For male readers, just in case you missed the “menstrual” part in the heading, heed my warning – this post is about periods. My period to be exact. Read at your own peril.
“It’s going to be cold and it’ll probably hurt.” She knows it’s pointless trying to say anything comforting so the truth will suffice. I nod and pull the skin at my abdomen – what I usually do when I’m in a similar position with my waxer.
Except this time I’m not with my super friendly, polite and soft-spoken Japanese waxer lady. I’m laying on a hospital bed, pants off and legs spread with an intern doctor standing at the other end holding a pair of forceps. I would have laughed had it not been so bloody painful.
I know you’re thinking. What. The. Actual. Fudge.
Why is she writing about this and what does it have to do with travel? Well, you see, the menstrual cup is very popular among female travellers and indeed, it is a huge game changer for periods.
You don’t have to spend $10-$15 every month for 40 odd years on products that aren’t reusable or recyclable and in Australia, aren’t even tax-free (a conversation for another time).
The menstrual cup is an environmentally friendly, safe and reusable cup for menstruation. Basically, it’s a cup that collects your period and you can keep it in for 8 hours without any issues. Most female travellers RAVE about their menstrual cup and how practical it is not having to buy pads and tampons overseas or having to change in dirty toilets.
It’s November 2013 and I’m dreaming about my future long term travels so I decide to give it a shot…
How bad could it be?
Alright, I’m ready for this. A period catching cup is a little weird but if all these YouTubers have used it successfully, I can too. I’ve watched a week’s worth of reviews, how to, what to and not to do. I even read up on the menstrual cup equivalent of ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’.
$45 later, I’m in my bathroom with an overly read manual in one hand and the cup in the other.
Man, this looks rather large for something meant to be “small”.
I fold it, as per the instructions, put it up and leave it. I can feel it but it isn’t uncomfortable – just like all the YouTubers have told me. So far so good.
3 hours later…
Although you can leave the cup in for 8 hours, I want to practise removing it before bed just in case. I go to the bathroom and poke my finger up there to feel for the little stem…where is it?!
I reach in a little further and can just touch the tip. The instructions say to grab the stem with my thumb and forefinger, but I just can’t reach it. Panic.
OK. Breathe. Google. “My menstrual cup is stuck”. I watch another few tutorials on how to remove it.
“Push like you’re doing a poop.”
It’s not budging and has managed it suction its way further up. More panic. I call on my younger sister to do what sisters are pretty much born to do – help you with your lady bits.
“Do I have to?!” As if she really has a choice.
After her initial inspection, she comes back with a pair of tweezers and a torch. Tweezers + vagina = no bueno.
After a gruelling 30 minutes, she resorts to using her hands. Grosse, I know. But remember – sisters. She eventually gets a hold of it, pinches it and pulls it out.
There are some experiences that only sisters are blessed with.
The next day I decide to try again. I didn’t just pay $45 for something not to work. And I am no quitter.
‘Perhaps I inserted it too high’ I think to myself. I read an article written by some rando who suggests allowing it to sit low and then cutting the stem a little so that it wouldn’t poke out and be uncomfortable. And this part goes down as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.
I follow the advice, trim the stem and put it back in. 4 hours later, I am back in the toilet and my sister is up my vagina fishing it out. “Please stop using it, I don’t want to keep seeing your bits,” as if I consider this quality sister bonding time.
This time, however, she can’t reach it because, well, I trimmed the stem. 2 hours of failed attempts later and we agree that it’s officially stuck. It’s midnight. I call Daniel and ask him to come over to take me to the hospital.
At the ER…
The receptionist eyes me strangely as I tell her the short of what happened. I repeat the story to a male doctor who bails and sends in a female doc. The doctor assures me that I’m going to be fine as I apologise profusely for putting her (well, the both of us) in this uncomfortable position tonight.
Apparently, it’s quite common for people to have foreign objects lodged inside them so it’s just another day in the office for her.
She gets me on a bed, takes a look and resolves that she must stick a pair of forceps up there to clamp and remove it. Forceps + vagina = also no bueno. After 20 minutes, the doc has a grip on it and through my wincing, she yanks it out.
I ask if I can wash and keep my cup. A little confused as to why I’d want to keep something that reeked havoc on my life for 2 days, she shrugs her shoulders and tells me ‘sure’.
I return to the pharmacy the next day with the washed cup back in the box, a doctor’s note and a fun tale about the last 24 hours. Horrified, the salesperson gives me a refund without hesitation. My days of a menstrual cup are over. For now.
Learn from my experience
If you’re planning on making the switch to a menstrual cup, here are 3 tips:
1. Check the position of your cervix
I didn’t do human biology in school and to be honest, never took the time to learn much about my own anatomy. A friend told me a few days ago that the problem I had with the cup was due to my high cervix. I was like, wut dat?
After lots of googling, I discovered that I do indeed have a high cervix which explains why I couldn’t reach the cup (yes, I’m a little slow with these things). This matters because there are plenty of different menstrual cups on the market and some will be better for you than others depending on its position.
2. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH.
Read up about it. Speak to someone who has used it (successfully – ie not me) and get some advice. The cup is far more popular now than it was when I first used it so there are ample resources and reviews out there. I found this article extremely helpful to answer many of my questions.
3. Give yourself ample time before taking it travelling
You might have some impending travel plans and want to use the cup. Make sure you try it out for the first time at home. There are some things in life that you can wing and others that you cannot. This is one of those!
Should I give it another go?
Will I try the menstrual cup again? When I first started writing this article, I would have said no. But after doing more thorough research, understanding the cup and my body, I think I will. Just need to invite my sister over first.
What do you think? Have you had any troubles with the cup or has it been a major success for you? Should I give it another crack and do you have any tips for me? Let me know in the comments below!