Menstrual discs are period products with a soft center catch that collect, rather than absorb, menstrual fluid at the cervix before it reaches the vaginal canal, says Lauren Schulte Wang, CEO of The Flex Company, a menstrual product brand. “The disc is made from a proprietary, medical-grade polymer blend, and all of our products are FDA-compliant, hypoallergenic, vegan, and made without BPA, phthalates, and natural rubber latex,” she says.
In theory, they sound like a higher-reaching and -achieving cousin to menstrual cups—and I couldn't wait to give one a test spin to see how it stacked up.
How to use a menstrual disc
To insert a menstrual disc, board-certified OB/GYN and integrative holistic medicine specialist Eden Fromberg, DO suggests taking the ‘back and down’ angle. “Becoming familiar with how your internal anatomy feels and the position of your cervix before inserting the disc will help you ensure that the disc is covering your cervix after it has been inserted.”
I’m used to menstrual cups, so I didn’t expect the process of inserting the disc to be an issue. However, I wasn't used to the depth—discs sit higher. So, I grabbed the instruction manual from the box, took the disc out of the wrapper, sat on the toilet, and took a deep breath. I squeezed it in half (as you do with cups as well) and inserted it into my vaginal canal in the suggested back-and-down direction. I ensured the disc properly sat under my cervix by inserting my finger all the way.
After securing the disc by pushing it back and down toward my tailbone so it successfully cupped the base of my cervix and didn’t cause any pain or leaks, I stood up and waited to see if I felt anything inside of me. I paced around the bathroom and kicked my legs in the air a few times, but I felt no poking or prodding. So, I washed my hands and went on my merry way.
Who can (and maybe shouldn't) use a menstrual disc?
Dr. Fromberg confirms that most people who have a vagina and uterus who menstruate can use menstrual discs. “Discs are ideal in situations when the alternative of washing out a reusable menstrual cup in a public bathroom wouldn’t be comfortable, and wearing a disposable pad or tampon is not preferred, due to sensitivity or allergy,” she says. Other perks of using the tool, she says, include the experience of prolonged menstrual blood collection, invisibility to others, and reduced cramping. Plus, Wang says “it’s the only internally worn menstrual product not linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS),” also pointing out that it’s safe to use with IUDs, and for those who have endometriosis or PCOS.
Another= benefit? Mess-free period sex. “Being able to enjoy sex without worrying about stained towels or sheets is a huge relief for our customers," says Wang. "Some users have even reported having stronger orgasms while wearing a [Flex] disc, because it gently rubs on the cervix during intercourse for additional stimulation.”
"Discs are ideal in situations when the alternative of washing out a reusable menstrual cup in a public bathroom wouldn’t be comfortable.” —OB/GYN Eden Fromberg, DO
While it's important to keep in mind that menstrual discs are one-time-use products (whereas cups are reusable and thus a more sustainable option), they're also the longest-wear disposable product on the market, at 12 hours per disc. According to an internal study conducted by Flex on waste reduction that compared different menstrual products, using discs can reduce waste by an estimated 60 percent when compared to other common disposable period products, like pads and tampons. So, if you're somewhere that's tough to rinse your menstrual cup—like a public restroom—Wang says menstrual discs may be the next-most sustainable option.
As far as who shouldn't necessarily use a menstrual disc, Dr. Fromberg notes that “some people born biologically female who were exposed to hormones or hormone blockers in utero or at any stage of life, or intersex people, may have developmentally smaller vaginas, or vaginas of different dimensions. In these individuals, disc fit may pose an issue." She also advises that they should be used with caution in situations of urinary tract infection or microbiome compromise, and not used at all in cases of vaginitis or an STI. Her recommended rule of thumb is that if you're in doubt, don't use a disc before seeking the opinion of your medical provider.
How to remove a menstrual disc
When it was time to remove the disc, I sat on the toilet, prepared for business… but then I couldn’t find the disc. I started panicking and spent what felt like forever digging around to locate it but couldn’t. Then I remembered, “back and down.” After about seven years (okay, probably five minutes), I found the disc. I removed it, disposed of its contents in the toilet, and then chucked it in the trash.
Will I use it again? Maybe in a not-so-soon future cycle. Like Wang warned me, “any new menstrual product might take some practice...” So, I think I need a lot of practice with this one, despite how effective it proved to be for collecting menstrual blood without any leakage or pain.
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