Stem the flow of disposable period products with this menstrual cup
Keen to ditch tampons but unsure of the options? Abi Jackson trials the OrganiCup
Tens of thousands of tampons wash up in our oceans each year, not to mention all the packaging we can get through keeping our sanitary product supplies topped up.
Period cups - essentially flexible silicone cups designed to collect menstrual fluids, that you reuse for years - now mean there's a more environmentally-friendly option. But do they work, and won't they be messy?
If you're tempted - but daunted - by the idea of switching, read on. We guinea-pigged the OrganiCup, putting it to the test for a whole - heavy - period (which included a gym class). Here's how we got on...
OrganiCup is one of a few brands making reusable period cups. Made from 100% medical grade silicone, it comes in three sizes (depending on whether you're a teenager, have/have not given birth vaginally). According to OrganiCup, they hold up to three tampons' worth of fluid and can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time, and should last years.
The box comes with how-to-use instructions (there's also a YouTube video). To insert, you pinch the top of the cup so it becomes narrow or 'C' shaped, then push it into place - the idea being it then pops open and creates a seal inside the vagina. The instructions suggest feeling for folds around the base of the cup to check it's opened. To remove, you gently pull the stem at the base of the cup, using your pelvic floor muscles to push downwards. You can rinse/wipe after emptying, and give it a proper sterilising clean with boiling water between periods.
Getting to grips
I've been thinking about switching for a while now, but have been too anxious to try. My periods are very heavy (I'm talking always doubling up on tampons and pads, and sometimes changing tampons by the hour) and I was worried using a cup would just be disastrous.
I decide to still use a pad as well, and for the first two days of trialling the cup, I'm working from home, which takes the edge off worrying about leaks. Inserting the cup is fiddly at first, and I keep thinking it's not 'popped' open properly. In the end, I decide to just let it be and see how I get on. Happily, once I get on with things, I can't feel it at all and it seems to be doing its job.
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I'm concerned about removing it though - imagining a sudden spillage situation splashing across the room - so I decide to stand in the bath to do it. (This might sound dramatic, but I'm sure many heavy-flow gals will relate!) I'm impressed at how smooth it all is though - no spills, no splashes, just success. I tip the contents down the loo then give it a wash in the sink.
After this I'm much more confident about it and simply remove it standing by the loo, much in the same way as you would a tampon. On some occasions, it's a little trickier and I do have to really use my muscles, but it's still fine.
Amazingly, the cup really does hold more fluid than tampons, and on my heaviest days I'm emptying it every few hours, reducing to bigger gaps on not-so-heavy days - an absolute revelation. There is still a little leaking for me, but I can live with that. After a few days, I decide to test my confidence wearing the cup for an energetic gym class and I'm happy to report that it's absolutely fine.
Hand on heart, switching to a reusable period cup is one of the best things I've done all year. Knowing it's an extra 'bit' towards helping the planet is huge, as well as the long-term financial savings. On top of that, it just feels more pleasant than tampons, even if the process is a bit faffier and takes a bit longer. Using cups may be tricky on days when you're using public toilets with communal sinks, but even using it for some days is going to be worthwhile. Overall, I'm utterly delighted and would recommend it to everyone.
- OrganiCup, £20.99, Holland & Barrett (hollandandbarrett.com)