Written by Amanda Looi • Photo by Lena Cup
I’ve always hated being born a female. Don’t get me wrong, I identify as one. In fact, I’m a stereotypical girly-girl at heart. Makeup, dresses, and the colour pink are all right up my alley. But that aside, I’ve long fostered this deep-seated jealousy towards men and their liberty from periods. Don’t even get me started on childbirth.
Bleeding vaginas are one thing but severe cramps, mood swings, acne breakouts, backache, and other health debilities just had to be thrown in. Seriously, God cannot be a woman. I don’t care how catchy Ariana Grande’s song is.
Photo from imgur
And then you have the literal act of being on your period. Being Asian, using pads was the norm and it’s no fun, trust me. The bulkiness, wetness, and the feeling of your bodily fluids gushing out of you—it’s downright unpleasant.
So imagine my apprehension but excitement upon discovering the menstrual cup. The cup promises up to 12 hours of protection—an extra way to make me forget that I'm on my period? Sign me up already!
I got the Ruby Cup as it’s recommended as one of the best period cups for beginners. Smaller and softer than other regular-sized cups, it’s apparently an easy one to start with.
For those who have researched the menstrual cup, but feel reluctant to get one because of the insertion and removal process, your fear is justifiable. It does look daunting to a beginner. The cup feels incredibly invasive as you’re gonna have to get real chummy with your vagina.
Photo from Moxie
I was jittery about the whole act initially too, but I promise you, you won’t bat an eyelid once you get accustomed to it. If you’re still considering jumping the gun, here are my thoughts and experiences using the period cup as a beginner—unfiltered, raw, and intimate:
Experimenting with the Ruby Cup
A beginner figures out how to insert a menstrual cup
I’ve been a tampon user for a couple of years now, so I’m used to the feeling of stuffing an object in me. Going with the punch down fold method as it seems like a crowd favourite, I relaxed my muscles and the cup went in easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
The whole process took a grand total of one minute. “Phew, this is simple. I mastered the menstrual cup on the first try? Damn I’m good,” I exclaimed with premature cockiness.
The tutorials said to feel around to make sure that the cup popped open but I didn’t even know what I was supposed to feel—everything just feels mushy to me. I can feel it pressing on my bladder at times so I probably didn’t place it in correctly. Also, it leaked after a few hours which made me conclude that it didn’t pop open.
The next few days were a hit and miss. Sometimes I’d leak just a few hours in, some days I can go a whole day accident-free.
Overall, I didn’t find the insertion process overly challenging. There are two or three occurrences where I’d take longer than usual, but most of the time, it was no hassle. This is perhaps a testament to the Ruby Cup's tender material.
Photo from Ruby Cup
Siri, search “How to remove a menstrual cup?”
During my first removal attempt, I tried a bunch of positions—squatting, one leg over the toilet bowl, half squat etc, and dug deep to try and get ahold of the cup, but 20 minutes later, I was still stuck in the bathroom with a period cup in me.
I called my friend in a panic state, practically screaming “I CAN’T GET IT OUT.” She guided me through and told me that I’m supposed to put two fingers in and pinch the cup to release the suction, but I can’t seem to grip onto it. I’m not sure if it’s because my hands are tinier than average.
It took around 30 minutes before I managed to pull it out by the stem, which is wrong by the way, as it’s important to squeeze the cup to release the suction. The whole ordeal was uncomfortable and slightly painful, but I wasn’t traumatised or discouraged.
I liken it to wearing contact lenses. It’ll take a few tries to master, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll be at it like a pro. So I just knew that I gotta power through the initial learning process.
I was still having a lot of trouble the second day. Using just my thumb and index finger is proving to be difficult, so I used two hands to manoeuvre this time. I pulled out the stem as much as possible and held onto it with my right, while my left grabbed the cup and slid it out.
Relaying the episode to a friend
The following day, said friend suggested using my middle finger and thumb, and lo and behold, it worked! I managed to pull the cup out in two seconds, which is a miracle compared to my previous 30 minutes track record. Best believe I was doing a ridiculous happy dance in the bathroom.
Gif from tenor
The general consensus suggests that it takes about two to three cycles to fully adjust to the cup. While I can confidently declare that I’ve gotten the lowdown on insertion and removal, I have yet to be able to enjoy the menstrual cup in its fullest glory—12-hour leak-free protection, that is.
My postulation is that maybe the placement is incorrect at times, or perhaps I need a different cup altogether. But don’t let this discourage you, the leak is manageable with pantyliners. So the cup is doing its job, just not 100% for me yet.
Getting it right with the Lena Cup
By my fourth cycle, I was still leaking. Frustrated and disappointed, I aired my caveats to Bloody Goodshop and in return, they recommended the Lena Cup to me.
For beginners learning how to use a period cup, the Lena Cup normally wouldn’t be suggested. Designed for those with an active lifestyle, the material is notably firmer and tougher than the Ruby Cup, which also makes the Lena Cup impressively leak-proof.
Though I am technically no longer considered a beginner period cup user at this stage, switching to the Lena Cup brought me back to square one all over again.
Squish test: Lena Cup (left) vs Ruby Cup (right)
This time round, inserting the cup turned out to be a little distressing, though ironically, I didn’t have trouble with removal. As the Lena Cup is significantly stiffer than the Ruby Cup, the insertion process hurt and didn’t go as smoothly as I imagined it would.
But with every hardship comes a saving grace and that came in the form of the leakage finally stopping. When I’ve successfully completed a whole cycle without any leaks, I could hear angels singing the menstrual cup gospel—this is what using the cup feels like.
By the time my second cycle rolls around, I am now a self-professed menstrual cup pro. I’ve elevated myself from the awkwardness and tardiness of being a beginner. Insertion and removal take only a few seconds now, and it doesn’t hurt anymore, too. I am in and out of the bathroom in mere minutes whenever it’s time for a refresh. *flips hair*
The biggest lesson that dawned on me is realising that the period cup is more than just a physical tool that makes periods convenient. Its values of empowerment and liberation are changing my perception of menstruation.
Women have been restricted by their periods for far too long. How many times have we stopped ourselves from swimming, turned down events knowing our periods are due on a particular day, and have our vacays ruined because we have to lug around pads and find bathrooms to change them every few hours? Sure, it’s just once a month, you may think, but sum them all up and they become many life moments that you end up missing.
Photo from Our Mindful Life
I don’t feel like having my period is womanly, feminine or a blessing. It shackles me down and makes my biological sex an impediment more than anything. If you feel the same way, you should score yourself a period cup right this instant.
I am also incredibly happy for all the young girls who get to enjoy this invention now. 16-year-old me would be euphoric over the fact that she can go through a whole school day without having to change her pad in her disgusting SMK school’s toilet. All power to the menstrual cup.