Menstrual cups are the best thing that happened to me during the pandemic

Being at peace with my menstruation happened only when I started learning to be comfortable with my own body using my menstrual cup.

Pre-pandemic menstrual days were the times when I would find myself discreetly reaching into my bag for a menstrual pad, swiftly hiding it in my pocket or in between the folds of my handkerchief before I went to the comfort room. Some days, when I get my period earlier than I’ve expected it, I would ask my girl friends in a hushed tone for a spare pad as though it was something to be ashamed of. 

In our society, conversations about menstruation are mainly about the monthly ordeal it brings to our physical and mental health. We’re taught that it’s a sign of our pagdadalaga and that we’ll be dealing with it for as long when we’re not pregnant. This surface-level knowledge would make me dread my red days and the inconvenience it brings every month until I came across menstrual cups.

I was introduced to the product by my best friend, Katkat, who started using it during the pandemic. The name is as straightforward as its function—a menstrual cup is a reusable cup inserted into the vagina to catch blood flow during a woman’s monthly period. It is an eco-friendly alternative to disposable pads or tampons because it can be reused for up to ten years with proper sanitation and care. Besides having less waste, using a cup will also lessen trips to the comfort room to deal with menstruation. The cup can be emptied after eight to twelve hours, depending on the blood flow, which is significantly more convenient than changing pads every four hours. 

Since I am also trying to become more environmentally conscious, I was hooked on the idea of producing less waste. However, coming from a religious family, the idea of inserting something inside me both felt not only daunting but “sinful”. I was not the type to freely experiment with my sexuality. The image of having a cup inserted and staying inside me was not an enticing picture—that, and the whole concept of virginity in my religion. I did not want to tell my mom, a devout Catholic, that I wanted to make the switch because I know she won’t approve of it.

But after I started doing my research and joining the Menstrual Cup Users Philippines Facebook group, I was determined to overcome my fears and go for the long-term benefits from using this product. I’ve read testimonies from the group saying they’ve been feeling fewer cramps and having odor and rash-free periods since they made the switch. They also said that they could also do more physical and water activities than when they use the usual menstrual pads. 

All of these are the upsides of using a cup and the downsides of using a disposable pad. Kat also shared that using menstrual cups was the best decision of her life, and she would never turn back to pads again.

“When all your life, you’ve been told to stay pure and to look a certain way, you would mindlessly fall into this mindset as though society owns your body.”

Convinced with their stories and experiences, I desperately wanted to make the switch, especially now that I spend most of the time at home. So I scoured through YouTube videos to learn more about the process of sterilization, insertion, and removal. I started looking for the appropriate cup for me by measuring my cervix height and saving up for my first cup. I was ready to buy one online until Katkat gave me a menstrual cup for my birthday. Just in time for that time of the month.

I was ready to try it when the first day of my period came, but I couldn’t. When I sat on the toilet bowl, legs wide open, I steadily breathed and tried to insert it—and it hurt. My mind flared with fearful thoughts. Barely getting the cup halfway in, my anxiety level rose, and I was not comfortable with myself. Despite being inside my body, I suddenly felt shy towards myself knowing that I had just touched myself, though not even in a sensual way.

Beyond the physical barriers of using a cup, there comes the other mental challenge of being more comfortable with my own body and owning it.

When all your life, you’ve been told to stay pure and to look a certain way, you would mindlessly fall into this mindset as though society owns your body. When they dismiss the cramping pain and say just deal with it with a hot compress, it makes talking about menstruation more difficult. When they say that your body should be reserved for man, it favors the already patriarchal society we live in.

I had never realized this until I was learning to use the cup. This only fueled me to break away from this thinking, so I told myself that I’d do better next month. I will decide what I can and can’t do with my body.

“Now, I look forward to my red days, getting better with how I use my cups, and I feel good that I do not produce as much waste as I did before.”

My transition was gradual, using the cup only for a day and then resorting to pads the rest of the days. Going through the learning curve was not easy, but after five months, I can now say I’m proud to say I’ve officially made the switch wearing my cup for a whole week.

Inserting the cup was intimidating and distressful at first, but as my body learned to use the cup, I became more confident inserting it in, now I can’t even feel it inside me. Using the cup is so comfortable that red days almost feel like typical days. Rather than sitting on a bed of period blood on my panties, I can move more freely without the icky feeling down there. I can exercise and ride my bike, which would have been a pain if I still used a pad. I have not tried swimming with it yet, but I can now enjoy the beach even if I had my period. I can also easily breeze through the day, emptying it only twice to thrice. 

There were some months where I would get cramps for the first two days, but I generally feel less dread during my period.  Now, I look forward to my red days, getting better with how I use my cups, and I feel good that I do not produce as much waste as I did before. Getting past that learning curve has changed my life for the better, and I became more conscious of my reproductive health. I became more attuned with how I feel during my whole cycle from menstruation, ovulation, and the fluctuations in between.

I did not lose anything in this process, but instead, I have gained a more profound sense of liberty and empowerment to make my own choices. It has led me to accept myself on a more intimate and almost spiritual level, gaining peace with my sense of being a woman. I know that menstruation has nothing to do with one’s womanhood, thinking of my sisters who are diagnosed with reproductive disorders and the transwomen who are fighting for their rights, but the process of being able to own my body has freed me from the dictates of society. It is comforting to learn and understand that we, women, have autonomy over our bodies and choices.

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