Tag Archives: menstruation

To trim or not to trim…

14 Oct

That little stem!

Every menstrual cup comes with a little stem. They say you may cut it off if you like.

I was scared to cut mine off. I depended on it to pull the menstrual cup out for the first four months or so. I tried not to put pressure on myself to be all cool and independent, but rather to get entirely comfortable with the cup before I do anything to jeopardise the value of my little R395 investment!

But the stem pokes! I learned to pull in my vaginal muscles and this helps because it pulls the cup higher up into the vagina. But every now and again I would become uncomfortably aware of that little stem, pushing against the skin that covers the vaginal opening. (I don’t know what the technical name for that skin is).

So I practised. If you are considering trimming the stem, I advise that you practise too. Practise gripping the base of the cup, and not the stem, to pull out the cup. Once I was comfortable with that, I took the plunge… I trimmed it!

I didn’t trim it all the way, yet it was enough for the annoying poking to cease. This might be true for you, too, so you can experiment by only trimming a little bit off initially, especially if you are not quite confident that you will be able to remove it without the stem every time. I assume this depends on the length of your vagina.

I’m glad I trimmed it, but I would recommend gaining some confidence before you do. I like how much control I have nowadays. I can sit right here and push my vaginal muscles down and I will eventually feel the stem. Then I pull them back up and away is the poke… and I can forget about the cup again until tonight.

Removing the cup without using the stem is about equally messy as removing it with the stem, because either way at some point my cup has to be folded slightly to get out and that’s when the blood can spill out if it is quite full. I’ve seen a video of a woman demonstrating how to take out the cup without spilling, using a transparent glass tube as the “vagina”. I have not been able to get that right with my real life vagina! Maybe it’s because I haven’t had sex and my vagina doesn’t sommer stretch widely enough that a fully opened menstrual cup can come back out. I’d love someone who has had sex to comment on whether this will get easier after a woman has had sex?

Advertisements

Relaxing your vaginal muscles

13 Oct

I have now been using my menstrual cup for about 6 months. I am pretty chuffed about this! The best feeling was when I had to go away on a trip for a few weeks. I took my little pull bag containing the cup, swung it around my finger a few times from pure chuffedness, and tossed it into my going-away bag.

I thought with great chuffedness about how, a few months ago, I would have had to cram a box of tampons and a bunch of pads into my bag and then also make sure I keep them sort of discreetly down under the clothes in the bag. Haha! My menstrual cup bag lay there innocently, looking like a posh grey makeup bag, all made of shiny matric-farewell-dress material.

Relaxing your vaginal muscles is something I learned along the way that might come in handy for other cup users.

If your cup is kind of deep in your body and you are struggling to grip it and pull it out, don’t panic. Simply push down as if you were going to do a number 2. Then you will feel the cup come down quite a bit more.

Also, when inserting the cup, push down and it will be easier to push the cup in. Then once you’ve inserted the cup and made sure that it has fully reopened inside your vagina, pull your vaginal muscles in and up again – as if you are trying to hold in a piepie. You will feel the stem pull back up a little bit.

Ah yes, the stem. To trim or not to trim! I will talk about that in the next thrilling episode.

An anemone!

7 Apr

So one of the things I learned about my body is what my vagina feels like on the inside!

I had it all wrong. I thought the vagina looks like this:

This is right, basically, but it underplays the transition between the vaginal canal (where the penis/tampon/menstrual cup goes) and the uterus. The uterus is something completely seperate. I didn’t know that… until I needed to figure out what my menstrual cup was pushing against. If you look that the above sketch, it is easy to assume that the menstrual cup could enter the vagina and end up in the uterus. I thought the vaginal canal simply ends in the opening that is the uterus. The cervix thing was always a mystery to me.

Turns out, the female body looks more like this…

 

 

This picture does not show all the way to the vulva like the previous one. What is does show, more properly, it that there’s a serious difference between the vagina and the uterus.

I told my brother, who is a medical student, that I am a bit confused because inserting the cup I thought I had come up against the back of the womb. It was soft and squishy, I said, with a little opening in the middle. Like an anemone that you have just poked with your finger, so that it hides all its little tentacles and all that’s left is its round, squishy outside and a little hole in the middle. My brother laughed and told me yes, that’s the cervix.

The menstrual cup needs only fit around the small hole at the bottom of the cervix. That’s where the blood comes out. (The blood is actually a part of the uterus lining). That is why I could actually fit my finger up around the menstrual cup, and find that there is space up around it. Look at the picture – that’s just the end of the vagina.

Here is a picture of how I think the menstrual cup fits in my body.

 

 

My brother thinks I’m very silly for not knowing this, and he keeps using terminology I don’t understand and then I have to tell him to dumb it down! But eventually when I downloaded these pictures I figured it out. I am really lucky to be able to speak so frankly about these things with my brother. But it’s not enough. He doesn’t like dig gyneacology and I kind of have to drag it out of him.

Now you know why I say I have learned a lot about my body. It really does fill me with amazement. I am very grateful to be a healthy woman. I really look forward to getting married and sharing my body with my husband. Until then, at least I have a better inkling of what’s going on “down there” 🙂

My first month with a menstrual cup

7 Apr

My period officially ended two days ago. And I am officially a menstrual cup enthusiast!

Some concerns…

– I think my period pain might have been slightly worse than usual, possibly because of endomitriosis. However, the cup is so convenient in so many ways that I will try it for a couple of months more before I make up my mind.

– The stem still presses against the outer skin from time to time. But I’m learning to “pull in” my muscles every time after I insert it, and then the cup moves slightly higher into the vagina and I can’t feel it anymore.

Some of the things I love about my new menstrual management method 🙂 …

– I had very few stained panties (less than pads; MUCH less than tampons) – and zero leaks will probably be a reality in a month or two, as I get the hang of it!

– I only needed to empty my cup twice a day (leaving it in 10-12 hours with no problems)

– I never ever have to carry anything into the bathroom with me! Even in the bathroom stalls on campus, I don’t need a water bottle. A quick wipe with a piece of toilet paper works fine. And in any case, I can leave the cup in for so long that I hardly need to change it in a public place; I can always wait til I go home.

– I can now call my menstrual management method 100% environmentally friendly! No more of my smelly plastic pads on the rubbish tips!

– No more expenditure! If I spent R25 per period before I bought my Miacup, my investment will start paying off by age 26 and a half. Even if I only then use it for another 4 years (before I have children and/or switch to the type B menstrual cup), I will save R1200 on menstrual product expenditure.

(I think it would be a good idea for 2 or 3 women who are considering a Miacup to buy it together and each try it for one cycle, simply sterilising it in boiling water before use. That way they can make an informed decision, and as long as one of them decides to continue using it and buys the others’ shares out, then they’re sorted.)

– I have learned so much about my body. This might be one of the best bits for this curious young woman!

 

So… if you’re curious about menstrual cups and you want to hear about my experience, comment and ask any questions you got!

Ouch! Perceived intensified period pain…

1 Apr

I’ve always had quite a bit of period pain. The kind that has you pale and breathless and unable to stand for a couple of hours and unable to concentrate for a day or so, if you don’t take painkillers. But with strong over-the-counter painkillers, it’s fine

This month, my first month with my Miacup, has been pretty painful, and especially, painful for longer than I remember from the past. Instead of a day, it has been more like 36 hours. Ow.

Also, upon initial insertion of the Miacup, the pain momentarily intensified. And 36 hours on, the pain is not bad enough to take painkillers, but it remains there. Also, my digestive system seems unhappy to have to move around the larger-than-usual vagina.

The Miacup is working beautifully in terms of efficiency and neatness (still only that one stain!) and it’s great only having to empty it every 10-12 hours. But I’m a bit concerned that my  endomitriosis might be the reason the period pain intensified when I inserted it, and why the pain is lasting longer.

Endomitriosis entails little bits of womb in places outside the womb… maybe these bits, which are always swollen/trying to get out during one’s period, are being squashed into the sides of other organs or something.

So, I’ve chickened out for one night. I’m weairing a pad tonight. We’ll do the Miacup again tomorrow, because it would be awesome to leave it in as I go through my hectic day. By then the pain should really be gone too.

Menstruation as topic in South Africa

23 Mar

South Africa is a country of, as we like to brag, “rich diversity”. Without getting stuck in detail, let’s give you an idea.

This is not me. I found this picture by searching for "children South Africa". Thank you, random teacher-tourist girl, for taking a picture of yourself with these really cute girls!

We are culturally diverse. We have 11 official languages.  80% of our population are black African, but then we have “coloured” people (of mixed descent”), white people (European settlers who have been coming and staying since 1652), and people of Indian descent. As well as lots of smaller minorities.

Some are fabulously rich, some are desperately poor. Because of a centuries-old history of white government, many of the rich and the large middle class are white, while the poor are the non-black except for a growing number of exceptions.

Our constitution is liberal; our people… not always. According to surveys South Africans don’t generally support homosexuality or abortion or gender equality. Many are untolerant of other African nationals, Jews, and each other. But our non-discrimination rights are enshrined in the constitution and people have actually used these rights to win cases. And there has been a significant, growing and very vocal liberal constituency in the population since… well, since liberalism globally came into fashion after WWII.

So… menstruation as a topic? I guess our reactions would be as diverse as our people. My mother, an Afrikaner (the more conservative of the two white cultures), has been using tampons since the 1960s. She spoke to us about sex and menstruation and that seems to have been the norm for my white girl friends too. Is that cause we were upper middle class? Or because we were white? Or cause we were urban? My small-town best friend is more awkward about periods, suggesting the latter explanation.

Are black girls more squeamish because their groups are newer to this whole “liberal values for all” thing? I don’t know! I’ll check with my black housemates. Are coloured girls, who may be less or more traditional and have often grown up in conditions of moral decay and urban hardship, different?

I don’t know.

But I think it’s time someone found out.

Miacup: Size and firmness

23 Mar

This post is sort of a response to my friend Prexus (go check out his awesome blog, Men in Menstruation, here). He asked me about the size and firmness of the miacup.

Size. I’ll admit it. When I saw my miacup for the first time I thought: how do I fit THIS in down there? Lol. The open side of the cup is considerably wider than a tampon… which is perhaps why they’re not clear on the size until you’ve ordered a cup and you’re kind of stuck with it 😉

Size is not really a issue with insertion though. The press-down folding method turns the front end of the cup into something as small as an average tampon applicator. (See my previous post for comments on that.) But with the removal… that takes some practice. You effectively need to fold the cup within your body, using one or two fingers. In the process you need to break the air seal.

Which brings me to my next point:

Firmness. The advertisements I saw online before ordering my miacup, most of them for the British mooncup, most certainly did not create the impression that the thing would be so firm.

This might be an improvement on older models: the firmness makes it easy to push the miacup deeper into the vagina by simply pushing on the bottom tip. The bottom tip of a softer model would simply have yielded to your pressure, denting inwards, and moving the cup no further into the vagina.

The downside of such a firm cup is that, again, removal is more difficult. The most effective method I’ve found so far, is to insert only one finger up next to the cup, push the cup flat against the opposite side of the vagina, and drag it out gently until you can grip it with two fingers and keep it folded while exiting the vaginal opening. If it pops open while exiting the vagina, which is the smallest part of the canal apparently, it can hurt a bit.

I would love someone to compare the softness/firmness of different brands.

Practice makes perfect

21 Mar

I practised again today.

Inserting my miacup is now faster than inserting a tampon. Never again the sound of ripping paper as I open a tampon in our unisex toilet cubicles!

This is a major part of my progress: the alternative folding technique is MUCH more effective. It makes the front small, and then once you’ve inserted the front, you simply press on the bit that is not yet folded so that that becomes smaller too. Literally, 3 second insertion.

Removing the miacup is more difficult than insertion, but I’m getting good at folding it over in the vagina and then keeping it that way as I pull it out!

This is the best video I’ve found so far on insertion and removal. She deals with everything I’ve encountered so far. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLPBZz3uJEg

Environment Points: +1

Discretion Points: +1

Convenience Points: +1

Speed Points: Well, not in the negatives anymore!

Inserting my Miacup

19 Mar

I tested my new mooncup today! Here is a little description of my experience that may help new users, especially ones like me: a virgin in her twenties. I think most other women who fit this description are comfortable with, but not very familiar with, their reproductive organs. That’s how I am.

My cup is called a “miacup” officially. It is distributed by a South African company by the same name. It seems to be exactly like the original Mooncup.  It comes in a standard Post Office padded parcel package. It cost me just under R400. I use type A for women under 30 who have also not given birth vaginally.

Before my first insertion. I sterilized it by boiling it in water for 3 minutes as per the instruction leaflet. Then I went to our res bathrooms with a little towel, a squirt bottle of water, the leaflet and the CUP! I washed my hands very thoroughly because I realized I may be getting a bit more intimate with my vagina than I ever have before.

Inserting it. In the instructions above, I used the first technique. The cup is remarkably firm. It actually takes some strength to fold it in half and keep it that way.

My real challenge was to actually push the cup into the vaginal opening. Having lubricated the vagina and the cup a bit with water, I put my finger where it would go – for a girl who uses tampons that’s not difficult – and then removed my finger and tried to put the cup in. The cup is considerably bigger than my finger, even in its folded position, and whereas I could feel my way with my finger,  I just kind of had to put the folded cup where I thought and then push it gently toward my spine. No luck. I wished I could just SEE what I was doing!

After a minute or two, I noted what exactly my finger does. I need to push down, toward the anus, if I want the opening to widen. I tried this with the cup and finally it worked! The next challenge was to keep it folded long enough to push it in, which I got right with the second or third try.

They then recommend that you grip the base of the cup – not the pull tab – and give it a full rotation in either direction. This secures the seal. This was quite new for me, as it requires inserting two fingers into the vagina at once and actually using them in there. This is how I learned that my vagina can actually stretch a lot.

Removal. You also have to grip the base of the cup when removing the cup, squeezing it and tilting it slightly to release the suction. Now that I had learned how to insert two fingers at once, this was quite easy. The cup moves down quite easily when you pull gently at the pull tab. Then you squeeze, tilt a bit, and pull gently.

A second time! Feeling a real sense of accomplishment, I did the whole procedure a second time. This time it took me a few seconds to insert and a few seconds to remove. The marketers were not lying: once you get the hang of it, it’s really simple.

Right now I’m a little bit aware of the skin outside my vagina; I think it isn’t used to so much touch. After all, it is sensitive and this was all quite new for me! It would have been nice to have something just to soothe it, but I don’t have a product like that. I’m sure KY Gel would have worked. Still it’s not painful.

Personal reflection

I feel really cool. I feel super comfortable with my body. I feel like I’m open-minded and ahead of the times! I am also quite relieved because I won’t be wasting money: I shall definitely be able to use the miacup for my periods.

Some thoughts about sex…

The vagina is quite accessible. As a young girl I used to wonder how on earth my husband will find my vagina, because I myself had no clue how to identify it “down there”.  But I’m starting to believe it will be very simple; I could guide the penis in a second.

Also, lubrication. That must be a bit awkward on your first night, having to first apply something to the penis before you can start. But I think it is essential.

Arousal. You can do alllll these things and never once feel aroused. Isn’t that a bit strange? The arousal organs are outside the vagina (unless it’s true what they say about the g spot…). Motion, not insertion, arouses. If you’re giggling, hush! I guess this is very obvious to anyone who has had sex, or has even watched porn, but I haven’t and I didn’t know.

Hymen and virginity. Assuming that a hymen gets broken upon insertion, I broke mine when I was, like, 13 inserting my first tampon, and if there was anything left it’s certainly gone now (and then breaking it was not painful, contrary to some things I’ve heard). If a whole hymen is how virginity is defined, I’m not. And if virginity is defined by ignorance, then I’m not (I’m not! stop giggling! refer to the pad-using friend above. she’s ignorant!). But I believe that virginity is about innocence; about having a lot still to experience with a man. A lot to give, and a lot to receive. And in that sense I am a virgin.

Which leads me to my last point. I’m not going to tell the boyfriend about my miacup, because I’m not sure how he would view it. The fact is that I’m incredibly curious about my vagina and the miacup gives me several reasons to get to know my body better. I think sex – with him or whoever I end up marrying – will be a bit easier because I’ve done some exploring on my own. With him probably knowing even less about the female body than I do, he might not understand how sexually innocent this actually is.

This is a satisfied desertvixen, signing off!

Dizziness and periods

20 Feb

It sucks that the world doesn’t allow us to talk about our period-related physical challenges. Tomorrow I have a major deadline, and today happened to also be day 2 of a particularly heavy period.

Despite the relative mildness of the pain this time round, I struggled to concentrate on my work. My eyes didn’t want to focus properly and I was inexplicably tired. It was like the world was ebbing and flowing around my eyes. Not cool if you’re trying to focus on a computer screen!

The pharmacist was a bit taken aback. She tested my blood pressure (normal) and asked me questions about my eating habits the past while (more or less healthy). In the end she concurred it might be the blood loss and associated loss of iron. I will have it checked out tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’ve eaten some good low GI bread with cheese, and gratuitous amounts of yoghurt. I feel a bit better and I am able to concentrate on my work tonight.

But I couldn’t help speculating that this trouble was right up there with the flu in terms of its effect on my ability to concentrate. In some other world, I would have gone to bed early tonight and told my supervisor my work isn’t done because I had period trouble.