So I performed a little experiment for y'all, if you will. I'm a lab scientist by occupation, so trust me when I say I got you all on the deets.
Men, THIS IS NOT YOUR POST. I'm warning you now. But this post is for my ladies who dare to try a less common solution and want relief. I will try to keep this as PG as possible but know medical professionals have no filter when it comes to describing things. So brace yourselves for...my Flex Disc experience.
Okay wait...I know what you're thinking. Jas this is weird...Jas this is TMI...like no. I promise I'm not losing it; I always have a purpose. Society tends to make us shy away from the uncommon. I remember when having my cycle explained to me for the first time, tampons wasn't an option. So you can bet at the time a cup wasn't! Options are always a good thing though; they give us freedom because no ONE solution works for EVERYONE. Let's face it, pads and tampons will not be the wave for every woman! Especially as we age and things change down there. Before I get into my personal experience, The Earth Charter details eight reasons to use a menstrual cup, them being:
1. Greater freedom, comfort, and safety
2. Prevents vaginal infections
3. Cheaper cost
4. Protects the environment
5. Collects blood longer
6. Get to know your body better
7. No bad odors
8. No one notices
I can attest to every one of these benefits. Except 2...no I didn't culture the cooch at work this week. I bet that would be cool thing to do though... *adds to bucket list*
Coincidently my favorite benefit from this experience was the knowledge of my body that I gained. No amount of pap smears or mirror gazes could brace me for this. It's one thing to learn your body from textbooks or pictures, but it is another to become intimate with everything that makes up you. Besides, what two people are structurally identical? Yes our bodies are similar for the MOST part, but there are millions of people and possibilities. You need to know you for you! This can also be great for monitoring changes that occur down there and preventing diseases, infections, etc. Learn your body, sis. It's natural, not nasty.
So I had the common pathway of starting in pads and graduating to tampons. True enough, they worked for me for years. No mess, convenient, discreet, etc. As you get older though, your body and lifestyle changes. Over the last few months to year my menstrual cramps have increased in intensity, but my body hasn't responded as well to the pain reliever I usually use. Trust me, I've tried others also, so I knew when my body was becoming resistant to this one, it was time to try something else altogether. Well this last Wednesday, on my first day back at work where I had a 12-hour night shift ahead of me...my cycle came.
...talked about pissed, right?...
I tried everything in the hours before because the way my cramps are set up...if I don't act fast I can be bedridden REAL quick. I could never quite get them to subside though, so I spent the entire shift dragging around and uncomfortable.
I've had a handful of people recommend menstrual cups before, and not surprisingly, none of the three women were Black! I don't say that to be condemning but instead to make a point that this option is uncommon period, (ba dum tss) but ESPECIALLY in the Black community because we are not always aware of the uncommon or have access to it. I've considered the option previously for the simple fact it's less waste into the community, less changing while at work, and it can be healthier as far as the chemicals put into your body via tampons (unless organic which can be expensive.) I was hesitant to switch for months but on THURSDAY, baby I was fed up. I spent the morning wallowing in pain and trying to sleep, but it wasn't long before I called into work, put on my big girl panties, hypothetically of course lol, went to Target and got me a heating pad and The Flex Menstrual Disc.
Since mine is the disc version and not the cup, insertion is slightly different but you still get all of the benefits of the cup, minus the reusability. The discs are single use, but still a cleaner option than tampons as far as the environment. I still may consider investing in the actual cup and using the methods interchangeably as some women do. It's just a little more pricey but can last months to years depending on brand and care. The visuals for both can be intimidating, BUT in essence they are the same size as a tampon. They are virgin and IUD safe, allegedly. And oddly enough...they are intercourse safe, also allegedly. I did not test this theory, sorry lol. Anywho, because insertion is different than tampons for both a disc and cup, there is a bit of a learning curve. Don't worry though, majority of women get it right on the first try! There are so many tutorials, pictures, etc. that you can cross reference...or you can ask me for tips; I totally don't mind. Leave a message or any questions you have in "Contact Us."
I spent about $10, more or less, for 12 discs. I only used 6, which is already amazing because with tampons I can dip into close to two boxes in one cycle! OH! You're going to want to invest in gloves and panty liners. It's a preference thing, and if you haven't reached OG changing status, you might want them to be on the safe side.
So my days went something like this...
Day 1-2 of my cycle is heavy so since this started on day 2, I was very skeptical of leaks. During the entire four days I only slightly saw a flash of blood on day 1, and that time I needed readjusting. It was my second time inserting when this happened. This day, I constantly did the "toddler looking in diaper" thing to check throughout the day, and every time after the second insertion, THERE. WAS. NOTHING. I was floored. Day 1 with the Flex consisted of the most learning. I watched SO many tutorials. I learned that to adjust it into place you Kegel, and to prepare to take it out, you "bear down" or pretend to poop basically. I imagine this is similar to pushing in childbirth, but I'm not a nurse or mother so I can't confirm. I learned new terms/concepts like pelvic floor and vaginal fornixes and how something can sit above your vaginal canal without entering the cervix - by the way this is the reason they say you can have sex with it in. If positioned right, your partner shouldn't feel anything. I can at least confirm this by hand.
okay maybe THAT was a bad visual...whoops
By day 2, I gained so much confidence. I got BOLD. I tried it with and without a panty liner on. I tried sleeping without pants. I showered with one still in. I-- I-- used the bathroom with one in (completely safe and mess free I might add). I even went a litter longer than 12 hours with one in towards the end of my cycle when I was lighter. I was curious to know that if I was ever in a time crunch should I worry. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TRY ANY OF THIS. I am speaking from a place of me just being brave/curious and not of a medical professional at this second. Always, always, always do your own research and follow instructions to the best of your ability. I personally just wanted to put this product to the test for any woman like me who may be apprehensive. I took some of the pressure off by being the guinea pig.
I definitely plan to continue using a menstrual cup instead of the usual as a permanent transition, and I don't care who clocks me. I also don't care who clocks this blog post. Yes it's weird, but the information is needed!
It's hard for me to tell if this method will reduce my cramps for sure long-term and by how much because naturally my cramps start to subside by day 2/3. I definitely noticed improvements though since I stopped taking the pain relievers altogether once I switched to my little experiment, but for now my results are inconclusive in that regard. Maybe I'll do an update next month, who knows. I'll still continue to do my part and save planet Earth either way.
For me, this product and brand did it. For you, this could be the case as well...or it couldn't! All I can recommend is not to knock something until you try it. Do your own research. Talk to your gynecologist about it, if need be. Just spread your wings butterfly...
Uncommon can be so freeing. Be free.