The Menstrual Cup Saga Continues: Road Tripping In West Africa And The Diva Cup Potential

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how I had been trying menstrual cups for several months with no luck. By then I was on my third brand, Diva Cup, and still skeptical, but it seemed as if the Diva Cup was actually showing some progress after an initial awkward start, but I needed to do more research.

I have gotten my period again since that post, and once again I used the Diva Cup. This time around, I was in a new environment where my period was acting erratically and I was road tripping. Basically, I went on a nine day trip to Ghana and Togo, and my body reacted. In case you didn’t know, traveling across time zones can affect your period, especially if you go somewhere tropical. If that wasn’t a test then I don’t know what was!

I willed my period to come early, as in, a week before the trip, but I was playing myself because my period comes like clockwork, never early, never late (I think it was late once, but you get the point). So, it was just my luck that I woke up on the morning of my afternoon/overnight flight to Ghana with full on blood in my underwear. It wasn’t heavy, but I figured that by the time I got to Accra the next day, it would be heavier. I’m not about that plane bathroom life (I’ll hold my pee for entire flights if I can; the longest I went to date was 10 hours) or changing pads and tampons while traveling, so when I got to the airport, I inserted the Diva Cup about an hour before my 9.5 hour flight.

When I got to the other side, I discovered that the cup served me well. There was no spotting in my underwear and everything was in the cup. However, being the cynic that I am, I still doubted it. I had to wait until my cycle turned up the volume before I made a decision, and figured that I’d have at least another 3 more days before I could fully determine. My period usually lasts for about 6 days, and I get a good 2 heavy days, and one and a half medium days out of that.

Side Note: This is me in Togo, by the way:

Anyway…

Traveling made my body act really screwy. Not only did I have an 8 day period (#DaFuq), but my period was misleadingly light for the first 3 (It’s usually at full power by the second and third day), and then turned on the heavy blood works toward the end, but it kept coming and going between light and heavy (I wasn’t the only woman on the trip who experienced that). It was annoying and weird, but I must admit, the Diva Cup kept me sane. I was still worried about it, but it got me through two 5 hour road trips, and a 14 hour road trip was was supposed to be 5 (um…road tripping in West Africa can be dramatic, and traumatic, and I still question my sanity, but that’s another story). On the latter road trip, I should have changed midway, but I decided to be trifling and keep it in (also because rest stop stations aren’t really a thing there, so your other option is to pray for a gas station that actually has a bathroom, or go in the bush, and the latter wasn’t happening with a cup because…soap, water and germs). When I got to my final destination, my cup had almost runneth over and there was some spotting on my panties, but it wasn’t terrible.

Overall, here’s what I noticed: On my really heavy days, there was no way I could keep the cup in for the full 12 hours because after a while, some blood droplets began dripping (slowly, but still) down to my panties. It wasn’t soggy or gross, and honestly, I didn’t notice until I looked, but I’m not about that blood stains coming through my pants life, so I remained vigilant. What worked for me on heavy days was changing after about 8 hours. I also noticed that I shifted on occasion. It didn’t happen much, but when it did I noticed and made the proper adjustments.

I’m getting a better hang of inserting my Diva Cup, but I still need some practice. If you put it in too high then the cup will definitely cause leakage, and if it hurts when you insert it start over, because you’re probably putting it in wrong. Like I said, I’m still practicing, but I’m getting closer to success. Perhaps I’ll be a pro by the end of my next cycle.

Will Menstrual Cups Ever Let Me Be Great?

Diva Cup

Aside from cramps and fatigue, the worst thing about my period is having to wear pads and tampons. Pads, no matter how thin, feel like diapers and get soggy, and tampons are rough (at least to me), drying, they can throw off your vaginal pH, carry the risk of toxic shock syndrome, and trace amounts of various toxic chemicals that may or may not be harmful. They’re also expensive.

On the other side of pads and tampons you have menstrual cups. Menstrual cups tend to be made with reusable silicone, and other polymeric-like materials (it differs by brand), which means less risk for toxic chemicals to leak into your body, no risk of toxic shock syndrome, you can wear them for longer stretches of time (most boast up to 12 hour wear, but that still depends on your flow), and many can be used repeatedly for multiple cycles (or until they finally wear out). The types of menstrual cups you get, and there are a lot of them out there, vary, but the general consensus is that they’re better for your body, and the Earth.

After reading my friend Sheena LaShay’s experience with the Instead Soft Cup, I decided to give it a go for the first time last year. For some silly reason, I assumed the entire process would be simple, but nope. That wasn’t the case.

My first round with the Softย  Cup, and the three subsequent months of trying to make it happened were frustrating. The problem that I kept having was that the cup kept slipping out, and also shifting out of place, which would cause it to leak. So, basically, I still ended up wearing pads with my Soft Cup because I was afraid of shifting and leaking. Before you start questioning my insertion practices, do know that I’m familiar with my body and what the inside of my vagina feels like. I work with Yoni eggs, generally feel around up there often just to make sure nothing palpably weird is going on. Most important, I read the instructions thoroughly, and made several attempts to get the cup to sit right by inserting in different ways and from various positions, and it just didn’t work. I figured that it was something I needed to keep practicing and getting used to, so I decided to try it for a total of three cycles. By the end of my last cycle, I was frustrated and convinced that there was something wrong with the way my vagina was shaped. The verdict: Soft Cup didn’t happen.

The next up to bat was the Luna Cup. That also came with issues. The first cup I ordered was the wrong size (because the Amazon shop that I ordered it from was mislabeled), so it didn’t fit properly (yup, I tried it anyway). The next time around, I ordered the correct size and still no bueno. The cup kept slipping out and shifting out of place, which led to that pesky leaking problem again, so I decided to give up.

Months later, which brings us to my last cycle, late last month, I decided to try again with a different brand.

See, what had happened was…I stumbled upon a post on Facebook from a group of women singing the praises of various menstrual cups. Everyone had tried and had great success with different brands, and I was just confused because I felt like the only menstrual cup failure. Seriously, I have read nothing but glowing reports about menstrual cups, various brands, everywhere, even beyond that Facebook thread, but when it came to me they just weren’t working.

The women in said Facebook group are women whose opinions I take seriously, so I decided to give it ago again. This time around, I tried the Diva Cup.

The verdict is still out, but I made some progress. I had the shifting out of place problem for the first two days, but by day three I seemed to start developing a rhythm and finally got comfortable-ish. I still wore a pad just in case the shifting out of place problem started again, but for the rest that period, aside from mine spots here and there, it seemed that I had finally found a cup that worked for me (I consider my flow heavy, btw).

Admittedly, I was too scared to work out with the cup so I’m not yet satisfied in my research. I need more testing before I go around boasting that I’m a menstrual cup convert, but things are finally starting to show promise. Give me another couple of cycles before I get back to you on this with more thorough details!