Demystifying the Cup

by Kate Hofmann

When it comes to keeping your period in check, the anxiety is real. There are so many conflicting ideas on how you should handle your bleeding. It can be hard to wade through all the opinion pieces on tampons vs. pads vs. menstrual cups and make a decision on what is right for you, your body, and the environment.

It also doesn’t help when the media surrounding period products doesn’t dip into the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to use them. There are only so many commercials full of cis women jumping freely into swimming pools one individual can stand.

With an exaggerated idea of what it’s supposed to feel like when you use something like a menstrual cup, it can be pretty anxiety-inducing when it doesn’t go according to plan. Read below for all about menstrual cups.

What is a Menstrual Cup?

If you have never heard of these products before, it can seem a little bizarre at first. Most of us are so accustomed to the routine of picking up a box of pads or tampons when that time of the month rolls around. Every month, we purchase these single-use products, often made out of plastics and other materials harmful to the environment.

The menstrual cup was created to help combat environmental damage while providing a less uncomfortable and messy material than traditional period products. These cups are made typically of silicone-based material, so they are flexible and easy to take in and out. They come with the promise of less mess, less trauma, and less waste.

They should be easy to remove and clean so you can use them countless times without spending money every month on products you’ll just end up throwing away. It can be an excellent alternative for some, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right choice for you.

What is Cup Anxiety?

It seems that everyone I’ve talked to has a story about “the time they tried a menstrual cup,” and the seeming horrors that ensued. It’s challenging when you’ve followed all of the instructions, only to be caught up in the bathroom trying to pry your cup out. They aren’t joking about that anti-leak seal.

It can be terrifying to try and detach it, only to find it essentially superglued in place with a force you did not expect. But hey, at least the packaging didn’t lie when it promised you wouldn’t have to worry about it slipping or dripping—silver linings.

But does that initial terror mean you should avoid using one altogether? Not necessarily. Trust me; I’ve heard every story under the sun about what went wrong while testing out all manner of menstrual cup brands. No matter the brand, that initial difficulty seems to be relatively universal, so you aren’t the only person on the planet to have a breakdown over your cup in a Target restroom. Don’t be discouraged by it because for the majority of users; it gets easier.

What To Do About It

So you’ve had your bad experience, cried a lot, swear you’re never going to use your cup again, and have tucked it so far underneath the sink you hope to forget it exists. The breakdown is over; now what? How do you move forward?

For some people, this means returning to your trusty pads and tampons because they make you feel safe. This isn’t a bad route to go, but it does bring you back to square one. For others, you might put the cup away for this period and promise to return to it next time. But what should you do when that anxiety flares up again?

Breathe. It isn’t as bad as it seems. For the number of stories I’ve heard detailing the trauma with menstrual cups, I have also listened to a great many about how the next time wasn’t as scary. I have even heard stories about people who had no issues with the cup the first time they tried it. Witchcraft, I know. 

So with so many varying stories and our own experience to consider, how do we proceed and try again?

  • Just Breathe: Your anxiety might be high after an initially bad experience, which means your adrenaline might start kicking in every time you’re faced with the same situation. Just take a minute to breathe and relax. The more you relax, the easier it will be to insert and remove.

  • Bring a Back-Up: If you start feeling apprehensive about putting it in and taking it out, don’t push yourself. Always bring a back-up pad or tampon just in case. Knowing you have something with you on the off chance something goes wrong may help soothe your uneasiness.

  • Try and Try Again: Just because one time goes poorly doesn’t mean it always will. Especially if you’re new to the product, it may take some time to get used to. Don’t feel bad, and don’t get discouraged. Try a few times to see if it is something you just need to get used to. If it isn’t, hey, at least you tried.

There is no need to feel bad if menstrual cups just aren’t for you. We are all different, which means what works for some may not work for all. What’s important is finding what works for you and not feeling anxious to try something new. Periods can be difficult enough; there’s no need for added stress over what products you should be using. There’s no use crying over a stuck menstrual cup, but you’re welcome to cry anyway. We understand.