Before a few weeks ago I had no idea what a menstrual cup really was. Now that I know a bit more, I'm disappointed that I haven't been using one for the last 18 or so years. Savvy Every Day reviewed Natracare's organic cotton feminine products a while back, and it was eye-opening to discover the synthetic chemicals in conventional tampons and pads. It's great to know that there are (truly) natural and safe options for women, but even with organic pads, tampons, and panty liners you're throwing away a lot of product. So instead of showing you just one alternative to conventional feminine products, Savvy Every Day contacted Diva Cup and requested a menstrual cup to for this review to talk to you about another option during your monthly flow. My experience with the Diva Cup may not be the same as yours, but can give you a general idea of what to expect if you decide to make the switch.
When I requested the Diva Cup I was equally excited and horrified. I love the idea of all things "green" and Earth or people friendly, but unless something is a simple switch from a conventional way I've done something all my life (since I was raised conventional), chances are I may not really stick to it. I was really excited about the idea of a menstrual cup after learning that one medical-grade silicone cup can last several years (though it's recommended to buy a new one every year, or if you have a yeast infection or drop it in the toilet), and that by switching I would save an average of 200 or so pads. But, because the cup is inserted vaginally and I am not a tampon user —I've been using pads since back when they only came in embarrassing pink wrappers— I was very worried about not being able to properly review the Diva Cup for you all.
When the cup arrived and I started to use it, I realized a few things:
The Diva Cup is Nothing Like a Tampon
My dislike for tampons didn't affect things because the cup really is not like a tampon at all! The Diva Cup sits lower, and horizontally toward the tailbone, while tampons are pushed high up. Plus, if inserted properly, the cup opens to create a seal around the vaginal walls so that there aren't any leaks, while a tampon sort of just floats in there, poking you. I've always been able to feel tampons, and once I got the hang of the cup I couldn't feel it at all — it was freeing. Tampons are fairly simple to figure out and use, while the cup does often have a learning curve if you're used to pads or tampons and have never used one before. If you're new to the whole menstrual flow thing, I'm sure that both the cup and tampons have an equal learning curve, though. The last major difference between a cup and tampons for me is that the Diva Cup is made from medical-grade silicone that won't absorb the natural moisture of my vagina, while tampons collect it all, and sometimes even leave some of the tampon bits behind (which can lead to toxic shock syndrome).
Reading the Diva Cup Directions is Really Important
If you're a slacker when it comes to directions like me, be aware that these are directions you really, really want to read. The first day I tried the Diva Cup, I skimmed through the directions and figured I understood the gist of things. I incorrectly inserted the cup and it leaked through my pants. Then, I pulled it out completely in the wrong way, causing myself a bit of pain. After that, I wised up and read through the directions thoroughly, and even watched some videos online (Diva Cup has some helpful videos, too).
Kegels Are a Must
After giving birth, doctors let you know that doing kegel exercises will strengthen your pelvic floor. Regular kegel exercise helps prevent bladder control problems and sagging pelvic organs, too! Because of its' ability to strengthen pelvic muscles, it's important to begin regular kegel exercises before trying the Diva Cup, or if you already have one. I learned this after trying the cup for the first time since I don't do regular kegels, and my body has a lot of muscle and strength loss overall since becoming a mom.
It Takes Time to Learn How to Use It
On day 1 of using the cup, I inserted it incorrectly the first time, then got better and worse off and on throughout the day. I wore a pad at bedtime that day. On day 2, I was a bit better at understanding and following the directions so things went smoother, but I still had some incorrect placement, so I wore a panty liner during the day. By day 5 I was still wearing a panty liner as back up with the Diva Cup, but I didn't leak! Everyone's learning curve will be different, though. If you already have a great understanding of your own body to begin with then you'll probably be able to insert the Diva Cup correctly within a few seconds. I went in there blind, so it was kind of like a person putting contacts on for the first time. I had the fold and insert down OK, but had no clue how I was going to rotate it 360 degrees until it opened up to create a seal. My first public bathroom trip was a bit intimidating, too, since I took it out to reinsert it and you're supposed to wash it with warm water and scent-free soap before re-inserting. I was lucky to be in a stall with its own sink, but I'll prob carry a mini water or some tissue in the future for such instances.
It Promotes Proper Hygiene
Not only are you supposed to wash the Diva Cup with warm water and scent-free soap (or boil like you would a baby bottle) before use, but instructions say to wash your hands before and after inserting the cup. I'm glad this is in the directions because I know there are some people out there who may not have done it otherwise. You definitely need to wash hands before and after (and invest in some hand lotion).
Exploration and Education Come With the Territory
You really do learn about your cycle and vagina as you use the Diva Cup since you see how much blood your cup has collected in the 10-12 hour period you wear it, and you need to feel around to insert and remove it.
I'm Converting to the Cup
Though I had a rocky start, I love the idea of a menstrual cup, and how it worked and felt once I inserted it correctly. Since the Diva Cup creates an air-tight seal inside the vagina you don't have a period smell like with pads and tampons! That alone made the experience amazing, but I also loved not feeling like I was wearing a diaper, or getting rashes from pad wedgies. Added bonuses are that because I plan to stick with the cup from now on I'm doing my part to save the planet, and save my budget. I'm also going to reclaim some cabinet and drawer space in my bathroom, and travel while on my period will be a lot easier with just a cup to bring (it comes with a travel pouch).
The Diva Cup comes in two sizes: Size 1 for women under 30 who haven't given birth, and Size 2 for women who have given birth or who are 30 and older, both are about $30 and available in local stores or online. I used a Size 2 Diva Cup for this review since I've given birth. For more info about Diva Cup, check out their Facebook page. You can also check out Savvy Every Day's post 9 Reasons to Ditch Pads and Tampons for 9 awesome reasons to switch to a menstrual cup.
*I was given a Diva Cup to try for this review. I was not compensated or told what to say, and my opinions are my own.