Sunday, November 6, 2016

Return from Neverland and Feminine Hygiene Products

Oh my, where has the time gone?  Around the time of my last post, I was finishing up grad school, working full time, and attempting to keep my husband and me somewhat fed and in a semi-clean house.

We were also working on making one of these.

No, no, not the big hand.  The little hand.  And everything attached to it.

Our little peanut graced us with her presence about 9 months after my last blog post.  I finished graduate school about 8 months after my last blog post.  Still working and trying to keep this little family in order, though!

Now the little peanut has become The Toddler.  She's full of typical toddler crazies but is also the sweetest, most loving creature ever.  Sesame Street and iced tea and going for walks are her life.

At this point in her life, I'm starting to feel like I've returned from Neverland.  You know what I'm talking about - infant care taking Neverland.  When you never sleep and never eat a hot meal and are drowning in bottles and diapers and laundry.  The Toddler sleeps like a champ now, has been totally off the bottle for quite some time, and is starting to show some interest in the potty.

I've also been working on simplifying my life a bit.  Making the house more tidy, easier to clean, and less filled with crap.

Which leads into my segue into feminine hygiene products.

This is the part where I implore my mother-in-law and really any relatives that are not either my mother or a cousin that's younger than me to stop reading.  Thank you.

Continue on if you fit the above criteria...

About a year ago, I tried my first menstrual cup.

I was interested in trying it not only to save money and reduce waste, which is great, but just for the practical aspect of its use.  I feel like I have a fairly heavy period, and a few days out of the month, I would have to change my super-sized tampon almost hourly.  At night I'd sometimes fare a bit better, as it seems like tampons will absorb more and leak less if  I'm laying down than if I'm moving around.

I'd heard that menstrual cups could last 12+ hours, and the idea of reducing the stash of pads and tampons in my master bathroom, guest bathroom, my car, purse, office drawer, and the bathroom at my mother's house was intriguing.

I was unsure how to pick the right cup and right size, so I held off on buying the commonly found Diva cup, which I was seeing in stores for $30-$40.  That seemed like a LOT for something that I wasn't sure would work and I obviously couldn't return to the store.

Finally, a Facebook co-op I'm in put some cheapie menstrual cups up for sale, and I was able to try an off-brand cup for just a few bucks.  I ordered both a small and a large, but I tried the large first and was happy enough with it.

My life went on and I was moderately happy with the cup.  It couldn't hold 12 hours during my heavy times; in fact it was usually 2-4 hours, but it was relatively easy to use, and I was able to stop using tampons altogether, although I still used a pad for backup.  Plus, even though I sometimes had to dump it out at work, I liked not having to discreetly bring a tampon with me into the bathroom.  I still longed to find a solution that would last longer, though, and not leak nearly as quickly as my cheapie did.

Enter, the OTBBA cup.

Yes, this is another cheapie, but this one is more flexible, bigger, and seems to leak less.  I don't know the brand of my original cup, but I'd say it's closest to a Skoon or a Lena, as far as I can tell.

Here is my old menstrual cup next to the new OTBBA.  Both are Size 2 or "Large", which is the size generally recommended for women that have given birth.  New one on the left, old on the right.

Even though everything I've read implies that menstrual cups all have about the same capacity, clearly these two don't.  My new OTBBA cup definitely was able to last longer (more like 4-6 hours during my heaviest times) and leaked far less.

I have to say, it was almost like a whole new learning curve to figure out how to get the new cup in, though.  I'd watched several different YouTube videos before trying my first cup to help me figure out what to do, but ultimately realized each woman just has to find her own method.  For me, the key was getting it over my cervix.  I don't know if I have a "low" or "high" cervix, and really I couldn't have even identified my cervix except for my very brief foray into using an IUD and having to check the wires, which were always wrapped around my cervix.  For me, my cervix is like a bump up there inside my vagina.  I have found that if I can get my cup to where it's basically covering my cervix, I'm good.  That's when it'll open up easily and not be compressed whatsoever by the walls of my vagina.  It's also the point where I don't feel it.

However, as you can see, I've trimmed the tails on both of my menstrual cups.  If I didn't, I'd be able to feel the tail.  The stub of the tail is still ribbed, and there's some ribbing at the bottom of each cup, so it's easy enough to get a grip on it and pull it out.

So, if you're new to using a menstrual cup, or having trouble with it, I have some recommendations for you:

A) Don't even mess with trying to get one in when you're not on your period.  I've read so many reviews where women suggest using lube and trying to figure it out before your period comes.  Just, no.  Your cervix changes when you're on your period, and the natural lube your period provides is what you need to get used to.  I pretty much can't get my cup in if I'm too close to the end of my period, and I certainly wouldn't be able to beforehand.  Just wait till you're on your period.  You can always use your tampons and pads if you can't figure out the cup on the first go-around.

B)  If you've been using tampons with applicators, or no tampons at all, you may want to try a cycle or two using OB tampons.  I've used them for years, and using them is a good step toward figuring out your anatomy, especially if you're nervous about the cup.  By all means, you don't have to start with this step, but if you're feeling like you just aren't ready for a cup, start here.

C)  Find your cervix.  You're going to have to get friendly with yourselves, ladies.  As I mentioned before, during your period it should be easily identifiable as a bump or round shape.  Get a wet wash cloth, lock your bathroom door, sit on the toilet, and get to exploring.  Get your finger up there and see what you can find.  If you can't find your cervix, no worries.  Some women just can't.  However, I think with practice (again, an OB tampon may be a good start), you'll find the right spot to place your cup.

Now, for the fold.

Ye gads, the internet is full of suggestions for folding your cup.  Try them out, see what works for you.  The point of folding it is to be able to get it up there far enough before it opens up.  Once it opens up, it's not going to go up any farther.  I tend to just squish mine in half and then roll it a little off-center.  This way I can hold the fold closed with my fingers as close to the bottom as possible.  Here's how my fold works on my old cup:

And here it is on my new OTBBA cup:

It does help if your cup is clean and dry when you're trying to insert it.  This can become a problem if you're struggling with it and having to take it out and put it back in a few times, so keep a cloth or toilet paper handy to wipe it down if need be.  However, this is one advantage cups have over tampons:  it doesn't irritate and hurt to pull them out before they're full like it does tampons.

Experiment till you have the right fold, get that sucker up there through the path of least resistance, and try to get it over your cervix.  Once it's in, run your finger around it to feel that it has a round shape and isn't squished in half or anything.  If you're good on that, grab the bottom with your thumb and finger if you can and twist it gently about 360 degrees.  This helps ensure it's sealed into place and won't leak as easily.

I have to say, I may be keeping my initial cheapie cup for light days, but I feel like my OTBBA will be serving me much better on my heavy days.

Plus, my cabinets are more tidy now.

Have you tried menstrual cups?  Getting yourself psyched up to try?  Comment below and let me know your thoughts and questions about this trend!

Many thanks to the gracious folks at OTBBA for sending me my new menstrual cup at a discount.

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