On 14th January 2022, Kumbalangi became the first-ever pad-free village in India by distributing 5000 menstrual cups. And now we have more than one reason to say – “Bro, have you seen Kumbalangi?”.
I have been using a menstrual cup for about three years now, and I believe there couldn’t have been a more perfect time to profess my love for it. So here you go, an A-Z handbook on the Menstrual Cup and why you should make the switch.
It is definitely a big move and before I urge every menstruator to make the switch, here’s why you should consider it –
1 cup can last for more than 10 years if taken care of. It reduces solid waste created by sanitary napkins and tampons, and I mean like tonnes of it. The math would go somewhat like this,
1 period = about 10-12 pads
1 year = ~144 pads
10 years = 1,440 pads
In 10 years, each menstruating individual would have dumped around 1,440 pads, please understand how big the concern is. We also need to understand that biodegradable alternatives such as organic material pads are not necessarily compostable.
Or else known as kudumbam velupikyilla. By now, you would have figured out that I’m terrible at math, but bear with me.
A Stayfree secure pack of 7 costs about INR 30. Let’s say we keep one pack per period; that’s INR 3,600 spent solely on pads in 10 years. Contrary to this, a menstrual cup costs about INR 300-900. And that’s the one-time investment you make in 10 years for your period care.
Aa INR 3,600 kond enthoram kola vaangikyaam.
Rash-free, allergic reaction-free, painless periods aaranu aagrahikyathathu? I have been using sanitary napkins since my very first period and by the end of every period, I used to end up with sore marks from the pad. To resolve that issue, I used the full cotton pad and they cost me a good amount of money. The menstrual cup came in as a blessing. Made up of medical-grade silicone that makes them durable as well as hypoallergenic, why would I willingly go back to pads after all these?
You can take my word for it when I say that you wouldn’t feel a thing while using the cup once you figure your way around it. After about a month of figuring it out, every time I place the cup, I kind of forget that I’m on my period because I feel absolutely nothing. I even went testing it like some influencer. From exercising (just for the sake of it) to even going on an off-road bike ride. Now this is starting to sound like a Thumbs Up ad, but here’s the deal – it’s the most comfortable period I have had.
This little invention was patented in 1932 and that made me wonder why has it still not replaced the costly alternatives of period care. A menstrual cup is like that one person who does all the work in the group project and yet never receives the credit for it.
But experiences differ because everybody’s anatomy is different. I want to talk of my experience with this little silicone cup and hope to nudge at least a percentage of the readers into making this switch.
The few reasons that people avoid using a cup are: Virginity will be at threat, Insertion creeps them out, blood grosses them out, and cannot find the right size of the cup.
I’ll talk about the latter three when I talk of how I familiarised myself with the cup. As for the former concept of virginity, (as much as I want to facepalm myself) I will try my best at explaining why it shouldn’t matter.
First and foremost – Virginity is a social construct. A social construct is lost when a person engages in sexual intercourse and not when a cup is inserted within.
Also Read: Is Menstruation A Taboo Even Today?
Secondly, a hymen is a very very very thin layer like many of our orthodox beliefs. Scientifically, this small membranous tissue with absolutely zero biological function cannot tell about one person’s previous sexual history.
In summary: It’s a useless thing that should not be determining our worth. But if it’s of any relief, inserting a menstrual cup carefully can only stretch this tissue and not break it per se. The hymen can instead rupture from vigorous or intense activities and a menstrual cup can rarely tear it apart.
But these concepts of virginity are so deep-rooted within our culture that such a biologically irrelevant screen such as a hymen is sold as something that “Empowers Women’s Health”.
Ridiculous Hymen Restoration Surgeries and costly fragrant sanitary napkins have become some capitalists’ way of looting women. It would make even Marx roll over in his grave.
We’d rather have 30-40 years of painful, rash-giving, and environment damaging periods to protect a thin layer of virginity detector (apparently) for a man so that he can break into it like some sort of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Am I the only one weirded out by how absurd this sounds?
So while I can’t stress enough, Virginity should never really bar you from switching to a better alternative for your period care.
It’s up to you on how you approach your period care, so I would do my small bit into narrating my experience with it.
How to buy the one for you
Unlike pads, the flow does not determine the size of the cup you should go for. A cup can hold onto your flow regardless of it being light or heavy, but the size has to be right. Choosing the size should be done carefully as you may face issues in fitting and can cause leakages.
The right size of the cup can be determined by age and factors such as vaginal birth. Most websites have a determinant chart that guides you through it. Commonly, teenagers are made to use the small cup and those who have undergone vaginal birth are recommended the large cup. Since I fell in neither of these criteria and the page suggested I go for the medium cup. And it has been doing a pretty decent job at being a blood-collector.
I also happened to have come across a few pages such as the SafeCup that provides a Size Exchange Guarantee. So that worry can be put to rest.
Now, this is a tricky bit.
I had to google it up and they suggested several types of folds through which you can insert the cup. There’s the C, Punch down, 7, S, Squiggle, Diamond, just way too many ways to artistically put in a cup. I kind of understand why my boyfriend calls it an Origami Dildo now.
I would suggest you start with what feels the easiest. For me, it was a simple C fold where you fold the cup in half and insert it. Since the material is usually silicone, the cup would not simply slide in smoothly either. So you need to lubricate it well to ensure it does not cause friction. For this, you can simply wet the rims with water or even a water-based lubricant. Do not go for an oil or silicone-based lubricant as that can degrade the silicone cup.
So it goes like,
Washing your hands (hygiene mukhyam bigiley)
Wet the cup (lube also mukhyam bigiley)
Fold it (because great things come in folded packages)
Insert with the rim up (for obvious reasons)
Let it sit a few inches below your cervix.
Initially, I had to do weird sumo squats while inserting it. I guess that’s the normal way to go about it. If not, you still get to do exercises. The cup should spring open inside you. If not, you might have to push it a little further so that it opens up and creates an airtight seal.
The stage where it does it’s job
Once you insert the menstrual cup, it would feel like you haven’t inserted anything whatsoever. If you feel that way, know that you’ve done it right. Initially, it may make you feel a little squirmish, but like any other deed, the practice would get you there. In my case, once I place the cup inside, I barely even notice it there anymore.
The cup can collect a good amount of blood and can stay up to 6-12 hours depending on the flow. So even if you’re outside, you wouldn’t have to worry about emptying the cup and cleaning it, since it holds up impressively.
Also Read: Inclusive Menstruation Campaigns That Made Headlines
Removal and Aftercare
Many people that I spoke to had a hard time trying to insert the menstrual cup. I had the exact opposite experience with removing it. Once it created the airtight seal inside, I couldn’t pull it back outside and I just sat there with the cup inside me, googling how the last process is carried out.
Considering that I am a Trivandrum-kaari who never received proper anatomy classes before, my first thought was that the cup would get lost inside me like there’s some tunnel that leads to a nilavara through my uterus. After having an entire mental debate on how I would explain the situation to doctors, I decided against it. Google to the rescue!
The answer was plain simple – “It has no other place to go”. Once you insert the menstrual cup, it will stay there until you get it out. Most cups would come out once you slowly pull the stem. Otherwise, you could simply pinch the base of the cup to release the seal and pull it out. It truly is a simple process once you read and understand about it after acceptable tiny freaking out sessions.
Once pulled out, empty it out and wash it properly before using it again or storing it up. You can simply sterilize it in hot water and use a mild water-based soap to clean it.
The more you get to know about this beautiful invention, the more it would make you wonder why it took you this long to make the switch. Hopefully, Kumbalangi is just the start of a bigger movement that views period care as an essential system than yet another opportunity to cash in.