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I ditched tampons for good and I'm never looking back

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

There's got to be a better way to control period blood than sticking a wimpy cotton cork in it

Oh, menstrual cup! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! And all the dollars I've saved since ditching tampons and pads.

Not gonna lie: The first time I used a menstrual cup was terrifying. First off, the thing was way bigger than any tampon I'd ever used and you have to stick the widest part up first — how is that right? But, the instructions said all I had to do was fold the silicone cup in half and roll it a bit, then "pop" it up there. And yes, it literally said pop. Apparently, you give it a little twist and it pops open like an upside-down umbrella in your vagina to catch all your menstrual rain. It's basically vagina origami.

More: Everything you need to know about menstrual cups

While I didn't feel a pop, I did get it in there. Everything was going well until it came time to remove the cup to empty the contents, clean it out and reinsert it.

I sat down on the toilet and went fishing (sorry). It was gone! I couldn't find it anywhere! But I tried to stay calm — I'm not an anatomy whiz, but I know the vagina is a dead-end street, so the dang thing couldn't have gone far. So I took a deep breath and got gynecologist-level up in my biz (so sorry). Finally, after doing a contortionist act that would make Cirque du Soleil look tame (so, so sorry), I felt it. Well, not it — just the "stem" or the little handle at the bottom. And it was slippery.

I'll skip the next part, but suffice it to say that it took the better part of half an hour, breathing worthy of a Lamaze class and enough "bearing down" to birth twins. But instead of adorable babies my reward was a Bloody Mary in a shot glass (so, so, so sorry). I'm not a blood-and-guts person, but this was my own blood and guts, so I figured I should at least give it a good look. After all, we're women right? And women have been getting up close and personal with their lady juices for millenniums. What kind of lady am I if I can't even look my uterine lining in the eye, er, whatever?

It was... deeply unpleasant. Years of super-absorbent tampons had not prepared me for what pure, unadulterated menstrual blood looks like. (Can one ever be fully prepared for that?) Still, I dumped out the cup, rinsed it out and got ready for round 2.

Now, no one would have blamed me at this point for chucking the cup in the trash and going back to my previous feminine hygiene routine. And I might have, except for one thing: I really, really hate tampons. Not to mention how terrible they and their applicators are for the environment. I've never found one that didn't leak, at least a little, which necessitated a pad, often a jumbo one, forcing me to walk around in a diaper that chafed my tender lady bits all day. Dear Playtex: If I wanted to walk like a cowgirl with cramps, I'd at least wear some cute boots.

And I'm not the only one who detests modern tampons. Sure, they're better than a pile of rags and a week in The Red Tent (wait, are they?), but they definitely have their flaws. Take, for instance, the public outcry against Tampax's latest tampon, the Pocket Pearl. Women all over social media are complaining about faulty applicators, uncomfortable positioning, money wasted and lots and lots of messes.

The answer to this problem might seem to be to make a better tampon. (Or at least use an applicator-less tampon like OB!) But I'd argue that all tampons suck. Even the best ones leak, get stuck, come apart and can even kill you. It's time for a new method.

More: A menstrual cup that syncs with your phone

For me, that's the menstrual cup. Call me gross if you want, but that thing does... not... leak. It's a little harder to learn how to use (OK, and terrifying), but after the first couple of times I got totally used to it, and now it's even faster and easier than a tampon. It lasts for 12 hours at a time, meaning I only have to change it twice a day (and I'm a very heavy bleeder). Plus, it's saved me hundreds of dollars over the years.

And if the price I have to pay for all that awesomeness is having to get a little blood on my hands? So be it.

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