I’m going to speak mildly frankly about menstrual stuffs, so if you are easily squicked out, consider yourself forewarned.:p
A few years back, I happened to see Instead Softcups for sale somewhere, and since I was interested in a tampon alternative, I picked up a small package of them. The idea was, I would use just one per day! No applicator and yadayada stuff! No weird chemicals and bleach and absorbent cotton! And actually, a lot of women rinse the softcup out between use and so get by on one per month. (Edited to add: And yes, you can have sex while using Instead.) But despite all of my good intentions, it was basically a (small) disaster for me because insertion was difficult, but OMG removal was AWFUL!!! I don’t know how women use diaphragms either at this point. I just couldn’t get it out, and the more I worried I got about not being able to get it out, the more I wasn’t relaxed, so the harder it was to get out. It was also slippery and hard to get a finger hooked under the edge to get it out. I’m not saying it’s not worth trying, lots of women love it, it just didn’t work for me. Obviously if you have used diaphragms in the past, then the softcups will be no problem. But in fact I still have a partial box left cos after my first attempt I never tried it again. I already gave one to misa in case she wanted to try it (read: made her take one:p), but that still leaves me with more, so if you want to try it, let me know.
The next thing I tried was organic natural cotton tampons cos at least there’s no bleach and it’s all cotton, no rayon and whatnot fibers. The problem with them is, it’s hard to find diff sizes and it can be hard to find them period (ha, unintended!). Also they’re more expensive — it starts to add up fast. And I’m scatterbrained so it’s not like I ordered a box in anticipation. More like, oh shit, I’m out, better stop at the drugstore and pick up a box of whatever they have. So that didn’t work out either.
So I stuck mostly with regular tampons, and the truth is I was fine with it. Anything’s better than a damn pad!!! Stupid diaper feeling, awful. So anything’s better than that. And if it wasn’t perfect, well not like period is all that much fun regardless, so, eh, deal.
But then! When misa mentioned the Keeper in her post after watching An Inconvenient Truth, I was pretty excited because I was definitely interested in alternatives, but had never heard of menstrual cups. (Btw, that post was really good, this is the second time I am mentioning it, ha.) I looked up some information about menstrual cups in general, and ordered one within hours of reading that post. (Honestly, when I read that line about the Keeper, it was like Yay! Just clearly a good idea.) The menstrual_cups livejournal community was a really helpful read, especially the Menstrual Cup Comparisons post with side by side photo comparisons. You can bet I checked the insertion and removal information too. But menstrual cups sit much lower than the Instead softcup, so it’s totally different. The four options are The Keeper (made in USA, FDA approved), DivaCup (Canada, FDA and Health Canada approved), Mooncup (UK), and Lunette (Finland). To me, it seemed like the first three were all relatively easy to get, I couldn’t quite figure out how to get a Lunette (gawd, it’s probably a link on the front page of their website and I’m just too blind to see it), so that cut that one out right away. (Edited to add: It is a simple link, in fact 3 links, on the bottom of their web page. Only the link names weren’t in English and I guess I just visually noted that and didn’t think to click on them. But of course they have English translations. I am a complete doofus!) Basically after that it was a bit eeny meeny miney moe. I think the Keeper might be biodegradable so it might be the most environmentally sound. Still, I did finally decide against the Keeper because the DivaCup and Mooncup are made of silicone so they’re boilable and I thought if I ever dropped it into the toilet I’d probably want to boil it, just to make myself feel better, whether or not it’s necessary. Not that I’m planning on dropping it into the toilet, but you know, you have to be prepared for eventualities! I walk into trees for goodness’ sakes! In the end, I got a DivaCup because there’s lots of sources here for them so it was easy to find a good price and then I don’t have to deal with exchange rates on my credit card, and really it’s not like I actually had a preference. Now I wonder if a longer stem like on the Mooncup and Keeper would make removal easier, but a lot of people cut their stems shorter, so I guess it’s different for everyone. Then I shipped it to Yut’s office cos that’s the kind of cool that I am! But no worries, it comes in a discrete brown box or mail pouch (I suppose depending on where you purchase it from) so it’s no big deal at all.
When I first got it, I wasn’t having a period, but I thought I’d try it anyways just to see how it was. Well I was pretty bad about putting it in — tried some different folds, then finally had to use a bit of lube (water based non-glycerin unscented Liquid Silk, really good stuff if you are looking for a lubricant, my fave) to help out, but the getting out part just wasn’t happening! I think it was partially cos of the lube making everything slippery and partially cos some part of me was nervous about it cos of my previous experience with the Instead. I finally went to go play some games (Smash Bros. to the rescue! And then some DOTA for good measure) and then tried again, and it was much easier. So relax, and bear down, for real. Now I’ve used it for a period, and you know, it was great! I’m still not awesome about insertion and removal, but it’s getting easier, practice definitely helps and actually, I think it’s easier during a period anyhows, but maybe that’s some kind of weird psychological me thing. And there was no leaking, I wore a panty liner for the first day cos I was worried about leakage but nope nothing! And when I wear it right, I can tell cos it’s comfortable, don’t feel it anymore than I would a tampon. People talk about removing it in public bathrooms, but I don’t feel comfortable enough for that yet. I got by with removing it once in the morning and once at night and towards the end, I went with just once at night even though the companies recommend removing at least twice every 24 hours about, but it worked fine for me. So yay! I guess what all I’m trying to say is, if you haven’t heard of menstrual cups, it’s a great alternative to tampons, makes sense on a health and environmental level and economically too (break even in like 5-6 periods, after that it’s gravy). And having tried it, it was easy peasy even for me. And I don’t mind talking about it so if anyone has any questions or wanna talk about it or wanna take a look at mine, I’d happily trot it out anytime! (I already showed misa, the last time we hung out was like menstrual product show and tell on my end cos I was excited about it, poor misa, and neb and Yut come to think of it.) And if you’re more interested in the Keeper instead of the Divacup, I bet misa would answer questions about that too. And of course the livejournal community and there’s a Yahoo! group, both are great resources! I’m clearly a total convert.
Now I’m thinking of washable cloth pads to replace panty liners and pads when I run out, but I haven’t decided yet what to do about that, or if I even need pads or panty liners anymore.