health

ROAD TEST: 'I tried a reusable period cup that I'll be using for the next five years.'

TOM Organic
Thanks to our brand partner, TOM Organic

Ahh, periods. We love to hate them, except if we’re avoiding a surprise pregnancy.

Periods are something I have a love-hate relationship with. For three weeks of the month, I am living my best life in blissful ignorance. Then, there’s one week where I make rage statuses on Facebook, cry at TV ads that feature any, and all, helpless sentient life being cared for, and sometimes start online fights with my siblings for no apparent reason.

So when it comes to period care, it’s something I’ve sort of put my fingers in my ears and made loud stupid noises about until someone changes the subject.

Something changed recently though. I was offered a chance to try out a menstrual cup the next time I had my period, and to document the experience.

I’d treat it as an exploration of my body, as well as a feel-good way to minimise the environmental impact of my period, as well as the fiscal impact on my wallet and bank account.

I received my TOM Organic Period Cup in the post, and upon unboxing, my initial thought was “Oh, cute it comes with its own house!"

I’ve purchased and used a cup in the past but it was originally a transparent silicone and came without a container. The TOM Organic Period Cup comes not only with a cotton pouch for storage but also a container for sterilisation that looks like this:

It's kind of like a Minion. Image: Supplied.

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When not in use, the instructions said to store the period cup in the cotton pouch, but that the groovy little plastic house actually has a purpose beyond making me comment on its cuteness. It’s a sterilisation case for cleaning your cup at the end of your cycle. I. Was. IMPRESSED.

Background info: My history with period and cups.

I was raised in a strict Catholic household, so there was an unspoken rule that the only form of acceptable sanitary product was a pad. It took me until my early 20s to teach myself how to use a tampon properly and that you can't just "plug it in".

Which is why I was a little dubious, even terrified, at the idea of using a period cup. I’d been actively discouraged for most of my adolescent life from putting a hand - mine or otherwise - anywhere near my private parts, much less inserting something in there, and leaving it for eight hours.

My experience with a period cup was a serious light-bulb moment. I was connecting with my body in a way that I hadn’t done before, and was learning about it too. Like the fact that there are muscles in your cervical wall that you can activate to help push your cup further down when you’re ready to remove it. I’m sorry but nobody told me I was born a superhero?

So, what actually is a period cup?

Menstrual/period cups have been around as a period device for quite a while, but only in the last decade have they been jazzed up for modern use. They operate with a few simple premises:

  1. They’re made of medical-grade silicone which means they can be used for up to eight hours at a time;

  2. They are reusable and have a lifespan of roughly five years;

  3. They’re not as scary as you think.

Hello, friend. Image: Mamamia

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How does a period cup work?

The premise of most period cups is that you either fold them in half or roll them in on themselves and in a crouching position insert them. You then release the cup where you had it folded. This should allow the cup to open up and form a seal to avoid any leakage.

To make sure the seal is... well sealed, you can try to rotate the cup slightly like you’re tightening a light bulb and the cup should seal the passage.

And that’s it! It took me a few tries of inserting the cup, standing up, making sure it felt OK, removing it and reinserting, until I felt confident and comfortable with my technique. The TOM Organic Period Cup has finger indents so the insertion and removal process is even easier.

Once I perfected how to use it, I haven’t had a stumble, or leak, since.

What about nighttime use?

For context, the first night of my period is usually pretty bad. I have awful cramps and my flow is quite heavy. 

The first time I used the menstrual cup for sleeping overnight I was worried I would wake up having created my own horror scene on my sheets so donned a pad just in case. When I woke up the next morning and went to the bathroom I was pretty shocked. There was nothing on the pad. Not even a hint of a leak!

Utterly impressed, I got into the shower, removed the cup (I find squatting in the shower really helps me mentally having never consciously utilised a Kegel exercise in my life before this moment) emptied, rinsed it, folded it in half and reinserted it, and went about my day.

Surely that’s not very hygienic?

Between uses, you don’t really need to give your cup a full sterilisation. Unless you take it out and drop it on the ground or fling it out a window, you can rinse the cup in cold water after emptying, and reinsert - another reason I found doing it in the shower the best for me. Plus I am FASCINATED with what comes out of it. When you use tampons or pads there’s an element of removal from the process; your blood just gets absorbed by cotton and you toss it away. With a menstrual cup you are emptying out your own blood - and it is AMAZING.

I mean, honestly, it's kinda...cute? Image: Mamamia. 

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Is it really good for the environment?

Most period cups last for a few years before needing replacement. The TOM Organic Period Cup can last up to five years if you take care of it. Not to get all numbers nerd on you but if you were to use two pads a day, for a five-day flow, that’s 10 pads per cycle, with an average of 13 periods per year. So you’re preventing a whopping 130 pads from going to landfill EVERY YEAR, just by using a period cup.

Talk money to me.

The TOM Organic Period Cup comes in at a cool $40 (RRP) and that's including the handy steriliser case too. If you were to just buy one box of the lower price range pads at say $4, every month for five years, that’s going to cost you $180 minimum. And that’s just if you buy one pack of pads. We all have a pack of slim tampons/super tampons/panty liners/super pads/sport pads. Apart from saving the environment, you’re saving money.

So, is it for me?

As with all forms of period care it really is about personal preference. I’m so glad I tried out the period cup, and am pretty sure I’m now a proverbial cup convert. While it took a few tries to get comfortable with how to use it, once it was in I went about my day as usual.

The fact I didn’t have to change it during the day, the handy sterilising container, and the neutral colour palette of the actual cup itself are thoughtful features for something that is still strangely taboo. So for me, it’s something I’ll be using hopefully for the next five years till it needs replacing. And who knows, maybe next month I won’t be so sad about getting my period.

Check out the TOM Organic Period Cup here.

Have you used a period cup? What's your experience been like? Share below.

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. This product may not be right for you. Read the warnings on pack before purchase. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

TOM Organic
TOM Organic was founded on the philosophy that women should never have to compromise their wellbeing or the health of the planet with the products they buy. That's why they make sustainable period products focused on premium performance and comfort. Since 2009, TOM Organic's biodegradable pads, liners and tampons have been a cult favourite for their comfort and transparent ingredients. In an effort to always offer the most sustainable options, they have expanded the range to include organic cotton Period Briefs and a Period Cup with steriliser. Find the full TOM Organic range instore at Coles supermarkets or online at thetomco.com.
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