If I pause, perhaps over a cup of tea or while looking at a beautiful sunset, to take stock of my life, there are very few moments that I can point to directly as the moment where things suddenly became different. Most big changes seem, for me at least, to happen gradually. There are only a handful of moments where I can point to and say, “Ah, yes, that changed everything.”
My friend telling me she got a DivaCup was one of them.
I had heard of DivaCups before, but they seemed like they were for people who were really, really granola: Those with a daily yoga practice or organic shampoo in bulk that would strip your hair and leave you smelling like patchouli. It felt like a thing for real hippies. I always try to carry reusable bags and recycle, but I also get weekly manicures and eat fast food.
But, then again, so did my friend. She explained to me that she had been reading about it and it was something she wanted to try. I was 23 and had been menstruating over half my life and generally felt pretty OK about my options. I still wore a mix of pads and tampons, which feels like admitting I still rode my bike with training wheels sometimes. But I had always had a heavy flow and found the pad was a “nice to have” during the day and a “must-have” at night, usually paired with a tampon. It wasn’t great, but I mostly got along with my life without thinking about it too much. Eve’s curse and all that.
But the way my friend talked about her DivaCup piqued my curiosity enough that I was willing to spend (what felt like at 23) the princely sum of $26 to try it.
If you are uninitiated, here’s how a menstrual cup works: A silicone cup forms an air-tight seal over your cervix and catches blood. Every 12 hours or so (or more, if you want), you dump it in the bathroom. Then you rinse it and pop it back in. There are a few ways to insert it: you can fold it in on itself, in a sort of C, and let it expand, or pinch part of it down. An illustrated guide will be included with your DivaCup to help you with this. But, honestly, after a few cycles, you probably won’t be thinking about which insertion method you’re using. It just kind of... pops up there. It feels intuitive, like turning your keys to get in your house or tying your shoes. To make sure the cup is sealed, DivaCup recommends turning it 360 degrees. But, generally, you can feel if it’s sealed because it will be fully expanded. I’ve also found that twisting it usually helps the seal form as if you’re just letting it settle in.
This all sounds complicated, and I want to promise you that it’s really not! Once you have it down, you’ll have an empty DivaCup back inside you in the time you’d still be fumbling with a tampon wrapper. And once it’s in, you’re set for around 12 hours, even on “heavy” days. Once I got a DivaCup, I was mad at myself for not getting one sooner. Nearly overnight, my feelings about my period totally changed. I went from “mostly getting along” to “totally forgetting I was on my period.” When you compare a menstrual cup to a tampon it can be hard to explain why the larger, cup-shaped thing is so much less intrusive than a wad of cotton, but I feel the menstrual cup way less. I’m also never caught without it. Once it’s inside you, you’re set for the rest of your flow. No more emergency runs to a gas station, praying they have more than just those sinister scented tampons.
But what about all the blood? Yes, there is blood, and sometimes lots of it. But it all goes quickly in the toilet, and you quickly wash your hands. In a public restroom, I’ve sometimes had to do a little cleaning with toilet paper to make it to the communal sinks, but nothing major. No one has ever screamed and accused me of murder once I emerged from the stall. It’s all felt very manageable. It’s also far less likely to lead to spotting since it holds way more blood than a tampon.
Here’s another nice thing to recommend it that I often don’t see discussed: It’s also great for light days. Tampons can feel drying when you’re spotting, and panty liners always bunch and slide. A DivaCup is certainly easier to insert when you’re really bleeding. (Blood=lubrication, science is fun!)
And for those who are squicked out by blood, here is perhaps one of the menstrual cup’s greatest strengths: You can take it out in the shower, rinse it, rinse yourself, put it back in, and feel very clean and refreshed.
I also will mention the environment, because it’s also super important! Menstrual products create a lot of waste. This is such an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. But here’s another thing I will say about this cup: I would use it even if it was the same, environmental impact-wise, as a tampon. It almost feels like cheating: Good for the environment, and better than the stuff that isn’t.
If I seem ultra enthusiastic about menstrual cups its because I recently had to go two years without one. I got an IUD, which I was also expecting to be a life-changing thing for my period. Long story short, it wasn’t. Lots of people really really love their IUD, and I was not one of them! It was one of life’s minor disappointments, like realizing I will never be able to wear a romper. But also you’re not really supposed to wear a menstrual cup with an IUD because there’s a slight chance the suction could pull your IUD out, which seems unlikely but not worth the risk.
So, two years into a five-year IUD, I got it taken out by a very nice practitioner at Planned Parenthood. I went back on the pill and purchased a new menstrual cup and I feel like Frank Constanza saying “I’m back baby!” on Seinfeld. This time, I got at Dot because it was in stock at my local natural beauty store, and there’s a lot to recommend it: It’s black, so it won’t show bloodstains, it comes with a very hip carrying case, and it’s one size fits all.
Menstrual cups, and indeed the whole natural wellness market, have come a long way since I first balked at the idea of a menstrual cup seven years ago. Bulk shampoo and all-natural beauty and wellness products have gone mainstream, and there’s a whole generation of products that have sleek, sophisticated designs. (Thanks, Goop.)
With so many options on the market now, from old-school earth mother ones to the Instagram-y latest additions, there’s a new hurdle to getting one: which one to even choose. But I still stand by the goofily-named, decidedly unsophisticated DivaCup. There’s absolutely nothing glamorous about it, but I don’t know if you can ever make periods glamorous. But, with the help of some medical-grade silicone, you can make them practically disappear. And perhaps you, like me, will become a DivaCup evangelist, ready to write 1,300 words on it or stop strangers on the street to expound on its benefits. I promise you it’s that good.