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What's it really like to use a menstrual cup? We asked four Irish people who have tried them

How much money could you save from investing in one? A lot, tbh.

Menstruation as an African taboo DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

THERE ARE PLENTY of reasons to use a menstrual cup as opposed to tampons or pads.

One menstrual cup can be reused for ten years, for a start.

That’s ten years that you don’t have to worry about going shopping for period supplies.

That’s ten years that you don’t need to worry about getting Toxic Shock Syndrome (despite the fact it’s so rare, you can’t help but feel anxiety creep in every time you’re out of the house a bit longer than you expected).

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It’s ten years of rubbish that you’ve saved the environment from.

Despite all of that, naturally, people in Ireland who menstruate feel a lot of apprehension about using menstrual cups. We’re not exactly a country that encourages healthy attitudes about bodies or periods.

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From an educational point of view, our understanding of this common bodily function is reduced to this infographic.

Let’s be real. This has prepared absolutely nobody for what to expect when it comes to getting your period.

original Pinterest Pinterest

Often where education fails, TV has some kind of offering that fills in the gaps (usually extremely poorly) when it comes to sex education. There are plenty of Channel 4 documentaries and shows about basic sex ed, but there has never been a show that has looked at menstruating in depth.

In fact, the only depiction we get of periods on screen shows them as blue liquid.

Always-maxi-pad-blue-liquid-ads Always Always

So it’s really no surprise that people are freaked out by their own bodies sometimes. Too freaked out to even consider trying to get their heads around menstrual cups.

Huffington Post crunched some numbers and discovered that having a womb can cost someone €15,000 in their entire lifetime.

Nothing can be done at present to save you from spending money on birth control and pain killers every month, but you could take a decent chunk off of that figure by switching to a menstrual cup.

Rally Calling For Reduced Taxes On Women's Sanitary Products - Paris 'My cup is full. 20% overflowing' - French protest against taxes on sanitary products Bertrand-Hillion Marie-Paola Bertrand-Hillion Marie-Paola

If you spend a tenner on tampons every month, 35 years of fertility is going to cost you €4,200. 3-4 menstrual cups that you need during your lifetime cost around €80, saving you €4,120 in the long run.

As well as that, you put around 10,000 tampons into the bin in your lifetime. This is a pretty huge amount of waste for one person to be responsible for, and it’s not accounting for the people who need to use both pads and tampons during their period.

PastedImage-52484 In theory, pads and tampons are as silly as disposable underwear. Classic Film / Flickr Classic Film / Flickr / Flickr

So why aren’t we all using menstrual cups? spoke to four Irish women about their experiences using menstrual cups instead of pads or tampons during their periods and it turns out that they’re a lot less scary than everyone seems to think.

Sarah got bought a Moon Cup a year ago to save space in her bag while she was travelling (who wants to fill their suitcase with tampons?):

I liked the idea of them being way more eco-friendly than sanitary products because they last for years if you look after them properly, meaning you save tonnes of money too.

When I got it, I was a little bit apprehensive because it was bigger than I expected. Unlike that girls from Mean Girls I do not have a wide set vagina and a heavy flow so I thought it might not fit. The instructions you get with it are good at helping you figure out how to get it in and they give great tips.

Once it was in I was pleasantly surprised that it felt grand. It wasn’t quite as comfortable as a tampon but it didn’t bother me either. Since I’ve gotten it I’ve used it for most of my periods. I think most peoples’ biggest hang up about it is the perceived ‘grossness’ and the issue of removing and cleaning it if you’re in a public place.

I’m not a squeamish person at all, but I’d have to say it’s no more gross than dealing with a used tampon or pad. As for the public bathroom thing, either go into a disabled bathroom where the sink is in there with you or just leave it.

Moon cups take waaay more blood than a pad or a tampon, so generally speaking, there’s no reason you can’t just wait until you’re home to wash it. I’m a big fan and I’d definitely recommend it to almost anyone. The only people I’d leave out of that are those who find tampons uncomfortable.

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Sinéad*, who has been using a menstrual cup for five years said: 

Using a menstrual cup or mooncup might seem ‘weird’ or unusual, but I think they are an amazing invention. It’s worth questioning why us women can be squeamish around periods and it’s usually due to societal pressure/stigma. It’s your body, so why not learn more about it?

The Mooncup does mean getting up close and personal with your body, so it helps you learn more about your mental health and it does feel badass using it!

They last for ten years and they’re simple to take care of. I love that I’m not throwing away lots of rubbish. However, they can – for me – be tricky at some times of the period, so I don’t use them exclusively.

Yes, they do take a while to get used to, but mostly you forget you’re actually using one. You don’t get that with other menstrual products. I feel like they’re really empowering – and they help you save money and cut down on rubbish. If you’re curious, there is lots of information online to help you out.

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Aoife* has only had her menstrual cup a few months, but here’s what she had to say: 

I decided to buy a Mooncup a couple of months ago after seeing a ton of glowing reviews online. It was around €30 from Sex Siopa. The main selling point for me was the fact that you can leave it in for hours without worrying about the risk of toxic shock syndrome.

As well as this, I was fed up of paying for pads and tampons every month. The environmental cost of throwing out (or flushing) sanitary products is huge.

When I first started using the menstrual cup, it was quite tricky. The cups size is kind of intimidating and the folding over process and insertion definitely takes some getting used to but honestly it’s so worth it.

Being able to put the cup in and forget about it for hours is almost like being able to forget about being on your period. You don’t have to carry extra supplies and you never have to awkwardly search for a bin in someone’s bathroom.

It also gives you the freedom to sleep in someone’s bed without worrying about leakage. At the heaviest point in my period I would use both a tampon and a pad and change them every hour or so, which is not only inconvenient, but also pretty uncomfortable.

I genuinely feel like a menstrual cup is so much more advanced than disposable sanitary products and I think they’re definitely worth a try for anyone who menstruates.

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Irish writer Hilary, of has been using a menstrual cup for a year now:

I ordered my first period cup after reading an article about the harmful chemicals in tampons. Choosing a size was easy, one size if you’ve never had a vaginal birth and another if you have. This was only a year ago, but the popularity of the cups has exploded and you can now find them in supermarkets and chemists.

I found a few good videos on YouTube explaining the different ways of folding a cup for easiest insertion.

To be honest, it took me three months to fall in love with my cup. The soft silicone is really easy to insert and once I got it at the right angle, I didn’t feel it sitting there at all. It’s more up-close-and-personal than applicator tampons, you sometimes need to poke around a bit to make sure it has unfolded properly. You can leave it in for up to 12 hours, which means you don’t need to empty it during the day at work.

Emptying it grossed me out the first few times. We aren’t used to seeing our period blood. Because my toilet is close to the sink, it can be removed, emptied and rinsed out all while still sitting down.

I recommend anyone with periods to try it for four months. I’m so glad I did. I’m never looking back.

The information, or rather lack thereof, regarding the chemicals in tampons that initially concerned Hilary can be found here on Dutch magazine Charlie Mag (with the aid of Google Translate). Many tampons contain levels of Pesticides that exceed recommendations of the FDA.

There are loads of different companies to choose from if you decide to make the move to menstrual cups.

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Rubycup have a campaign where they donate a menstrual cup to a teenager in a developing country every time you buy one, to help them to manage their periods safely and with dignity.

Moon Cup is probably one of the most popular brands of menstrual cup in Ireland and the type that you will find in most chemists. This company is 100% owned by employees, which is pretty cool.

There are other brands online that you could spend hours doing research into, from German company MeLuna which specialise in short ones for individuals who have a low cervix as well as ‘sports’ ones for people who are more active.

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Anyone who is new to menstrual cups may prefer the idea of Finnish company Lunette’s cup, which is referred to as a “go to” by people who have trouble getting their cup to open in place.

Here’s a list of 10 of the most popular menstrual cups if you’ve yet to come across anything in particular that interests you. Always make sure you’re getting the correct size.

*Some names have been changed. 

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