Lena Cup Review: Four Months Later

The Lena Cup Challenge

Four months ago I decided to try the Lena Cup, a highly rated and well-reviewed menstrual cup.

Now that it’s been a little while I wanted to jump back in and give some secondary thoughts and feelings on using a menstrual cup over tampons. If you want to read my initial reasons for giving a menstrual cup a try (see: I thought they were gross!) read my original post.

Lena Cup

It’s basically like not even having a period at all

One of the biggest inconveniences I experienced before using a menstrual cup was specifically related to blood itself. Going to the bathroom multiple times per day to deal with tampons.

For those who don’t use tampons (or those who don’t have menstrual cycles) tampons come in a variety of sizes. The sizes generally relate to blood flow. If you’re in a heavy-bleed month or if you’re in a heavy-bleed day, you’re going to need a bigger tampon. It’s going to absorb more blood which means you’re not going to quickly soak through it. There are also medium absorbancy tampons, light tampons, regular tampons, extra lite tampons, and all other varieties depending on the brand you choose to go with.

Riveting stuff.

If you know yourself pretty well, and your body is pretty predictable, you may be able to select the right absorbency pretty easily. Sometimes that isn’t the case.

Sometimes you choose a heavy absorbency tampon and then your uterus says just kidding and you have to pull a barely-absorbed cotton swab down and out of your vaginal canal. At other times, what was once a light bleeder, suddenly turns into a heavy bleeder, and your lite tampon suddenly soaks all the way through, down to your jeans, out through your chair.

Of course this is a logistical problem as well. You’re going to want to have a selection of tampons with you at all times so you can have what you need. It costs a lot of money and creates a lot of trash and is generally pretty unpleasant. Some women acknowledge this problem in advance and use liners of some kind (thin absorbant sheets that stick to your underwear) to absorb any likely spotting.

Note that I didn’t actually think tampons were unpleasant until I started using a menstrual cup. I used to be all about tampons! That’s because I was thinking about my options in terms of pads vs. tampons. Broadening my view to pads vs. tampons vs. cups changed things.

Long-Lasting and Flexible

The Lena Cup, like other menstrual cups, can be inserted up to 12 hours. If I wake up at insert it at 6am that means that I don’t have to take it out until 6pm. That means no fuss during my workday. When I get home I can dump it out, put it back in, and not have to think about it again until the morning.

Since the blood just all goes into one central cup, you never have to think about how much you’re bleeding. If it’s important to you to know how much you’re bleeding, you can begin evalutating how much collects over a 12 hour span, or less, if you prefer to dump it more frequently.

Some color fading was disappointing

Some color staining and fading happened to the Lena Cup in the first four months, which was disappointing. Even with proper cleaning, care, and storage, the it’s not the bright perky color it was when I got it. I’ve seen other menstrual cups make an all black version which I thought was funny but now kind of makes sense.

Lena currently only sells a variety of springy colors like pink and turquoise, and white, which must be a hot mess after three months. (But it doesn’t really matter.)

Lena Cup

Continuing to carry tampons with you, anyways

If your cycle isn’t super predictable and you don’t want to always have the cup on you, you may want to carry around tampons or pads as a backup system.

I always keep a few tampons of different sizes in my bag just in case someone asks me for one in the bathroom. It would suck to have to say no to someone who is coming to you in a desperate situation!

Four Month Conclusion

It’s a little mind boggling that there isn’t more widespread use of menstrual cups. I think a lot of people share the same stigmas that I had against them. That’s the primary reason I decided to try them in the first place, and it revolutionized pretty much everything.

Have you given the cup a try? What do you or don’t you like about it? I’m curious if using a cup has impacted your life in any significant way. Leave your thoughts in the comments!
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Question: Pills and PMS

Could you recommend a birth control pill brand please? I’ve been on a slew and my gynecologist seems to prescribe random ones to try at this point. My main concerns are my PMS symptoms, I overeat, lash out, and have bouts of depression if it can be called that. I’ve tried taking anti-depressants but I don’t like the way they make me feel, and I think this really is directly linked to PMS. Anyway if you could recommend some I can research and bring my gyno’s attention to, I would be very thankful. Have an awesome day!

I took Loestrin for the first ten years I was on birth control, and recently switched to Junel, which they assured me was basically the same thing. It’s worked alright for me. The problem is that what works for me might not work for you and so recommending birth control is really a huge bummer.

Presumably your doctor covered this with you, but it takes a little while for your body to adjust to those hormones. Prior to switching, were you on each pill for at least three months? If not, give that a shot the next time you start a new pill.

image-2

To verify that this is related to your cycle, start keeping a calendar of everything relevant. I would pick up an actual planner that has a month view. On day one of your period write a number 1 on that day. Continue to count until the first day of your next period and then start over at one again. This will allow you to see how regular you are and how long your cycle is. A typical cycle is roughly 28 days. Women tend to ovulate around day 13-14.

Now you have the number part squared away, focus on things you can feel. That could be headaches, cramps, side pain, irritability, anger, sadness, horniness, and so forth. It’s also useful to write things like when you have sex, when you get in arguments, when you have a particular life stressor acting up (work, finals, family drama, illness, etc.) Try to only open the calendar when you actually feel something discernible, or have something important to add. After a few months of doing this (it’s a slow process, but useful) you can compare the months back and see if there is a pattern. If you do notice huge waves that align monthly to your cycle, you may want to check into PMDD. [link]

You could also consider other options aside from the pill. Take [this test] on planned parenthoods website to see what you come up with.

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PMDD: Understanding the Difference

As it is finals week, I’ve been wrapping up in my final lectures. It’s a bittersweet feeling. There are so many things that I wish that I had done differently. It’s also a time to reflect on all of the things I’ve learned, all the things I’ve written, all the new subjects I’ve encountered.

In one of my last classes the professor mentioned PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) in reference to the DSM diagnoses of mental disorders. In the back, someone snickers.

PMS is still funny, which makes PMDD really funny. What comes to mind? Women acting irrationally, tears, anger, depression, fighting, snacking. That stereotypical “crazy woman” is funny because people don’t know how to deal with it. It doesn’t fit the comfortable and convenient view of women that is subdued and easy to moderate. If someone has PMS or PMDD (or simply if a woman is acting in a loud or strongly behaved way) that is entertaining.

Unfortunately for those who suffer from PMS or PMDD, the symptoms are nothing to laugh about. They can severely impact the quality of your day and influence how you feel about life, and yourself. Getting treatment for these symptoms may require a diagnoses from the DSM-V. A friend of mine recently was diagnosed with PMDD and suggested that I write a bit about what it is.

I’ve been unable to get my hands on a copy of the new DSM, but this is what I was able to find regarding its inclusion in the book.

Based on strong scientific evidence, premenstrual dysphoric disorder has been moved from DSM-IV Appendix B, “Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study,” to the main body of DSM-5. (dsm5.org)

Inclusion in the DSM is important because many people are unable to gain access to medication for what troubles them without a diagnoses from this book. It is, however, a controversial decision as well.

“I think any time a disorder occurs more frequently in women or only in women, there’s going to be a group of individuals who have concern that this will diminish women’s role in society, their sense of being capable,” Epperson says.

The article this quote is grabbed from is from the NPR: Should Severe Menstrual Symptoms Be A Mental Disorder? It is worth a read. When discussing mental illness it is important to consider how a diagnoses will positively and negatively influence that group of people afflicted by those symptoms.

Here is a breakdown on PMDD:

PMDD is a more severe and disabling form of PMS. It is much less common than PMS. Statistics I found cited between 1-8% of menstruating women.

The difference between PMS is that PMDD symptoms disrupt her normal daily activities in the time period that she has them. Unlike PMS, which may be more mild.

Strong emotional and physical reactions come ~10 days before a woman’s period. These symptoms can include anxiety, stress, depression, tension, and anger.

Treatment involves symptom reduction, which is one reason that medication might prove useful to women who are having these experiences around this time in their cycle. Other non-medicalized treatments like exercise and diet changes are also important. Counseling may help some women find coping strategies.

What I would recommend:

Many of you know that I keep a journal documenting various moods, emotions, and other various symptoms. Doing this can help you notice trends in your cycle as well as help you notice if there are any irregularities. I wrote up a mock of what this looks like on a blank page in one of my old moleskin notebooks. I didn’t really want to post my real one 🙂 It’s a pretty realistic replication though.

  • Hearts – Intercourse
  • Circles – High fertility days + Prediction of Periods
  • Dots – Days of bleeding
  • Numbers – Tracking cycle (day 1 – first day of period, typical cycle is 28 days, this is how you can predict your period if you have a normal cycle)

Generally I only write down moods when I have one that is particularly present. You can see that in the example there might be more negative emotions right before the start of a cycle (near the 23-28th days). These are PMS symptoms, light, generally manageable negative moods and physical discomfort.

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Creating a journal like this can also help you discover if your symptoms are more severe and are serious disrupting what you get done. If you’re worried that you might be suffering from PMDD I would recommend going further than a journal in this style and actually writing out how your day went, if you struggled with anything in particular, and keeping track of things in a more detailed way.

Questions? Have something you’d like me to write about? Submit by clicking ask advice at the top of the page and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

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