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Friday, January 10, 2014

58

The Best Time a Diva Cup Suctioned Itself to My Cervix

I consider myself fairly crunchy on the “granola” spectrum. I homebrew kombucha, take a lax view toward showers and shampoo, and, yes, bake my own granola. So when I started hearing buzz about menstrual cups – much of the buzz from Hairpinners themselves! – it sounded way up my alley.

(Yes, that is a portent of things to come.)

I am pro-environment and as anti-spending money as the next twenty-something grad student, so I researched the heck out of those little guys. The number of review websites alone will boggle the mind. As usual, though I am totally willing to try new things, and want good information first, there’s a point where my deciding-things brain shuts down from overload and my doing-things brain says “PICK ONE,” which is why I settled on the Diva Cup. I ordered the pre-childbirth model and awaited my next period with anticipation.

Now, I knew there was a learning curve with these things—even my friends that didn’t flee in horror at the idea of a silicon sippy cup up in their business, those friends who routinely and successfully use them had mentioned the possibility of leaking, of the seal being tricky, etc. I was not to be deterred by a learning curve. I’d pop that baby in the day before my period, give myself some time to figure it out, and stock up on pads just in case.

First thing to mention: Getting the Diva Cup in was… not easy. It’s made of surprisingly tough, springy material that you’re supposed to origami in specific ways before easing it up your vaginal canal. I kept pressing it into one of the two recommended folds and having it spring back to its original shape and leap out my hands like it knew something I didn’t. Still, with time, relaxation, and commitment, I got that sucker in. I did not, however—I repeat, did not—manage the all-important 360-degree turn. I sort of lost control of it once it was up in the vaginal canal, but the stem (the shorter, smaller piece of silicone meant for you to grab onto to ease the cup downward so you can release the seal for removal) was nicely situated right at the vaginal opening, so I figured, eh, I’ll get that part next time.

I spend the entirety of that day in a post-Christmas blur braving a family reunion and several malls in the greater Los Angeles area, and didn’t think twice about the Cup until I got home that night. I knew it might take some time to get out. I got comfortable, and followed the instructions to press down with my pelvic floor to help shift the cup downward. But I realized, with an increasing panic, that I could not get it out. I tried to get it out sitting on the toilet. I tried to get it out lying down. I tried to get it out squatting, in child’s pose, in the bath, in bed, with a hat, with a cat, and so on.

The cup was not budging. 

It was, well, way, way up my alley. Without that all important twist-to-seal movement, the Cup had migrated up to the top of my vaginal canal, and had created its own rogue seal much farther up than it should have. It had also shifted so that the stem was tucked up above my pubic bone—technically, my pubis symphysis, I think. (You read up a lot on your anatomy when you lose something in it.) I could reach up there with one-hooked finger to try and drag the stem down to a more graspable place, but, unfortunately, Captain-Hooking myself proved totally ineffectual.

A crucial piece of information: I’m a virgin. This is not necessarily an issue, according to the makers of Diva Cup, but, in my particular, small, unexpanded case, it was. Not being big on vaginal penetration, I have used tampons for years with aplomb, but the maneuver to remove this lodged cup was kind of out of my reach. I just was not expanded enough up in there to root around with two fingers, pinching like one of those dinosaur-headed grabber toys.

Unable to get it out or down, I gave up. I gave in. For a moment, at least, I would be the Bionic Woman: half-lady parts, half-silicone. That night, I had no less than three dreams that the Diva had magically migrated itself into the outer world. The next morning, approaching 24 hours with this silicone cup snuggled up against my baby-maker, I had gotten desperate. I had reached the point when you’re seriously considering plumbing your own depths with a popsicle stick, and I knew it was time to bring in some professional help, lest I end up on the news under the banner “Woman Fishes Out Own Cervix.”

It was a Sunday morning, so my regular gynecologist wasn’t an option. I could have waited till Monday (there’s no risk for toxic shock syndrome with the Diva, thankfully!), but at that point I JUST. WANTED. IT. OUT. I drove to a local Urgent Care, and cheered myself with the thought that I’d be out of there in an hour and back to my normal routine of not sticking new things up my vagina.

The very nice NP at Urgent Care had never even heard of menstrual cups before, which didn’t help our cause—but neither did my forgetting to bring the box, the instructions, a picture from the internet, or anything else besides my claims that it was safe, really. She had no idea what kind of voodoo I had shoved up my hoohaw. I’m pretty sure she thought I had either fallen prey to an internet scam, or had lost a new-fangled sex toy up there, and was too embarrassed to admit it. Either way, after multiple failed attempts, she couldn’t get it out, and sent me to the ER.

The ER waiting room was roughly like the steerage deck of the Titanic. Throughout my three-hour wait, there were altercations between patients and patients and between staff and patients, and the security guard was kept busy separating and ejecting various parties from the waiting room. I mention this because the thing about this whole removal situation is that it depends quite a bit on one’s ability to relax. And the ER is not a place to relax.

My good friend, K, was my texting buddy throughout this whole ordeal from the first “Gonna try the Diva lol” to “Haaalp its stuuuuckkk”, and went so far as to send me a video of how she managed to remove a condom that had gotten lost inside her (true friendship). I admit to trying her tactic in the emergency room bathroom, with no luck.

The ER doctor who finally saw me went through the exact same process as the NP at Urgent Care: beginning with confident nonchalance (they’ve pulled a lot of things out of a lot of people), leaving and coming back with longer and longer forceps, ending with—swear on my cervix—a torture-device-looking thing with scissor handles that was legitimately a foot and a half long. AHHHH. (Thankfully, she didn’t show that to me until afterward).

She confirmed that it was totally, totally suctioned onto my cervix, and after propping me wide open with a speculum she worked to slowly—agonizingly—get a small, slippery piece of silicone unstuck from further up my vaginal canal than I am used to having strangers reach around. I was actually grateful not to be a part of this process of removal; it made me feel like less of a wimp for not being able to get the thing out myself, and grateful that there exist men and women to help solve our unexpected and embarrassing problems. I spent this time breathing deeply, bracing myself against the hospital bed, and envisioning a Tahitian beach.

As Diva users know, what goes in must eventually come out. Though, in my case, rather than easily and as instructed, it was with the help of multiple medical professionals. When I heard the weird suction sound of the cup finally exiting my person, I shouted “THANK YOU,” and got a tiny glimpse of what it might feel like to give birth: wanting nothing but to get something outside of you that seems lodged inside forever.

Of course, with birth, the added bonus is that the thing that comes out is your own human baby, and not a piece of plastic you finally retrieve for a refund.

Although it took a day of discomfort, this whole process didn’t make me anti-menstrual cup. Like I said, I have a number of friends who use theirs with comfort and success. I do think I’ll retreat back to the world of those little cotton capsules of doom, at least until I have good reason to think I’ve gotten wider or more flexible in my lady space.

Here is what I've learned:

1. Confident does not equal competence. Confidence does not equal competence. I repeated this to myself throughout the day at the ER. Just because you’re gung-ho about a new experience, doesn’t mean the universe is gonna do you a solid and magically support your freewheeling experiments with your body. It doesn’t mean I’m done being a freewheeling experimenter, but it does mean I might think twice about experiments that involve inserting new things into my orifices.

2. Embrace your embarrassment. Yes, it was embarrassing to tell every nurse, every orderly, and every doctor about the exact state of lady business. But I did. And everyone was only very nice and very supportive and “so sorry” for my whole ordeal. Embarrassment: not so embarrassing, sometimes.

3. Every step of the way—from the nurse who took me into a private room to tell her all the details when I was admitted, to the doctor who was finally able to finagle the stubborn thing out of there—kind, capable, professional women literally took me into their hands and helped me. Although the male medical professionals I interacted with that day were just as helpful and kind, there is something comforting about someone with a vagina handling yours.

4. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, MASTER THAT 360 TURN.

 

Amy is a writer and a grad student who lives in Los Angeles.



58 Comments / Post A Comment

Jaya

I was briefly considering the diva cup after all my friends would not shut up about it and NOPE

swirrlygrrl

@Jaya Sea sponge tampons, perhaps? No bleach, minimal waste (you do have to replace them every six months or so), comfy, and you can wear them during sexytimes! I haven't converted to them fully (because there is no single stall bathroom at work, and I don't want to carry the used one in a baggie if I have to change it at work), but I do love them.

jhonsons

This is amazing, love!@j

ayo nicole

nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. team softcup.

retrogirlie

@ayo nicole YES SOFTCUP

up cubed

@ayo nicole and retrogirlie: I tried it, and it seems to wander up and to the front. Any tips for getting it securely in place?

ayo nicole

@ayo nicole my best advice is to push it down and back to insert - not up the way you insert a tampon.

squishycat

@ayo nicole noooooooooo the cramps were SO. BAD.

retrogirlie

Tried one of those things...the Moon Cup? Whatevs, I couldn't get it comfortable despite the detailed, as you perfectly call it, "origami" drawings. NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Instead I found a disposable (is that REALLY a bad word when it comes to our monthly friends?) cup - Softcup. AT WALGREENS, CVS, ETC. No strings, nothing hanging down, can even have it in during sexytimes. And while a lil messy, it can't get stuck. They make a variation that you can rinse out throughout your week and re-use.

chickpeas akimbo

@retrogirlie I used to use the single-use ones, but rinse and reuse, one per period. I guess I am gross? But thrifty.

My issue with those is that when they fail, they fail catastrophically. 99% of the time you're good, and then you cough too hard or something and it's like a scene from a horror flick.

cocokins

@retrogirlie @chickpeas akimbo I tried the ol' Softcup, but also found the removal to be really messy (like OHMYGODITLOOKSLIKEIKILLEDSOMEONE messy). Am I just doing it wrong (certainly possible)? I have a Diva Cup that I tried once and promptly removed because I could FEEL IT the whole time. Also user error, I'm sure, but dear lord. Uncomfy.

retrogirlie

@chickpeas akimbo I also reuse the single-use ones...until they get a little too flimsy. I haven't had any leaking issues. Recently stayed over boyfriend's house with a tampon which leaked and I was like "STRIKE ONE FOR TAMPONS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS. GRRRRRR." But with Softcup I haven't had any leaks or surprises; only sometimes if it's a super-heavy day and I didn't change it yet, I'm like "don't cough or sneeze...oh god..."

@cocokins For messiness, particularly if you're trying to empty the Softcup in a public restroom, I'm the weirdo bringing a full water bottle into the stall with me - rinse out carefully (including my hands), and no problem. Just takes some more time than changing a tampon (AND pad). Just in case! And yeah, same thing with the Moon Cup for me, far too umcomfy.

BoatGirl

@retrogirlie I used the Diva Cup successfully until I developed some sort of skin reaction to it, so figured I'd have no problem with the Softcup. Wrong wrong wrong. I can't for the life of me figure out what I'm doing wrong, because I followed the instructions meticulously, but each time I've tried I end up with blood all over my underwear instead of in the cup. Ugh.

j-i-a

all hail emma for this starfish pic

large__marge

I am a long-standing member of the Diva Cult and my poor vaginal walls are closing in on themselves in solidarity with you. Yeeeuch!

agreenballoon

Used to do menstrual-type activism during a more radical period of my life and basically PANIC is the enemy of getting those things out. You really have to relax and "BEAR DOWN," as they say. I also used the Keeper back in the day, which was the wooden-bicycle-wheel version of the Divacup and made of ACTUAL TREE RUBBER rather than silicone.

Noelle Murrain@twitter

Ouch, a thousand times ouch. I'm actually going to get my first Diva Cup, so I found this really informational. Also, while researching the various cups out there I came across this awesome video.

http://youtu.be/9zj4NhC8ahM

Jen@twitter

"Confidence does not equal competence." <- I suffer from this delusion OFTEN.

This is such a great story though!

RNL
RNL

@Jen@twitter One of my bosses told me yesterday that I don't lack in confidence, but that my "several comeuppances" this year have been good for me because now I seem to be actually backing up my confidence with preparation. LOL!

Cavendish

This happened to me! The nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood who eventually got it out didn't know what it was either, and chastised me for putting it in my vagina. Even the instruction pamphlet didn't convince her.

I was never so happy to have a female boss when I explained why I needed the morning off work.

30312069@twitter

THEY NEED TO MAKE SMALLER DIVACUPS FOR PEOPLE WITH TINY VAGINAS!! I've had to stop using mine because that thing literally rips me open every time I take it out! If your opening is on the smaller side, choose a different brand of menstrual cup!!!

rainboe

@30312069@twitter The Lunette cup is a ton smaller than the small Diva Cup, if you ever want to try that.

16101600@twitter

Whoa. This is so crazy. I've been using Diva Cups since 2004. It's an amazing product. I've never had anything like this happen and I'm pretty sure I only do the much discussed "turn" only half the time maybe. Different strokes for different vaginas I guess.

brista128

@16101600@twitter Yeah same for me. My very first time I used one, yes, it was difficult to get out. I tried, couldn't get, tried an hour later, couldn't get, finally had to like squat in the shower and do some yoga pose to get a grip, then make sure I squashed the side down and tilted it out so it came out a little at a time instead of one big round cup at once. Anytime it's "stuck" to my cervix, I just press the side of it to break the suction, and no problem. I hope this doesn't scare off women who want to use a cup because they have made my life SOOOO much better, it just has a bit of a learning curve.

celeec4@twitter

@brista128 Oh, definitely a learning curve...but it's made my life so much simpler in some ways. Not having to pop out to the bathroom every other hour to swap out tampons on super terrible days has been amazing.

Andy Semler@facebook

I tried the menstrual cup because I thought it would help with my gender dysphoria. It did not. Holy cow, did it ever make things worse - I was a complete mess after a few days. On the plus side, it made bleeding without the cup seem way better in comparison.

avocadosandwich

@Andy Semler@facebook Oh no! At least there's a bright side? Kind of?

likethestore

Good lord, I've been using mine for 7 years and have never had a problem like this!! Sometimes mine does suction a bit too strongly but I just give it a squeeze and it unseals. I commend you for handling this with far more grace than I would have.

Kalorama_Kat

The best time my sweet-but-misguided ex-boyfriend heard my friends and me talking about wanting to try the Diva Cup and proceeded to surprise me with one as a present: Valentine's Day 2010.

Apocalypstick

@Kalorama_Kat Oh, bless.

Kalorama_Kat

@Apocalypstick Both the least romantic and most endearing part was that he included the receipt "in case it doesn't fit."

empathicalist

Protip - cut the silicon, if you can do so safely. No more vacuum, no more problem.

Ellie

@empathicalist Yeah the whole time I was reading this I was wondering why this was not attempted! It seems to me like just cutting it would be easy for a medical professional with a speculum, if scary for the person who it's inside. Unless I am missing something about physics it seems like a much much better idea than trying to pry off something suctioned firmly on!

professor_breakfast

Well, I'm confused. There's a recent one-star Amazon review for the Diva Cup that sounds an awful lot like this story, and the title is "DO NOT USE!" So are you anti-Diva cups specifically?

chickpeas akimbo

I rarely, if ever, manage the 360 degree turn; I've had leakage once, but otherwise, smooth sailing. I love the divacup because (a) I am cheap (b) no risk of TSS and (c) people are faintly grossed out by it, sometimes, which I think is funny. I do suspect that tampons, as a product, are better suited to adapt to a variety of vaginal shapes/sizes. But if a cup works for your particular body, man, IT WORKS.

My one peeve with this article: penetrative vaginal sex does not enlarge the vagina permanently. During/immediately after, yes. Longterm, no. This is a myth, and it's an icky phallocentric myth, and I wish it would just go away.

Dirty Hands

@chickpeas akimbo Yeah, for me it takes two weeks of not having sex until sex hurts again the first time I do it because I've shrunk up again, or something. However, I tried the smaller Divacup as a virgin and that thing hurt so bad no matter what I did with it, so I gave up on that method of period survival. Different strokes for different vaginas, as 16101600@twitter said above.

Ellie

@chickpeas akimbo I do think that having the experience of what it is like to have something in there makes stuff in there easier in the future. I am relatively small and the first few times I had sex it was *incredibly* difficult to achieve penetration, for quite a while. But eventually it got a lot easier because you sort of learn how it is supposed to feel. I think that could be a factor. I have sex often enough now that it never hurts but I kind of miss it, actually. But probably not enough to take a deliberate hiatus!

meowmischen

Here's my anti-horror story! I've been using the Divacup for 6 years and it's THE BEST. At the heaviest flow I only have to empty it twice a day, it's easy to insert*** and remove, and super easy to clean. I often forget that I have my period during it, which was impossible with any other method I previously tried. Tampons feel awful and I do not understand how anyone can prefer them.
*** Important note about insertion... the origami fold pictured here is the only method that has ever worked for me. I also had to trim the stem so it didn't poke me.

Ellie

@meowmischen It is definitely different for everyone as I forget I have my period with tampons in! Sometimes I even wish I didn't forget because that means I forget to hold the string out of the way when I pee.

polarbearvortex

So scary! Sorry it didn't work out for you! My D.C. works errytime for me. I LUV MY DIVA CUP.

Angelica Sgouros@facebook

YES, this happened to me on my first try, years ago in college. I was firmly and seriously vacuum sealed. When I finally gave up trying, I had a very kind, sarcastic, rocking feminist midwife who made time right away to see me, and after first asking me to draw a diagram on a sticky note on where and how exactly it was lodged, she was kind enough to un-cork me. When that thing finally came unstuck, after a lot of hauling and jiggling using long calipers, it came off with a real good pop. Once, for me, was enough.

I'm glad so many folks love the diva cup, but I'm super extra glad to see this public cervix announcement for what felt, otherwise, like my weird solitary "let me tell YOU" party story.

242529814@twitter

Signed in just to say this was masterful storytelling, and I can't wait to hear it on the Moth Radio Hour

beaner

I had a similar awkward malfunctioning diva cup experience... I once interned for a woman who was an environmental entrepreneur. She went to a green products trade show and came back with a diva cup. She gave it to me and asked me to try it out and give me her thoughts, because she was well past menopause herself. Well, I tried it and utterly failed to even get the damn thing in. I gave a good go of it, but the damn thing just didn't work. Only later did I read the package and see that it was the model for women who had had children! Then I had the delightful experience of telling my boss that I couldn't test it for her because it was too damn big for my vagina. Yep.

apples and oranges

@beaner I feel like that really crosses the boss/employee boundary, asking an intern to put a product in their vagina so they can review it. NOPE-OLA

bibliobotic

@apples and oranges I just had to log in specifically to add a huge NOPE and also a D: face. NOPE D:

nerdista

Oh wow, that brought back really old memories. I also got a feminine product wedged the hell up in me, but in my case, it was my first tampon as a preteen at summer camp. I had to pass the swimming test or be stuck in the kiddie end of the lake, and of course I got my period. The more I panicked, the more that thing retreated. I finally calmed down enough to dig it out, because I was not about to go to the emergency room. I learned an important lesson about staying calm and using those important lady muscles. Nonetheless, I was a little nervous about using the cup, but it seemed like the only good solution for a two-week trip through rural India. I knew I'd be lucky to find a toilet once a day, and said toilet would flush with a pitcher of water. The Diva Cup saved my dignity and kept the trip nearly stress free, vaginally speaking. It got suctioned to me once or twice at first, but I was always able to break the seal pretty quickly. Now I use it regularly and would recommend it to anyone.

Marm

These suction stories make me wonder if those Diva Cups were defective. Mine has a several tiny holes around the upper rim - which are there to help prevent intense suction. They also need to be kept clear during use - I whack mine against the side of the tub after I've rinsed it, holding the stem.

asdfdsa

I am laughing and cringing along with this story because that is exactly what happened to me the first time I successfully inserted my Diva Cup last year (after many painful insertion attempts -- protip: master that angling toward the rear). I, however, refused to seek help because of my fear of the shame. So I pinched and pulled and pulled, thankful I had not trimmed my fingernails recently, and finally, squatting on the floor, clenching the way the pros at the menstrual cup forums instructed us newbies, I released my divacup and a day's worth of blood on my tile floor.
So I guess I learned my lesson, try to do the 360 every time I insert, and if I don't pull it off then I say fuck this, insert a tampon, and hope it works out the next time. I'm still getting used to it, but today, on my pre-menstrual eve, I am here to tell you there is hope. Don't give up!

NunyaBidness

This reminds me of the time I had a raging BV and kidney infection - can BV travel to your kidneys? - and was waiting for my insurance from my new job to kick in. I couldn't take it any longer and thought I was going to die, so I went to the ER. I peed in a cup for them and immediately started my period. So here I was, gushing blood, smelly vagina, beaten kidneys and burning pee, and the hottest male doctor giving me a vaginal exam. Most humiliating experience of my life, I couldn't even make eye contact with him.

Alexandra Jiles@facebook

Actually, she took the kind medical professionals' hands into her.

morwydd

I kept seeing stickers for the Moon Cup in bathroom stalls, and out of curiosity I Googled it. That was 2009, and I am still using mine! I remember my trepidation after pulling it out of the box for the first time, and I definitely recall trying to figure out the folding technique... ah, the memories.

stroopwafel

Totally not related to this at all, but I'm glad I read the "confidence does not equal competence" line as I'm taking the plunge and henna-ing my hair this weekend!

selyse

The first time I inserted the diva cup, it got weirdly turned around and I couldn't get it out. I was desperate, so I asked my husband to help ... I was mortified but I figured well, he's seen me give birth, so ...

He was able to fish it out and I was definitely apprehensive but determined to make this work, so I tried it again next month and now we're all good. I don't do the 360 degree turn (I still don't quite understand how that's possible to do) but it's possible to get the right suction without it. I've also learned that I definitely need to use my kegels to help push the cup down so that I can grip it enough to remove.

My sincere, wholehearted sympathies .... having trouble removing something from your vagina induces a very specific sort of panic.

Katarina

The first time I used the Divacup, I just couldn't get that damn thing to sit comfortably. I went through 2 miserable periods with it (when the second one came around I convinced myself I was a big overreacting baby and it couldn't possibly have been that bad the first time), after which I cut the damn thing up with a pair of scissors.
Being stubborn to a fault, however, I was determined to find a cup that would not shred my insides, and stumbled upon the Sckoon Cup *cue angelic choir.* No more mess, no more pain (It's more comfortably shaped & much much softer than the Diva), and it's been going strong for years now.
So word to the wise, ladies: the Divacup isn't the only cup out there, and there are some fabulous places where you can read in-depth (to the point of being uncomfortable) reviews about all of them, and not have to torture your ladybits.

Girl In The Flammable Skirt

@Katarina I was de-lurking to say just this! I HATED the Diva Cup and had such trouble with it. I bought the Fleur cup after looking at size comparisons online. It's softer and smaller, and a world of difference. Don't give up ladies!

HelenW

Oh thank God I'm not the only one who has had this happen to her! I wanted to fall in love with menstrual cups, I really wanted to, but I haven't used one since I managed to get mine stuck the first time I tried it. I had the same issues: barely managed to get it in (also: the box for mine made no mention of a twist!), then over-compensated and made it suction-seal itself to my cervix. I just could.not.get.it.out, despite going through an Olympic-grade program of squatting/standing/lying down/relaxing/pushing/breathing deeply/etc. Nothing worked. (In fact, I nearly fainted when I tried to get my fingers hooked over the edge to break the seal and hit my vagus nerve.) And the nurse I saw the next day couldn't get it out (using her hands), either. So I got referred to a GP, who had to resort to a speculum and foreceps to get it out. She told me the vacuum seal was so strong I wouldn't have been able to get it out on my own. I didn't think to ask if I was somehow oddly small/tight downstairs, because just getting the cup in was a chore. (Yes, it was the bigger model (no clue why I got it despite not having given birth) of the two the manufacturer offered, so I suppose I could be blamed partly for it getting stuck.)

I envy those who have no problems with cups, I really do, and I don't want to badmouth either them or the cup. I'm sure there are great brands out there, but for now, I'll stay away from them. (Also: before anyone says "You should have relaxed" - I tried. God, did I ever try. To no avail. :/) Nothing like basically being fisted by a medical professional to put you off menstrual cups...

Orangous

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally! Tomasz Wieleba

letterc

this happened to me. bathtub. spoon. that's all i'll say.

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