“I’m so excited for you, this is going to change your life!” exclaimed the girl from Freedom Cups as she handed over my (what she calls) life-changing purchase.

Vanessa, as I later found out, is one of the three sisters who founded Freedom Cups. I have seen the Freedom Cups girls at flea markets on many occasions but I never exactly knew what they were promoting until I embarked on this green lifestyle.

Before menstrual cup, I have only been using tampons and sanitary pads, and they were my go-to products every month. To be honest, I wasn’t the most comfortable with these two. I used pads most of the time, however Singapore’s unrelenting humid weather tend to give me pad rash. (Jeans and pads – not the best combination) What I hated most, though, was the smell of blood. I have quite a heightened sense of smell and sometimes when the hours are long, I could literally smell my period.

“Use a tampon then!”, I can already hear some of you say. But I don’t really like tampons, unless I’m exercising. Because they tend to get heavy and slip lower, and sometimes even out of where it should be. Not forgetting the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome too.

However, these were the only two products I grew up with and knew about, and they are readily available everywhere. I didn’t see the need to explore another product until I started reading up more about being green and saw this. It suddenly occurred to me that my monthly feminine hygiene products have to go somewhere after I throw them down the bin. I can’t believe I was so ignorant to this and simply took it for granted just because I thought it was the passage-of-way for every girl.

Not just the environment
Apart from wanting to protect the environment from more of my monthly waste, another motivation for me to try a menstrual cup was the fact that it doesn’t cause harm to my body.

For regular commercial tampons and pads to remain hygienic, absorbent and leak-free, they need to contain a lot of plastic, from its cotton blend to its packaging. And we know, plastic is never good for the environment and our bodies. In fact, they are the very cause of TSS linked to tampons. A lot of strong chemicals are used in the production process of these products to eliminate any chance of bacteria growth and to give it its clean white look, hence long exposure to these products will only allow these chemicals to enter our bodies.

Frankly, menstrual cup was a product way out of my comfort zone. Looking at its sheer size, I can’t help but to feel intimidated. I had sooooo many questions before I finally made my purchase and tried my first menstrual cup. I’m thankful to the girls at Freedom Cups for being ever so patient with me and my seemingly-ridiculous questions.

For those who are interested, that includes you boys, I’m sure many of you have similar questions as me. So, for the shy readers out there who may be too embarrassed to ask strangers intimate questions, I compiled a mini Q&A list below.

1. The first question I had when I first saw a menstrual cup: Isn't it too big to fit in?

I can still remember what the Freedom Cups girls told me “A baby could even fit in there! And a guy’s er-hem is probably bigger than this.” Which made so much sense! What’s this compared to a baby?

Also, Freedom Cups made their cups smaller. Not because asians have smaller vaginas but because asians are not used to sticking things up there.

2. How is it environmental friendly when it is plastic?

One menstrual cup should last us about ten years and that will be the only waste we will be producing, multiply that by the 3-4 cups we will be using in our lifetime (30g x 4) that will be 120g. Now compare this to the 300 pounds (136,000g) of waste we will be throwing away in our lifetime if we’d used tampons/pads.

3. Won’t it cause Toxic Shock Syndrome too?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare disease and can be fatal if left untreated. Super-absorbent tampons have long been associated with TSS because they serve as a perfect environment for Staph bacteria (which is commonly found in vaginas) to grow rapidly and release toxins. So, if we have any cuts or abrasions in our vagina when a tampon is inside, these toxins may enter our bloodstreams and attack our immune system. Menstrual cups are usually made of medical-grade silicon which does not provide an ideal environment for bacteria growth. 

Nonetheless, better be safe than sorry. Do not use a cup if you have been previously been diagnosed with TSS. Do not leave your cup inside your body for more than 12 hours straight. Sterilize your cup in hot water before your period cycle. And always handle your cups with clean hands. Perhaps, try not to have long sharp nails too.

4. Is it safe to keep it in my body?

Yes. Freedom Cups uses medical-grade silicon for their cups. Medical-grade silicon is what doctors use in heart surgeries, and is meant to be left in the body for a lifetime without the body rejecting it.

5. Is it going to break my hymen?

Yes, it is definitely going to break your hymen.

6. Is it enough to contain all that fluid?

For easy comparison, during the first three days of my period cycle, I used to change between 3-4 pads a day and I only changed them when they were somewhat full. For Freedom Cups, I change about 2-3 times for the first three days of my cycle and they aren’t usually filled to the brim whenever I remove them, maybe about ¾ full I would say. Apparently, we don’t lose as much blood as I thought we would. An average woman expels about 60-70ml of fluid over the course of her period, and a Freedom Cup holds about 18ml. So if you are changing it out every 10-12 hours, it should not overflow. But different women have different cycles, so based on your first two to three periods you will learn how often you need to change it out to prevent overflowing. I recommend using a pantyliner on your first three months using the cup. It will help you understand your flow better without the risk of leaking. Once you know how much fluid you expel on the different days of your period cycle, you can confidently ditch the pantyliner completely.

7. Will the vacuum break if I shit/ do squats/ sit-ups/ vigorous exercises?

Just to answer this question of mine, I did all these on the second day (‘cos the flow is the heaviest) of my period. And no, no leakage at all. The menstrual cup is soft and malleable, so are your muscles down there hence they are able to move together in sync. Disclaimer here, I emptied my cup before doing the exercises but not when I shat. I did my business without emptying the cup first.

8. Will it get lost inside since there's no string like a tampon?

No. The vaginal canal is only about 4 inches long and the cup is already about 2.5 inches tall so there’s not much space for it to get lost. And no, it can’t go beyond the cervix because the entrance of the cervix is only about the size of the head of a thumbtack.

And stringless also means that nothing gets soaked in pee or blood.

9.  Is it gonna be messy?

Yes, especially during the initial stage of using. I still remember creating a splatter painting in my shower when I first removed my cup. And your fingers may get bloody while you are still trying to figure out how to insert and remove. Once you get used to using the cup, it’s actually very clean as everything is collected within the cup.

10. How do I insert and remove the cup?

Inserting:

  • Wash the cup with fragrance-free soap and dry it with tissue or a clean towel
  • Wash your hands well
  • Relax your vaginal muscle
  • Fold the cup to create a pointy shape for easy insertion
  • Point it towards your tailbone (because the vaginal canal is actually not 90 degrees upright) and insert it into your vagina
  • Slide it in as far as you can or till you feel a weak ‘pop’ indicating that the cup is already fully opened
  • Run your finger around the bottom of the cup to ensure that the cup is fully opened
  • Give the stem a little tug, if it’s tight, the cup is opened and the vacuum seal is doing its job
  • Lastly, as Freedom Cups puts it, continue with your day like a superstar!

Removing:

  • Wash your hands well
  • Squeeze your abdominal/pelvic muscles (that’s the set of muscles you use when you try to stop peeing halfway) and the cup should slip back down to the vagina entrance
  • Pinch the bottom of the cup with your fingers to break the vacuum seal
  • Remove it and empty the fluid down the toilet bowl or shower drain. I personally do not recommend emptying it down the toilet bowl (if possible) unless you have a really strong flush.
  • Wash the cup with fragrance-free soap. Make sure the little holes and the ridges on the top are all clean. The little holes have to be unclogged to give it its vacuum seal.
  • Dry the cup with tissue or a clean towel
  • Re-insert it or keep it in the cotton bag if you don’t need it anymore.

11. Which fold is better?

I prefer the ‘punchdown’ fold as it has the narrowest entry point and it opens up easier. Tip: Use your thumb to gently push the fold out while inserting to assist the cup in popping open.

punchdown_fold

12. How do I change the cup when I'm out?

I usually don’t have to or prefer not to if I can. But if you really need to, use the handicap toilet or any toilets with a sink or hose in there. Simply remove your cup, empty it, wash it clean and reinsert it. If there’s no sink or hose in the cubicle, bring along a bottle of water, or simply have two cups.

13. How long do I use it for each time before changing it out?

About 10-12 hours on average.

14. Isn’t it uncomfortable? Can I feel it?

I can’t feel it at all. If you can feel it, it’s an indication that it is not inserted correctly, or it is too heavy and it’s time for you to change it out. Otherwise, it’s so comfortable you may even forget to remove it! And the best part is, I can’t even smell it. Because the cup creates a vacuum seal, the fluid has no contact with the air outside, the fluid can’t oxidize thus no smell!

15. How do I sterilize it?

Put the cup in a bowl (preferably a bowl you use just for this purpose) and pour hot water over it.

16. Why choose Freedom Cups?

Firstly, I chose Freedom Cups because they are a Singaporean brand #supportlocal. But more importantly, because they are a social enterprise, buy one and they will give one to someone in a third world country. Win-win!

In conclusion, second month in and I’m still convinced to continue using it. To be honest, I still take a lot of time to get the cup to open fully. But it’s normal! It just takes some practice. Is it as life-changing as Vanessa exclaimed to be? Well, at least I no longer have to make any last-minute emergency runs to the supermarkets looking for pads anymore! And no more waste!

Should any of you have any more questions, do not hesitate to leave a comment or write to us!