Author:- Sarah Clements 12th July 2020
Have You Heard of Menstrual Cups?
Menstrual cups are bell-shaped cups made of silicone or rubber. When you fold one and insert it into your vagina, it pops open and forms a seal against the walls of the vagina. Menstrual fluid is then trapped in the cup until you remove it for emptying.
Menstrual cups have been around since at least the 1860s. They weren’t marketed until American actress and singer Leona Chalmers began promoting her patented catamenial receptor, now known as a menstrual cup, in the 1930s. Because of concerns about inserting them and the discomfort of the early rubber models, these cups weren’t widely used. Menstrual cups have recently become mainstream partly due to an improved design and soft silicone construction.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a type of reusable feminine hygiene product. It’s a small, flexible funnel-shaped cup made of rubber or silicone that you insert into your vagina to catch and collect period fluid.
Cups can hold more blood than other methods, leading many women to use them as an eco-friendly alternative to tampons. And depending on your flow, you can wear a cup for up to 12 hours.
A concern about leaking menstrual fluid in public is just one of the reasons menstrual cups have become more popular. Many women find them to be a leak-free alternative to traditional tampons and sanitary pads.
Available brands of reusable cups include the Keeper Cup, Moon Cup, Lunette Menstrual Cup, DivaCup, Lena Cup, and Lily Cup. There are also a few disposable menstrual cups on the market, such as the Instead Softcup.
Keep reading to learn more about how to insert and remove a menstrual cup, how to clean it, and more.
How to use a menstrual cup
Although you can buy any of the brands online or in most stores, you’ll first have to find out what size you need. Most menstrual cup brands sell small and large versions.
To figure out the right menstrual cup size for you, you and your doctor should consider:
- your age
- length of your cervix
- whether or not you have a heavy flow
- firmness and flexibility of the cup
- cup capacity
- strength of your pelvic floor muscles
- if you’ve given birth vaginally
Smaller menstrual cups are usually recommended for women younger than 30 years old who haven’t delivered vaginally. Larger sizes are often recommended for women who are over 30 years old, have given birth vaginally, or have a heavier period.
Before you put in your menstrual cup
When you use a menstrual cup for the first time, it may feel uncomfortable. But “greasing” your cup can help make the process smooth. Before you put in your cup, lubricate the rim with water or a water-based lube (lubricant). A wet menstrual cup is much easier to insert.
How to put in your menstrual cup
If you can put in a tampon, you should find it relatively easy to insert a menstrual cup. Just follow these steps to use a cup:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Apply water or a water-based lube to the rim of the cup.
- Tightly fold the menstrual cup in half, holding it in one hand with the rim facing up.
- Insert the cup, rim up, into your vagina like you would a tampon without an applicator. It should sit a few inches below your cervix.
- Once the cup is in your vagina, rotate it. It will spring open to create an airtight seal that stops leaks.
You shouldn’t feel your menstrual cup if you’ve inserted the cup correctly. You should also be able to move, jump, sit, stand, and do other everyday activities without your cup falling out. If you’re having trouble putting in your cup, speak with your doctor.
When to take your menstrual cup out
You can wear a menstrual cup for 6 to 12 hours, depending on whether or not you have a heavy flow. This means you can use a cup for overnight protection.
You should always remove your menstrual cup by the 12-hour mark. If it becomes full before then, you’ll have to empty it ahead of schedule to avoid leaks.
How to take your menstrual cup out
To take out a menstrual cup, just follow these steps:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Place your index finger and thumb into your vagina. Pull the stem of the cup gently until you can reach the base.
- Pinch the base to release the seal and pull down to remove the cup.
- Once it’s out, empty the cup into the sink or toilet.
Reusable menstrual cups should be washed and wiped clean before being reinserted into your vagina. Your cup should be emptied at least twice a day.
Reusable menstrual cups are durable and can last for 6 months to 10 years with proper care.
Advantages of Menstrual Cups
There are quite a few perks to using menstrual cups, the most notable being that they’re reusable. Many menstrual cups can be used for years. Instead of spending money on tampons or sanitary napkins each month, you can save some cash by using menstrual cups.
You can also wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours before it needs to be emptied. Compared to the average 4 to 8 hours for a tampon, that’s a fair amount of time saved.
- Unlike tampons, menstrual cups don’t dry the vagina. This preserves the healthy bacteria that protect you from vaginal infections.
- Menstrual cups aren’t associated with toxic shock syndrome (TSS), which is a rare, life-threatening condition linked to tampon use.
- Menstrual cups don’t contain chemicals found in tampons and pads, such as bleach and dioxin. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source, some dioxins are known to cause cancer in humans.
- Many women report having less severe cramping when using cups, although no clinical studies have been performed to support this.
- Menstrual fluid develops an odour when exposed to air. Cups eliminate this issue.
- Most women report that they don’t even feel the cup when it’s in place.
- Reusable menstrual cups are environmentally friendly. The Women’s Environmental Network reports that each year more than 400 million poundsTrusted Source of sanitary pads, tampons, and tampon applicators end up in landfills.
Hassles of Menstrual Cups
Some women report that it often takes some practice to learn how to insert a menstrual cup. There’s also the matter of cleanup. Many women aren’t comfortable washing out their cups in public bathrooms. Some people carry a small squirt bottle containing water or wipes to clean the cup when they’re in a bathroom stall. Others wipe the cup with toilet paper.
Selecting a Menstrual Cup
There are different brands of menstrual cups available. These days, you’ll often find several brands at your pharmacy.
The small size is size 1. It’s geared toward teens and women under age 30. Women who have never given birth may also prefer the smaller cup.
A slightly larger version, size 2, is for women over age 30. This size is also recommended for women who have given birth and women who have a moderate to heavy menstrual flow.
Diva International is one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of menstrual cups. DivaCups are made of clear, medical-grade silicone. DivaCups are slightly longer than other brands, which makes them an especially good fit if your cervix is high in the vagina. Although the manufacturer says the DivaCup should be replaced every 12 months, many women report using them for a lot longer than that.
Founded in Finland in 2004, Lunette menstrual cups are now sold in more than 40 countries. Lunette is made of medical-grade silicone. It’s very pliant, which makes it easier for some women to insert. Lunette is available in an assortment of limited edition colors.
The Keeper is the only latex menstrual cup in our lineup. It’s a brown colour and is described by some people as being less flexible, which may make it harder to insert. On the other hand, it will last for years because of its latex construction. It also holds slightly less fluid.
Lily Cup is one of the longest menstrual cups, which works especially well if your cervix is high in your vagina. Like most other cups, Lily Cups are made of medical-grade silicone. The big difference with this product is that it has an angled shape that matches the shape of the vagina and cervix.
There’s also the Lily Cup Compact, which is the only collapsible menstrual cup. As the name suggests, it has a compact-like container. This means you can discreetly toss it in the bottom of your purse, assured that it’s there whenever and wherever your period starts.
Risk Factors to Consider
Menstrual cups aren’t for everyone. Be sure to discuss your options with your doctor if necessary, especially if you’ve had uterine prolapse, which is a condition in which your uterus slips into the vagina because supporting ligaments and muscles have become weakened or stretched. This condition is most common in postmenopausal women who’ve given birth vaginally.
You should also discuss your options with your doctor if:
- you’re allergic to rubber or latex
- you use an intrauterine device for birth control because sometimes it’s necessary to shorten the string attached to the IUD so that you won’t pull it out when you remove your menstrual cup
- you’ve ever had TSS
- you’ve recently had gynaecological surgery, given birth, or had a miscarriage
- you have a vaginal infection
- you’ve never had sexual intercourse and you’re concerned about maintaining your hymen
Are Menstrual Cups Right for You?
A growing number of women are using menstrual cups and raving about them. If you’d like to have a period free of pads, tampons, and concerns about overflowing in public, consider trying the menstrual cup. Your doctor can help you determine which cup would have the right fit.
- They’re budget friendly. You pay a one-time price for a reusable menstrual cup, unlike tampons or pads, which have to be continually bought and can cost upward of $100 a year.
- Menstrual cups are safer. Because menstrual cups collect rather than absorb blood, you’re not at risk of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare bacterial infection associated with tampon use.
- Menstrual cups hold more blood. A menstrual cup can hold about one to two ounces of menstrual flow. Tampons, on the other hand, can only hold up to a third of an ounce.
- They’re eco-friendly. Reusable menstrual cups can last a long time, which means you’re not contributing more waste to the environment.
- You can wear a cup with an IUD. Some companies claim a menstrual cup could dislodge an IUD, but a 2012 studyTrusted Source debunked that belief. If you’re concerned, though, check with your doctor about using a menstrual cup.