May 07, 2004

a review of the Diva Cup

The Diva Cup is used basically like a tampon. If you're male or squeamish (or both) I suggest not reading further.

The Diva Cup is a small soft rubber cup that collects menstrual flow and is inserted more or less like a tampon. It's reusable indefinitely -- the idea is that you take it out, empty it, wash it with hot water and put it back in. You can wear it up to twelve hours, according to the instructions. It comes in two sizes; the larger is only 1/8" bigger than the smaller, and they recommend the small size only if you're under 30 AND haven't had a child.

So that's the background. I'd heard of them before, but decided to get one a month or so ago after Natalie linked to the website, which has a list of where they're sold. Only three places in the state were listed, but one is fairly nearby, and I'd been wanting to check it out anyway (The Gentle Strength Co-op in Tempe). You can buy them from the Diva website, too. I used it one day las month and then through this whole cycle, three days. (I'm on the Pill.)

First problem: the Diva Cup is more expensive than I'd expected, just under $30. It's fairly easy to justify the cost -- what is that, half a year's worth of tampons? -- but only if it works for you. $30 seemed a bit much for a first trial, but I decided to buy it anyway.

The instructions that come with it are very good, and insertion wasn't too hard. I will say it works for me; I've been wearing it all day, removing it only at night. The caveat is that I'm on the Pill, so I have fairly light flow. I think it would work for heavy bleeding, but you might have to take it out and empty it once in the middle of the day -- though that's not a certainty. Diva says the cup holds one ounce and the entire menstrual flow is only 3-4 oz, so you might still be able to go 12 hours. I confess I've been wearing it more than that, from when I get up to bedtime. This is a big deal, because when it take it out to empty it you're supposed to wash it with hot soapy water, not something I particularly want to be doing in the bathroom sink area at work. (Diva does say if you're in a public washroom you can just wipe the cup out with tolet paper, put it back in, and wash it later.) I just leave it out at night -- haven't used tampons at night for years now, since being horizontal means I don't bleed enough to worry about.

I've had no leakage, and have never seen more than about 1/8" of blood in the cup. I don't think even a much heavier bleeder would have much trouble with leakage, because the cup gets such a tight seal (more on that later) when it's inserted right. Inserting it right mainly consists of wetting it, folding it as directed, putting it in, and not pushing it farther up the way to do a tampon. When I spoke to someone from Diva's excellent customer service (more on that later, too) she said to leave it riding as low as possible; I did that, with the little stem right inside the outer labia, but it does tend to move up a bit on its own during the day.

There's no question that the thing works for me, and it's at least as comfortable as a tampon. It has some major advantages over tampons: it only has to be purchased once, and you don't have to slip a spare into your pocket (assuming your work clothes have pockets!) or carry a purse to the ladies' room. (I once had one fall out of my laptop bag during a conference -- under the table, luckily, so I don't think anyone saw.) And speaking of the ladies' room, that's another major advantage over tampons: you don't have to worry about urinating on strings, and it doesn't pop out like tampons sometimes do when you defecate.

I've had two issues with the Cup. First, it's a bit harder to take a leak -- I have to bear down a bit. I think it's the same problem men with enlargeed prostates have, when there's a bit of compression of the urethra. It's not too bad, not nearly as bad as having a UTI for instance. Second and more serious, the thing is hard as hell for me to get out. Diva's instructions involve grabbing the bottom of the cup and pulling; never a devotee of fisting, I have to bear down hard to get it to where I can get two fingers on it. This should be much less of a problem for anyone who's been through childbirth or is just bigger to begin with. I don't know if either statistic is relevant, but remember I'm a very small person (size 4 pants, usually) and that I have such a small mouth that dentists generally go running for their child-sized implements of torture. However, even once you get a grip on it, the cup is hard to get out, because it seems to form a seal with all those moist tissues. (Oh, yeah -- Diva says another advantage is the cup doesn't dry out vaginal moisture like a tampon. They're right.) I called their extremely and impressively helpful customer service, and the woman I spoke to offered to exchange mine for the smaller size if necessary, but pointed out there's not that much difference between sizes really and offered a few other tips that help a bit -- cutting the stem to 1/4" so the cup can ride lower, twisting as you pull out. Even when I try to tilt it back as I pull, by the way, removal is only difficult; it's never been messy, the way Instead can be.

I've kept the cup I bought, though I'm still thinking about asking to trade down a size. (I'm impressed they even offer, since it's not like they can resell the old one.) I might call back for further tips first, to see if I'm twisting on the right axis. There does seem to be a knack to it. I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone too squeamish to use an o.b. tampon (the non-inserter type) or who isn't comfortable wearing a tampon. For me, it works, it's comfortable, and I don't have to worry about carrying tampons around. I'm keeping it.

Posted by dichroic at May 7, 2004 12:26 PM

Though male, I've never been accused of being squeamish.

Some friends and I were discussing a similar menses cup a few weeks ago. Some things I was wondering: What is the shelf life? Do they make versions for women with heavier flows (an ex of mine had this problem)?
And pardon my ignorance here, but is menstrual fluid acidic or akaline? Either way, can't that degrade the silicone over time and cause a health risk?

(By the by--the cup my friends and I were discussing, the Keeper Cup, seems to have a longer tab at the end, for greater ease of removal. The drawback to the Keeper Cup is that it's made of gum rubber, unlike the Diva's silicone, so it could run hazardous to people with latex allergies)

... and listen, if the fact that I can compartmentalize enough to not let this discussion bother me (while I let the part of me which would be freaked by the thought of a sibling's need of and use of such devices sit in the corner and hum loudly to himself, fingers in ears) ooks you out, just pretend you never saw it, 'kay?

Posted by: Alex Jay Berman at May 8, 2004 01:04 AM

Heh. I use the Keeper (similar to the Diva cup). And love it. It's changed my life. Really. I'm glad it's worked for you. My entry about the Keeper, if you're interested:

Posted by: Melissa at May 17, 2004 10:56 AM

(Oh, and yeah, I do have to empty it several times a day--it fills up way too fast, but with practice the whole public restroom issue wasn't too bad.)

Posted by: Melissa at May 17, 2004 10:58 AM

I have started using The Keeper again, and I've finally got the knack of inserting it, but I still haven't managed to find a way to pull it out that doesn't cause extreme pain - I break the seal just fine, but it feels like it's scraping a whole layer of wall tissue off when I pull it out. Not Good! If you have any advice, I'm all ears!

Posted by: jess at May 17, 2004 08:00 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?