This article appears in The Hindu as “A life-changing cup” on 15 March 2015.
The Worst thing about the Menstrual Cup
Is it the cost? The weirdness? Is it the difficulty of inserting it? The messy removal? Or the cumbersome cleaning?
No, none of these is the worst thing about the menstrual cup. Women who have these problems generally get over them after a few cycles. And the cost, while high, is recovered. But there is one problem that just doesn’t go away.
What you will often hear from women who use the cup is that it is life-changing. This cannot be reduced to the sum of saved money, saved time, saved environment or any such mundane savings. What is saved is at another level altogether.
“I love being able to swim,” a friend told me. “Just had a fantastic period,” glowed a yoga teacher. “I teach 3-5 classes every day and the cup is simply a marvel!” “It is so nice not to feel wet all day,” said another. “Such a relief to have nothing to throw in the trash. ” Just amazing to be able to do so many things we used to think twice about doing or skip altogether during that time of the month. It is this sense of lightness, security and freedom that one can hardly imagine boil down to one little silicone cup. A question you will often hear from new users is “why oh why did I not find out about this before!?”
What you rarely get to hear is about the worst thing about the cup. Sure people will talk about having trouble getting started. Their questions get resolved pretty quickly, especially with so much information online including support groups dedicated to menstruation. Years ago when I started using the cup there were no such things and I had to make do with the tiny pamphlet that came with the cup. Though it may surprise all the ladies today who rush to the internet within seconds of having a doubt, this little folded slip of paper explained everything I needed to use the cup. I learned the C-fold, how to break the suction, how to clean the cup … soon there was nothing left to wonder. Except the proverbial, why didn’t I start using this years ago?
What no one prepared me for is the one problem with using the cup that just goes on and on. In fact, the more relief the cup provides, the more persistent is this particular problem.
Before I used the cup I used cloth pads for at least ten years and before that disposable pads for another ten. I remember before getting my period seeing some sort of television program or advertisement in which a woman wrote a letter P on the calendar to keep track of the dates of her period. I don’t remember what the message was but I do know that for all the 20 odd years that I was using pads I did not have to write the dates of my period on the calendar in order to remember when it came and went. How could I forget, when the days of my period were so unlike other days. Like people remembered where they were when they heard that Kennedy was shot, I could always remember where I was when Aunt Flo arrived. I could remember if a given day was one of “those days” simply because I would have felt heavy, slow and encumbered in a way that left its impression on whatever else I was doing that day. When did I have my last period? The day my paper was due. They day I went to the post office. They day Mitra came for lunch. There was always a way to match the date with an event that took place on that day because awareness of my period was always there in the background of whatever else I was doing.
With the cup and its insert-and-forget-about-it ease, I can simply not remember when my last period was. And in all these years of using the cup I haven’t managed to make a habit of writing it down either. Am I late? Early? No idea. Should I pack the cup for my trip tomorrow? How should I know? Of course it is so small that I can just keep it in my travel bag whenever I am not using it. So I must grudgingly admit that actually I don’t need to know. A weird feeling to have about my own cycle, something I never did not know … until the cup.
Not everyone experiences disappearance of pain, discomfort or even the slightest sense of sluggishness after switching to the cup. But this purported blessing of the celebrated cup contains a hidden liability that nobody talks about. So a word of caution to women making the big switch: if you want to keep track of your period, note it on the calendar. Because forewarned is forearmed.
Reader, if the cup is not alleviating your menstrual cramps, don’t fret. You may find relief through improved diet and exercise, as well as positive thinking about menstruation.
Some online resources that you may find helpful are