Reusable menstrual products (RUMPS), are taking the menstrual world by storm. Over the last decade, there has been a rise in popularity in the number of commercially available RUMPS internationally. Products range from internal use products such as menstrual cups and sea sponges to external use products like period panties and cloth pads and liners. However, the takeoff of RUMPS usage at home, in Kenya, has been much slower. You can read more about different RUMPS, their upsides and downsides, here.
MY MENSTRUAL CUP JOURNEY
My introduction to menstrual cups in 2015 was a reluctant affair. I had a few friends who were far better informed than I was and were gung-ho to give them a whirl. I, on the other hand, was a more than a little squeamish about the idea. But, not one to be left behind, I bought one too. I wish I could say it went swimmingly, but it didn’t. It leaked terribly and was incredibly uncomfortable. My friends kept encouraging me to keep trying, and keep trying I did, but after a few cycles I gave up and went back to using pads.
Fast-forward two years and I had just landed at the coast when my period appeared. I spent the entire holiday sulking on the beach while everyone else frolicked in the balmy waters. I was determined to give cups another go and, as soon as I returned to Nairobi, I contacted Ruby Cup to buy one. Ruby cup is a German brand that donates a cup to an underprivileged girl in Kenya for any of their cups purchased anywhere in the world. So I was killing several birds with one stone.
I also did much more research online than the first time round and learned that the leaking was a result of the position of the cup in relation to the cervix. Most women have a cervix that’s straight back but mine was off to the left (a not uncommon occurrence, I have since discovered) so it was sitting alongside, rather than inside the cup. This means I have to do a little more manoeuvring than most to get it into position, but I have never had a leak since. In addition, I have a low-lying cervix, therefore to make the cup even more comfortable, I cut off the stem. It was a little scary at first – what if it gets lost inside?? (Don’t panic, it can’t.)
Since then, I have been a vocal advocate of menstrual cups and of women learning more about their bodies. I even started the Facebook Group – Menstrual Cups Kenya. It’s a free and open space where women can discuss and dispense information about menstrual cups. So you can understand my excitement when I came across Kenyan’s only cup brand, The Grace Cup. I couldn’t wait to meet the brains behind the idea, Ebby Weyime.
INTERVIEW WITH GRACE CUP FOUNDER, EBBY WEYIME
Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
My name is Ebby Weyime. I am a Kenyan actor, model and entrepreneur who has been working in Cape Town, South Africa for the last six years. I only just came back a few months ago to start The Grace Cup.
Tell us about The Grace Cup.
The Grace Cup is Kenya’s first, and only, menstrual cup brand. Menstrual cups are used in place of pads and tampons during a woman’s period. They are a more environmentally friendly and economically sustainable option, as one cup lasts up to 10 years.
They are made from 100% medical grade silicone, and are comfortable and discreet to use. Girls as young as 12 years can use menstrual cups, as the cups don’t break one’s virginity. Also, did I mention you could wear a cup up to 12 hours a day without needing to empty it? Pretty convenient!
What inspired you to start making menstrual cups?
Passion for women and girls. Every time I’d be asked to donate pads or money towards helping girls during their cycle, I’d donate but wonder ‘For how long are we going to do this?’ I also personally hated using tampons as they always leaked, forcing me to use a pad or panty liner as back up.
I went looking for answers and that’s when I stumbled upon menstrual cups. From the moment I used one during my cycle, I have never looked back. My goodness! My period has never been the same again. The amount of comfort and peace of mind you get when using the Grace Cup cannot be compared to any pad or tampon in the world.
How have they been received so far?
It’s taken a bit of time for Kenyan ladies to adapt but we are making progress. When we first started, our clients were mostly foreigners living in Kenyan who had already heard of menstrual cups. They were either current users or knew someone who used them. Although cups have been in existence since the 1930’s and are used all over the world, they have only recently been introduced in Kenya. I’m sure with time it will pick up among Kenyan women.
How do you think you can raise awareness on reusable menstrual products?
I think it needs to be started from the ground up i.e. from the moment a girl starts her period at around 12 years they are immediately introduced to menstrual cups. This will spare the family the financial costs and protect the environment from the effects of disposing sanitary products.
Did you know one woman uses 8 large trash bags of menstrual waste during her lifetime? That includes wrappers, packaging, manual, applicators and the pad/tampon itself. That’s A LOT of waste per person.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Resistance when it comes to how it’s used. Some women think the cup is too big but don’t understand that the silicone is flexible and moulds to fit inside the vagina perfectly. Also, fear of the unknown; some women dismiss it without getting the full information. Lack of knowledge is a big challenge.
What is the most positive experience you’ve had so far?
Convincing a woman who has NEVER used a tampon in her life to move to the Grace Cup is quite a challenge but we are doing it!! Women who use tampons can move swiftly to cups but pad users are resistant. I always follow up on them to hear about their experience and ALL of them love it. It warms my heart. Women who never thought they’d use anything other than pads are now using the Grace Cup and don’t consider ever moving back.
What’s more, every time you buy the Grace Cup you have the option of joining our Grace Cup Club on Whatsapp where we discuss everything to do with menstrual cups so you don’t have to feel alone 🙂
MENSTRUAL CUPS FAQs
If you’ve never heard of or used a menstrual cup, I know you still have questions you need answered. So I put together an FAQ list for your clarity.
- Are menstrual cups painful to use? Not at all! The silicone is soft and flexible
- Do they leak? They won’t leak, if they are correctly inserted. The cup has to be fully open to create a seal that ensures no leakage. There can be a steep learning curve for some but understanding your body will help ensure there is no leakage.
- How do you use them? Fold the cup in your preferred fold and insert in your vagina, placing it over the cervix. The cup will pop open, creating a seal. You can leave it in for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow capacity.
a. When you want to empty it, pinch the base of the cup to break suction, fold it slightly and wiggle it out. Note: If your cup has ridden high up, bear down as if passing stool to help it slide down until you can reach it.
b. Tip it out in the sink, rinse and reinsert. Note: If you are in a public bathroom you can clean it with some toilet paper or carry a bottle of water in with you. There are also custom wipes available on the market for this.
Below is a video created by Ebby, demonstrating how to use the Grace Cup.
- Can virgins use them? Absolutely. Often associated with virginity, the hymen is a thin, elastic membrane partially covering the opening of the vagina, with gaps to let menstrual flow through. The hymen stretches to accommodate the menstrual cup.
- How do you clean them? You can also soak it in a sterilising solution like Milton’s, readily found in local supermarkets in the baby section
- Are they messy? They can be, initially, while you learn how to use it, but once you figure it out, your actual contact with blood is minimal.
- Are they big? No they are not. The cups range from 35-57mm in height and 31-37 mm in diameter, depending on the manufacturer. The average capacity is about 30ml and some few brands go up to 42ml. Basically, you choose your size depending on your flow.
- I have a heavy flow; can I still use a menstrual cup? The average woman only produces 10-25ml per period, with a heavy period running to about 80 ml, so most people bleed much less than pads or tampons will have us think. Women with endometriosis and fibroids can still use the cup but they would need to empty them more frequently.
- Are they hygienic? They are hygienic as they are non-porous and non-absorbent, which means they don’t harbour any bacteria or germs that cause infections.
- I heard I can’t use it if I have an IUD, is this true? A 2011 study found that use of a menstrual cup does not increase the risk of IUD expulsion. However, in order to be on the safe side, wait two months after insertion of your IUD before you use a cup. Make sure your IUD strings are trimmed short and always break the suction before removing your cup. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
- I have a tilted cervix; can I use a cup? Yes, however, you may have to practice what angle will suit you most and this can take a few cycles to master.
- What about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)? There is a reduced risk of contracting TSS with silicone cups. Since the invention of the cup, there has been only one reported case of TSS. The lady confirmed that she had scratched herself with her fingernail on insertion.
- How often do you have to replace them? Once every 10 years at a cost of Kes. 2,999/= (for the Grace Cup). This will save you Kes. 18,000/= if you use pads and Kes. 30,000 if you use tampons.
WHERE TO BUY YOUR OWN MENSTRUAL CUP
- The Grace Cup: To buy Kenya’s first menstrual cup brand, The Grace Cup, contact Ebby directly on +254 (0) 788 840 779. You can also follow The Grace Cup’s Facebook and Instagram Pages to make an order.
- Other Cups:
a. Ruby Cup: Contact Amaia on +254 (0) 705 652 809.
b. Lunette Cup: Thecup.org who don’t not sell cups but distribute the Lunette cup (a Finnish brand). They are a worthy mentions as they are a non-profit organization that distributes cups in Kenya to underprivileged girls and also teaches them about sexual and reproductive health.
NOTE: There are a few chemists that sell different brands but you want to be sure you are purchasing a reputable brand made of medical-grade silicone and not a Chinese knockoff.
Featured image is of the Lunette Cup (orange) and Ruby Cup (purple). Image courtesy of Nina Odongo.
Do you have any questions regarding menstrual cups in general? Kindly ask in the comments section below and we’ll answer best we can.
Nina is a qualified personal trainer and the founder of Body By Nina, a fitness company offering personalised fitness programs for a wide range of clients. Nina is also a fitness writer and writes for several publications. She is a firm advocate of heathy eating and healthy living. In her spare time she enjoys weight.