Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ladycup Review: a day-by-day look

Warning: Periods and Lady-bits are talked about unashamedly in this post.

I've been using a Keeper Menstrual Cup for about 5 years, but was never able to wear it on the first two days of my period because it caused intensely painful cramping. I was stuck with pads for the first two days, which also happen to be my heaviest days. The whole reason I got the Keeper was to be more sustainable, and it did help cut down on the number of disposables I used, but not as much as I wanted. Another thing I noticed with the Keeper was that I could always feel it, it was always pushing at my bladder, which wasn't the most comfortable of things for it to do. I figured it was the best I could do, and put up with it.
Last month, though, I got bored, and since I had the internet, I started looking things up. I ended up on This page reading about a lot more brands of menstrual cup than I ever knew existed, on the same blog, I found a comparison chart, which told me (among other things) that the Keeper is the stiffest menstrual cup on the market. So I did a little research, on that blog and others, and decided to buy myself a Ladycup.
The small Ladycup is smaller in diameter than the small Keeper, and while the Keeper ranks a 10 on the 'squishyness' scale, the Ladycup is only a 2, making it one of the softest you can buy. I figured if anything would be more comfortable for me, this would be it.
I managed to get a clear Ladycup off Ebay for a decent price (new and in original packaging, of course), and after about two weeks of waiting for it to arrive in the mail from the Czech Republic, and another few weeks waiting for a reason to use it, here I am writing a review.

My original concept for this post was a day-by-day review of my experience with the Ladycup, but having written it all down it strikes me that it might be a bit more information about my period than people want to know. If you don't want the details and just want the conclusion, skip the whole middle bit. The final section is titled 'conclusion' and it is for you.

Things that have been in my vagina: New Ladycup and Old Keeper. Not pictured: Tyler.
 Day 1: Wednesday
11:00am. What's this? Oh, it's just my period. A bit of a surprise, usually I've been having cramps for at least 12 hours (and up to three days) before my period starts... Though the 18 hours of low-grade headache should have been a clue, just not what usually happens. The Ladycup was already in the bathroom, in it's pretty cotton bag hangin' out with the pads. I rinsed it in hot tap water, folded it (I favor the C fold), and... wow... it slipped right in, popped open, made a seal and made itself comfortable without any of the poking and adjusting I am used to with the Keeper. A pleasant start.
12:00pm. After an hour of not-feeling-a-thing, I checked it. Definitely harder to get out than the Keeper, but that was a trade-off I was expecting to make. After a few seconds of pushing down with my pelvic muscles and trying a few different grips I managed to break the seal enough to get it out. It seems my uterus is still in the warmup phase and not quite ready for the main event, there wasn't much there. Re-rinsed, and re-inserted. I'll change it again before bed or if it starts leaking.
10:00pm. Changed before bed, but there wasn't much there. I guess my body is doing the 'spot for a few days before you actually do anything' thing. Sometimes I hate my uterus. On the plus side, the Ladycup was much easier to get out this time, I seem to have figured out the trick of it.

Day 2: Thursday
10:00am. The Ladycup was comfortable all night. Still not-quite-starting. I blame my housemate's daughter who visited two days ago and was having her period. Stupid body, why do you have to try to regulate to everyone?
2:00pm. I cannot recommend checking your cup in the shower enough. It's convenient, warm, comfortable, and if you make a mess it washes right down the drain. The low-grade cramping was right, I have finally started. Painkillers time!
10:00pm. I am often surprised at how little blood I collect in a cup, when I know from many years of experience that I would have soaked through a regular pad in the same amount of time. Using my baker's eye to estimate how much I collected, I would say today... maybe a tablespoon, tablespoon and a half. One thing I like about the Ladycup more than the Keeper is that the Ladycup is see-through, so I can see how much I'm bleeding. I know some menstrual cups come with measuring lines on them, so you can keep track of exactly how much, but I'm happy enough without that feature.

Day 3: Friday
8:30am. First con of the Ladycup: capacity. It is smaller than the Keeper, and the holes along the rim are larger than most brands. It is not big enough to hold a full night's heavy flow. Laying down in bed, I was fine, but as soon as I stood up I could feel it starting to leak. Needless to say, I ran to the bathroom Very Quickly. The measurement chart I linked to in the intro lists both the Ladycup and the Keeper as 15cc, I'm guessing the difference I am experiencing is because the Keeper's holes are tiny pinholes which clog up almost instantly, and the holes in the Ladycup are designed to let air in to break the seal on the softer cup, the tradeoff is they can also let blood out. Still, it was only a few drops, and I was already wearing period underwear, so it was fine.
Last night's cramping was... mildly uncomfortable. Less bad than I would have expected, more of a "why can't I find a comfortable position to sleep in?" than a "why won't somebody shoot me?", which is what I usually experience on the first few days. I'm not sure if I would be able to use the Ladycup on a more 'normal' period. That said, I hope I never have a 'normal' period again!
2:00pm. Leaking again? Maybe I didn't insert it correctly? Nope, it's just full again!  Note to self, on heavy days, check it 4 times per day, not just morning and night. Maybe I'll get a larger cup for the first few days sometime when I have spare money laying around.
10:00pm. So tired. Changed the Ladycup twice more before bed, was full each time. Need Sleep, cramps went away mid-day, which was nice. I hate painkillers.
I did use a pantyliner as backup today, to save my poor underwear from stains, so not entirely a zero-waste day.

Day 4: Saturday
Enough with the hour-by-hour stuff, that's boring. Today was... interesting. Felt pretty good in the morning, but ended up leaving to help make bee costumes many hours earlier than I expected to, and then spent the day on my feet on a concrete floor. Morning was fine, but by the afternoon my energy had run out and I wasn't very much help. Changed the Ladycup in a public restroom in the art studio mid-day, was glad I did because it was almost full. Instead of leaving the stall to rinse it in a public sink, I just wiped it out quickly with some toilet paper and put it back in. Doing that once won't hurt me, I'm sure... I certainly did it with the Keeper when I had to change that in a public restroom, which was infrequent since I never used it on heavy days.
Did use a pantyliner as backup since I was going to be out and yesterday was so heavy, but didn't need it.

Day 5: Sunday
Still pretty warn-out from perioding and working with Astara yesterday. I would not recommend a clear menstrual cup to anyone who is uncomfortable with the things their body does during their period. With the Keeper, it was harder to see what I was dealing with. With the Ladycup, everything is clearly visible. This wasn't so bad the first few days when everything was bright red and healthy-looking, but now the main rush is over, things are turning a bit more clumpy and brown and gross. It doesn't really bother me, but I can imagine someone squeamish being turned off from using a cup because of the ick factor.
I have been able to feel the cup, now and then, over the past few days. Sort of a tiny pressure up high near my cervix, changing position or massaging my belly a little makes it go away.
Also, I noticed this morning the Ladycup is starting to discolor very slightly, the clear is turning slightly yellowish, we'll see if that goes away when I boil it at the month, or if mild bleaching would be required.
My night check of the Ladycup revealed that I had bled not a drop all day. I decided to sleep without it, since I obviously didn't need it.

Day 6: Monday
My uterus is a troll. Of course deciding to sleep without my Ladycup means that I stain my underwear, good thing I was still wearing period underwear, or I would have just initiated another pair.
Put the Ladycup back in... noticed that it didn't want to go in very far. My cervix must have dropped significantly, which I am told is something they do at the end of your period.
After going for a walk with the dog mid day, I noticed that was spotting despite the Ladycup, the lowness of my cervix or something must have interfered with the seal... I checked it and the cup was halfway full. Seriously. After not a drop yesterday.

Day 7: Tuesday
Not actually a review day. I think the show's over. Nothing last night and nothing this morning, I think we're out of the woods... of course my having said that means I will probably make a huge mess later.
Cleaning the Ladycup: as I mentioned earlier, the cup had begun to stain a little. A little research told me that this is because I was rinsing with hot water, basically cooking the blood onto the cup. (eww) It was recommended to rinse the cup with cold water first to get the blood off (like with a blood stain on clothes), and then with hot water so it's warm when you put it back in. Also, it was recommended to clean the cup gently with an old toothbrush and a little baking soda. Since I already have an old toothbrush I used for the Keeper, I decided to go for it, and I think it helped a little. The cup is not as pristine as it was to begin with, but it's a functional item, it's not like anyone is looking at it when it's doing its job.

I really like my Ladycup. Early in my period I can't feel it at all and it seals well, but towards the end when my cervix drops I can feel it more, and it seems not to seal as well. I can deal with paying a little more attention to getting a good seal for the last few days.
The Ladycup doesn't hold very much, I had to change it four times on my heaviest day. Again, something I can deal with. I will invest in a larger cup someday, but until then it's not a big deal. It's not like I have the energy to leave the house on my heavy days anyway.
Also, I would encourage everyone who gets a period to try a menstrual cup. Blood will get on your fingers, especially when you're still figuring everything out, but it washes off easily. You do have to be comfortable touching your own body, because you will be putting your fingers up inside your vagina to insert and retrieve the cup, but I think that's a healthy thing everyone should be comfortable with.
And, importantly (at least to me), there is so little waste. This past month the disposables I used were two pantyliners, and one of those was unnecessary. To be honest, I also used a little more toilet paper - wiping out the cup - and a little more water -rinsing the cup and extra hand washing. Still, I feel that's a big improvement from... well, the Keeper website states it best, even if the cup they manufacture doesn't suit my body.
Here are some comparison photos of the waste generated by the average woman using tampons. 
Comparison Pictures


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