The NuvaRing, a Review

Today I'm here with another review for you of the NuvaRing. I've been using this form of birth control for about a month and a half so far, and I really like it! :) When I originally talked to my gynecologist I was dead set on getting the non-hormonal paraguard IUD. She gave me a prescription for the NuvaRing, and told me to think about it, since they didn't do IUD insertions at my school health clinic. I decided to try the NuvaRing then, because I learned IUD insertion can be painful for women that haven't had children. They insert it through the cervix, and if it hasn't been stretched before it's really painful. There's also a recovery period after the insertion. Someday I may get an IUD--because they're much less expensive in the long run--but for now I will stick with the NuvaRing.

The NuvaRing is a small plastic ring, smaller than a tampon or menstrual cup, that you stick in your vagina. It secretes hormones that keep you from getting preggers for three weeks, and then you can take it out for a week while you have your period, or you can leave it in for that week too. (It's 99.9% effection, just like other hormonal methods.) Then you insert a new ring for the next month. I was attracted to this form of birth control, because I am very forgetful and kinda lazy. You only have to remember about changing the ring once a month. I also use a menstrual cup for my period, so another plastic gadget for my vagina was appealing. :D

The first month I was using NuvaRing, I bled the whole time. A lot of women "spot" when switching to birth control for the first time, but this did not describe my experience. I was losing about 10ml of blood every day, so I had to use a menstrual cup every day, and I couldn't get away with a pantiliner. You're supposed to insert the ring on the first day of your period, so at first I just thought I was having a very long period. Then I asked some helpful folks over on the livejournal community Vagina_Pagina about it, and figured out it was breakthrough bleeding. Thankfully I decided to give the ring another month before I switched to something else. (Losing that much blood can't be healthy.) I had my normal period during the ring free week, and then stopped bleeding by the time I put in a new ring.

Now I'm into my second month using the ring, and things couldn't be better. Sometimes I forget that I'm on birth control at all. The ring is very comfortable, and I don't feel it while it's inside. For insertion the company recommends you fold it like this, by pinching the ring between two fingers:

But that fold is rather problematic. It's hard to actually insert because the material is so flexible and bendy. Once you get it in it's liable to slide down, and it's hard to push the ring farther into the vagina because it gives and it's very substantive. This is hard to describe, but basically I recommend a different fold. This is a screenshot from lacigreen's youtube video on the NuvaRing:

To do this fold, you twist the ring into a figure eight shape and then fold it in half. Then you keep it folded during insertion until you're high enough up in the vagina. When you let it go it springs open nicely, and it's up high enough. (You can also watch lacigreen's video for a good demonstration.) At this point it's also important for me to make sure the ring is hooked around my cervix. Otherwise it slips down and fall out. I just sort of tilt the ring back and forth until I can give it a little tug and it stays. The exact position of the ring really isn't important though; it works as long as it's touching the vaginal walls. Removing the ring is super easy; you just hook a finger around the ring and pull it out. If you've ever used an Instead Softcup, insertion and removal is nearly the same process. :)

If you're not comfortable inserting things into your vagina manually, I've heard about another trick using a tampon applicator. Just take the tampon out of the applicator, and slide the ring inside instead, and use it as normal. And as with internal menstrual products, you need to remember to relax the vaginal muscles to insert the ring. But honestly, it's worth your time to get to know your body, and learn to insert it manually. It's easy and painless. :)

So far I haven't observed any of the negative side effects associated with the NuvaRing, so I'm hopeful that I can use this birth control method for awhile. With insurance it costs me about $20, and there's a coupon on the NuvaRing website to get $15 off. Next time I am really going to remember to print it off, because that makes it only $5 for me. Click here to go to the section of website where you can find the coupon. Without insurance, it's expensive--around $70, and there wont be a generic brand for awhile because it's probably patented.

I have been able to use the ring along with instead softcups and silicone cups like my lunette and divacup. However, I do have to remove the ring before inserting a cup. If I didn't there's a chance the ring would end up inside a cup, and since the ring needs to remain in contact with the vaginal walls to work, that could be bad. So I generally insert the cup, and then insert the ring second, by sliding it next to the cup. The ring can be out for three hours in total, so it's fine to take it out everytime you change your menstrual cup or tampon. Otherwise there's a chance it could fall in the toilet. Yuck!

My boyfriend said he couldn't feel the ring during intercourse, although it may be different for others. And honestly there was a ring and an instead softcup in there, so I doubt he could differentiate between all the plastic. If you need to, you can take the ring out while you're having sex, but it's not supposed to be out for longer than three hours. The ring beats condoms as far as comfort goes by a long shot though. Also no babies at this point, because I had my period as scheduled, so it's working. :) I like the nuvaring a lot, because I don't have to think about it very often. Using a daily birth control pill would be tiresome, especially since I'm in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend, and I don't even have sex all the time.

So let's recap. The things I like about the nuvaing are:
  • It only has to be changed once to twice a month.
  • It provides 99.9% effective protection against pregnancy.
  • It's comfortable :)
  • It allows for spontaneous sex, unlike condoms and other barrier methods. (Major bonus!)
Here are a few things that may be disadvantages if you weren't me, but honestly, except for possible side effects, they are weighed out by the advantages.
  • It doesn't protect against the clap, herpderp, or other STIs.
  • There's somewhat of a learning curve to inserting it correctly, and it can fall out if you don't.
  • You have to be comfortable touching your body.
  • Some guys can feel it during sex.
  • Side risks associated with other birth control (stroke, blood clots, cardiovascular side effects, etc. are more likely if you have health problems already.)
Now for me, there wasn't very much of a learning curve, because I use internal menstrual products with out applicators and I'm very comfortable with my vagina. It's not a strange gooey, dark hole, it's just another part of my body to me. :) My boyfriend doesn't feel it during sex, and we're in a long term relationship, so STIs aren't an issue for me. I also don't have any health conditions that make this form of birth control risky to use. So I'm A-OK, but I'm just saying it may not be A-OK for you. No form of birth control is perfect for everyone; I just got lucky it was the first kind I tried. Overall, I really like using this birth control; it's easy to remember with phone or computer alerts. The ring also comes with stickers you can put on your calendar if you're the old fashioned type.

Whenever I hear "NuvaRing" I still think of the obnoxious commercial they first launched with the women synchronized swimming in yellow bathing suits. However annoying that commercial is, it's great advertising for birth control that you only have to think about once or twice a month. I'm just not a "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, every day," swimcap, kinda girl. I'm really more the type of girl that struts around wearing an afro hairstyle and ripping off parts of my swimsuits. ;) But in all seriousness, the NuvaRing is great modern birth control that works for me.

Please leave a comment about your NuvaRing experiences or with any questions you have. For more information about using the NuvaRing please see the official website or the wikiHow article I wrote, which is the condensed version of the website's information, all on one page. Also I thought this was funny. :)


Instead Softcups, A Review

I'm back with another review. :) This time it's for a disposable menstrual cup called the Instead Softcup. They are available at most drugstores and groceries. Softcups are different than reusable menstrual cups because they have a domed shape rather than a bell shape. They're also made of a crinkly plastic sac, and a firm ring. They're quite pretty for a menstrual product.

The box comes with 24 cups and instructions. The company is developing "reusable" cups that can be used for one whole period, but I use one cup per period anyways. The new, "reusable" cups are only going to have two per box, but I may buy them if they make them more durable and easier to clean. If they are super durable I may clean and reuse them for several periods. But anyways onto the review. :)

The packaging of the box is very cute, and it comes with a lot of cups. Since I don't use these cups every cycle, I've had this same box for awhile. The construction of the box is nice because it's easy to open, grab a cup, and close. The cups are wrapped in purple plastic, and kind of feel like large condoms from the outside. (I only know this because a friend was looking through my purse and thought it was a condom...)

My box of insteads, which I've had for quite awhile.

To use a softcup you fold it and insert it. Then you have to make sure it hooks onto your cervix! The first time I tried one of these I didn't hook it onto my cervix and it slid around. Once inside the cup is very comfortable and I can't feel it at all. The ring seals to your vaginal wall, because it's heat sensitive, which I think is just so cool. I am able to wear this cup for 12 or more hours before it overflows. To remove the cup, you just hook a finger round the rim and pull it out. It helps to keep it carefully angled and upright so the cup doesn't spill. If you're going to throw the cup away, you just crumple up some toilet paper, stick it in the cup, wrap up the cup if you like, and throw it away. Although the company doesn't recommend it, these cups can be reused. They're easy to clean in a private bathroom; I just rinse mine with water and use an old toothbrush to get in the nooks and crannies. They are harder to clean in a public bathroom stall with only toilet paper.

This is how you fold a softcup for insertion.

A huge advantage to softcups is that they can be worn during intercourse. They're very similar in shape to a diaphragm so they wont get knocked over. It doesn't bother my partner during sex at all, and it makes PiV period sex a lot cleaner. Smaller, reusable silicone cups can technically be worn during sex, but they get knocked over easily. A disadvantage about softcups is that they are usually messy to remove. It took me a long time to get to a point where I could remove them without getting blood all over my hands. Softcups are recommended for one use, but a lot of women use one per period or multiple periods.

The purple wrapper

I've also turned one of my friends onto these cups, and she likes them too. I tend to use softcups only when I know I'm going to have intercourse on my period, because I prefer my reusable silicone cups. Reusable products appeal to me more, because I disliking restocking on menstrual supplies and paying the money for them. Basically I'm just a cheap-skate. ;) However, if I had to use disposable menstrual products I would always use softcups as opposed to tampons or pads.

Regardless, I find the softcups to be extremely comfortable, and they have never leaked. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom, they slide down and leak a little, but that's alright because it just goes into the toilet. Softcups are a great choice for women that don't want to use a reusable menstrual cup, but want some of the same benefits. Softcups are very comfortable during exercise, swimming, and sleeping. As well they don't cause an odor like pads and tampons can. TSS has not been linked to softcups, and they are less likely to cause infections.

The company has talked about developing a smaller size, targeted towards virgins and women with shorter vaginas. Softcups don't work for every woman, because they don't always fit every woman's internal anatomy. If you have a lower cervix, softcups may not be for you. A box costs about eight bucks for 24 cups, so at that price they're definitely worth a shot. :)

For more information about Instead Softcups see Softcup.com or my wikiHow article on "How to Use an Instead Softcup." Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you've ever used softcups or are considering trying them. :)


The DivaCup, A Review

I've decided to use this blog, mainly for menstrual cup reviews and other womanly matters. Since I've used a lot of brands of menstrual cups in the past, I think it would be helpful for me to post reviews here. At this point, some of you may be thinking, "what the heck is a menstrual cup?" Well, it's a cup made of medical grade silicone that collects menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it like traditional menstrual products. The purpose of this blog is to review the DivaCup, not to persuade you to try a cup, so go read "How to Decide About Using a Menstrual Cup" on wikiHow, if you would like more information. I've been a happy DivaCup user since last summer, so I don't exactly remember all the details exactly of my first experiences, but I'll will try to be as accurate as possible.

The DivaCup - Model 1

I bought my DivaCup at Rebelle, a little knitting store in Lexington, KY. (It's a very nice knitting store by the way.) I was so excited to try it out I accidentally bumped into someone at a stop light because I was reading the DivaCup box. Only a slight bump, and I didn't do anything to their car. But I advise putting the cup in the back seat while driving if you are easily distracted like me.

When I got home, I immediately smuggled the cup into my room and opened the box. (To this day, I still haven't told my mom that I use a menstrual cup.) I don't have any pictures of the packaging or the little diva pin, but they were darn cute. The box includes an instruction pamplet, one DivaCup, a pouch for the cup, and a flower/diva pin. I like the purple pouch, but since I've gotten it, the thread has unraveled around the ribbon drawstrings and one of the ribbons fell out. I still use it though, because I'm too lazy to find a new pouch.

Next, I examined the actual cup, which is about the size of an unfurled tampon. I was surprised by how soft and squishy it was. I had heard from the folks over at MenstrualCups.org, that you shouldn't do a dry run with your first menstrual cup, so I held off on trying it until my period came.

My first use of the cup went very smoothly, because I had read so much online and watched instructional videos as well. I was a non-virgin when I first tried the cup, but I had to remember not to tense up my vaginal muscles. Insertion was a breeze. You just fold it and pop it in. Then I swirl my hand around the base to make sure it's round and open. I remember it took a long time the first time I tried to get the cup out. I had to remember to bear down with my muscles and pinch the base of the cup to break the seal. Then I pulled it down and out. The first few times my removals were pretty messy and a little painful. Then I realized I had to keep the cup upright so it would spill, and I folded it into a C fold before removal to make it smaller.

A "C" Fold - large but pops open easily

The stem on the cup bothered me a lot for some reason, so I cut it off completely and filed down the edges with a nail board. At first it felt a little weird inside, but after awhile I couldn't feel it at all! This cup is made of very soft silicone. I got the smaller size (model 1) since I am under 30 and have never had children. I appreciated the measuring lines inside the cup, because it was easy to keep track of my flow, but the "DivaCup" and "Made in Canada" text on the inside rim is hard to clean. The suction release holes are right under the rim, maximizing its capacity (about 20-23ml, which beats even the largest tampons). I very rarely fill this cup, and it usually lasts me the whole day. The holes are very smaller however, and hard to clean without a needle or safety pin. Also, sometimes I have to remove my cup in order to do number 2, but never for number 1. I have had this cup for almost a year and it hasn't stained so far; I sun my cups on the windowsill after every period.

The measuring lines and logo on the inside of the cup.

When I first started using this cup I didn't have any leaks. I also wore it while swimming and it was fine. Once in a blue moon I will have a leak with this cup, but I think it's usually my fault. I sometimes forget to clean the holes on my cup before reinserting. If you are thinking of buying a menstrual cup, you should know that the DivaCup is one of the longest brands. I was lucky because I bought a DivaCup locally out of convenience, and I happened to have a high cervix. If you have a lower cervix the DivaCup will probably be too long for you. Also I advise buying a DivaCup online if you do, because they tend to be a lot cheaper.

The punch down fold is my favorite for the DivaCup.

Overall, I love this cup, and although I've tried several other brands, I always go back to this one for the start of my period. It has great capacity and it's very comfortable for me; I prefer long narrow cups, to wider, bell shaped cups. I was always self conscious when I had to go to the store to buy disposable menstrual products, and I now I don't have to do that anymore. Ever! My parents have always paid for menstrual products, but I know I will appreciate saving the money when I am on my own.

My cup is so much more comfortable than scratchy disposable pads; I despised sleeping on pads that would leak during the night and felt like I was wearing a diaper. For me, tampons were very uncomfortable, and I always felt like I had a stick up my poor vagina. I walked/ran a 10k with this cup in, and in general my cup is a lot more comfortable for exercising or running. I feel great because I'm no longer throwing away so many disposables every period. I also know a lot more about my body since I started using a menstrual cup. I actually sat down with a diagram and a mirror and identified my anatomy. My vagina is no longer a mysterious, strange hole; it's just another part of my body. I still hate the cramps that come with my period, but using a cup makes my period a much more positive experience. After the cramps go away, I forget I'm having my period because I only have to change my cup once or twice a day. And as far as leaking goes, tampons always leaked a little on me, and my cup leaks far less often, even at night. I feel a lot cleaner while on my period, because there is no odor with a cup and no risk of infections. The DivaCup gets 4.5 stars out of 5. :)

Leave a comment about your experiences with the DivaCup! For more information or to find a shop that sells DivaCups visit DivaCup.com.


How to Win Free, Reusable Menstrual Products

For some people when they hear the phrase "reusable menstrual products" they make a weird face and try to forget about it. But for the woman that's tried a menstrual cup or cloth pads, such as myself, I know they are infinitely more comfortable and cost way less in the long run. If you'd like more information I'd recommend browsing through the wikiHow.com articles on menstrual cups, or checking out EcoMenses.com. To the point of this post, there are tons of contests happening every month for free products. Since these products don't have national advertising campaigns, they have to rely on the internet and word of mouth to get their products out there. So far I've won two free menstrual cups (a femmecup and a miacup) and I'm gonna just keep entering contests. The best way to find out about the contests is to follow the companies on Facebook or Twitter. Here I have compiled a list of the facebook pages. Enjoy and happy contest entering!

The Keeper/US Mooncup
UK Mooncup
NaturCup (in spanish)
Feminine Wear
Lunette Cup
FemmeCup Mexico (in spanish)
MissCup (in spanish)

As you can see there are a lot of brands--almost one in every country now. So go fan all those pages, check for updates and contests, and win win win. You also might want to check back to these pages periodically, since I miss things even though I check facebook a lot. And make sure to take advantage of multiple entries if they are part of a contest.

What's this blog for?

I've attempted to start a blog multiple times. Observe my disused other "blogs":

Curly Whirly - a mismatched compilation of my hair vlogs (which are actually updated regularly), menstrual cup info, and hair posts. Wordpress is so complicated.

Tumblr - I've actually gotten into tumblr of late, with the funny pics and what not, but it's a not a place for a good solid blog, and it's too darn confusing to operate.

So I decided to start this blog, and it will be whatever's on my mind at the moment. I like Blogpost because it's a no brainer to edit and easy to follow, add a blog roll, and whatever you want. To do anything on wordpress takes like an hour to figure out. Basically I'm just lazy. But what I post here will be whatever I think is of interest at the moment. Likely, it will be quite random, but hopefully useful for the reader.