Health update and how the menstrual cup helped

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How the menstrual cup helped me manage severe menstrual bleeding and better inform my doctors. Natural health and living by www.cucicucicoo.com

This was the view outside the balcony where I spent four nights a couple of weeks ago. Pretty, right? The bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, the classic Mediterranean pine tree. Except I didn’t really get to enjoy it very much because I spent most of the time laying in my hospital bed.

Yep. You may or may not have noticed that I had dropped off the map for the past month. No new posts or tutorials, no newsletters, very few erratic social media posts. Basically I spent three weeks in bed with an extremely heavy and long period that made me lose so much blood that I couldn’t stand up without blacking out. In the hospital I got a D&C, two blood transfusions and a bunch of IV treatments. And, even though I felt much better when I got back home, I continued to feel very weak and tired, and my hospital souvenir, phlebitis, had left my arm swollen, in pain and basically useless.

How the menstrual cup helped me manage severe menstrual bleeding and better inform my doctors. Natural health and living by www.cucicucicoo.com

I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this post, but I decided to in order to potentially help other ladies out. First of all because I’ve never written a post about how incredibly amazing the menstrual cup is, and it really helped me deal with the hemorrhaging and also allowed me to know just how much blood I was losing, which was important information to give to my doctor. And second, because it is so, SO important to listen to your body and not just believe blindly what a doctor tells you if your instinct tells you otherwise.

If you don’t like reading or thinking about blood and/or women’s gynecological health, please just skip this post and come back next week for one of my non-body-related DIY tutorials. If you would like to hear my story and why I decided to write this post, keep on reading!

I’ve always had long, heavy and painful menstrual periods, right from the start. So I didn’t really think much about this period when it started. Then I got the flu with acute stomach pains and I couldn’t eat for three days. Because my period was so heavy, I had to get up from bed every hour to empty out my overflowing XL MeLuna menstrual cup and change my Mega-sized cloth menstrual pad, despite having a fever, nausea and trembling. During one of my frequent bathroom visits, my husband heard a noise and came running to find me on the floor. It was the first time for the next three weeks that I nearly fainted when standing up.

At first I just assumed that I felt so light-headed because of not having eaten for three days because of my stomach bug. Even after I was able to start eating again, I still had no appetite and had to force myself to eat. But a couple days later I was still bleeding like crazy and still feeling very weak, so I got a blood test done, went to my gynecologist, and got confirmation that this was no ordinary heavy period and that my chronic anemia had gotten worse.

I spent the next week on different medications. I’d start feeling dizzy when I sat up, so I took the Sweater Doll free embroidery course and worked up the two free samplers using twelve different stitches, as well as the above embroidery kit from Tiger, while lying flat on my back.

I started to feel better. And then I started to feel worse… a LOT worse. And so after two weeks of heavy bleeding and upon my doctor’s recommendation, I went to the ER. And, much to my surprise, I was told to go back home.

I really hesitate to tell this part of the story because I am very faithful to this hospital and have always recommended it to others. I gave birth twice and had a D&C after a miscarriage there, and it’s also the structure where my private gynecologist works. However, sometimes things just don’t go right, and the doctor in the ER pretty much didn’t take my situation seriously and didn’t give me a blood test to find out just how low my hemoglobin had gotten. I don’t really want to get into the details publicly, so I’ll just leave it at the fact that he sent me home thinking that my situation wasn’t as bad as I’d thought.

Drops crochet top pattern in dire need of fixing up! www.cucicucicoo.com

A few days later I suddenly felt better. I managed to sit up in bed and finish this crochet top pattern by Drops. I summoned up the energy to take this quick picture of how bad it looked before finishing it off differently. Obviously I don’t intend to wear it with pajama pants. (Thank goodness I’d sewn up a lot of my Evening Primrose pajama pants when preparing the pattern, because I lived in them for three weeks!) I know that I look like crap here, but consider that this was a relatively good day!

And another couple of days later, I was a wreck. I almost constantly heard my heartbeat and ringing in my ears. My nights were miserable because my hands and feet would go numb and my legs would cramp up, I assume from three weeks of inactivity. I realize in hindsight that I was starting to have trouble understanding things. And not only did I feel like crap, I was starting to get really fucking depressed.

  Passing time in the hospital (when I don’t have IVs in) knitting swatches for my next yarn project. I love this cotton/linen yarn! #knitting #yarnlove #iknit   Una foto pubblicata da Eco Sewing & Crafting (@cucicucicoo) in data:

Salva

I went back to the hospital when I knew that my own gynecologist would be there to do everything that needed to be done, thinking that I’d go back home that evening as with a routine D&C. Instead, I left four days later, thankful to no longer be in danger and, a bit more irrationally, thankful that nobody would be coming near me for a while with another needle.

Blood transfusion in the hospital. www.cucicucicoo.com

This was my second blood transfusion. The next day, after the nth iron treatment in the same catheter, I was overwhelmed with pain as my arm swelled up with phelbitis. Two weeks later, I can almost extend my arm all the way.

So, one point made: if you feel like total crap and a doctor tells you that you have no reason to feel like total crap, don’t just take his word for it. He might be right, but nobody knows your body like yourself, so stand up for yourself when your gut instinct tells you that there is indeed some problem. I would’ve been spared a good amount of misery if I had done that.

How the menstrual cup helped me manage severe menstrual bleeding and better inform my doctors. Natural health and living by www.cucicucicoo.com

Second point? The menstrual cup is amazing. I started using the Diva Cup 9 years ago. I had some trouble at first because childbirth had really loosened things up down there and I’d suffered uterine prolapse with all the pushing, but after a couple of months of pelvic exercises I was able to use it regularly. And I haven’t stopped using menstrual cups since.

The menstrual cup is basically a silicone cup that is inserted in the vagina. You fold it as seen above, insert it, and give it a little turn so that it pops open. As it collects, rather than absorbs, menstrual material, there is much less risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) than there is with tampons. You also can see exactly how much blood you are losing because it’s all right there in the cup when you take it out. The Diva Cup has lines up the side with the capacity marked so that you know exactly how much is in it if it isn’t completely filled up. If you tend to get blood clots, the cup collects them too. (I have some nasty memories of blood clots making tampons slip out… ew!)

The menstrual cup can be used for many years so, as with cloth menstrual pads, you save money by not having to buy them every month and you save waste from the landfill. There is no little string dangling from your dainty parts, so you don’t have to worry about peeing on it or accidentally leaving it hanging out of your bathing suit.

And when you go out, you don’t need to bring 50 extra tampons with you. Just remove the cup, empty it into the toilet, rinse it off if there’s a sink available, and put it back in. If there isn’t a sink to use, just insert it again. I’ll admit that what I usually do in these cases is pee on it and then put it back in. I’m not sure if that’s really very hygienic, but that’s what I do.

Just make sure that you empty the cup out at least every 12 hours, washing it off with soap. Sterilize it for just a few minutes in boiling water at the beginning and at the end of your period, and that’s all there is to it!

How the menstrual cup helped me manage severe menstrual bleeding and better inform my doctors. Natural health and living by www.cucicucicoo.com

As they don’t have the string that tampons have for removal, most menstrual cups have a little stem, ring or ball at the base to hold on to while pulling it out of the vagina. Like I mentioned before, my uterus slipped down considerably after my first childbirth, so I have to wear my menstrual cup quite low down. The Diva Cup would sometimes move around and its stem would dig into my skin, which as you may imagine was not particularly comfortable. I cut the stem off as suggested, but even that little bit left over bothered me.

So about five years ago I did some research and discovered the German brand MeLuna. MeLuna offers quite a few sizes, and the XL size is the largest cup I’ve found so far, which is perfect for my heavy periods. And even better, there is a model without any handle for removal, making it much more comfortable for women with uterine prolapse. And it’s even purple, my favorite color!

I’ve been using the MeLuna XL cup since then and am very, very happy with it. The one shown in these pictures is brand new. I had to buy a new one because, in the confusion while I was being carted off to the operating room, my husband accidentally threw away my old one that I’d quickly removed, wrapped in toilet paper, and handed to him.

So, why am I going on about menstrual cups right now? Because when you use them, you know how much blood you’re losing. I remember reading back when I was a teenager that during a period you only lose two or three tablespoons of blood, even though it seems like much more. I always had a heavy period and I suspected that I was losing much more than that, but using disposable tampons and pads I had no way of quantifying how much blood there really was. My suspicion that I suffered from unusally abundant menstrual flows was verified only when I started using a menstrual cup.

This was incredibly useful for me during this past month because I was able to tell my gynecologist exactly how much blood I was losing during the different phases of this disturbance. I could also therefore keep track over time of how much bleeding there had been. I had to try to remember more or less how often I’d emptied the cup every day of the first week, before I really was paying much attention, and a lot of blood overflowed into my cloth pads, so I’m not perfectly sure exactly how much it was, but it was at least 2.5 liters of blood and clots.

So, how am I feeling now? Much better, though I have my good days and my bad days. My hemoglobin is going up and I am getting stronger, though I still have a ways to go. I was so thankful during this illness for my incredibly supportive husband (who deserves a medal for doing EVERYTHING for kids, sick wife, home and — oh yeah — his own work and things for over a month) and for all the people who helped us out and offered support during this hard time. And obviously also for my fantastic gynecologist, who I harrassed constantly with panicked phone calls and pretty much saved me from bleeding to death!

Wow, this ended up being a much longer post than I’d planned on! I promise that next time I will be back on track with a nice spanking brand new tutorial for you! Have a great week!

Salva

Salva

64 COMMENTS

  1. Women are amazing! We can be sick, sicker than we know, and still get things done. I’m so glad you’re feeling better and got the care you needed. I am happy to be beyond the need for these cups, but I did use cloth pads from age 20 to 49 when my period just stopped.

    And thanks for taking the time to join in Embroidery School. I’m sorry the site is down for overhaul right now. It was unexpected. But it will be back soon!

    You just keep being amazing, lovely lady!

  2. Thank you for sharing, Lisa, it was really interesting. As you said these are really private things, but your post may help other women in the same situation.
    Is the menstrual cup recommended also for really light menstrual flows (caused by contraceptives) , and do you have any idea on how can I guess my size?

    • ABSOLUTELY, Silvia! Actually it’s really wonderful for light flows because you won’t need any other protection. One problem with tampons is that they dry out the vagina and if they don’t absorb enough, and then they can be hard to remove and leave fibers behind, which can cause infection (I think…). The menstrual cup doesn’t absorb at all, so there is not this problem and you can use it even with extremely light flows. There are a LOT of different brands now (way more than when I started using the cup), so it can seem a little overwhelming. I really love my MeLuna and it’s from Germany, so that would be great for you! There are instructions on the website for choosing the most appropriate size and style. I highly recommend you try it! Let me know if you have any questions, privately if they get too intimate! 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing, Lisa. It is so hard to tell a doctor that they are wrong when they tell you you’re fine and you know that something is definitely NOT fine. Like your doctor, my ob/gyn thought I was exaggerating every time I saw her and complained about how heavy, painful and lengthy my cycles were until I had a major episode. I woke up in the middle of the night in a pool of blood that covered over half of our queen sized bed. It probably looked like something out of a horror movie. After that, the doctor finally took me seriously and was willing to help.

    I’m so glad that you are feeling better! Cheers to your wonderful husband for his support. Sounds like he’s a keeper 😉

    • Oh wow, Ellen, I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you! I’m sure that there are plenty of people who exaggerate about their health issues, so I guess it’s normal that doctors can’t always take everything patients say as a given, but it’s so frustrating when we’re actually telling it like it is! And if anything, I have the tendency to underexaggerate my problems, geez!
      Yes, my husband is definitely a keeper! I’m a lucky lady! 🙂

  4. I hope you are feeling better and that your are resting also.
    I never heard of these cups until I came across a YouTube that explained them and cloth pads. I
    I had heavy fast bleeding such that the flow did not absorb into the pad as quickly as it came out of my body and I had clots and great amounts of pain and never less than a week.
    I finally told my dr I had enough and wanted my female parts removed she did some checking and found I had large uterine tumor (grapefruit sized) . It was not cancer and there never was any indication that it could be but I did get my uterus removed and for me that freed me to go and do things as before (irregular periods also) I did not know if I’d be on my period and if I was I’d be in too much pain and have too much mess to deal with away from home .
    The cup would have helped me a lot

    • Wow, Colleen, that sounds awful! I have to say, I fantasize about getting a hysterectomy because I’ve always had problems with that whole part of my body and I’m done having kids. I can imagine that it would be so freeing to not have to worry about irregular periods, hemorrhaging, pain, prolapse, cysts, fibroids, pap tests, etc. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I came to your blog out of curiosity from your instagram post and I am really glad that you shared your story! I appreciate your willingness to be open and get into details about not only your illness but your experiences with the cup. This is very informative.

  6. Woah Lisa…. I am so glad you got through all of this 2.5 litres I can’t even imagine. No wonder you were anemic! I have also had a prolapse (that seemed to right itself after the 2nd child) I’ve always had regular ‘normal’ periods (though occasional clots) …but with bad headaches (sometimes lasting 3-5 days either before or during) & extreme mood swings. When I was about 40 a Naturopath told me I was pre-menopausal & I used progesterone cream for a while to settle things, which may or may not have been a good idea as now I am 55 & still waiting to achieve the ‘whole year without a period’…. Several years ago I had a cervical polyp removed which didn’t heal (still spotting 13 weeks later!) & I had a 2nd Operation to stop the bleeding. Early last year I had a whole month of bleeding (long period). Not heavy like you but I wondered when it would ever stop! The district Nurse was unable to do a pap smear (which was well over due) & she advised Blood tests which were okay = not anemic thankfully. Just very tired. I also had uterus ultrasounds & kidney check etc etc everything normal thankfully. Since then the longest break has been 3 month (late last year) and also nothing since end of March this year…hoping to make a year without & have it all be over!! Thank you for sharing I am sure it will encourage & reassure many who have similar situations that they are not alone. I had noticed the absence of your newsletter & learned via Allison’s embroidery posts that you had been ill. Wishing you a full recovery! 🙂

    • Yikes, Janette! Sounds like you’ve been through quite a bit too! I’m actually chronically anemic and have been dealing with it for years. I’ve pretty much gotten used to almost always having that dragging feeling. But goodness, the things we ladies have to put up with, huh?! I wish you luck in getting to your full year! I can imagine that it’ll be such a relief! 🙂

  7. Oh you poor thing. I’m 45 and after my youngest was born my periods got really heavy. I used a cup too – useful for measuring as you say! I saw the GP and did a trial where I collected all the blood from my period which was sent off to a lab. I lost 160 mls of blood (80 or more is considered heavy). I ended up having a mirena IUD fitted. It is working well and now my periods involve light spotting for a day or two.

    I’m sure you have had plenty of advice about iron supplements – my son had really low ferritin when he was younger and we have him Spatone rather than iron tablets. It’s iron rich water from north wales, it comes in sachets and you drink with orange juice. It doesn’t have the side effects of other iron supplements. And, it worked well for him – I took it too when I was pregnant.

    • Sorry to hear that you’ve had problems, too, Knit lass. 🙁 I just finished up my first period after this ordeal and, erring on the low side, I lost around 800 ml of blood, and for me it was a totally normal period. I am in the midst of many tests and medical visits, so hopefully I can get this situation sorted out! I’m hoping that getting my periods under control will also help get my anemia under control.
      I’d never heard of Spatone, but it looks very interesting and I see that it’s available even on Italian Amazon. Thanks for letting me know about it! And thank you for your kind thoughts! 🙂

  8. Ciao! Just read your newsletter and learned about your health problems. I am sorry you had to go through all this and I sure hope things will improve from now on. Thank you very much for your candid post. You are helping many women out there, me included. Stay strong <3

    • Thank you so much for your words, Julia! I am doing much better now, and I’m glad that this post was able to help you… though I’m sorry if you have had problems and that’s why it’s of help!!

  9. I stumbled upon your website while looking for sewing tutorials. First, I’m glad you’re doing better. Second, my Diva cup has changed my periods forever. Best. Period. Product. Omg. Third, my younger sister is an American living on the Amalfi Coast 🙂

    • Welcome, Briana! Yes, the Diva cup is amazing! The only reason I switched brands is because of the stem which bothered me. Such a game changer! Where exactly is your sister? I don’t live in Naples city and am actually not far at all from the Amalfi Coast! Thanks for commenting!

  10. Thank you for sharing your amazing story – such a heroine’s story! We so often read the hero’s archetypal story of fighting the good fight, winning and getting the crown and the girl in the end but your story is truly the one of the heroine 🙂 Good for you for sticking up for yourself, finding your way through the medical morass even though your brain wasn’t on full throttle and getting well in the end. I’m 62 so menstral cups are LONG behind me now but if I were young I would definitely use them. They function much like the diaphragm I used for birth control for years and once you’re onto it, it’s quite easy. Much more hygienic and like you say it shows you just what your body is releasing. Brilliant! I know with this post you are going to help a lot of women.

  11. I feel for you. At 45 I’d had enough of similar problems. Went to GYN in tears and “demanded” hysterectomy. Instead, the GYN did a procedure (NO cutting) called endometrial ablation. I was in and out of hospital in 4 hours and never even needed so much as an asprin. I never had another period or any other problems.

    • Wow, Kat. I haven’t demanded a hysterectomy, but told my gyn that I wanted one. (Though we haven’t come to that yet.) A friend of mine suggested laparoscopy as a very non-invasive way of removing the uterus. I’d never heard of endometrial ablation, but I’m going to read up about it right now! Thank you for telling me about it!

      • It’s a wonderful thing. No cutting, no removing organs, and no disruption of hormones. I feel confident in sharing this experience because the GYN was so good (smart) that he had a VERY long patient waiting list.

  12. Hi Lisa. I just read this post. I hope you are still feeling better. I am 51 and my periods are now getting heavier! I recently heard about the Cup. It seems to me it would be messy to take out and not spill? Am I over-thinking it?

    • Hi Lynda! Oh my gosh, hopefully your heavier periods are just the start to menopause, and hopefully they will end soon. Yikes! I know that the menstrual cup can sound weird and gross and uncomfortable, but trust me, it isn’t. If it’s filled to the brim, yeah, it’ll spill a bit when you take it out, but you’re sitting over the toilet, so it doesn’t matter. I say to give it a go! It is truly wonderful! Good luck!

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