Monday, December 31, 2012

Instead Softcup, You are my friend.

Instead Softcup, You are my friend.

Consider yourself warned: 
This post is all about my period, and running, and running with my period, as well as playing rugby, going to work, and attending fun social gatherings, all with my period. If you are a woman and you are active, you want to read ahead.  Men, it’s your choice!  

The legal-ish mumbo jumbo:
A while back I was given the opportunity to review the Instead Softcup and I jumped at it!  I’m being compensated for this review with free products and one race reimbursement (up to $125).  But the opinions are 100% all mine.  And this is my first time reviewing a product so bear with me!

Why am I excited?   
Well, I’ve been half-assedly (I’m sure that’s a word) attempting to be more environmentally conscious.  I asked my “resident environment expert” (ie, a friend in grad school for environmental studies) what would be better for the environment than non-applicator tampons?  She mentioned this cup idea which at first I thought was a little too environmentally conscious for me.  So I said thanks for the info and moved on.  But I’ve always been a little curious…. And really, what woman passes up a product that can make being active with your period easier?  So, curiosity got the best of me. 

You want me to put that where?

Talk about getting in touch with yourself!  Tampons were hard enough!  Now you want me to properly situate this device in my hoo-ha?  You’ve got to be kidding me!!  But alas, the directions were perfect!  The key for me, just like the directions state, was to be seated (toilet) and while placing the cup in, focus on going “down and back”.  Whoa, whoa, whoa… Was that too fast?  Let’s slow it down.

Where? What?
The Softcup is inserted internally and sits around the cervix.  It collects, rather than absorbs.  There are no strings dangling about.  You can safely wear the Softcup for up to 12 hours (dependent on flow of course).  I found it helpful to be familiar with kegel exercises for both proper placement and removal.  (Every woman should become familiar with kegels if they aren’t already.)  Insertion is similar to other ring shaped contraceptive devices.  I have experimented with the Softcup for over 6 months.  It has definitely taken me some time to get comfortable with placement.  But after the first few cycles, I feel like I have a good idea of good placement vs. bad.

The Ebb and Flow…
I was ecstatic the first day I got my period after receiving my samples of Softcup to try.  Typically, I start light and build up to one, maybe two, heavy flow days and then it trickles down over the next 3-4.  I was ready to put Softcup to the test!

Light days- I give this product 5/5 stars for light days!!  I absolutely LOVE it!!  There’s no need to change it every time I use the bathroom and one cup lasted me a full work day (8-10 hours) plus a few hours into the evening.  Typically, I would come home, shower, insert a new one and be good for most of the next day.  I admit to abusing the 12 hour rule and going well over that at least once every cycle.  I experienced no ill side effects!  There are some stats on the Softcup website about numbers sold and TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome).  I’ll just say that the risk is less than nominal with Softcup.  (Knock on wood, but I’ve never had issues with TSS and I’ve left a tampon in for longer than advised as well.)

And I have never leaked on light days!  Running on light days has also been successful.  Although I can’t really pinpoint any differences between tampons and Softcup when running, I definitely appreciate the Softcup for swimming and triathlons.   It was super easy to handle pit stops before a race as well as no discomfort for biking and no soggy wet string to cause irritation when running!  I also had no issues while playing a dynamic sport such as rugby.  The Softcup felt great because I didn’t feel it at all! 

Heavy days- This is where the Softcup and I start to have some issues and I give 3.75/5 stars (4 is too many, 3.5 not enough).  I have one really heavy flow day.  As much as I LOVE the Softcup, I definitely notice some leaking on my heavy days.  HOWEVER, the info packet that comes with the product does let you know to expect some leaking when you are using the bathroom based on the muscles being used to evacuate said waste.  I’ve been experimenting with Softcup for 6+ months (have purchased two more boxes on my own).  I’ve noticed that, just like with tampons, on my heavy days I need to be more cognizant of changing my product frequently.  When I change frequently, the leaking is minimal and yes, only when I’m using the bathroom.  (More frequently = 2 cups in one day. For the most part, one gets me through the day.)

Speaking of using the bathroom…
One of my favorite features about the Softcup is that you can leave it in regardless of #1 or #2 in the bathroom.  That’s right!  It’s internal so it isn’t affected by either method of waste removal!  I drink A LOT of coffee so I pee A LOT.  It’s uncomfortable to have to change a tampon 5 times a day on a light day.  Softcup gets 4.5/5 stars for bathroom use losing half a star for messiness on heavy days! 

BLOOD! Not for the squeamish…
If just the mention of blood makes you feel ill, then the Softcup isn’t for you.  But as a woman, if blood makes you squeamish, I HAVE to know how you handle your monthly.   Blood doesn’t bother me.  But changing my Softcup on a heavy flow day kinda does.  It’s messy.  I’ve worked out some different techniques to minimize mess (grabbing under the lip of the cup rather than over).  My go-to method of changing/removal on heavy days is to use a rubber (latex, like the doctor uses, not rubber, like for dishes) glove.  I totally stole that idea from another woman and highly encourage you to steal it from me!  It drastically and dramatically decreases the mess factor.  At home, the mess factor isn’t so bad to deal with but if you find yourself in a public restroom, the mess factor is SERIOUS business.  A latex (or non-latex) glove is the answer.  Using a gloved hand, pull out the full cup.  Using the non-gloved hand, wrap the full cup in the glove for easy disposal.  (Just take the glove off so it ends up inside out, with the mess contained inside… or outside… but inside… Get it?)  The latex glove has saved me some rather icky situations in the bathroom stall. 

My first Softcup race…
The key for anyone trying this product for the first time is to practice on training days.  Just like any new product, don’t test it on race day.  Oooops…
Biggest mistake of my life was trying this product at a Ragnar Relay in May.  (Ragnar Relay is a 24-36 hour, 200 mile, overnight relay race.)  Trying to navigate the Softcup in a Porta-John, with only a head lamp for light, was not easy.  It was 1 o’clock in the morning and I was running with people I met only hours earlier.  Explaining to them why I might need to randomly stop at McDonald’s in the middle of the night just didn’t seem possible.  So I dealt with heavy leakage and I was thankful that I could change my clothes often.  I had no idea how to dispose of my full cup and I regrettably admit that it fell into the abyss of the Porta John tank. 

The Environmental Issue…
Like I mentioned earlier, I was also looking to do my part to help the environment.  My only complaint about the Instead Softcup is that is still produces waste that ends up in a landfill.  I was hoping for a reusable cup that wouldn’t get tossed at the end of the day.  But alas, there is such a product!  I haven’t tried the Resuable Softcup yet, but it is my next adventure!  In the meantime, I read a suggestion, albeit kinda gross, that mentions rinsing the Softcup and reinserting.  I have tried this in a pinch and it works but in my experience a wet Softcup is more susceptible to leaking. 

“V” for Victory…
Overall, the product gets two thumbs up from this runner, triathlete, rugby player, full time employee, and even the lazy slacker in me.  I’m glad I gave it several menstrual cycles to prove its worthiness and for me to get accustomed to using it.  On my light days, I don’t know I have my period.  On my heavy days, I’m not forced to skip a work out.  It’s easy to use and more environmentally friendly than the alternatives.  The only negative would be the occasional leakage.  The positives far outweigh the one negative in my opinion.

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