If you're a teenager, or a parent of a teenager, doing research on menstrual cups, we're glad you stumbled upon this post! Vivian, a 17-year-old who has been using a menstrual cup since she was 14, shares her experience with us here.
What's a Menstrual Cup?
Alright, let’s cut to the chase: Menstrual cups. Small, flexible silicone or plastic ‘cups’ (more like tiny bell-shaped things, but I digress) designed to be folded up and inserted into a woman’s vagina to collect period blood, in place of a tampon. A safe, lazy, eco-friendly person’s alternative to tampons and pads. Also a bit harder to find, but definitely worth the trouble, and this is coming from me, a 17 year old girl so phenomenally lazy that she’ll sleep until 2 pm given half a chance and take another four hour nap later.
The menstrual cup, being flexible and small, is folded up and you sorta just put it in like a tampon and make sure it unfolds inside you, a bit like how some tampons work. It’s about the same size as a tampon when it’s folded up, and if you’re familiar with tampons, you know the drill. Wash hands, fold, put in, wash hands, done and done in a couple of minutes. You can leave it in safely to collect blood for up to twelve hours before you take it out, empty it, and give it a rinse before putting it back in, which means you don’t have to spend as much time bothering with it as say, tampons or pads, which have to be changed every few hours or so.
There’s often a short stem or some other grip at the base, to allow you to get a good hold on it when you want to remove it. I prefer to give the grip a light tug to ensure that the suction is, in fact, there, even though I’ve never actually encountered a situation where the suction has failed to form, but this is just a little habit that makes me feel safer.
Discovering Menstrual Cups
Let’s go back a little. I don’t remember where and when I heard about menstrual cups, in all honesty, but definitely before I was fourteen. Me being me, with far too much free time and Internet access on my hands, I must’ve spent weeks or months researching them, but I didn’t dare try them myself, under the (mistaken) impression that they had to be boiled to clean them properly. Being a fourteen-year-old Chinese girl in a conservative household – you can imagine how well that would go over with everyone else.
Not only that, but my mum, while willing to allow me to experiment (after I had presented a full thesis to explain that it was scientifically proven to be safe, as well as environmentally and economically friendly), was not willing to help me buy one online via using her credit card. With this being before the online retail boom, if you didn’t have a credit card, you were stuck, simple as that. Conveniently, though, my family had a trip to New York planned that year.
Why Did I Want to Use a Menstrual Cup?
You’re probably wondering just why I was so absurdly determined to get my hands on a menstrual cup. Part of it, I admit, was just my own natural stubbornness. The other part was the obvious benefits menstrual cups offered me:
- According to some accounts, menstrual cups had such high capacities that they were virtually impossible to overflow. This was a huge selling point for me, because between my active participation in sports and my size – 1.71m barefoot and 55 kg at the time, now a few kilos heavier – I bled/still bleed heavily. On my heaviest days, I could easily overflow a Super tampon within three or four hours, or soak through a night pad within four hours.
- I am a lethal combination of lazy and absentminded. I routinely sleep for twelve hours straight on weekends, not including naps, and frankly, it’s nothing short of a minor miracle that I didn’t get some kind of infection or Toxic Shock Syndrome while I was using tampons, with my habit of pushing the eight-hour limit on them, and I knew it. I found pads hot and uncomfortable, and with how heavily I bled and how much I moved around, it wasn’t a good idea anyway.
- However, no instances of Toxic Shock Syndrome have ever been documented in nearly a century of menstrual cups being in use – menstrual cups being invented in the 1920s. This is simply because menstrual cups just collect the blood, not absorb it, so there aren’t many surfaces for bacteria to grow on to begin with. Think: what gets mouldy first? A smooth cup, with nowhere for bacteria and stuff to hide, or a wet sponge, which is practically a block of HDB flats for germs? Logically, the wet sponge, and hence the tampon, would have more space for the bacteria and other stuff to grow on, while the smooth cup, the menstrual cup, won’t allow stuff to grow on it so easily.
- As an active Tae Kwon Do practitioner, pads moved about and tended to leak, so they weren’t too practical for me, especially given the amount of intensive physical training and sparring I did. With how I was the perfect size to spar against most of the boys, and how aggressive we occasionally got, I got kicked between the legs on several occasions, which is never fun to begin with, but is infinitely worse when you can feel your pad getting kicked against you.
- Understandably, for the past year, I had relied on tampons, which, while serviceable, also tended to have the string go up my backside, particularly when I was, say, doing kicks, crouching, or running. It was better than a pad, but still. No.
- The tampon string also got in the way while using the toilet. Any tampon user can probably tell you this firsthand – the vagina and urethra being located so close together, combined with the laws of physics and a string hanging from the vagina, results in some interesting times for the string. And to me, in some cases, the string being purported to wick liquid back up into the tampon and hence the vagina... I fancied getting rid of the string entirely sometimes.
- Pads big enough to handle my level of bleeding were bulky, moved around, and they meant that I got blood everywhere, which I couldn’t stand. Hair + skin folds + dried blood = WHY. Also, pads were hot and made things feel rather humid down there, which was at best uncomfortable and at worst caused skin irritations, which is not something you want for one week of the month.
- In the long run, menstrual cups were in fact cheaper than tampons and pads. Assuming the average menstrual cup costs around S$50-60 and lasted upwards of three years, and a box of tampons which lasted one period costs about S$10, the cost of tampons at least equalled, or even exceeded the cost of the cup within six months. With pads, it would take longer, but within a year at the most the cost of the cup would be lower than the cost of the pads used. In any case, it would be kinder to my wallet and allow me to spend more money on other, more interesting things. Like food.
- I wouldn’t have to worry about the possibility of someone’s toilet (or some place’s toilet) not having a rubbish bin for pads.
- It could be used for anywhere between three and ten years, making it more environmentally friendly. As a former member of the primary school environmental club, this was just the icing on the cake.
My first impression? Great, albeit a little oversold. Menstrual cups do not, in fact, have to be boiled, and the capacity, while easily double of a Super tampon, is not quite overflow-proof.
However, the cup was still extremely comfortable – I couldn’t even feel it – and thoroughly leak-proof, due to the mild suction it forms with the vaginal walls when inserted. I could run, crouch, kick, anything I liked, though it did help that I was using a notably ‘firm’ (i.e. less squishy) cup at the time.
It took me a couple of cycles before I finally mastered the cup, and in hindsight, there is a lot of information that I wish I’d had at the time.
Tips and Tricks
Most cup manufacturers will recommend the C-fold to you, where the cup is folded twice along its length. And for good reason – for a beginner, this is a fold virtually guaranteed to get the cup to open, which is a legitimate concern with softer cups. However, it isn’t the most comfortable fold, so once you’ve become reasonably competent with the cup, you might want to look into other methods of folding it.
If / when you trim the stem, it may be wise to find a way to smooth down the edge of the stem, for comfort, since often the stem will protrude a little. Not enough to be seen, but enough to be felt.
While you don’t have to boil it or really do anything other than wash it to keep it clean, get a separate bar of non-scented soap (eg those tiny little hotel soaps) for it and make damn sure everyone knows not to use it. Claim it’s for washing your knickers, no one’s too embarrassed by that.
Would I Recommend Menstrual Cups to Another Teen?
In conclusion, menstrual cups are cheaper, eco-friendly, more convenient, healthier, and more comfortable than tampons or pads, and honestly, I probably would’ve cut past a lot of hassle and angst if I’d started using these things a lot earlier than I did. No worrying about pads moving around, or people seeing the outline of it through your clothes, or it being too hot. No worrying about infections from leaving a tampon in too long, or having to bother about differing absorbencies, or dealing with the string. You just put it in, forget about it for twelve hours and get on with life, then you take it out, empty and wash it, and put it back in. Ideally I’d rather not deal with my period at all, but short of that, this is good as well.
I can’t really think of much more to say than that, but if anyone has any further questions, the people at The Period Co. should be happy to answer your questions!
Ready to switch to a menstrual cup? Click here to shop our collection of menstrual cups.
This guest post is by PSLove.
1. Be Physically Active
It is important for women to be physically active throughout their menstrual cycle.
Stretching and staying active keeps our muscles stretched and constantly circulates blood. Muscle cramps are caused due to the lack of oxygen; therefore, blood brings oxygen to our muscles reducing the chances of it cramping.
Some popular activities that help to reduce menstrual cramps include - swimming, yoga, cycling and low-intensity cardio work out. You should actually design the type of exercise you do during your menstrual cycle, and make it a regular habit - find out more here.
2. Say No To Caffeine but Yes To Tea
Coffee has been proven to aggravate menstrual cramps, as caffeine’s property constricts your blood vessels - increasing tension level and eventually increasing the intensity of pain.
Therefore, we should constrict our temptation for just 4 days and stick to either decaf coffee or teas. Teas are usually great alternatives to coffee - teas such as chamomile, peppermint, etc. have properties that can actually help with reducing menstrual cramps. The warmth that tea brings inside your body helps bring relief both physically and psychologically. Find the popular list of teas you can drink here.
3. Eat Healthy (Fibrous Food + Salad)
Due to PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) we tend to crave a lot of junk food. It is typical and absolutely normal. However, binge eating junk food is not recommended, especially those sugary junk food!
You can always substitute sugar with healthier alternatives like: Dates, Fig and Jaggery.
It is also important to consumer fibrous food- cereals, oats, grains and even salad (all the greens) as they maintain your hormone levels and reduces symptoms like- bloating, headaches and irregular periods!
4. Dark Chocolate
Indulge in your favourite brand of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is still considered “junk”; therefore limit yourself to a cube instead of binge eating the whole bar. Cocoa tends to release endorphins, which is also known as “happy hormones”- this helps release your stress and depression PMS symptom!
5. Use Heat
Heat helps with blood circulation and helps to relax your abdominal muscle, which in turn reduces the cramps. It is also a natural method, which is clinically proven and has no side effects! Heat also sends in “comforting & happy feelings” to your brain, reducing your menstrual pain!
You can use hot water bags, hot towels or heating patches like MenstruHeat!
Find out more about how heat patches work here.
Head over to Menstruheat's website to find out more about these much-raved-about heat packs.
Vaginal discharge is probably something that's less talked about than periods. Those sex ed classes taught us about puberty and menstruation (at the very least on a basic level), but vaginal discharge has never been discussed. That may leave you wondering: Is my discharge normal? And what the hell is this stuff?
It's completely normal to have vaginal discharge; every person with a vagina produces it. Changes in vaginal discharge can even help you identify if something is wrong down there.
What is Discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a substance produced by the female reproductive system that comprises mostly water, micro-organisms and vaginal cells. The glands in the cervix and walls of the vagina are "activated" by the hormone estrogen to shed old cells and flush them out in the form of a sticky mucus.
Vaginal discharge can vary from person to person, and also depends on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Most women experience vaginal discharge at some point, but some women have it more often or in larger amounts than others.
What is the Purpose of Discharge?
In terms of cleanliness, your vagina is pretty low-maintenance. It has self-cleaning abilities, producing fluids that cleans up old cells and unwanted bacteria, and flushing them out of the body as - you guessed it - discharge. This helps to prevent infections and keeps your vagina clean.
Is My Discharge Normal?
Most women have vaginal discharge, but the amount of discharge produced is different for each woman. Some have a little discharge now and then; some have discharge every day. What's "normal" for you can change several times throughout your life, due to factors like pregnancy and menopause. It can also vary throughout the different stages of your menstrual cycle.
Other than the amount of discharge produced, the odour and colour may differ as well. Normal discharge should be a clear to milky-white colour, and have a familiar musky scent. In between periods, you may experience clear, slippery and odourless discharge that suggests ovulation.
A cheesy odour is not normal.
The following changes in your discharge can indicate a problem:
- change in odour (especially an unpleasant odour)
- change in colour (especially greenish, grayish, or anything looking like pus)
- change in texture (such as foamy or looking like cottage cheese)
- vaginal itching, burning, swelling, or redness
- vaginal bleeding or spotting that is not a menstrual period
Here are some types of abnormal discharge and their causes.
|Type of Discharge||Possible Causes||Other Symptoms|
|Thick, white, like cottage cheese||Yeast Infection||Swelling and pain around the vulva, itching, painful sexual intercourse|
|Green, yellow or grey in colour, frothy, has a bad smell||Trichomoniasis||Pain and itching while urinating|
|White, yellow or grey in colour, with a fishy odour||Bacterial vaginosis||Itching or burning, redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva|
|Cloudy or yellow||Gonorrhea||Bleeding between periods,urinary incontinence, pelvic pain|
|Bloody or brown||Irregular menstrual cycles, or less often, cervical or endometrial cancer||Abnormal vaginal bleeding,pelvic pain|
If you have abnormal discharge with other symptoms, please see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will most likely ask you several questions about your medical history, your symptoms, menstrual cycle and sexual activity. Your doctor will also give you a full-body physical exam, and examine your pelvic area.
Avoid scented soaps in the vulva area.
Tips to Prevent Infections
Practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent infections that lead to abnormal discharge. Here are some tips:
- Wear breathable cotton undies, and avoid overly tight clothing
- Avoid scented soaps and feminine products
- Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria getting into the vagina and causing infections
- Don't use douches as they can remove useful bacteria
- Keep the vulva area clean by washing regularly with mild soap and warm water
Don't be grossed out by your vaginal discharge. It's normal to have discharge, which helps to keep your vagina clean, and acts as an indicator when something might be off down there.
If you use pantyliners daily to catch discharge, why not get cloth pantyliners? Our Eco Femme Pantyliners come in a 3-pack and are perfect for everyday use. They're more comfortable than disposable liners that tend to bunch up in the middle. You're also reducing waste and saving the Earth at the same time!