If you’ve never heard of a menstrual cup before, it can seem pretty strange, alternative, or even weird. But them imagine the reactions when they first came up with tampons!
As a substitute for using tampons, menstrual cup use is definitely worth considering. It is as comfortable to use as a tampon, but the reusable menstrual cup is much more environmentally friendly than any other menstrual product.
Using a period cup has many benefits. Many users – and they are growing in number around the globe absolutely swear by them. Most cup brands are aware of the impact these reusable cups can have on women’s health – especially in cultures where menstruation is considered a burden in women’s lives. Rubber cups can have a great positive impact on girls in developing countries.
Menstrual cups are hygienic, reusable sanitary products, made from soft, medical-grade silicone. They are about two inches long and are usually irritant-free. Most brands contain no latex, dyes, BPA, toxins or bleaches. Even better – a cup is not a disposable product, so you only need to buy one, saving you considerable amount of money.
The cup is worn internally, like a tampon, but it collects menstrual fluid rather than absorb it. You simply empty the fluid into the toilet.
No wonder so many women are switching from tampons and pads.
Menstrual cup – 7 reasons why it’s better than tampons
Menstrual cup brands are growing exponentially, as we speak. Some of the best-known brands are Luna Cup, Diva Cup, Lily Cup, Athena Cup, Lena Cup or Saalt Cup.
To be honest, they are all pretty similar and the brand you choose will probably depend on the first menstrual cup that gets into your hands.
A first-time cup user is either going to like her cup or not. It’s not very likely that a woman will buy a few cups of different brands, compare them and choose a particular cup. If you like it you will probably use the same menstrual cup for many years. If you don’t like one cup it’s quite likely you won’t revisit the world of period cups for quite a while.
Cups are much better for your body, for the environment, and for your pay packet. Even if the use of your first cup wasn’t very satisfactory you might be interested to know there are many different types of cups: larger cup, small cup, firmer cup, bell shaped cups and brightly colored cups. There are plenty, to make sure there’s a cup to adapts to each woman’s needs.
Let’s look at the different reasons why a menstrual cup is better for your body and how menstrual cups work:
#1. A menstrual cup won’t interfere with the vaginal environment
Tampons can cause or worsen vaginal dryness.
A tampon absorbs around 65% of menstrual fluid and 35% of natural moisture. This creates an imbalance of moisture and pH levels in your vagina.
A menstrual cup, however, will not interfere with the vaginal environment because its only purpose is to collect blood and shedding from the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus). It doesn’t take anything it shouldn’t.
#2. No fibers left behind, no nasties, no toxic shock syndrome
Unlike tampons, silicone cups will not deposit fibers in your vaginal wall.
Menstrual cups contain no bleaches, deodorizers or absorbency gels. Therefore, menstrual cups have not been associated with toxic shock syndrome.
They are also gentle on sensitive skin. A silicon menstrual cup will not cause irritation and is perfectly suitable for women with sensitive skin, thrush, eczema or allergies.
For more information, read BellyBelly’s article 8 Awesome ‘No-nasties’ Products You And Your Body Will Love.
#3. The amount of fluid they can hold
Most menstrual cups hold around 30 ml of menstrual fluid. The amount of fluid lost during a period differs from woman to woman, ranging from 10 to 80 ml, across 2 to 7 days.
When you insert a menstrual cup, a light seal is formed with your vaginal wall, allowing the menstrual flow to pass into the cup, without any leakage or odor. Even if you have a heavy flow, a menstrual cup will contain your menstrual blood. Even on the days when your flow is more abundant, you can insert and remove menstrual cups more frequently to avoid any overflowing.
It’s likely you’ll empty a menstrual cup less frequently than you’d replace disposable tampons or pads. You can even buy a bigger cup to use as a second cup for those days when your flow is greater.
‘I’ve been using one for about 15 years. No more painful cramps that I used to get with tampons. They’re amazing’ — BellyBelly Fan
As you learn to use a cup correctly, you’ll follow a learning curve. First time cup users will check on their cup frequently, check that it’s well placed against the vaginal walls and probably empty it more regularly until they get the hang of it, and understand their flow and their cup’s capacity.
#4. Menstrual cups are safe to use
Whether you’re using a soft cup, a shorter cup, a bell shaped cup or any other type, all cups are made from the same material. The best menstrual cups are made from a special medical grade non-allergic soft silicone. Silicone is derived from silica, which is one of the most abundant minerals on earth.
#5. A menstrual cup doesn’t interfere with your vagina’s natural and healthy functions
Because a menstrual cup has a smooth surface, it allows the mucus membranes of your vaginal wall to continue their essential cleansing and protective functions. The menstrual cup doesn’t absorb your body’s natural defense mechanisms. This is of paramount importance in maintaining women’s health at its optimal.
#6. Menstrual cups are better for the environment
Can you imagine the huge amount of liners, pads and tampons you’ll use from puberty to menopause?
The average woman throws away about 125-150 kg of disposable tampons, pads and tampons applicators – all of which end up in landfill sites.
Although there are also a few disposable menstrual cups on the market, unlike pads and tampons, most are reusable, eliminating waste when cups are thrown away and reducing the environmental impact of producing sanitary products.
#7. They’re better for your bank account, too
Depending on where you live and whether you’re taxed on sanitary products, as women in Australia are, it will cost around $10 a month for sanitary items. This figure might be higher; according to research, about one in ten women in Australia buys all three mainstream sanitary options (pads, tampons, and panty liners) every month.
That works out at roughly $120 a year. If you had your first period when you were 12, and if your period stops at the average age of 51 years, then you’ve spent a grand total of $4,680. You could have taken a nice holiday with that amount. And that’s not including the times when you had extra heavy periods or longer bleeding cycles.
Having a menstrual cup means you don’t need to carry bulky spares. Your menstrual cup should last for several years, with proper care. Menstrual cup cleaning couldn’t be more low maintenance. You simply need to empty the cup gently, rinse it under the tap and it’s ready to be used again. Once in a while you can dip it in boiling water for a few minutes. This is not necessary between periods, as placing cups or menstrual discs in boiling water frequently will damage them in the long run. Even the best menstrual cup will suffer with this repeated, unnecessary aggression.
When you finish your cycle, wash your cup with soapy water and place it in its container, ready to be used when you have your period again. When you need it, just take it out of its container, rinse it under the tap and your cup is ready to be inserted in your vaginal canal.
‘I’m only on my second cycle using a cup. Why did I waste so many years? This thing is amazing!’ — BellyBelly Fan
How easy is it to use?
Correctly inserted, a menstrual cup is so comfortable you won’t even know it’s there.
If you are a new menstrual cup user, it might take a little practice, as you find the angle and position that are right for you.
Once you have perfected it, you will be amazed at how simple a menstrual cup is to use. You will need to empty, rinse or wipe and reinsert your menstrual cup every four to twelve hours, depending on your flow. The fluid remains inside the cup, and the process is not messy or uncomfortable. Many women find it convenient to empty their cup while having a shower.
A menstrual cup can safely be used overnight and it’s great for playing sports, swimming and traveling. It just needs to be emptied more often when you’re on heavy flow days and placed back in its case until your next period.
‘I only just started using a cup about 6 months ago and, I swear, I’ll tell anyone who asks about it that I wish I knew about menstrual cups 20 years ago. It has saved me so much money and is soooo easy to use and maintain! Some of my friends think it’s gross, but I just think it’s because they haven’t done the research that’s needed. I will definitely be buying one for my daughter when the time comes!’ — BellyBelly Fan
How do you insert a menstrual cup?
Practice these steps:
- Find a comfortable position – either sitting, standing, squatting or kneeling
- Press together the sides of the cup, then fold the sides in half
- Hold the folded sides firmly together between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. The single curved edge should be away from your palm
- Stay relaxed. With your free hand, gently separate the labia and push the curved edge of the folded cup up into the vagina.
- Insert the menstrual cup fully, following the natural angle of your vagina. Aim towards the small of your back, not your pubic bone. You do not need to push the menstrual cup up too high into the vagina, the vaginal muscle will keep it in place
- Once the menstrual cup is fully inserted, grasp the base of the cup, not the stem, and rotate it once to ensure that it has fully unfolded. Cups have air holes in them so as not to create a vacuum.
Menstrual cup FAQs
Here are the most commonly asked questions about menstrual cups:
Q. Is it okay to use them in public toilets?
A. Yes! Take a small bottle of water with you and rinse the menstrual cup with water. Or you could wipe the cup with toilet paper, before giving it a thorough clean at a more convenient time.
Q. Can you use a menstrual cup with light flow?
A. Absolutely. Because menstrual cups are not absorbent, they won’t cause dryness. You’ll find the removal – even of firmer cups – much more comfortable compared with a tampon.
Q. Why is my menstrual cup leaking?
A. If your cup is leaking, you are probably not placing the menstrual cup low enough in your vagina. The cup needs to be placed just inside the entrance to the vagina, unlike tampons, which need to be closer to the cervix.
Make sure you check the whole stem is completely inside your vagina. Most women need to trim the stem. If you think you need to trim the stem, remove the menstrual cup and cut the end with scissors. Trim a little off at a time and reinsert the cup to check how it sits. Repeat this process until it’s fully inside you and feels comfortable.
Another reason for leakage might be poor seal formation with the vaginal wall. Try twisting and rotating the menstrual cup once you’ve inserted it. You can also try pulling the menstrual cup down a little, then gently pushing it inward. If you clamp your pelvic floor muscles around the menstrual cup, it can help to create a good seal.
Finally, leakage might occur if any of the small holes below the rim of a cup become blocked. A clean pin can be used to remove anything blocking the holes. Clean your menstrual cup with soapy water and re-insert.
If you’re still having problems, the cup size might not be a good fit, so you might need to try a different cup. A very soft cup could be the solution for you.
Browse a bit when looking for the best cup for you. You might go for the best-selling cups, like Diva Cup or Lena Cup, but there are other cups that are not so famous but might be right for you.