Quarantine Cuties: Choosing & loving your menstrual cup with Amara Prato
If you missed In Full Color's skillshare and chat series, Quarantine Cuties, last Thursday, here's a recap!
The weekly IG Live show features women artists, entrepreneurs and hustlers sharing knowledge and skills. Each episode gives viewers a chance to support these women through #COVID19 or raise money for causes they support.
On April 30, we featured scientist, artist and IFC alumna Amara Prato, whom fans will recognize from In Full Color 2019!
Amara is a Bioengineering Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania, a U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps veteran, and a daughter of immigrants. She is interested in improving function and quality of life for trauma survivors, especially women and marginalized populations. She believes in meeting people where they are and coming alongside them in times of need and uncertainty. When she is not studying, Amara can be found bothering her cats, reading non-fiction, listening to C-pop music, or all of the above.
As a feminist scientist with a passion for the environment, Amara wanted to help women and others with uteruses learn more about menstrual cups, a sustainable and effective way of managing your period!
Here's a summary of our Q&A:
Why use a menstrual cup?
- It's an environmentally sustainable and economic way of taking care of your period needs! It also makes it super easy to manage your period (once you get the hang of using a cup) and helps you be in touch with your body. Also, if you use a menstrual disc (shaped like a diaphragm contraceptive), you can enjoy mess-free period sex!
What's a good cup to start with?
Every woman's shape and menstrual needs are different. To start, learn more about your vaginal size and shape. One way to get some intel is to insert a finger into your vagina until you hit your cervix. This can help you measure your cervix height. Most people will be able to touch their cervix with their second knuckle at their vaginal opening. If you hit your cervix before your second knuckle, you may have a low cervix. If you hit it past your second knuckle, you likely have a high cervix. This information will help you as you research possible options.
Make sure to look into each cup company's return policy before purchasing--if you're a first-time user, it might be better to try something with a money-back guarantee. Most companies are helpful and understanding when customers have trouble using their products; they'll try to help you make their cup work for you, and will often give you your money back if they can't.
Does it hurt? Is it comfortable?
When inserted correctly, wearing a menstrual cup should be as comfortable as wearing a tampon! You won't feel wet or heavy as you would with a pad or tampon when it's time to change, though, so you will need to make sure you build some cup-care into your routine. For example, Amara recommends carrying a small bottle of water in your bag for cleaning your cup in public restrooms, and setting timers that remind you when it might be time to change. Remember--the most you should go between changes is 12 hours. Otherwise, bacteria can proliferate and you may risk getting Toxic Shock Syndrome.
How do you insert/remove it safely?
The exact techniques depend on each cup, but there are different recommended folds for insertion that make the cup momentarily smaller so you can place it inside your vagina. Once inside, you should be able to release the cup and allow it to expand into its full shape, forming a suction that prevents spillage. Once inserted, a cup should be comfortably around your cervix, in place to catch blood. Discs work in a similar way, but do not use suction to stay in place--instead, one end tucks behind your cervix and the other, behind your pubic bone.
To remove, most operate on the same principle--you must pinch or fold the device enough to break the seal or in the case of a disc, the tension between the pubic bone and the back of the vaginal wall. You should then pull the device out of your vagina, while keeping it upright. Amara recommends doing it in the shower in case things get messy--and definitely at least at the beginning while you get the hang of the removal method. If you have trouble and the device gets "stuck," try relaxing your mind and body until your muscles can allow the device to pass.
How do you clean it?
During your cycle between changes, you can wash the cup with soap and water. Some companies also sell special washes for their product. In a pinch, a healthy rinse can do. Make sure to use fragrance-free cleansers that will be friendly to your vaginal flora.
For a deep-clean, at the start or end of your cycle, boil your device in water. Since they are made of medical-grade silicone, they should be able to withstand these high-temperatures, while germs won't. Amara recommends getting a designated saucepan for sanitizing your cups, and using a small strainer to keep it in place as it boils, so the sides of your pan won't burn the device.
Here are some of the menstrual cups she discussed and recommends on #QTQTS
$24.90 - More Info
$29 - More Info
$49 - More Info
$10.99 for 14 discs - More Info
Amara's episode was also a fundraiser for PPE, or personal protection equipment that helps healthcare workers on the frontlines battling COVID-19. She shared her mother's stories as a nurse in New Jersey fighting the ferocious virus, and made an impassioned plea to viewers to donate. If you missed the chance to donate, it's not too late! Make a contribution here.
Tune in for the next Quarantine Cuties on Thursday, May 7 at 7 pm EST on IG Live on @infullcolorus_
The next episode will feature Kortlynn Jenae sharing How to Fry New Orleans-Style Catfish! See all upcoming episodes here.