The DivaCup: How it Works, Pros, and Tips for New Users [PLUS YOUR CHANCE TO WIN ONE!]
Tired of tampons? Ever feel like screaming that infamous vagina monologue quote “What the hell is that? A wad of dry !%#*?$! cotton stuck up there?!”
I know the feeling. Scratchy rough wads scraping against sensitive walls. Oh the days of bleeding through, only to take a tampon out to discover it was more like a valley river in its ability to ebb versus dam a flow.
I’m here to tell you that you are neither damned nor doomed to a life of tampons. There is another really great option that is easy on the budget and saves precious suitcase space for you traveling ladies.
Almost 7 years ago I had an inconveniently early and unprepared for monthly arrival and desperately asked one of my roommates for a much needed tampon. She responded, “Sorry, I haven’t used one in a year. I have a DivaCup and don’t need tampons or pads anymore.”
“Say that again?!?” Even in the best of tampon times I’ve always ALWAYS needed the backup of a pad or liner to stem the inevitable flood.
“Yeah. It’s great. It’s this little silicone cup that you insert so that it sits below your cervix and collects the blood and then you empty, clean and reinsert it when it gets full. You never have to worry about buying tampons again.”
While it didn’t solve the particular predicament I was in, I was intrigued. I bought one the next month and have never looked back.
Now, I’ll grant you that some people are happy with tampons and that’s great if it works for you. For those of you who are as intrigued by this idea as I was, here are some pros and tips about the DivaCup I’ve learned along the way.
What is the DivaCup?
The DivaCup is a reusable medical grade silicone cup that is inserted vaginally during your menstrual cycle where it collects instead of absorbing menstrual blood. When it’s full you just discard the blood, wash and reinsert it. Check out all the reasons you should give it a try:
Enjoy the same freedom as with a tampon.
From my favorite commercial: two boys discuss how they will spend their piggy bank money, one boy tells the other “I’m going to buy OB tampons because the commercial says I can go horseback riding, swimming, sky diving…” Yup! You can do the same with the cup.
Can leave in for up to 12 hours depending on your flow.
With tampons you need to change them at least every 8 hours using the lowest absorbency possible, even during your lowest flow. You can leave the DiveCup in for up to 12 hours depending on your flow. Just like tampons, you’ll need to change it every few hours for heavy bleeding. And yes, you can leave it in to pee. For up to 12 hours on light days you almost forget it’s there.
The silicon cup makes a seal against your vaginal wall so the blood goes straight into the cup and prevents leaking. When it starts to get too full, small drops will start to appear, so you know you’re overdue to change it. If you still have spotting with the cup it’s likely from blood left along the walls before you inserted the cup.
Coming from steady floods from saturated tampons, the lack of leaking was a Godsend and made my periods much less of a constant stress.
You just need to bring one little cup that comes in a cute tiny purse to solve your flow woes. No more worrying about being caught without tampons ever again!
Reduce your waste (literally). Also saves a septic tank clog from the accidental flushing of a tampon down an incompatible septic system. Not to mention sparing you from the biohazard that is the tiny trash can in every women’s bathroom.
Get to know your flow!
It’s a great thing to know and be comfortable with your body. With the cup you can easily keep track of the characteristics of your menstrual cycle like how heavy, how long, the consistency, etc. It’s interesting, and I think empowering, to know what your cycles are really like.
No chemicals, no absorption – no risk of chemical shock. By the way, whose sick joke was it to put chemicals in tampons anyway? As if we needed more things to worry about on our periods.
Last, but certainly not least, is the money you can save. For a one-time $39 purchase, the DivaCup is a money saver. Your standard box of tampons goes for about +/- $7 with 36 tampons. I used to go through just about a box a period. Throw some backup pads in there and you’re looking at close to $100 a year. Not to mention liners (though I still use those occasionally with the cup so I didn’t add it to the cost difference). After 7 years I’ve earned myself a nice little vacation! (Visit northtosouth.us for some budget travel secrets.)
When to empty the cup
Don’t wait too long to empty it. You’ll get to know your flows fairly quickly and when you need to change it. The cup holds a good heavy period, but if you wait too long, the cups — well — “they do overfloweth.” If you’re a heavy bleeder like me, you’ll learn quickly when you need to change it. Also be sure to wash your hands before and after you take out your DivaCup.
It’s a good idea to change your DivaCup before playing sports. Some activities, especially involving acrobatics (like the splits during a handstand) can cause the seal to break, which can lead to some leaking. This usually isn’t a problem unless the cup is almost full. Empty it before and it won’t be a problem. I scuba dive and swim all the time with my DivaCup and feel so much more secure without that tampon tail trailing out and soaking up everything.
That being said, occasionally I’ll meet someone who uses and loves the DivaCup, but still uses a tampon for one activity or the other.
The Joys of Sex
Remember that anything that can cause the seal to break will cause leaking. Getting hot, heavy and excited will be sure to open that seal right up. Believe me ladies when I say that I’ve been there. If you think you might find yourself in one of those lucky situations, but aren’t planning on actually having sex, just clean it beforehand, put it back in and it won’t be a problem.
For those partners that are open to sex during menstrual cycles, using the DivaCup keeps things much clearer. Since the blood drips directly from the cervix and doesn’t have to slide down the walls, if you take the DivaCup out right before sex there is significantly less mess to deal with.
Using the DivaCup makes planning for your period while away a breeze. If you’re traveling to extremely rural areas in developing countries you just need to make sure you have potable (drinkable) water to clean the DivaCup with. If the water there is iffy, don’t risk it. Or better yet, get yourself a SteriPen (from REI) to spare yourself some extremely nasty waterborne illnesses. And get your Hep A and Typhoid shots!
If you’re camping with running water there is no real additional considerations needed. Backpacking, however, can get tricky with the availability of potable water and disposal. The SteriPen is a lifesaver! I’ve managed backpacking on my period a couple of times, but it’s still no picnic. Packing out tampons is even less fun.
Each time you empty it, give it a good rinse with soap and potable water before you reinsert it. While this may seem daunting if you’re somewhere with public toilets, it’s really not bad. I empty it in the toilet, give the residual blood a wipe with toilet paper and discretely hold it in my hand and wash it in the sink. I’m also very cognizant of making sure blood only comes in contact with the bottom of the sink where it will be washed away with soap and water. If you’ll have a chance to clean it soon after using a public restroom, you can also just stick it right back in and clean it as soon as you can.
After each cycle it’s generally a good idea to give it a good boil. I also clean mine with vinegar and an old soft bristled toothbrush. Some staining of the silicon is normal, but regularly cleaning it can help slow that process.
Ok to be honest it took about two or three cycles to get the hang of the DivaCup. As mentioned before, everyone is shaped slightly differently. You may need to trim the stem more so that it is comfortable and sits in the right place. If it feels like it’s rubbing against something it’s either not in the right position or needs to be cut shorter. Expect an adjustment period.
For more information on the DivaCup and how it works, visit Diva’s website. They have a helpful list of FAQs, too.
Where to Buy
The DivaCup is available in two sizes on Amazon.com. Find a retailer near you on the DivaCup website.
Enter to Win a DivaCup!
We’re giving away a DivaCup to one lucky Stylish Travel Girl reader!
Enter before 11:59 pm PST on September 7, 2015. A winner will be selected at random and notified no later than September 14. Good luck!
- An Indonesian born German-American, Maya has been globe trotting her whole life. Now a Head Start Nurse in Santa Monica, she gets her exploring on during the school breaks and summers and particularly loves spending time in the great outdoors.