Seventh Official Product Review EVER: DivaCup (Ladies only!!)

Since I’m on a roll listing all the issues that women face with backpacking that men do not, I figured it’s really time to dive right into a hard-hitting topic. Men, this post is strictly for the ladies. Consider this a warning. No, really, you should legitimately turn back now. See the little “x” in the top corner of your screen? Do not hesitate: click it. This isn’t a joke or a “women mean the opposite of what they say” sort of thing.

I’m serious.

If you haven’t stopped reading by now, there’s only one thing left in my bag of tricks to convince you. Here goes. Deep breath. MENSTRUAL CYCLE!

DivaCup Logo

What is this logo all about? I guess you’ll have to keep reading to find out. Mwahaha, my plan is working!

OK, ladies, I think I got rid of all the men. Now we can speak freely. I have to be honest: I’m a little embarrassed to be talking about this in such an open forum, but I was curious for information and so thought other women could benefit from it as well.

Six months of walking through the woods means six months of tending to my menstrual cycle: carrying tampons and pads, using them, changing them every few hours, and packing them out of the woods. Not only have I been thinking about the extra weight in my pack, but also I’ve been anxious about hygiene (can’t shower every five seconds), not to mention the discomfort of hiking while using a sanitary napkin.

About a month ago, I went to an all-day thru-hiker workshop hosted by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. During a lesson in digging cat-holes (a hole in which to “do one’s business”), I pulled aside the woman instructing us and privately asked her about dealing with one’s menstrual cycle. First and foremost, she told me that menstrual blood has to be buried in a cat-hole. She also pointed out that tampons and sanitary napkins could not be buried (they do not biodegrade) and instead had to be packed out.

She then mentioned that, although she had never tried it, she knows of women thru-hikers that have used the DivaCup. When I asked her what it was, she explained that it was a pliable funnel-shaped cup that is inserted similarly to a tampon that collects menstrual blood.

When I got home, I visited the company’s website at http://www.divacup.com/ and did some research on the product, which – I’ll admit – looked a little intimidating. However, I figured it was worth a try and emailed Diva International, Inc. requesting a sample, to which the company generously agreed. As a disclaimer, the company provided me a DivaCup for my personal use free of charge but no other form of compensation for my review.

One for pre-baby. One for post-baby. They think of everything (or at least two things).

One for pre-baby. One for post-baby. They think of everything (or at least two things).

Diva International offers the DivaCup in two different models: one for women under 30 that have never born children and one for women over 30 and/or who have born children. Fitting in the former category, I requested a Model 1 DivaCup, which arrived in the mail a week later.

So that I don’t have to fumble my way through an explanation of the product, I’ve taken this description directly from the company’s website: “The DivaCup is a reusable, bell-shaped (silicone) menstrual cup that is worn internally and sits low in the vaginal canal, collecting rather than absorbing your menstrual flow.” The Cup has a capacity of one ounce with incremental tick marks lining the Cup vertically to measure the volume. At the top of the Cup, there is a thick rim that, when inserted properly, abuts the woman’s cervix, creating a seal against leakage. At the bottom, there is a stem that the woman grips in order to remove the Cup for emptying, rinsing, and reinserting.

The Usage Guide that came with my DivaCup said that – since the average woman’s monthly flow is approximately 1 to 1.4 ounces, this proverbial “average woman” can wear her DivaCup for 10 – 12 hours before needing to remove, wash, and reinsert. As I’m guessing some of you are now, I was super skeptical about the “12 hour” claim. I’m going to be a little crass to drive home my point; I’m a woman with a heavy flow, such that I often marvel that I’m not internally hemorrhaging.

When I got my period last week, I thought, “OK, ready or not, let’s give this thing a whirl.” So that the lip of the product is small enough to insert comfortably, the Usage Guide recommends either folding the DivaCup in half and then in half again or folding it closer to the base (stem) to create more of a triangle at the lip. I found out the hard way that the first option is awfully uncomfortable and bordering on painful (for me), whereas the second option creates a smaller shape – more the size of a tampon – for insertion.

The first 12 hours using the DivaCup I almost completely forgot it was there. I’m prone to cramps, and my cramps were neither worse with nor alleviated by the product. I will say that, although it abuts the cervix, it also comes lower down than a tampon, which – when I used the restroom – made it feel like a tampon that was coming out, even though the Cup was perfectly secure; that difference took a little getting used to.

The one little hiccup I experienced came when – 12 hours after initially putting it in – I went to remove the Cup. See, I had read how to insert it but not how to remove it (and didn’t have the Usage Guide with me). At first I couldn’t grip the stem and had a “holy crap” moment, but then I realized that flexing my Kegels (pelvic floor muscles…like when you’re urinating and purposefully stop) brought the Cup downward such that I could grip it and gently (and very carefully!…I was nervous) pull it out. I later read the Usage Guide, which recommended just that technique.

I was surprised that, not only did the Cup not overflow, but it wasn’t even full. Just as surprising is that there was not a drop of menstrual blood anywhere except in the Cup. I emptied it, cleansed it (with toilet paper…which was all I had), and reinserted, all the while baffled at how clean I was and how clean I smelled. Without getting too graphic, I know I’m not the only woman out there that has spent many years feeling unclean during her menstrual cycle, so this really was quite a shock.

Over the course of my period (just shy of two and a half days), I went to work, went for a four-hour hike, sat in a movie theater for three hours, and slept three nights. In that time, I emptied it six times with a cumulative flow of just over 2 ounces (so much for “average”). I had one small leak (very small; just a couple of drops on my panty liner) on the second morning of my period after a restless night. Even so, the Cup was not full at the time; I think it was more of an issue of not having maintained a perfect seal with my tossing and turning.

The first time I removed, emptied, and replaced the Cup, I’m pretty sure it took over five minutes (although it felt like an hour!), and it was quite uncomfortable. It kind of reminded me of the first time I put in a tampon when I was a young teenager (“This goes where? How?”). By the time my period was done, I’d gotten the hang of it, and it was a 30-second (painless) process.

Here's the visual you've been waiting for this whole post. I couldn't figure out where to put it. So I closed my eyes and pointed randomly.

Here’s the visual you’ve been waiting for this whole post. I couldn’t figure out where to put it. So I closed my eyes and pointed randomly.

I haven’t yet spoken about sanitizing and product life. Besides thoroughly washing your hands before and after, the company offers a product called the DivaWash, which is a soap meant to be used externally on the Cup, or – like I did – the Cup can be washed with any fragrance-free soap. It should also be stored in a porous cloth bag, which comes with the product, as opposed to a sealed plastic bag (such as a ziploc). Although it is reusable, the company does recommend replacing one’s DivaCup once a year since it is a personal hygiene product, and – as most man-made things – it is prone to deterioration over time.

The DivaCup is available at a variety of drugstores in the U.S. and Canada as well as online. If you’re interested, I recommend you go to the company’s website and check out the Store Finder link. But, having done a search myself, the cheapest place I was able to find the DivaCup was Amazon’s website – $20 for Model 1 or $18 for Model 2.

I was crossing my fingers that the DivaCup would work for me because I was really stressed about my menstrual cycle on my trek, but I wasn’t particularly hopeful. This product has far exceeded my expectations, and I can’t believe I’d never heard of it before. Not only do I plan to use it during my trek, but also I’ve resolved to stop using tampons and sanitary napkins altogether. No longer do I have to change tampons/pads every few hours, which becomes both costly and – all things considered (that don’t need to be described) – makes me feel unclean.

I know that this product is not for every woman. Some of you out there may be squeamish about inserting something internally. Others of you may not have a heavy enough flow to warrant the use of tampons, nonetheless the DivaCup. Or, for all I know (and I don’t really), there may be anatomical differences that affect fit. For those of you out there with IUDs, be warned that the DivaCup may not be an option for you – anecdotally I’ve heard that it could cause your IUD to come out (speak to your physician first).

All that being said, if you are interested, give the DivaCup a try, and – if you like it – the company has asked that I encourage you to “like” it on Facebook and “follow” it on Twitter. Usually I’m not into “pushing” a product in that way for a company, but in this case I truly believe this is something that women should know about and am happy to spread the word.

Step 1: the blogosphere. Step 2: up and down the Appalachian Trail.

Meandering on,

Jordana

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36 thoughts on “Seventh Official Product Review EVER: DivaCup (Ladies only!!)

  1. My word, I had no idea that such a thing existed. Thanks for the info, although that would prove unbelievably expensive with exchange rates and shipping to South Africa. I do, however, wish I’d known about it when I had my farm. I’ll be looking out for it here now.
    PS – glad you sent the men packing 🙂

  2. I’ve used it too for activities like a day of cycling or hiking. For longer lasting activities, like weeks long backpacking trips or holildays… planning ahead…, I got the doc to put me on birthcontrol so I didn’t have to deal with a monthly for the time period at all and that was easier. Doesn’t the patch or the needle for birth control take care of the monthly for 6 months at least? I’ld look at going that route and taking along the diva and pads just in case. I’m not finished with monthly’s yet at age 53 1/2. Still something I have to plan around.

    • I’ve tried hormonal options before, and they’re a verifiable disaster. Totally screws with me physically and emotionally. No good for me. DivaCup it will be.

  3. I always wondered why no one invented something like this! Wish I had known if it when I still needed such a thing. LOVE the post, very good job describing it what it does and how it works without being gross.

  4. I’ve been using a Mooncup (similar to Diva & Keeper) since college now & am NEVER GOING BACK. I love, love, love my mooncup. I do use cloth pantyliners (or pads) as back up for heavy days and at night, but that’s mostly b/c I’m paranoid. Once my husband got over the initial “ick!” factor he’s become a preacher of it’s awesomeness as well (no stinky trash can full of pads, or tampon-clogged toilets).

    You may also want to check out http://menstrualcups.wordpress.com/ and http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/

  5. Very informative. I have heard about it in a talk show but couldn’t imagine how it would work. Good to know there are products to make life easier. I do not have the courage to try it though!

  6. i still have no idea how to use or how it works…but it seems like works pretty well.I guess it’s all good even it’s MTB biking (average 6-7hours i ride in the mountain though)!!
    Thanks for sharing the info!

  7. Thanks for sharing this. I’m highly intimidated, but I confess the concept of not having to shell out money every month for years to come sounds quite appealing to my minimalist self. However, I’m not sure the girl who cried the first time she tried (unsuccessfully) to insert something up there is ready for this new experience. The thought of getting something STUCK up there has me petrified. But the perks sound so nice… I might have to rethink this.

    • I am sure there were many girls (myself included) who, the first time they attempted, located the “wrong hole.” Not proud of it, but what the heck does a young teenager know about such things? I definitely encourage trying new things in this case (and reading the whole Usage Guide is very helpful). If you end up trying it, good luck! I hope it works out for you.

    • It might be helpful to use a mirror and locate anatomy first, the vagina is just an canal and if you feel of it its soft and can be pressed against (since it is musclular) and moved slightly, this will not hurt anything. If you think you’re dry and worry about pain on insertion, try some lubricant such as vasoline. Nothing harsh that will break down the silicone, if that is even possible. I know we all had the “how the heck am I going to get his in there and this hurts way too bad.” It is actually very simple and knowing your anatomy will help you. Also it is next to imposible to get stuck, you have a better chance of losing a tampon in there than you do a diva cup. If you just relax and raise your leg onto the toliet seat and bear down slightly like your pushing or doing kegal it will become very easy to pinch and pull to release the suction and carefully take it out will keeping it upright just in case it is full to the brim. Nothing hard, just takes a little patience.

  8. I learned about menstrual cups a few years ago and tried the DivaCup and have never looked back! There have been times where I’m stuck without mine (like getting my cycle at work) or a period where I somehow lost it and had to go a few months until I ordered another one and went insane!

    All my friends think I’m nuts and are too afraid to try it (with a few exceptions), claiming that it’s too “weird” and they’d feel gross about it. Using anything else makes me feel gross, and I agree fully when you mentioned both the feeling/smelling clean! Tampons remove both good and bacteria and pads…don’t get me started. Menstrual cups are the best, so much cheaper than buying tampons or pads over and over again, practically zero-waste, and so much healthier for your body.

    Lady power and such!

    By the way – a monthly hydrogen peroxide soak does wonders!

  9. I’ve used this product enough to warranty getting another one as my last one started to lose its suction. I know it states to change it every year but if it ain’t broke then why change. Anyway they seem to last more than year depending on usage.

    I too did not like tampons and all the issues that come with those products (toxic shock syndrome TSS). This plastic cup is ideal especially if you have a full bathroom (sink, running water, toilet paper/towel, toilet, privacy) at your disposal. I like inserting it wet to make things easier.

    I needed to use something other than tampon or pad as my flow is not flowing like those commercials. This catch and release method worked wonders for my backed up or bloating feeling. My body did have to get use to the free flow it was allowed while using the product. Now my flow is uber heavy (change cup every 8 hours) for the first few days then tapers to nothing so Luna cloth pads are manageable.

    I make sure to tell all women who are comfortable talking about this subject about Divacups and cloth pads (Lunapads) as an alternative. It’s good for your body, environment and pocketbook even if used just a few times a year.

    Great review.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! Yeah, I guess in a year I’ll assess the wear on my DivaCup and see if it warrants replacing. The only thing I could see that may affect my decision is that it will have been hanging out in my pack for in the woods for a half year.

  10. What about the flow itself? Since it’s not getting absorbed by a tampon, or getting outside of your body and onto a pad, it’s being “locked” inside of you until the cup is emptied.
    I’m only curious: won’t the blood flow backwards if you lie down?
    Thanks for the review!

    • I talked to my friend Chris, who is a midwife, because I wanted to make sure I gave you an accurate answer. She says that the DivaCup rests around the cervix (the opening to the uterus…which protrudes outward into the vaginal canal) so that it creates a seal and won’t leak. As far as flowing backward back into the uterus, the cervix is made of a complex system of muscles such that it is (almost?) completely closed unless you have your period, in which case blood only flows outward (I assume because the muscle contractions of the uterus force it). Otherwise, the cervix is closed so that blood cannot flow backward.

      I hope that answers your question!

  11. I purchased my Diva cup probably going on one year ago here soon. I loved it my first period, I was done with all else. I use a Diva 2, I just turned 30 and have given birth vaginally once at the age of 18 and not to be nasty but I had a little stiching that was done with love since I was only 18, so other than natural aging things started off new again. I have carried 3 other children , one set of twins. Hope that helps those chosing a size. Carry a small spray bottle or just one of those cheapies from the dollar store to put water in to rinse it at changing.

  12. Ha! You should read my blog post for today. I was trying to figure out how to contact you privately (email, etc) but I should have known you already figured this out for yourself. I’m interested to see how it works during the “real deal”. I think it will also work great as a nurse due to long shifts/no breaks. Not many people know this but we’re directly descended from camels.

  13. On a similar note, have you tried pstyle? That’s next on my “gotta try it” list. I can’t figure out how to tie that into nursing yet but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

    • Huh, interesting. Since I have to pee every five seconds, it might be useful. I’ll admit, though, I’m trying to visualize myself using it, and I’m not having much success.

      • I kind of felt the same way but I have always had a broken pee-er, lol. I cannot squat and go like normal women. I end up with 3 streams in 3 different directions – left shoe, right shoe and the mystery stream which is anyone’s guess but not usually anyplace convenient. I thought this may be an alternative. Or a trail comedy act. 😉

  14. Good call on bringing the Diva Cup on the trail. I’ve been using it for a few years now and I really can’t imagine how my hike would have been without it. I only had to empty it once a day, even in the beginning of my cycle and it was kinda gross doing it in the woods, but once I got the hang of it I could (and did!) do it in the dark regularly. If you have any, ahem, detailed questions about how it works in the woods, feel free to email me 🙂

    Love your site!!

    • Thanks for the offer! I’ll keep it in mind. You might get an S.O.S. email late one night from the middle of the woods ; ).

      In the meantime, I’m going to keep checking out your blog. Great been-there-done-that thru-hiker advice/info.

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