Deal alert: Hello Period., a brand mentioned in this story, is offering 15% off your first menstrual disc purchase with the code HELLODISC at checkout.
When the menstrual cup was introduced to the market, my cervix and I were down to flow. I mean, what wasn't there to love? The cup is a far more economical and sustainable option than tampons or pads. Plus, it collects more period blood — some up to six tampons' worth. You could keep it up your cooch for up to 12 hours a day or overnight, and all it takes to maintain the cup is a five-minute boil in water between cycles. When taken care of and stored correctly, a reusable cup can last for 10 years.
But, still, the cup isn't a perfect invention for everyone who has a period. While I have to preface that these are all personal experiences and not blanket statements or claims, I discovered glaring cons to the cup throughout my years of using it. Over time, the suction of the menstrual cup became a primary issue for me (as I'm sure it does for other menstruating folks). If I accidentally position the cup too low or too high, or at a bad angle, the brim could press up against the wall of the vagina in a sensitive way, causing an uncomfortable suction to the cervix or more internal cramping. (As if regular menstrual cramps weren't enough!)
I also have to say that folding the cup to insert it was a true struggle — no matter what product descriptions say, a piece of firm silicone shaped like a mini wine glass does not collapse to the size of a tampon. (For a while I carried around a small vial of lube with me during my period to ease the insertion process.) I also find that having multiple sizing options for the cups to be confusing, as I still don't know if I have a high or low cervix or even a weak pelvic floor. Finally, a sort of petty and personal issue I have with the menstrual cup is the stem. I don't find it aesthetically pleasing.
For my past few cycles, I've been interested in the menstrual disc — which is what's next in the evolution of reusable period products. I don't know when I became awakened to this new option, and at first, I dismissed the disc, thinking it'd be similar to the cup. The disc may be designed with slight variations, but the general shape tends to be a very soft, very flexible dome-like barrier made out of medical-grade silicone that cradles the base of your cervix to collect blood. It is inserted and tucked behind the pubic bone, so there is zero suction, which means there's no collapsing or pulling of the vaginal walls during its removal.
The disc is also safe to use with an IUD and can be worn during penetrative vaginal sex when you have your period. (Many brands boast that the disc offers "mess-free" sex, though I'd say that's for you, dear readers, to find out on your own. Obviously, the disc is not to be used as contraception.) It is suitable for people with both low and high cervixes, and there's no guesswork required for sizing since the cup only comes in one adult size. I loved the sound of all this, so I gave the disc a whirl during my most recent cycle — and, you know, I really truly loved it.
As a longtime wearer of the menstrual cup, I personally found the menstrual disc to be straightforward and easy to figure out, but I do acknowledge that these reusable period products may be challenging for those making the leap from tampons, pads, or period underwear. (Trust, I was extremely frustrated when I first gave the cup a go years ago.) But as they say, practice makes perfect — and so does getting familiar with your vagina in a more intimate, clinical way. For instance, I don't think I've ever had to consciously think about where my pubic bone is and how to tuck a menstrual disc behind it, but now that I do, it's a thrill to know how this blood-collecting doodad is designed to work specifically with my reproductive system. The human anatomy! I love it.
While there are several options for folding a cup when inserting it, there's only one technique for the disc, which is literally pinching it between your index finger and thumb. Easy peasy. When positioned correctly, the disc does not and should not feel like anything. The only caveat is that it sits higher than you think (literally right below your cervix), so it really does take a bit of confidence to get it tucked in correctly (just know that the disc can't get lost in your body). Removing the disc requires some finesse as well, and I will say that there was a lot of leakage my first time using it — but, hey, that's what the toilet is there for. The menstrual disc I own does not have a removal aspect to it (hence the bloody mess), so I can see how certain disc styles, like Hello Period.'s looped tab or Saalt's finger notch, will be easier for some folks to use.
And, if at the end of the day you're not ready for the menstrual disc, know that your options of reusable period products abound. Seek out women's wellness brands like Hello Period., which offers an array of different-size cups, reusable pads and liners, and patterned period panties to help you deal with your crimson tide. Periods can be a real painful experience or just a Debbie Downer, but it surely doesn't have to be as excruciating as you're used to it being. At best, it doesn't have to feel like anything at all. And thanks to the barely there menstrual disc, I can, for the most part, carry on with my life as I normally do during my time of the month — bloating and cramping be damned.
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