In praise of the Mooncup.

The Mooncup elicits passionate reactions from all quarters, from gagging to adoration to utter bemusement. Here, Hannah Bullivant looks at what causes such reactions, and asks 'Is it worth it?' With illustrations by Natasha Thompson, Faye West and June Chanpoomidole.

Written by Hannah Bullivant


Illustration by Natasha Thompson

The Mooncup is a menstrual cup. Yep, a rubber cup that collects period blood. To the uninitiated I accept that this sounds a little gag-worthy – but before you slam your laptop shut in disgust, allow me to explain why I, and thousands of other women like me, have fallen in love with the Mooncup.

Firstly, a few facts about sanitary waste. Did you know that 200,000 tons of sanitary towels, panty liners and tampons are thrown and flushed away, ultimately ending up in landfill every year? Normal tampons and pads are pumped full of pesticides, bleach and toxins which have been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome and all sorts of health related nasties too. The Mooncup eliminates all sanitary waste, and it’s made from medical grade silicone rubber. It is latex-free, hypoallergenic and contains no dyes, bleaches or toxins…but…

I’ll get back to waxing lyrical about the benefits a little later but, for now, I’m going to get right to the ‘but’. The biggest challenge of the Mooncup is getting to grips with your own blood, your own bodily fluids. Bodily fluids. It even sounds gross. In fact, lots of women (and most men) are pretty grossed out by periods. Stiff upper lip. The less said the better. But this slightly squeamish automatic gag reaction does nothing to help women develop a healthy view of their period and does a very good job of lining the pockets of the sanitary protection manufacturers. Periods are a totally normal, actually quite amazing, occurrence that half of the population deal with at some point. I’m not saying it makes them easy. Or pleasant. Try telling me about the beauty of periods when I’m curled in the fetal position in the throes of bad cramps wishing to rip my own womb out. No, they are not easy. But I have to remind myself sometimes that periods are in fact a brilliant thing, part of a miracle of human biology, and I think lots of women would do well to occasionally remember that.


Illustration by June Champoomidole

It may sound odd but the Mooncup has helped me feel better about my period. You see what it actually looks like. How much there is. And it’s not so bad. It makes periods more comfortable and cleaner too. I don’t feel as grossed out by it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I actually feel more empowered. And the language I use when I talk about it has improved as a result. When I talk about language I don’t mean the euphemisms for period (Aunt Flo, jam rags, etc,), I mean women who are on their periods referring to themselves as ‘crazy’ and ‘mental’. Most women who refer to themselves as ‘mental’ are perfectly sane, thankyouverymuch. Hormones increase, yes, making feelings more intense, but the large majority of women are not ‘mental’. Women have been peddling back from being labelled as crazy for the last 100 years, and likening period- related hormonal changes to a serious psychological illness reinforces the ‘crazy’ stereotype and, along with the squeamish period-related gag reaction, is yet another way that women put themselves down. I know that when women say these things most don’t actually mean that they are having a mental breakdown, or want to section themselves. I’m just not sure about the latent, or not so latent, message that this language portrays, and I wish that there was some more positive, self affirming views in the mix too.

Illustration by Faye West

So, in summary:

• The Mooncup helps lots of women feel better about their periods.
• Its cleaner. More hygienic…there are no pee-soaked strings hanging down to deal with. Its neater too – all tucked away inside until you’re ready to empty it.
• Less chance of DEATH. Not that I’m scaremongering or anything…but there is much lower risk of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome.
• It’s greener. It saves 200,000 tons of sanitary waste from going to landfill every year.
• It’s more comfortable. More attuned to your actual vagina: inserting a wad of dry cotton in a soft, moist vagina is pretty counter-intuitive. Rubber is a much more normal material associated with your nether regions. Rubber + vagina= happy vagina, less likelihood of dryness and thrush etc.
• It’s cheaper. Its costs £21 and lasts for years. The average woman spends £90 a year on sanitary protection.
• It forces you to get to grips and understand your own bodily fluids – in a good way. Don’t gag. Be a grown up.
• The Mooncup people were responsible for the recent brilliant ‘Love your vagina’ ads that caused a bit of stir recently (pro vagina but not in a porno way, hurrah!).

For those still uninitiated, here are some FAQs that I’ve received from friends in the past.

How often do you empty it?
Depends on your flow. Some women are fine emptying it twice a day, some four times a day. It doesn’t need changing as often as a tampon.

What do you do with the blood?
You empty it down the loo, wash the Mooncup under the tap with soap and water then put it back in.

What if I’m in a public loo?
Washing your Mooncup in a public sink might not go down too well, but if you really need too you can wipe it with toilet roll or use a bottle of water to rinse it instead.

Um, isn’t it gross?
It sounds gross but, trust me, you get used to it very quickly and the benefits FAR outweigh any perceived grossness.

How do you put it in, it looks enormous?
You fold it up to about a third of the size to insert it. Yes your fingers go inside a bit. It’s not that bad. To pull it out there is a little tail attached to make it easier (which you can trim to a length that works for you). You can use your pelvic floors to push it down a bit first if that makes it easier. Just a word of warning: when pulling it out, be sure to bend it in at the side to break the suction and then it slides out easily. The first time I tried to use it I didn’t bend it in at the side. Panic ensued and I swear I nearly sucked my insides out. Never. Again.

How do you clean it?
You wash it with soap most times you take it out, and then every couple of periods you boil it in a pan of boiling water or, yes, you can even stick it in the dishwasher (boils any germs away, very hygienic). Another word of warning though, don’t forget about your Mooncup boiling in the pan, or it will explode all over your kitchen, as tweeted by Amelia!

What does it look like?

It looks like this, which is pretty frightening, but once you’ve folded it, it’s about a third of that, not much bigger than a tampon and much smaller than the average penis. Once in it opens up inside it forms a vacuum meaning that leakage is vastly reduced.

So in summary, I’d say that yes, the Mooncup is worth any initial gagging. It really is good.

I may live to regret this, but if you’ve any passionate thoughts (love, hatred, bemusement) do share below…

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31 Responses to “In praise of the Mooncup.”

  1. Abby says:

    This has actually put my mind at ease about it, so thank you! I’m seriously considering getting one now!!

  2. Abby says:

    This has actually put my mind at ease about it, so thank you kindly! I’m seriously considering getting one now!!

    Abby x

  3. Amelia Wells says:

    I’m sold, just on the saving money aspect! I imagine that if you’re travelling it’s way more useful than trying to find tampons in a small South American village…

  4. Meg B says:

    I have the US MoonCup and I LOVE IT!! It is such an awesome and convenient item to have. I’ve been using it a few months and it has put my mind at ease. No waste,no chemicals, no TSS. What’s not to love?

  5. Sarah says:

    A friend of mine tried this many moons ago (pardon the pun) and I think she’s still happily using it. I was a bit repulsed by the whole thought of it but this is a good article and has made me want to at least consider trying it out some time (so long as I don’t run the risk of sucking my insides out!)

    What I’m curious about though, is why there are measurements on the outside?! Do I need to know how many ML’s I’ve bled by lunch time?

  6. Mithi says:

    I’ve had mine for three years now – best 20quid I ever spent!

  7. Alex says:

    I used this for about a year and I agree with all of the benefits, but as I have a very heavy period, it wasn’t enough, I still had to use a pad as it sometimes leaked a little (even though I followed all the instructions to a T and am sure I was inserting it correctly) and I found that emptying it frequently at work wasn’t practical. It may be because we are all slightly differently shaped inside, or it may just be my heavy flow, but I ended up back on tampons even though I know it’s worse for me and the environment. Tampons leak too, and I had forgotten all about the mooncup, so now that my working life has changed, I may give it another go!

  8. Phil says:

    The first time I heard of these I was in my early twenties and it made me shudder!
    Then in my early thirties, after my first baby I was really into cloth nappies, so ‘green’ products for periods was the logical next step.

    After initial anxiety, a bit of squickiness and a couple of months of learning the knack I was a total convert. So worth getting to grips with! and I agree that in some weird way it’s made my periods much more pleasant.

    Incidentally I now find the thought of tampons far more disgusting. Something about a sodden piece of cotton wool lurking in my insides is so much more gross than a nice clean silicon mooncup.

    I do need to stop keeping it in my bread bin between periods though as it tends to frighten guests ;)

  9. Sarah M says:

    I’ve had my Mooncup for just over 7 years now – and yes – I’m still using the exact same one I bought all those years ago!!! I have very heavy periods so it took a few months to figure out how often to empty it and when would be a good time to use a (cloth) pad as a back up, but it was worth it and I do feel very liberated!!! In fact, I often find myself forgetting that I am on my period as it’s so much easier and comfortable than using sanitary towels or tampons! After years of having issues with excessive bleeding I would never have thought that I could actually feel OK about having my period, especially as I am still in my 20′s and potentially have many more years of periods to come – I owe an awful lot to my Mooncup!

  10. Kezz says:

    I’ve been using a mooncup for just over 2 years now, I’m never going back to sanitary pads.

    On the cleaning point, if your’re going to use soap make sure it’s well rinsed! I just rinse mine in water when I empty it. I only empty twice a day.

    Also another sterilising option: mooncups fit perfectly in the little denture baths designed for false teeth and can be cleaned with sterilising tablets, I use Miltons.

    Try it, I think mooncup give you you’re money back if you really can’t get to grips with it. :)

  11. Lucy says:

    What an excellent article. Four years now and my only regret – that I didn’t discover it sooner. :)

  12. fiona says:

    I LOVE my Mooncup. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to tampons. I really do not understand why so many women shudder at the thought of seeing their own menstrual blood in a cup. It’s their body that made it for goodness sake!!

  13. Sophia says:

    Just thought I’d join in with the mooncup love. They’re ace! I have been known to forget I’m on my period at times as they’re so comfy and leak free (I always had a nagging concern at the back of my mind when using tampons).

    Sarah, some people like to track how much they bleed, whether to tell a doctor or to work out for themselves stuff to do with their own fertility etc.

    Also, I just thought I’d share with you what my friend said to me when I was considering getting a mooncup for the first time, “Go for it, you can totally get to third base with one in without your squeamish partners having to deal with the fact you’re on your period!”

  14. Helen says:

    I love my Mooncup! I’m so glad I decided to get one. I don’t think they’re any grosser than tampons or towels because with disposable products you still see the blood and how grim is it to have them collecting in the bin?! You still come into contact with the blood whatever you use, and it’s YOUR BLOOD. There’s nothing gross or frightening about it at all.

    Thank you for mentioning pee-soaked tampon strings. No one ever mentions this to you when they’re trying to get you to use tampons, and I realised that when people said you should use a panty liner with tampons, it’s not just because it might leak: it’s to stop you getting wee all over your gusset. I actually found the urine-stench of my undercrackers when using tampons FAR WORSE than anything I’ve had to deal with using a Mooncup.

    I find with mine that I remove it, wad up some tissue and dunk it in, soak it up (a bit like a tampon), chuck it down the loo, and give it a wipe, if I can’t get to a sink. And then at the end of each period I boil it. I did have a similar experience to Amelia though when I left mine in the pan and it boiled dry and stuck to the bottom, but it didn’t put me off and I just bought a new one and I’m careful not to leave it when I’m boiling it.

    I’m sure I read somewhere too that the muscles are so busy holding the Mooncup in that it can ease stomach cramps – I would say this does actually work with me, or I could be imagining it, of course.

  15. Helen says:

    I mean, I chuck the wad of loo roll down the pan, not the actual Mooncup!!! ;)

  16. Anna says:

    I have had mine for about 2 years now and i love it!!! i wish someone had told me about this earlier and i want to get all my friends to use one too but it is difficult to try to convince them because it is something new and it does take alittle getting used to, but once you have cracked it it is soo worth it!!
    so comfortable i forget i am on my period alot because i cant feel it. it is sooo much more convenient for taveling or just to keep in your bag incase and ive only spent £20 since i bought it 2 years ago an im sure it will last me for many years to come saving me hundreds of pounds

    and more importantly to me saving all that waste and impact on the environment, there is nothing worse than seeing a tampon or sanitary towel on the beach when your trying to enjoy your hols

    once i got used to using it i have never had a problem with it, i use it while swimming and doin sports and even my boyfriend isnt aware i am on my period unless i tell him and i wont look back.
    towels and tampons are horrible and smelly and so wasteful and uncomfortable,.. who wants to walk around wearing what feels like a nappy all day sticking to your leggs an crinkling horrible!!

    because the blood is still inside you before you empty it it doesnt come into contact with the air so it doesnt smell at all and you simply empty it away and rinse the mooncup what could be simpler!

    if you have been umming and arring just go out and get one you will wonder why you didnt do it sooner!!

    :D

    Anna

  17. HannahB says:

    Wow- really pleased that so many of you are already converts!

    Helen, Yes ive read that loads of women find their cramps get better using the mooncup. In my experience this hasnt been the case, but I know for a lot of women the mooncup helps cramps. I think its something to do with it sitting lower or something?

    And the measure is for women who want or need to know how much they are bleeding for fertility reasons, or for general Gyno health stuff.

    Hurrah for the Mooncup!

    I realised I didnt link to where you can buy one, bot Boots sell them if your in the UK.

    Hannah

  18. Freeek says:

    Have used one for several years, and the thought of using tampons now makes me gag. I also thought they would be the perfect solution for women in developing countries who find the cost of sanitary products prohibitive. Any charity experts out there willing to get involved?

  19. Amelia says:

    Nice idea!

  20. Charlotte says:

    It took me far too long to decide to “go Mooncup”. I finally did and will never go back!

    It is all the way through at good product; good for your body (no toxins will be stored inside you), for your bank account, for the environment and it is a really decent company as well (the British mooncup that is!).

  21. Amelia says:

    I’m definitely going to get a Mooncup now- I’ve been recommended it by two very good friends and this blog post has finally given me the push to get one! Do they have them in Boots/other large pharmacies?

  22. Nadia says:

    Would be anti-female to suggest skipping the period altogether?
    I’ve been on long-term contraceptives (implanon and depo-provera) for a combination of about 7 years. I remember when i went to get my implant replaced- they last 3 years- the particular doctor asked me how long I had been with my boyfriend.
    I told her I didn’t have one and used the implant because I found periods an unecessary inconvenience (she was not happy to hear that). Are these kinds of feelings frowned upon by the feminist community? I’m not ashamed of being a woman or the things my body could do if i chose it to, but i thought why be in pain, hormonal fluctuaion, pimple break-outs and bloating for the next 40 years when i don’t have to be?
    And the implanon is free on the NHS and it’s a greener option too!

  23. Brandi says:

    I have had my mooncup for 2 years now and have never gone back. I LOVE IT. I will never use anything else. I used to hate my periods and have a very heavy flow. Now, I barely notice them. Mooncup has alleviated some of my cramps, as well. It’s so much cleaner and easier. And I don’t have to carry back up. I love it when I play sport, too, and I feel so much healthier. Almost no leaking. Depends on if it’s my heavy day or not and if work prevents me from emptying it as soon as I need to. Best choice I ever made.

    And I feel so much more in touch with my body. I DO feel empowered. Blood used to freak me out, but I like seeing my own period blood. It lets me know everything is going alright down there, and I am so used to it now, that depending on the color, I can tell how much longer I have until I am done.

    Easier, cleaner, safer, freer.

  24. Amelia says:

    Nadia, i’d hope the feminist community would encourage you to choose what is best for you. What I was trying to get at was that it would be better for women if we could change our perceptions of our period’s. If all it is is a pimple inducing, painful, messy inconvenience then its not surprising that you don’t really want them. This is the message that women have been sold by men for centuries; that they are dirty when they are menstruating. Women in some cultures still believe this. I think a little of this mentality affects all women, and I wanted to encourage to change the way we look at periods a little, see that they are an amazing biological feat, that they are what makes us female, the process by which we ultimately make life then maybe we can stop hating them so much and start to actually feel empowered to handle them in a more positive way.

    Sorry for the long rant.

    And about the pill. Its complicated and definitely no black and white. I have quite mixed feelings toward it. Environmentally the hormones in the pill ultimately end up in the water supply and that in turn is affecting the ecology of the planet, which isnt green. And the pill can end up fucking with hormones MORE than periods do. In fact I’ve had friends who’ve suffered from depression, a feeling od not being themselves and suicidal thoughts, all induced by the pill. I am in no way anti pill, its service to womenis enormous and it has helped many women take control of their bodies. So yeah. Complicated.

    Really pleased to hear all these positive stories though, and interested to hear any other thoughts about periods and feminism and all that malarky.

    HannahB

  25. J says:

    I’ve known about these for awhile but my main concern was that I just picture them leaking. Any of you have any experience with it leaking or does it hold that well?

  26. Lisa-Marie says:

    I have been thinking about getting a mooncup for a few months, and have just ordered one, having read the article.

    Excellent article Hannah!

  27. Charlotte says:

    For me it holds that well. I really recommend giving it a try. It is much easier to keep up with than tampons, and you’ll never get that feeling that it’s slipping out of you (!). I constantly worried about leaks with tampons, which I never do with the mooncup, and I no longer use pads as back-up.
    You’ll be amazed how clean and easy it is, and you quickly learn to tell if it’s time to empty it (and yes – it will leak if it’s full!).

  28. nath says:

    grrrreat article! i admit i wasn’t sure if it’d work for me, given that i have heavy periods, but i’m going to go and buy one, thanks to your article Hannah and all the very encouraging comments! thanks love!

  29. Catherine says:

    Sold! I’ve been meaning to get one for yonks. I’m going to do it right now – your article made me fully ‘get’ how it works, which I wasn’t sure of before.
    In.
    x x x
    Catherine

  30. Moem says:

    Very nice little article, thank you! I have a Ladycup and a Fleurcup, they’re great… there’s lots of brands out there. Menstrual cups are a quiet revolution. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

  31. anitaagatha says:

    Just start to use one. Find it difficult to place with out it unfolding and taking it out is quite messy. Can’t imagine having to deal with this mess at a public toilet. What am I doing wrong here?

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