Of all menstrual products, the menstrual cup is here to stay and the number of women who use menstrual cups is increasing every day. Menstrual cups are a great alternative to disposable tampons and pads.
Read on to find out all you need to know about menstrual cups.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a medical grade silicone device, in the form of a cup, that you introduce into your vagina to collect your menstrual blood. Using a menstrual cup has a lot of advantages.
Let’s look at all there is to know about menstrual cups and how you can make the most of yours.
Menstrual cup – how to use
The research is clear. Since the invention of tampons, nothing has been more revolutionary in the world of menstrual products than reusable menstrual cups.
Let’s look at how to insert and remove a menstrual cup properly.
Most menstrual cups are made of silicone. They’re flexible and they go back to their original place when pressure isn’t exerted on them.
To insert the menstrual cup, first you need to fold it. The punch-down fold is the most commonly used, although there are many different ways to fold your menstrual cup.
Once your menstrual cup is folded, you insert it into your vagina. To follow the natural curve of your vagina, aim towards the back of your pelvis and not upwards towards your head.
Menstrual cup users suggest that once you’ve inserted the fold in your vagina you can release it so the cup opens up. Then you twist it sideways so it unfolds as it should. Once you’ve done this, you push the menstrual cup further until it feels comfortable. You don’t need to push it as far as you possibly can. You will find the right place for it to stay as you practise using it. The end of the menstrual cup should be close to your vaginal opening but not so low that you can feel the it.
In no time you’ll become an expert and will realise that insertion and menstrual cup use will become really easy once you get the hang of it.
How do I remove my menstrual cup?
Insert your fingers into your vagina until you touch the menstrual cup. Press on one of its sides, to break the seal. Once the seal is broken you can gently pull on the cup until it comes out. Make sure you break the seal before pulling so as not to damage your cervix. You will know if the seal has not been broken because the pulling will feel uncomfortable.
To discard your menstrual blood, just pour it into the toilet bowl, fold the menstrual cup, reinsert it and then wipe yourself clean.
Wash your hands with mild soap and you’re ready to roll for a few more hours.
Some women save their menstrual blood and add it to the water when watering plants. Menstrual blood is full of nitrates that are very nourishing to the soil. If you think this is a good option you just need to leave a closed bottle next to the toilet.
Is a menstrual cup or tampon better?
There are several differences between menstrual cups and tampons.
The main similarity is quite clear. Both tampons and menstrual cups are inserted into the vaginal to collect menstrual blood.
Tampons are absorbent devices, whereas menstrual cups just collect blood. This means moisture and natural vaginal secretions stay as they should when you use the menstrual cup. Silicone cups leave nothing behind and absorb nothing so they don’t interfere at all with your natural vaginal flora. A menstrual cup simply collects your menstrual flow.
There is no risk of toxic shock syndrome while using menstrual cups. There is no risk of your body absorbing any nasties or chemicals that are present in tampons to whiten them.
A reusable menstrual cup is not only kind to your body but also to the environment, as there isn’t any generated waste.
We could argue about the pollution created in making the cup. Of course, menstrual cups are not zero waste but they are the menstrual products closest to it. Once made and purchased, the menstrual cups’ cost and their environmental impact are very low. If well looked after, they can be reused for many years and that’s almost zero waste.
For more tips on how to get through transition read our article menstrual cup and tampons.
How do I know when my menstrual cup is full?
You don’t really need to know exactly when that happens. You empty your menstrual cup more frequently on days when you have a heavy flow – probably every time you visit the toilet. You might need to empty your cup even more frequently at those peak times.
You’ll soon learn how to use it. You’ll learn much more from your body, your own menstrual cycle, how your menstrual blood flows and what it looks like at every stage. Using a menstrual cup will give you a beautiful chance to learn about your sexuality and connect with your body at a much deeper level. This is much more difficult to achieve when you use absorbents, like pads and tampons.
How do I pee with a menstrual cup in?
It’s understandable that if you are a first-time cup user you have lots of questions.
How you pee while you’re using a menstrual cup is a very common question for many women.
You can completely ignore your menstrual cup when you pee. Your vaginal muscles will make sure that the menstrual cup stays in the right place.
Your urethra – the tube that connects your bladder with the outside world – isn’t bothered at all by a menstrual cup in your vagina. The urethra runs alongside and right above your vagina, and has a small exit orifice just above your vagina’s opening.
On days of light flow, you might go to the toilet several times without emptying your menstrual cup. On days of heavier flow, you might empty your cup every time you pee.
Can I swim with a menstrual cup?
Yes, you can swim with a menstrual cup.
When compared with tampons, menstrual cups have all the advantages of tampons, plus many other positives exclusive to menstrual cups.
Menstrual cups are kept in place and held by the vaginal walls. You can swim without problems with most cups. Just empty your cup, as usual, when you visit the bathroom and enjoy your swim.
How long can I leave my menstrual cup in?
I’m going to get personal here but you can leave your menstrual cup in for a loooooong time. I remembered camping for several days when I had my period and I left it there when the flow was low. I removed it in the shower, cleaned it under the water and put it in again until the next shower.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to leave it for a long period of time. Nothing will happen if you forget about your menstrual cup. A forgotten menstrual cup is not a hazard to women’s health. When you remove your menstrual cup, clean it with soapy water and store it until your next period.
Why can I feel my menstrual cup?
Sometimes the so-called soft silicone doesn’t feel very soft. However, if you can feel your menstrual cup it usually has to do with its position inside the vagina.
If the menstrual cup is too low, the stem might come out of the vagina in certain positions, causing discomfort and friction. If you can feel something around the opening of your vagina you need to push it a bit further in until you cannot feel the cup.
If the menstrual cup is too high up it might be uncomfortable, too, as your cervix is probably sitting against it. When this happens you get a bloated feeling, as the muscles around it are forced into an awkward position. Because many women feel bloated, especially just before and at the beginning of their periods, it might not be easy to identify this. As a rule of thumb, you should feel less bloaty after the first day of your period. If you’re still feeling bloaty from the second day onwards, try repositioning your menstrual cup a bit lower.
Can a menstrual cup get stuck inside?
Don’t worry. Menstrual cups have been designed to be taken out easily. It’s true that the menstrual cup gets sealed against your vaginal walls. However menstrual cups are also designed so that the seal can be broken easily, so the cup can be removed.
If you look closely at your menstrual cup, you’ll see there are a few small holes just below the wide rim. These holes are there precisely to prevent a vacuum being created. Even if one of the holes becomes clogged, there are several others that will allow air through the cup to break the vacuum seal.
Can menstrual cups damage the cervix?
A menstrual cup could damage your cervix if it is not removed and inserted properly. Simply being in contact with the menstrual cup doesn’t cause any damage to the cervix. If you pull on the cup frequently, without breaking the seal, however, it could end up damaging your cervix and the uterine ligaments.
Cups are a wonderfully eco-friendly alternative to tampons or pads but they must be used correctly.
Best menstrual cup
The first thing we need to establish is your menstrual cup size. There are a few different sizes, from small to large.
The best size for you will be determined by the heaviness of your flow and the height of your cervix.
To find out whether you have a low or high cervix, all you need to do is insert your index finger into your vagina while you’re standing up. If most of your finger is outside the vagina when you reach your cervix, then you have a low cervix. If most of your finger is inside when you reach the cervix then you have a high cervix. A low cervix with light menstrual flow will call for a smaller cup or a shorter cup; a high cervix with a heavy flow needs a bigger cup.
There are also soft cups or firmer cups. There are many types and brands that offer a wide selection; most menstrual cup brands have different sizes, colors and even shapes. You should be able to find the best menstrual cup for you.
The menstrual cup market is very varied. Among the many different brands are: the Diva cup, Lena cup, Lily cup, Saalt cup and the Goldilocks cup. Any of these will make a great starter cup.
As a first time user you might start with the soft silicone cup, and perhaps move to a firmer cup later. Once you get to know your flow and use the cup more often, you will be able to get the best cup for you. Using a menstrual cup is about following a learning curve that will help you make the best choice.
Disposable menstrual cups?
It defeats the whole purpose of a menstrual cup if it is disposable. The biggest advantage of the menstrual cup is that, unlike disposable tampons and pads, you can reuse it many times.
I’ve being doing some research to find out what the point of disposable menstrual cups is and, although I’ve found the terminology on several different pages, the pages only talk about reusable menstrual cups.
Menstrual discs, however, are actually a cross between a menstrual cup and a tampon. They are disposable discs that are introduced and removed in a similar way to the menstrual cup. A disposable disc, however, is thrown away once it has been removed.