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The Menstrual Cup As A Gauge For Wellbeing

The menstrual cup adventures and misadventures continue. It was to be expected. The menstrual system is a complex ones full of intricate levers and pulleys and hormones and what-not. All things considered, it really is an engineering marvel that works pretty much like clockwork for at least 30 years, adapts for pregnancy and sex life. And most of all, given all the different things that go through it, it is a self-cleaning system (a feat I imagine is virtually impossible in the world of machines). So yes, I appreciate my vagina and all things attached to it. The menstrual cup journey has certainly given me a newfound respect for this system that my body comes equipped with.

This has been my menstrual cup timeline so far:

  • July 2015: Started with a firm, medium sized, stemmed SilkyCup. It took me awhile to learn insertion and get comfortable with the cup. But leaks were still happening.
  • June 2016: Switched to a soft, medium sized, non-stemmed SheCup. I thought the leaks may be happening because the previous cup wasn’t unfurling properly. This cup was easier to put in. But it turned inside me a couple of times and once, fell into the toilet bowl when I was trying to get it out. It also leaked.
  • March 2017: Moved to large sized, stemmed WOW Freedom and ALX Care. WOW Freedom is a soft cup while ALX Care is a firm cup. I wanted to see if sizing up would prevent the leaks and after the turnover (turncoat?) cup, I felt safer having a stem. I’ve been using these alternately and have had good experiences with both. No more leaks, no difficulty putting in or removing and the cramps have reduced too.
  • March 2018: Experienced pain for the first time with the WOW Freedom. I was anticipating my period and had a day full of travel so I popped the cup in. I felt like my insides were being sucked in together and this goes beyond unpleasant when you have to endure it for 6 hours through a performance and a panel discussion. I tried it again the next day when I had a less busy day and the same pain persisted. I switched to my old medium sized SilkyCup (my first one). No pain but the leaks began again.
  • April 2018: Went through the whole period with WOW Freedom again. This time though, I inserted the cup while lying flat on my back, the way I used to in the early days. There was no pain throughout the period but there were some minor leaks.

I haven’t had any major physical changes in the past year. I’ve worked out sporadically. My exercise routine has changed from the gym trainer-led machines workout to my own combination of body weight exercises, yoga and cardio. I don’t ache as much, sleep better and eat better, at least when I am working out. As with most other things, I realise I know my body best and I’m best equipped to figure out what it needs.

I’ve lived with allergies, practically my whole life. Food allergies, respiratory allergies, skin allergies — I’ve seen them all. But I’ve learnt to live with them and not just with medication. I know high stress times spark off my attacks. In line with that, it seems logical that my period health would also reflect my internal wellbeing (or lack of it).

The year I spent with an abusive boyfriend, I also had the most painful periods I’ve ever had, which carried on for year after we had parted ways. I’ve always had high pain tolerance but this was excruciating enough for me to faint once. The next time I dealt with problematic periods was 2010–2012, right on schedule alongside another abusive, violent relationship. This time it was weakness, extreme sleepiness, nausea and pain. And the month we broke up, a delayed period as well (which gave him the opportunity to say, “It’s not my problem.”). I think it’s safe to assume my menstrual cycle is a good gauge of how healthy I actually am internally, regardless of what I look like on the outside.

I have been dealing with a lot of heavy emotional issues in recent times. The odd thing is, my period flow hasn’t been heavier or even delayed. But the symptoms vary and perhaps it has impacted my pain tolerance or maybe even my internal measurements. So now I know this happens. This system is a living, thriving being and it mirrors how I feel outside. The menstrual cup is but a tool. It has made it easier for me to understand the variations in my period (not just flow and schedule, which is what most people notice).

This month, I’m glad to say, the period was on schedule, no unforeseen aches, no crippling pain, no unexpected symptoms. I have to figure out how to get through these with zero leaks now. Maybe it’s time to invest in a small sized cup as well for tighter times.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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CupTalk: To Stem Or Not To Stem?

You may remember my menstrual cup misadventures last month. A recap of my journey so far:

  • I started with SilkyCup, a medium sized menstrual cup with a stem (resulting in ‘vagitail’ in my early attempts)
  • I practised and found a folding technique that worked for me and I’m still learning about insertion
  • 7 months in, I discovered that the leakage that was happening was not normal. A menstrual cup replaces or should replace all other sanitary products like tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners.
  • I bought a SheCup, a medium sized menstrual cup without a stem
  • Insertion was easier. I perfected the punchdown fold. Leakage vanished.
  • The SheCup turned over completely inside me in December.
  • It turned around 90 degrees in February. It also leaked out enough to stain my bed in my sleep.
  • When removing the SheCup, it fell out and into the toilet bowl.

I’m over the upset of all this and I have decided that this is just trial-and-error till I find the best cup for me. Reema is of the opinion that the SheCup’s firmer material makes it ‘pop’ open inside on insertion while the SilkyCup being softer, stays folded and leaves room for leakage. I am theorising that a stem keeps a cup from spinning. And both of us think that the two cups may not have been the right size for me too.

With these in mind, I’m back on the road to the perfect cup. I’m going to set aside time, some money and the determination to soldier through and not give up. The menstrual cup has too many benefits (financial, environmental, feminist) for me to give up on it at this stage.

I know a lot more women are using menstrual cups now and several others are taking notice and have questions. I would like to start a discussion. So here are some questions. Share your thoughts and comments.

  1. If you are a menstrual cup user, do you prefer one with a stem or without?
  2. Have you had any troubles with the unfurling? How do you address those?
  3. What fold/s do you use? Have you experimented with angles of insertion?
  4. Has anyone noticed any increase/reduction in cramps? Any other physical changes noticed?

Leave your comments below and let’s get talking!

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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