While tampons and pads have been the popular feminine product picks for years, dissatisfaction with both products has risen, especially because the taboo on speaking about periods has lifted, enabling more people to publicly share their own opinions and other options for feminine care.
Tampons are the most popular option because they’re more portable, less messy and more comfortable than pads. Recently, however, tampon users have criticized the product because of its content. The cotton in tampons often contains trace amounts of toxic chemicals, such as dioxin and aluminum, and organic tampons cost significantly more than regular ones (and regular ones already cost a lot).
Enter the Diva Cup, one of the more popular answers to the dissatisfaction with tampons and pads. It is what it sounds like: a reusable silicon cup that, once inserted in the vagina, can stay there for up to 12 hours with little to no leakage.
I’ve been a tampon user for many years now, but recently, they’ve lost their appeal. Beyond the harmful chemicals in them, they’re bad for the environment, expensive and I can’t (or shouldn’t) leave them in overnight. Tampons were great to start out with, but I found myself ready for a change, and like so many other women, I decided to try the Diva Cup.
At first, purchasing the Cup proved to be a challenge — not because of the Diva Cup itself or Walmart, but because of my own inability to pay attention. I didn’t realize until I had purchased and brought the Cup back to my room that there are two models, or sizes. I should have gotten size one, but instead got size two, which is for women 30 years and older or for women who have delivered a baby naturally. Out of my own laziness, I considered just keeping it, but my roommate convinced me that I would most likely struggle to fit the size one up my vagina, much less a size two.
So, once I finally got around to purchasing the correct size, all that was left was to wait for my period to return. Once it did, I followed the preparatory instructions (which involved boiling the Diva Cup) and went to the shower to put it in.
The Cup instructions tell you to fold the cup, use one hand to part the labia and then insert with the other hand until the stem of the cup is level with the vaginal opening. Then, to ensure that the cup has fully opened and sealed, you are to insert one or two fingers into the vagina and run them around the outside of the cup. If there is an area where the cup hasn’t fully opened, you are to press against the vaginal wall with your finger to create a space for it to pop open.
It should be noted that the Cup is significantly larger than a tampon. Not impossibly large, but large. In short, my roommate was right in saying that keeping the size two would have been a disaster.
Nevertheless, I looked at the instructions with nothing more than a shrug. How hard can it be? I thought. Women push whole babies out of this thing — I can fit a cup in there.
Ah, the naiveté. It was hard. The cup kept snapping open before it was in my vagina all the way, or (squeamish folks, stop reading for a second) my hands were bloody enough that the cup kept slipping. After about seven tries, however, I did manage to get it in. I obeyed the instructions and ran my finger around the inside of my vagina and the cup felt open. Without further ado, I washed my hands, took a deep breath and went to class feeling as if I knew myself better than I had when I woke up that morning.
Throughout the day, it felt as if it were leaking, so I put a pad on to be safe. Despite my paranoia, it only leaked a little bit at first and then it stopped (I’m guessing this happened because it didn’t seal until later in the day). I had a busy day, so I left it in for the full 12 hours, and true to advertising there was minimal leakage and it got to the point where I couldn’t feel it.
Then came the removal. The instructions tell you to bear down with your vaginal muscles as if you are pushing until you can grab the stem, then push a little more until you can grip the base of the cup and pinch it to release the seal, and then you wriggle it out. It seemed easy enough.
Again, not easy. I made the mistake of doing this over the toilet instead of in the shower — the Cup hurt to pull out, so I pulled it out too quickly and (squeamish folks, hide your eyes again) spattered blood all over the seat and floor. Most of it got into the toilet, thank goodness, but unfortunately, not enough did. I cleaned up quickly, rinsed the cup and put it back in, and got it back up in one try. Baby steps.
I decided to go out on a limb and wear it overnight. My least favorite part about periods is sleeping with a night pad, so I really wanted this to work, and it did. There was no leakage at all, which was fantastic.
Overall, I really liked the Diva Cup. With its longer wear time, it was more convenient for sure, and it’s nice to know that I won’t have to purchase more pads and tampons every couple months. While there was definitely more pain than I expected, especially during removal, and it was more difficult to insert than I thought, the pain and difficulty diminished as I, and my body, adjusted to the Cup. By the end, I grew more familiar with myself and the Diva Cup, and could insert as well as remove it with increasingly less difficulty.
If you’re an avid tampon user, I would definitely recommend trying the Diva Cup. It may take a few cycles to adjust, but once you do, it’ll revolutionize your period experience.