In the spring of 2017, I was walking around the West Village with my friend Kathryn, discussing my preparation for the big year-long world trip I was about to embark on. As someone who had traveled extensively before, she kindly suggested I switch from tampons to a menstrual cup, since jet-setting is often unpredictable. If you’re stuck on a bus driving through the mountains of Argentina, you may not want to change a tampon in a teeny-tiny stall, making a cup a better option. Not only can most women leave them in for 12 hours at a time, but if used correctly, they leak less and cause fewer mishaps.
I was hesitant to make the switch, especially since I had been happily using tampons for a decade already. She reassured me I would get used to it—and even grow to prefer using them. And well, she was right. Now, I can’t imagine using anything but the cup. I’ve been fascinated by what it’s taught me about my menstrual cycle, body, and overall health.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all women regarding period management, if you are considering giving the cup a chance or you’re curious to know more, it’s essential to do your research and give yourself time to give it a chance. It may not feel cozy at first, but you may be surprised to discover these benefits:
I better understand my flow.
Before using a menstrual cup, I changed my tampon every four to five hours during my period. Over the first few days—when I tend to bleed more heavily—I would check or swap it more often, mostly out of fear of leaking through my underwear. On the other hand, with a cup, you see exactly how much blood you are menstruating each day with since it pools inside. Of course, you have to be extra careful when you remove it, so you don’t cause a crime-scene-like mess in your restroom, but seeing it yourself gives a clearer picture into your flow.
This was an interesting discovery for me since I bleed far less than what I thought I did. While my period is very regular—almost to the hour—I always assumed I was on the heavier side of menstruation, since I always soaked tampons. Now, I know I have a healthy amount, without overflowing. I don’t have any feminine health issues, and I’m not currently using birth control, but if I did, seeing my blood levels would be helpful information for my OB-GYN, according to reproductive endocrine specialist, Dr. Lucky Sekhon.
“Menstrual cups can allow for more accurate measurement of how much a woman is menstruating. This might be important for women who suffer from heavy periods due to gynecological conditions such as fibroids, endometriosis, and so on,” she continues. “This information is important to track, particularly when initiating treatments, such as medical therapies like birth control, to decrease the amount of blood lost, and determine whether the treatment is effective.”
I know more about what’s happening downstairs.
Every time my period rolled around, I prepared myself for vaginal dryness. Even if I wasn’t sexually active during this monthly visitor, I would sometimes struggle to wear tampons and even experience discomfort. I suffer from sensitive skin, and tampons only caused flare-ups due to their cotton and/or rayon material. While using organic tampons is a safer solution, the other types feature glue and even fragrances that can further irritate our delicate downstairs area. If you have any bothersome symptoms, you should consider testing out organic varieties of pads and tampons, or menstrual cups. Because cups like the Cora Cup are made from medical-grade silicone, rubber, latex, or elastomer, they don’t pose the same threat as generic feminine products.
“Furthermore, menstrual cups minimize the risk of toxic shock syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening reaction that can occur with tampon use, particularly high-absorbency tampons,” she adds.
I feel freer on my period.
Since I do have a predictable menstrual cycle, I’ve started putting in my cup the morning my period is due, and I wait. Most of the time, it arrives, and the cup is there to catch it. Because I don’t have to worry about changing the cup more than twice a day, I go about my life in an easier, less stressful way. No more rushing to the bathroom, no more worrying if my burpee in a boot camp class is going to cause an issue, and no more ruined undies.
Another added benefit of a cup? You can still have sexual intercourse! As OB-GYN Dr. Steve Rad explains, the cup tends to produce less odor, remains airtight, and you can have sex with it in if both you and your partner are comfortable. Of course, there is a risk for hitting the cup and causing a spill, but it may be worthwhile to remain intimate (or if you’re just suddenly in the mood). If you do choose to have sex with a cup, Dr. Rad recommends the disposable, recyclable ones, to keep it sanitary.
I’m more in awe of my body.
Perhaps the most significant benefit is feeling more confident and comfortable exploring my own body. Using a cup requires you to get up-close-and-personal with your lady bits, and though it’s strange at first, it becomes super easy to navigate with practice. In fact, now I can change the cup as fast as I could a tampon because it’s second-nature. As I start to think about having children next year, I’m thinking more seriously about my reproductive health, and I’m growing more curious about the stages my body goes through. Being able to witness my menstrual flow, in an odd way, gives me hope for my fertility. And since I know childbirth—and motherhood—will be messy, it’s a crash course in getting cozy with the chaos.