Menstrual Cup: One Year Anniversary in Cup Club

As Malay women, we were not taught to insert anything into our vaginas. Sex education was taboo and the breaking of the hymen was thought to be an indicator of losing one’s virginity. So instead of tampons, we use pads.

In my early 20s, I began to unlearn such ideas and embrace rational thinking.

Around the same time, I learned about the zero waste lifestyle and how so many products are made of plastic, including the disposable pads that I had been using for about 10 years of my life.

Getting By With Cloth Pads For Centuries

I soon realised that for every plastic product in the market, there is an alternative. A disposable pad’s alternative is the cloth pad which has been around for centuries.

How do you think menstruating females in the 18th century deal with their periods?

I’ve seen quite a lot of period dramas to know that the ladies back then used a piece of cloth that they would wash and reuse to prevent their blood from dripping on the floor under their dresses.

Another Genius Invention

There is another reusable sanitary product that is arguably easier to maintain.

The menstrual cup.

It was first invented in 1937 by an American actress named Leona Chalmers. Why didn’t it catch on then? Long story short, it’s because of World War II and the short supply of latex rubber.

How does the cup work? It’s meant to go inside your vagina and stay just below the cervix. The cup would collect the blood dripping from the uterus.

To me, this seems to be a “cleaner” way of dealing with menstruation.

With the cloth pad, you’d have to soak it in soapy water, wring it out a few times to get most of the blood out, and then chuck it in the washing machine.

With the menstrual cup, you’d only have to sanitize it in hot water and baking soda before and after your cycle. When taking it out to empty the cup every 8 hours or so, you’d only have to rinse it.

The problem for me was getting it in.

In theory, it’s fairly straightforward. And scientifically, there shouldn’t be any severe complication. While it is important to ensure that the cup opens inside, it definitely won’t go ‘missing’ in your vagina.

So why did I wait 3 and a half years before actually trying out and inserting the menstrual cup?

The Power Of Fear And Discomfort

Fear is often led by the Unknown. The less you know about something, the more afraid of it you may be. But even with all the knowledge in the world, you may still feel uncomfortable starting something new just because it’s unusual or unfamiliar.

And I think that was what stopped me from trying the menstrual cup earlier. But my fear didn’t come from the unknown because I’ve already watched so many review videos on YouTube explaining the step-by-step and what to expect.

Instead, my fear was realising that it could potentially be painful for someone who hasn’t had anything shoved into their vagina and the discomfort of exploring my own vagina, as silly as that sounds.

But in hindsight, the main reason for my hesitation is the lack of personal support from people I know or hearing it from people I know. While YouTube helped, they were not people I personally knew.

Suffice to say, I needed a personal success story and cheerleader.

The Turning Point

Just before lockdown, I remember talking to my friend about menstrual cups.

I was surprised to find out that she has been successful at it so I began asking her about every single detail. As someone with a competitive nature, I felt like I was falling behind on the sustainability wagon.

Lockdown came in March 2020. That was the last month that I used a disposable plastic pad.

On April 24, on the first day of my cycle that month, I willed myself to give the cup a try. Before this day though, I did get familiar with my vagina. This is going to be a bit TMI but it is important that I say it. Basically, I inserted my finger into the vagina and tested the depth of it. This is actually quite an important step before buying a menstrual cup. You need to measure how far in your cervix is to get a suitable cup.

Not all vaginas, and cups, are made equal.

Using the C-fold, I finally shoved the cup in.

It took me a few tries. It was a bit painful but that’s because the vaginal opening, like any other muscle, was stiff. It wasn’t used to being stretched. With practice, it will loosen up.

Practice Breeds Comfort

It took me about three or four cycles to actually get used to it. During those first few times, I did struggle to put it in properly and so it did leak a few times. I’m glad that my flow isn’t heavy and so the struggle only lasted about 3 days.

I later found out that the leak was partly due to the size of the menstrual cup. Even though my cervix is positioned lower in the vagina, I still needed a wider cup so that it is suctioned properly on the vaginal wall.

What I should've done before buying a cup was to measure my vagina and take this quiz.

One year in now and with a slightly bigger cup, there has not been any leak recently and I am so comfortable with the cup.