A Little Review … A Diva Cup (Menstrual Cup) for Traveling Ladies

Confession time, I’ve wanted to review the Diva Cup for ages. I hesitated out of fear of alienating male readers. But really, I also didn’t want my cheeks to flame red with embarrassment as I write this pretty personal post because you’re about to get to know me in a whole new way. The time has come though, and my love for the Diva Cup means it’s time to share a bit more about how I handle my period on the road and why you might want to consider it as well. First though, a resounding warning:

Men, move along now. We’re about to talk about a lady’s menstrual cycle and her nether regions—but, if you’re not easily embarrassed, you may find this review helpful for your girlfriend or wife. Certainly every traveling lady should read it, so perhaps just forward it on to a traveling lady you know and then move along.

Diva Cup Review Photo

Let’s get started with the beginnings. I was in the throes of planning my round the world trip when my cousin (a bit of a hippy type and a frequent traveler) implored me to immediately buy a Diva Cup and start practicing with this thing during my period to take care of my monthly visits on the road.  I was skeptical—I assumed I would just use tampons on the  road since that’s what I had used for years, but her endorsement was enthusiastic and her reasoning sound.

The Initial Verdict?

The Diva Cup is one of the most useful things I took on my trip around the world.

I bought one, I had a rough start to using the menstrual cup and almost gave up entirely. Then, I figured it out and I’ve never looked back to the days of schlepping around pads and tampons.

The What?

If you’ve never heard of this thing before, you’re likely a little baffled about what the heck I’m talking about. A Diva Cup is an eco-friendly “natural feminine hygiene alternative” and it falls under the larger umbrella of silicone menstrual cups (yup, there are several different brands of these things).

Basically, it’s a medical-grade silicone cup that collects your menstrual fluid; when it’s inserted correctly it forms a seal around the top of the cup and takes care of business. It fully replaces tampons and pads. In fact, I have never bought a package of pads since I switched over (except that one time when my best friend’s dog ate my Diva Cup… keep ‘em tucked somewhere safe).

The How?

I won’t get overly graphic because there are many sites that explain the how of the cup better than I can, and if you’re wondering about the fit, the buying instructions for the Diva Cup outline the nitty-gritty details on if you need the A or B size, it has pictures of the cup, and instructions too. And stick around to the the end of the post where I share the hilarious and helpful reviews women have posted, as well as the other brands that work well for women of differing statures.

Why I love the Diva Cup for Traveling:

wearing the cupIt can be worn for 12 hours at a time
Traveling on a budget and in developing countries meant a lot of time on public transportation, with my Diva Cup I was safe for the never-ending 10+ hour bus rides. And when I was trekking, the last thing I wanted to do was dig holes and bury tampons during all-day treks—hooray for my Diva Cup! It’s completely safe to have in for up to 12 hours because there’s no risk for TSS like with tampons.

You can wear it before your period
If I knew that I might start my period in the middle of a 10+ hour bus ride, I could use my Diva Cup before my period even started because it’s not drying like a tampon (and drying out can be a big issue with those, so menstrual cups are just nicer for your vagina). Bottom line, it saved me from some potentially embarrassing situations on treks like bleeding through clothes or wild animals digging up bloody materials.

It’s designed for any activity
The site touts that you can do any of the following: swimming, aerobics, cycling, traveling, dancing, hiking, biking, running, camping. You can. Each and everyone without a worry. It liberated me from trying to plan major outdoor activities on non-period days because I knew I could head out on that six hour bike ride without searching out a clean bathroom and I knew it would give an embarrassing leak at precisely the wrong time.

You never have to buy any other product
I read horror stories about the availability of menstrual products before leaving on my round the world trip—some women even resort to bringing a full supply for their travels (hard to do when you’re on the road for a year!). This is literally the only thing I had to bring (well, soap too) and I knew I was never going to find myself hunting for sanitary products in a remote village in Nepal.

Diva Cup It’s green travel and oh-so good for the environment
So many of the countries I visited don’t have effective waste management systems in place; it made me feel good to not contribute to that problem and lighten my eco-footprint just a tad. The cup is reusable for a decade (unless your dog eats it) and there is nothing else you have to buy to use with it. Plus the non-BPA medical-grade silicone is far safer for your lady-parts than the surfactants, adhesives, and additives they use in tampons and pads.

I love this product and have no shame in touting the fabulous qualities of the product. But, be warned, there is a learning curve to using the Diva Cup, it took me until my third period of using it to have no leaking and messiness… and I cursed it the whole time during my first two months. This hilarious Hairpin article is a good read or you can check out the many, many thousands of often frank and sometimes wince-worthy reviews on Amazon.

But now I’m converted.

A few other Diva Cup tips and thoughts:

  • Try it out before your trip! You’ll be thankful that you’re in your own clean bathroom while you discover the learning curve.
  • Bring a mild soap. I brought a small container plain body soap for use as a body wash and a cup wash, or you can buy a mild wash from the company itself too.
  • It’s not for the squeamish. You do have to get a little more “invasive” then you do with tampons if you catch my drift. You will be all up in your own business, to be frank.
  • That “twist” the instructions mention is the most important part of the process—that’s what ensures you have a good seal.
  • When they tell you it sits lower than I tampon, it’s SO true. Really low, make sure it pops open, then twist. It’s like magic but you have to practice before it becomes second nature.
  • Buy at your local co-op or natural foods store instead, or online—at last check they sell for less than $35, which is far less than the close to $200 annually women spend on feminine hygiene products.

I think Diva Cups are brilliant and anyone who is comfortable with their body should give it a try. But beyond anyone, I consider it essential for women RTW travelers, truly  :-)

And don’t take my word for it—look around online, there are a lot of women who have talked about their love (and learning curve) with menstrual cups. And very important is that once you get a Diva Cup, check out these links below for extra tips from women who have figured it out, they’re normally right on with their suggestions and the cup comes with some very explicit tips and pictorial instructions too!  There are tricks to help it work better, and some brands are better for petite women, here are some of my recommendations:

  • Other major contenders include: Lunette, Keeper, and Mooncup UK (I have heard from multiple people the Lunette can work well for very petite women). Ruby Cup is another option with a great social mission; for every cup you buy they donate one to a woman in Kenya.
  • Menstrual Good information on the wide range of options.
  • Menstrual Cup Info: Heaps of information to help you decide which cup might be a good fit for your body type.
  • An Ode to the Diva Cup: A hilarious article on the Hairpin with some advice and tips in the article, as well as the comments. I cried tears of laughter at her recounting of her conversion to menstrual cups.

Shoot me an email if you have any other questions, or better yet, leave a comment. And if you’ve tried the Diva Cup, share your experience in the comments! 

, , ,

  • Dana

    Ok so I just recently found out I have PCOS which causes me to bleed literally 25 days a month (no joke) one or two days in between where my body loves me and I don’t bleed like a gutted pig. Is it safe to use that long?

    • Shannon O’Donnell

      Yes! Much safer than using tampons that frequently. It’s medical grade silicon, so it’s similar to the type of silicone they use in breast implants that live inside peoples’ bodies for decades with no harm. Do your research, naturally, as I am not a doctor, but the Diva Cup website says it’s tested as safe for long-term use so long as you keep it clean and sterilized via boiling often. Good luck!

  • J Murray

    Just to bring up a point that is outlined on the DivaCup site; they mention NOT to use oil soaps (Dr Bronner’s in an oil/castile soap), as it breaks down the silicone. Just thought you should know.:)

    • Shannon O’Donnell

      That is a fantastic point, thank you for letting me know, I will change the post now!

  • CanGirl

    Is bringing one Diva Cup enough for the RTW? Should I bring an extra, just in case? How do you often boil it?

    • Shannon O’Donnell

      One should last so long as you don’t lose it, they are made to last for maaaany years. I had mine for 6+ years now and it’s still fine. I actually just bought a new one last month because I needed the bigger size, but not because there was anything wrong with it. For boiling, I usually do it once a month. After every period I wash it really well with the mild soap and then boil it vigorously for 5 minutes. You can do it as often or few times as makes you comfortable. If I couldn’t get a stove for a couple months on the road, I didn’t sweat it. Good luck!

  • Tina Siegel

    I’m glad your experience been better than mine. I was initially very enthusiastic about the cup, even though – like you, and everyone else who uses it – there was a learning curve. Even once I figured it all out, though, the cup fell far short of expectations (and it’s own claims, frankly). I have a heavy flow, which is why I wanted to try it. I loved the idea of only dealing with it twice a day. That is emphatically NOT what happened. I have to empty my cup six to eight times a day, and it’s a difficult, messy process (particularly in a public washroom). I’ve gone back to tampons – they’re just much easier.

    • Shannon O’Donnell

      I am sorry to hear that it didn’t end up working out for you. I agree that doing it up to eight times a day would be a lot to handle considering the increased mess. I know some women report using it has lightened their periods, but it sounds like even a little lighter wouldn’t make a difference or make it worth it. Thanks for weighing in and sharing your personal experience with it! It’s important to recognize that even if you really want it to, it just might now work right for all people.

      • Tina Siegel

        I haven’t given up yet. I’m looking at other menstrual cups that can hold more. Maybe that will make a difference. =)

  • Amanda

    Hi! I’ve been thinking about getting the Diva Cup for a while now for my travels, I’m just worried about the risk of infection with the bad drinking water in parts of Asia. I’m heading to Nepal too (as I know you mentioned in the article). Was it okay for you to use the water to wash your Diva Cup? Any other travelers use it while traveling in developing countries?! Thank you! :)

    • Shannon O’Donnell

      That’s a good question Amanda. I used the local tap water in nearly every place I visited. But I did sometimes just wipe it out and wait until I could use clean water. That’s one of the great things about the cups — they tell you that if you are in a pinch, you can just wipe it clean with toilet paper and then wash it later. Usually you will be staying in places with at least running water, so if you have to use a sketchy bathroom, you can wait and wash it later. I know a lot of travelers who use the same method and have never had an issue.