The Menstrual Cup: Explained
Tampons. Maxi Pads. And now: the menstrual cup. It’s likely the first two options have been living in your purse and bathroom cabinets since your first period, but the menstrual cup – though it was first launched in the late 1930s – is just starting to experience a surge in popularity. Right now, they’re all the rage, thanks to their convenient, sustainable, and money-saving qualities. Despite all the positive buzz, they still aren’t the first choice for all women , and since everyone’s body and needs are different, that’s totally OK! But we are proponents of women knowing about all of their options, so we’re here to answer some of the questions you may have about the menstrual cup.
Want to learn more about menstrual cups? Below, we’re sharing all the facts you need to make an informed decision.
First off, what is a menstrual cup?
Menstrual cups are feminine hygiene products that come in the form of a flexible rubber or silicone cup. These small, funnel-shaped devices can be seamlessly inserted into a woman’s vagina while she is experiencing menstrual bleeding and they stay in place using a suction-like effect. Instead of absorbing blood like the traditional pad or tampon, menstrual cups collect and hold the blood inside the cup itself.1 And akin to the humble pad or tampon, menstrual cups come in different sizes to cater to women with lighter or heavier periods.
How To Know If The Menstrual Cup Is Right For You
Key Considerations 2
Menstrual cups are gaining quite the following, and for good reason! Some reasons they may be so popular include:
- Long-term affordability
- Maintains vaginal pH and presence of good bacteria
- Low maintenance
- Provides a visual that may indicate a light or heavy period
Some reasons women may hesitate to use them can include:
- Among certain groups, particularly younger women or women who have never had sex, cups can be harder to use than a pad or tampon
- Possible allergy risk; women with latex allergies should stick to cups made of silicone
- Sizing Issues
- Removal Issues
How To Know What Size Will Work Best For You
Sizing is all about trial and error, so starting off with a smaller cup is recommended. Most menstrual cup manufacturers provide sizing guides as well. A well-fitting cup should be snug, but not to the point of discomfort. Smaller sizes are ideal for teenagers, beginners, and women with lighter periods. Women with heavy periods or women who have experienced a vaginal birth are better suited for larger cups.
How To Use The Menstrual Cup
Before you even think about inserting the cup, make sure to wash your hands. Then, tackle the insertion of the cup similar to how you would with a tampon. Find a comfortable position—make sure your legs are spread wide enough for seamless insertion—and fold the cup so it fits inside your vagina. Make sure the stem is facing the outside of your vagina (like a tampon string) and rotate the cup until it locks into place. Check your cup every now and then to make sure it’s still in position. There shouldn’t be any gaps or riding up—if there is, it needs to be re-inserted to ensure a snug fit. Periodically checking can help prevent leakage, which will ultimately prevent you from staining your favorite pair of pants. Cups can stay in for up to 12 hours, but timing largely depends on how heavy your periods are.
Removal, once mastered, can be a total breeze. The strong suction may make it seem as if the cup is “stuck,” but don’t panic! Try relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, and either hover over a toilet or squat in the shower. Reach into your vagina and, using the tip of the stem as a guide, work your way up to the sides or base of the cup. Start pressing on the cup to loosen the suction seal, or gently pinch the sides. It’ll take some practice removing your cup without spilling anything, but as with everything else in life, the more frequently you do it, the better you’ll become.
As for cleaning and maintenance, most women dispose of blood by way of a toilet, although a shower might work, too. Most cups come with cleaning instructions, and many women opt for boiling their cups in hot water. Once out of the water, air dry your cup on a clean surface, and store away in a manufacturer-provided pouch or case.
Why should I use a menstrual cup over a tampon or pad?
Like we mentioned earlier, menstrual cups are a cheaper option in the long-term and are more environmentally responsible – think of all the waste you are saving by using the same device during your period all year. A cup can last for up to 10 years, with a maximum cost of $40, whereas a year’s supply of tampons or pads can range from $50 to $150. 4 Also, for women with heavier periods, menstrual cups can be a better overnight option as opposed to waking up to stained sheets and a soaked sanitary napkin. For women wary of a disturbed vaginal pH from too-absorbent tampons, or those just tired of wearing bulky maxi pads, a menstrual cup can be a great product to try out. 3
Whether or not you want to start using a menstrual cup is a decision for you to make and your doctor to advise on. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of abnormal uterine bleeding, a menstrual cup can put into perspective how much you’re bleeding, and help you determine whether to seek additional treatment or not. As always, speak to a doctor to see if the menstrual cup is an appropriate option for you and your needs.
- Menstrual Cups vs. Tampons: Things You Might Not Know. Accessed Dec. 16, 2019.
- Tired of Tampons? Here Are Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups. Accessed Dec. 9, 2019. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/tired-of-tampons-here-are-pros-and-cons-of-menstrual-cups/
- Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Accessed Dec. 16, 2019. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(19)30111-2/fulltext