Fair warning: if you’re male, you can skip this post. In fact, you’d probably prefer to skip this post. If you’re female and you’re uncomfortable talking about your period, you should also probably skip this post. Why? Because this post is all about that delightful monthly visitor whose company we enjoy so much. Got it? Okay, then let’s get started.
Sometime last year, I volunteered to try out and review the Instead Softcup, an opportunity I heard about through For the Love of the Run. Softcup and FtLotR were offering runners a free box of the product and a free race entry in exchange for a review. It sounded like a great deal to me, so I signed up enthusiastically.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Softcup, here are the basics: it’s a “feminine hygiene” product (I hate that term but I couldn’t think of anything else to call it) that falls somewhere between tampons and menstrual cups when it comes to how it functions and how squicky it can end up being. It’s a very flexible, latex-free cup that you insert into the vagina in a way that allows it to sit and collect your (ahem) menstrual fluid. It can be worn for up to 12 hours, even on your heavier days. When you’re ready to remove it, you pull it out, wrap it up in tissue (and put it in the disposable pouch it came in, if you still have it) and throw it in the trash. It can be worn during sex, while you’re swimming, and has never been associated with a case of Toxic Shock Syndrome. All good things!
During my period, I tend to wear tampons during the day and pads at night. I get some fairly bad cramps at times, but my period is generally light-to-moderate and doesn’t really cause me too many problems. I’m not a big fan of tampons, though–the idea of putting something toxic in my body makes me uncomfortable, they create unnecessary waste, if I don’t insert them just right they can be painful…the list goes on–so when I heard about Softcup, I really wanted to like it. Like, a lot. I wanted it to replace tampons and pads for me, and change my life in the process. Okay, maybe changing my life is a tall order. But I did want to like it enough to use it exclusively. When I got my sample, I was actually excited about getting my period. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.
Softcup comes with instructions for how to insert the cup, and also explains how to dispose of it. It seems like a pretty simple process, and according to everything I read, if you’d inserted it correctly, you weren’t supposed to even feel it was there. The first few times I tried it, I made sure to bring back-up with me, just in case. I continued to do so after the first few times, because I still didn’t feel entirely confident. Even though I was following the directions and felt like I was inserting the cup correctly, I ended up narrowly escaping an unsightly leak more than once. Every time this happened, I made sure to check the instructions again and really pay attention to what I was doing when inserting the cup, but that didn’t seem to help.
I also found that even though I couldn’t feel the cup when I first inserted it, I could sometimes feel it after a few hours of wear. That just seemed awkward, and had me worrying that the Softcup was going to somehow find its way outside my body before I was ready to remove it. Call me crazy, but at the age of 31, I don’t want to end up being the subject of one of those “most embarrassing” stories in Seventeen. And speaking of removal, I’m not all that squeamish about my body, but there were a few times when taking the cup out was just a bit too much for me. For one thing, on more than one occasion while at work, when I pulled the cup out, it made an audible squelching sound. Yuck. Fortunately, I was alone in the bathroom. For another, it’s just going to be messy. And there’s just no good way to take the cup out, dispose of it, and insert another one without getting your hands dirty (pun intended?)–my period isn’t my favorite thing, and I just don’t feel like I need to be that up front and personal with it.
Overall, I found the Softcup to be hit or miss. When I felt like it was securely in place and doing its job, I liked it. But after a while, I became less and less confident in it and found that I didn’t want to have to constantly monitor what was going on down there while I was in the middle of doing something else. I ended up never wearing it during a run for that reason–I just didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the park trying to find somewhere to make necessary adjustments…and then have to find some way to clean things up! The thing is, I still really want to like it. I still haven’t given up on it entirely. I still wonder if I’m just doing something wrong, and I still want to figure out how to get it right. If all the work ended up with me finding a replacement for tampons, then it would be worth it. So: to be continued, I guess.
If you’ve used the Softcup, I’d love to hear whether your experience was anything like mine!