juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
[personal profile] juushika
Under the cut is a review of the DivaCup, an alternative menstrual product. If you're uncomfortable with talk of vaginas, menstruation, and girl issues, you may want to ignore this entry. Hopefully you won't have to. I encourage all women to read it, because I love my DivaCup and I think it's a wonderful product that others should learn something about. Men may find it interesting to read. Plus, the world will be a better place when we can all discuss or in the very least read about menstruation without shame, fear, or icky feelings. So, without further ado...

The DivaCup

While this is a review of the DivaCup, most of what I have to say can apply to all menstrual cups, including the Keeper, the Mooncup, and the Lunette. All of these cups work on the same principle, a worn in the same way, and, barring minor differences in size and materials, are the same product. The Instead Softcup is disposable and worn in a different area of the vaginal canal, therefore (while an alternative menstrual product) most of what I have to say won't apply to it.

Menstrual cups, including the DivaCup, collect menstrual blood rather than absorbing it. They sit fairly low in the vaginal canal and form a seal that keeps blood contained and prevents leaks when sitting, standing, sleeping, and moving. For most users, the cup only needs to be removed, emptied (in a sink, toilet, or shower), and cleaned two or three times a day. Some people wash with water, some with soap. At the end of the menstrual cycle, many people sterilize their cups (often in boiling water or a dishwasher). When not in use, the cup is stored in a breathable, clean environment. The same cup, if used and stored properly, can be reused indefinitely. It is never throw away and won't break down.

The advantages of menstrual cups are enormous. Because they collect, rather than absorb, blood, the vagina remains moist throughout use—a nice change from the dryness of tampon use. Unlike pads, they don't chafe or irritate. When properly positioned, the wearer cannot feel the cup (I discovered after using the DivaCup that I had been able to feel the dryness and irritating string of a tampon, but I never noticed the cup at all). They produce no waste and are a ~$35 one time purchase (there are, however, two sizes, and after the age of thirty or your first childbirth you may need to move up a size), much cheaper than disposable pads or tampons. Silicone and latex construction means that they can be folded for insertion, cleaned, and sterilized, making them durable and entirely safe. Finally, learning to use and empty a menstrual cup is a good way to get to know your body and your cycle.

There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding to make the switch to a menstrual cup: there is a steep learning curve, and cups can be intimidating, frustrating, or difficult for the first few times or even cycles. Unlike a pad or even a tampon, menstrual cups require an intensely hands-on insertion. The user wets and folds the cup and the inserts it into the vaginal canal. The cup generally pops open during insertion. Positioning the cup and forming a tight seal can be tricky the first few times, requiring a bit of maneuvering, jiggling, and twisting. To remove the cup, the user breaks the seal, partially folds the cup, and slides it out. Emptying the blood and washing the cup is easiest to do in the shower, where there's a lot of privacy and running water; cleaning it in public washrooms can be harder. A lot of first time users get frustrated with their initial attempts and repeated insertion and removal can be painful or irritating. Getting used to the cup takes time, privacy, and a good dose of humor and patience. I highly recommend low-key dry runs (before your period starts) to get used to the cup. Space them out to prevent irritation, take your time, and don't get frustrated by failure. The more you use the cup, the easier it will get. For some women, the cup may never work, but for the majority it turns out to be a wonderful alternative.

Menstrual cup and women's health communities are a wonderful place to go for help and information, and they will generally provide more information and first-hand experiences than the offical website for the cup. There are a list of recommended links at the end of this entry. I also have a few personal tips to offer: Buying the cup locally will save time and shipping cost, and the cup can be found at local health food and organic stores. The cup isn't as big as it looks online: in fact, it's pretty tiny and not at all scary. Wetting the cup in cold water before insertion will make it stiffer and more likely to pop open and form a seal, which save a lot of wiggling and turning. You can easily check to see if a seal is formed by simply tugging down on the cup: if you feel suction, there's a seal, but if the cup slides right out then you need to reinsert. Alternative folding methods make the cup easier to insert and more likely to pop open—my favorite is the origami fold. Kegel exercises will help you position the cup, the bearing down (like for a bowel movement) will help you remove it. Remember that it may take a lot of water to wash the blood down the toilet, so empty the cup near the bottom of the bowl. Feel free to trim the stem of the cup if it is poking, catching, or causing any irritation, but do so in small increments and bevel the edge of the rim.

I am incredibly happy with my DivaCup, and I recommend it to all the women on my list. I put off buying one for a while, but I'm glad I finally got around to it. Financially, it's a smart investment: I hate spending money and the $35 price tag was scary, but the cup pays for itself within a matter of months for most women. Ecologically, it keeps a lot of waste out of landfills and is much less wasteful. The cup is safe: just because it's reusable doesn't mean it's not clean, and it carries a lesser risk of toxic shock syndrome than tampons. Learning to use it was a real "get to know your body" episode for me, and the natural liquid blood was a bit of a shock the first few times, but I'm very glad for the experience: I feel more in touch with my body, more comfortable, and better educated. The blood isn't scary (it's actually kind of cool). There was no discomfort with my period this time and I was actually excited for it to come so that I could use my cup. Cleaning and storage is simple. I'm so glad to have my cup and I never plan to go back to tampons or pads. If the idea of a menstrual cup interests any women reading this, then I highly recommend that you do some research and go out and purchase one for yourself. They're a brilliant little invention and make menstruation a breeze.

Here are a number of website that may help you out on your search for information and purchasing:

Product Websites. These sites offer product-specific and purchasing information.
The DivaCup, a clear silicone cup in two sizes, easier to fold than the Keeper, good for measuring blood flow, with a short stem.
The Keeper, a brown latex cup with a long stem.
The Mooncup, produced in the UK, a clear silicone cup in two sizes, with a short stem.
The Lunette, produced in Finland, a clear silicone cup with a short stem.

LiveJournal Resources. These sites offer personal experiences and advice, in-depth FAQs, and more specific information than the official sites.
[livejournal.com profile] vaginapagina. The biggest, most comprehensive women's health LJ community. I highly recommend it to all women. Check out their alternative menstrual products info page.
[livejournal.com profile] menstrual_cups. For all your DivaCup, Keeper, Mooncup, Lunette, and even sometimes Instead and cloth pad needs. Their memories and tags are extensive, and I highly recommend you use them to find information. Be sure to check out the following entries:
Alternative folding techniques with photos. Alternative folds help with problematic insertion and opening.
How and why to bevel the stem edges with photos. This makes for a more comfortable cup.
Visual comparison of the different menstrual cups.

If you have any questions or want to know a bit about my personal experiences with the DivaCup, why I chose it, or any other information, feel free to ask. I really do recommend menstrual cups in general and the DivaCup in particular. I, for one, will never go back.


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