Today I’m very pleased to say we are joined by our very first guest blogger, the very lovely and well-informed Libby Williamson. In recent days we launched our brand-new Menstrual Cup which admittedly is very exciting for all its reusable and eco-friendly credentials, but also just a little bit… daunting. Like many of you I want to make the most sustainable choices I can, and it’s okay to be a bit unnerved by change as long as we give it a try. Knowing that Libby has much experience in this area, I asked her to share her honest experiences, and hopefully put all of our minds at rest.
So here it is, Libby’s menstrual cup exposé:
My decade-long opposition to menstrual cups can be traced back to one simple factor.
- Ahh, a cup!! In my vagina? SCARY!!
When I heard the words ‘menstrual cup’ at 12, a feeling of abject terror swept over me. Even now, that combination of words seems kind of horrific. ‘Menstrual’ brings me back to Biology classrooms, complete with the smell of Lynx Africa and sniggering boys, as we learned about ‘women’s issues’. The word ‘cup’ is nearly as bad. What are we cupping?
By the time I was 15, however, I’d been radicalised by Tumblr feminism. All my cool online friends were using cups, and I wanted to become one of them. After all, menstrual cups are an eco-friendly alternative. They don’t have to be changed as frequently as tampons and pads, and won’t give you the dreaded Toxic Shock Syndrome (that affliction caused by tampons, which someone’s cousin’s friend’s mum always tells you about). With a menstrual cup, I bet I’d even want to play tennis dressed all in white, like in those cheesy adverts. I convinced my mum to order one for me.
The problem is that a cup is, well- a cup. I took it out of the box, in all of its three-dimensional, dauntingly large glory. I felt my vagina shrivel in dread. Please no, my vagina said to me. Stick to those synthetic tampons. I know how those work and I’m used to that kind of discomfort.
I had mental images of the cup wounding me irreversibly. It would GET STUCK. I’d be driven to the hospital in an ambulance, sirens wailing. The plaque on my headstone would say ‘Here Lies Libby, Who Died in a Really Embarrassing Way, Actually’. Pilgrims would come to my grave to point and laugh. I’d be a cautionary tale for others, who dared to dream of eco-friendly period products.
All of which is to say that my fifteen-year-old self gave it one attempt, and then gave up with a sigh of relief. In the dimly lit bathroom, trying to half-heartedly cram it up me seemed like the epitome of a Square Peg in a Round Hole. Cups just weren’t for me, I reasoned. I had tried.
It took me another five years to muster up the courage to try cups again. I’d reached my limit with mainstream period products. Tampons leaked, pads were bulky and neither could handle my flow.
I bought a cup.
And it worked! I’m not going to pretend that my life was immediately transformed- the first time I put it in, it took me about five tries to figure out which way of folding it worked for me. I wish there had been a ‘Which Menstrual Cup Folding Technique Are You REALLY’ quiz online. It’s trial and error, but it absolutely pays off. You can physically feel the cup sealing when it successfully pops open inside you. It doesn’t hurt, but it did make me laugh a bit the first couple of times I managed it!
Honestly, the first couple of times I didn’t figure out the seal at all, and it leaked, and I came so close to giving up because clearly it didn’t work. Then I took a breath. I read the pamphlet again. I relaxed putting it in, and gave myself the opportunity to actually figure out what worked for my body. Taking it out turned out to be a nonissue for me; I’ve never had to seek medical treatment, and the ambulance was, fortunately, unnecessary!
After a while, I realised that my period wasn’t as much of an ordeal as it used to be. There was no dryness, my cramps were reduced, I had no chance of the dreaded TSS, AND I got to feel a tiny bit smug for doing my bit for the environment. I even forgot that my cup was in there half the time- only remembering when I took it out at the end of the day, and felt weirdly proud that I’d produced a Chalice of Blood.
So, if my oversharing hasn’t convinced you, maybe you just need to build up to cups like I did. I can honestly say that it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made for my body. I still sulk in bed for at least a day a month, but now, I do it in style. Turns out cups aren’t that scary after all.
Libby is a writer, producer and theatre-maker based in Manchester. She can be found @libbathena on most social media!