I have had friends rave about period cups for years, extolling the virtues of their convenience and environmental-friendliness, but I was admittedly resistant to the idea. The thought of putting a large silicon thing up there didn't sound appealing, and I worried about what I would do if it somehow got stuck. As luck would have it, last year, I was contacted by Pixie Cup, a company who makes these products, and they offered to send me a starter package so I can evaluate the product from the point of view of someone who is active in the outdoors. Since fate was giving me a nudge, so I decided to give it a try.
Pixie Cup and their Company Mission
Pixie Cup is a family-owned American company. Amber, the founder, went backpacking across the world as a young woman and began to see a universal need for access to period products. Women were missing school and staying home from work because they didn’t have access to affordable period hygiene. She returned home from her travels with a renewed vision. Together, she and her brother Benjamin founded Pixie Cup with the goal of putting a menstrual cup in the hands of every woman on the planet, and now I am one of those women. Because the product is re-usable, it goes a long way toward reducing the environmental impact of women's periods by eliminating the need for disposable products.
As part of their mission, they also decided to establish a "buy one give one" program. The line of thought is that many women, in North America and countless women living in developing countries, can't buy proper sanitary products because they're too expensive or unavailable. For every Pixie Cup that is purchased, they give one away to a woman in need. I love seeing this kind of global community-development, which has the power to substantially change how women interact with the world when they are on their period.
Overcoming Menstrual Cup Fears
Like many other women, I had a bit of anxiety about trying out a menstrual cup. There is, after all, a bit of a learning curve, and it's natural to be a little uncomfortable about working something like that into your body.
The first step is to figure out what type of cup is right for your body. After all, women are all shaped a little differently down there, and what works well for some does not for others. That's why they have a [menstrual cup quiz](https://www.pixiecup.com/menstrual-cup-quiz/( you can take to figure out the best possible option for you. I was sent the standard Pixie cup package with the standard large cup and a smaller cup for lower flow days. Fortunately for me, this was the right fit for my body. It also came with a carrying case and a few cleansing wipes.
The next step is learning how to use it. Pixie cup has full instructions, complete with videos to teach you how to use your cup, with details on how to wash, fold, insert, wear, and remove your cup. Here's one of their videos, showing the basics of how to use the pixie cup:
In addition to the resources provided by the company, I also had a friend I could reach out to and ask questions... of which I made use. After successfully cleaning it and getting it in my body, when it came time to take it out, I couldn't get it to budge. There was too much suction and the nub wasn't far enough out that I could get a good enough hold to draw it out far enough to push in on the side to break the suction as instructed. After several unsuccessful attempts, I called my friend for help. She suggested putting one foot up on a higher surface to change the angle in a way that pushes it out more to give me a better grip. It worked, thankfully.
The only other snag I encountered was again in the removal process. Take note here in case you are thinking about trying one out. If you're going to use the "leg up" method, make sure you do it in a way that pulls the period cup out over the toilet. Sometimes it pops out with a bit of pressure, which can lead to messy spills, especially if you're at the end of a 12-hour stretch on the first day of your period.
When and Where I Use the Pixie Cup
Once I got past the learning phase, I became a fan of the Pixie Cup. That being said, there are still times when I might want to use a disposable option instead. I like to use it when I am at home or when I have access to a washroom. They sell a Pixie Cup wash that's safe for use with it and safe for your insides too, but I've been fine so far just using unscented bars of soap. They also have biodegradable flushable wipes for when you're on the go, and can't comfortably wash it out in a sink, but I would never actually throw it in a flush toilet because they still cause clogs. That's why the put trash bins in the stalls of public washrooms.
I would have no qualms about using the Pixie Cup on a hike or even a backpacking trip, so long as I have enough of the cleaning wipes on hand. They say on the website that menstrual cups have little risk for TSS and can be worn up to 12 hours. I can easily go 12 hours without taking it out, even on my heaviest of days, and that's using the smaller pixie cup, not the larger one. That being said, it's probably a good idea to take it out at least once, if not more often on heavier flow days to reduce the risk of spilling when you remove it.
The wipes are said to be biodegradable and flushable, you definitely can't dispose of them in composting toilets, which are becoming more and more common at backcountry camping locations, and they generally request that you only throw toilet paper and human waste in a standard outhouse. Burying them would also be pointless because animals are quick to dig that sort of thing up.
The company also recommends sanitizing your cups between periods. This is simply a matter of putting it in boiling water, making sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the pan. If you prefer an easier option, they have a pixie cup steamer, even a UV sterilizing device, but they both run around $45cad, and personally I don't like to have devices around that only serve one purpose.
Where to Buy the Pixie Cup
Amazon has all the pixie cup products widely available. If you're just starting out and you want to have the wash and wipes, I would suggest getting the Pixie Cup starter pack so you get everything at a cheaper package price. If you're in the US, you can also shop directly on the Pixie Cup Website or on Amazon.com.