What is the worst thing about the menstrual cup? The cost? The weirdness? The difficult insertion? The messy removal? The cumbersome cleaning?

Actually it’s none of the above. Women who have these problems generally get over them after a few cycles. And the cost, while high, is recovered. But there is one problem that just doesn’t go away.

What you will often hear from women who use the cup is that it is life-changing. This cannot be reduced to the sum of saved money, time, environment or any such issue.

“I love being able to swim,” a friend told me.

“Just had a fantastic period,” glowed a yoga teacher. “I teach three-five classes every day and the cup is simply a marvel!”

“It is so nice not to feel wet all day,” said another. “Such a relief to have nothing to throw in the trash.”

Just amazing to be able to do the many things we used to think twice about doing or skip altogether during that time. A question you will often hear from new users is, “Why, oh, why did I not find out about this before?”

What you rarely get to hear is about the worst thing. Sure, people will talk about having trouble getting started. Their questions are resolved pretty quickly, especially with so much information online including support groups dedicated to menstruation. Years ago, when I started using it, there were no such things. I had to make do with the tiny pamphlet that came with the cup. Though it may surprise all those who now rush to the Internet to clear doubts, this little slip of paper explained everything. I learned the C-fold, how to break the suction, how to clean the cup… soon there was nothing left to wonder about.

Before I used the cup, I used cloth pads for at least 10 years and disposable pads for another 10 before that. For all the 20-odd years that I used pads, I did not have to write the dates of my period on the calendar in order to remember when it came and went. How could I forget? Like those remembered where they were when they heard of Kennedy’s assassination, I could always remember where I was when Aunt Flo arrived, because I would have felt heavy, slow and encumbered in a way that left its impression on whatever else I was doing that day. When did I have my last period? The day my paper was due. They day I went to the post office. The day Mitra came for lunch. There was always a way to match the date with an event because awareness of my period always lurked in the background.

With the cup and its insert-and-forget-about-it ease, I simply cannot remember when my last period was. And in all these years of using the cup I haven’t managed to make a habit of writing it down either. Am I late? Early? No idea. Should I pack the cup for my trip tomorrow? How should I know? Of course, it is so small that I can keep it in my travel bag whenever I am not using it. So I must grudgingly admit that I actually don’t need to know. A weird feeling to have about my own cycle, something I did not ever know until the cup.

Not everyone experiences disappearance of pain, discomfort or even the slightest sense of sluggishness after switching to the cup. But this purported blessing contains a hidden liability that nobody talks about. So a word of caution to women making the big switch: if you want to keep track of your period, note it on the calendar.

Note: if the cup does not alleviate your cramps, don’t fret. You may find relief through improved diet and exercise, as well as positive thinking.

Quick facts

What is it: A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product usually made of medical-grade silicone. It is shaped like a bell and is flexible. It is worn inside the vagina during menstruation for about half a day or overnight to catch menstrual fluid (blood).

Cost: Ranges from Rs.750 (domestic) to Rs.1800 (imported).

Manufacturers: SheCup, SilkyCup, DivaCup, MoonCup etc.

How to use: Insert the cup in the vagina where it will catch menstrual flow. After several hours or at the end of the day, empty the fluid, rinse and reinsert. The cup can be used overnight too.

Capacity: The cup holds 30 ml. A woman loses an average of 30-50 ml in each monthly period. The cup needs to be emptied every four to eight hours, depending on flow. On light days, it can be emptied after 12-16 hours.

Cleaning: Rinse with clean water after each use and wash with soap and hot water at the end of the cycle. Sterilise with boiling water occasionally if desired.

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