes a little practice but once you’ve found your way, you may never look back! 
  • After your period is finished, sterilize the cup and store it somewhere safe between periods.
  • You don’t have to wear a cup all the time. You can mix and match products that suit you and your lifestyle and during different stages of your cycle. 
  • You might have friends that use a cup and it’s worth asking them for advice. I think it’s good to have conversations about periods as it destigmatizes them. We all go through it why not share tips and support each other!

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