Hack Your Period

Hack Your Period

I never liked tampons. They leaked. I always felt dried out. When I swam, they became water logged. And I just didn’t feel great about the waste they produced, or the chemicals used in making them. My search for a better period product first led me to the sea sponge. That turned out to be a bloody mess and lasted less than three cycles. Thankfully, a wonderful woman from Portland, OR, introduced me to the Keeper menstrual cup. I was incredibly skeptical at first. How would that ugly brown rubber cup fit inside me and what would I do in my dorm restroom? I pushed my skepticism aside and went for it. Ten years later, I am still using a menstrual cup.

After moving from the West Coast to the Midwest I realized very few women in my new city knew about menstrual cups. I became very curious. Why didn’t more women know about them? How open were women to trying a cup? Do other women like cups better than tampons? After two years of interviewing women about their periods, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

1. Every woman should be given a free menstrual cup at their first Pap smear. If dentists can give away toothbrushes at each appointment, why can’t we give away cups? Cups don’t work for everyone, but everyone should have the opportunity to try one out. 

I love it [the Lunette Cup]. I wish I would have discovered it years ago. It’s really low maintenance. It feels spill proof, which is a huge plus because I usually had a few leaks. Very convenient. Don’t have to lug around a bunch of tampoosn.
— Kristin, Sorority Representative

2. Menstrual cups are awkward at first. For most women this awkwardness comes from removing the cup. The three benefits women mention most frequently are:

  • You can wear it for several hours longer than a tampon so you don't have to worry about changing it as often.
  • You don’t have to worry about having enough tampons with you (or disposing of used ones!).
  • It is more comfortable. You can’t feel the cup once it is inserted. There is no string to avoid peeing on and it doesn’t dry you out.
It was easy to use in concept, but it is funny how unaware I was of how it actually fits in you. I was not intimately aware of my length or width. With a tampon you don’t have to think about your anatomy. The second cycle, I felt a little more comfortable. Clearly there is a learning curve. I had high expectations going into it. I could see how someone would try it and go back to tampons. The suction is intense. It makes a pop sound. The first time that happened it was startling.

3. There is no universal vagina and therefore we need a variety of products to select from. Not only are no two vaginas the same, but a woman’s vagina is frequently changing (your cervix changes position, discharge changes, bacteria changes, muscle tightness changes). We need companies to develop more sizes and shapes of products.

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In order to better understand which products women prefer, I conducted three different product reviews. Basically, I gave away a bunch of period products to women in exchange for their candid feedback. Here are a few key takeaways from these reviews.

1. There is no perfect period product. However, over 80% of women who participated in the Ova product reviews preferred menstrual cups to any other type of product currently on the market.

I set and forget. It’s convenient. There isn’t extra dryness. It leaves my body feeling natural.

2. Although the Diva Cup is the most well-known and widely accessible brand, it isn’t the best. Almost all the women who tried multiple brands of cups preferred either the LENA Cup or the Lunette Cup to the Diva Cup.

I think I had less leaks. Just a little bit on my heaviest day. It was a lot less than with the Diva cup. I think that when I put the Diva in initially I get a little leakage and with the LENA I don’t

3. The two cups I most recommend are the Lunette Cup and the LENA Cup. Both of these cups perform well. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding between these cups.

  • he LENA Cup creates a stronger suction than the Lunette Cup. The suction created by the LENA Cup came up as both a pro and a con with our product testers. Several women mentioned that the suction was great during activity. They felt more confident while exercising and experienced fewer leaks. Some women felt that the suction made removing the cup difficult, though. 
  • The Lunette Cup is a softer cup. This may make it easier for some women to insert. However, the rigidity of the LENA cup may make it easier to get the cup to open once inside.
  • The LENA Cup is $15 cheaper.
I have found the Lunette cup to be more comfortable and more flexible than the Diva cup.

After reading the information above, you may be thinking: "why put effort into learning a new process when tampons get the job done for the most part?" Time and time again, we heard from women that the benefits of menstrual cups outweighed the learning curve. Women could wear their cups for several hours longer than a tampon. Once they inserted it correctly, cups had fewer leaks and women were able to go through their day more confidently. Women also noted that cups were much more comfortable than tampons and didn’t leave them feeling dry. Plus you’ll save yourself some money (and late-night Target runs) over the life of the cup.

I tried the cup for the first time during my last cycle and I struggled a little with inserting it. What made me want to try the cup was its convenience, so I am going to keep using it until I get the hang of it. The main thing I would tell other women is that although after one cycle I did not have inserting it down, once I had it in, it was great! It was more comfortable than a tampon and I didn’t need to empty it until the end of the day. I think the learning curve is worth it.
— Corilyn, Artist

I don't pretend that any menstrual cup is without its drawbacks. When using it for the first time you will need to give yourself time to learn how to insert and remove the cup. The process can be messier at first until you get your own process down. Using a menstrual cup is not rocket science, though. You can do it. Just be patient with the process during the first cycle (I recommend using backup while you’re still figuring it out, just in case). This small investment of time at the beginning will make your life easier for many years to come.

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