What Is A Menstrual Cup?
If you've never heard of a menstrual cup before, it can seem pretty strange, alternative or weird (imagine the reactions when they first came up with tampons!).
Yet, a menstrual cup has so many benefits, which has resulted in many women switching from tampons and pads.
A menstrual cup is a hygienic, reusable sanitary product, made from a soft, medical grade silicon.
They are around two inches long and are usually irritant free. Most brands contain no latex, dyes, BPA, toxins or bleaches.
A menstrual cup is worn internally like a tampon, but it collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. You simply empty the fluid into the toilet – and even better – they don't need to be changed as frequently as tampons or pads.
Unlike tampons, a menstrual cup is not a disposable product, so you only need to buy one, saving you a tonne of money.
How Much Fluid Can They Hold?
Most menstrual cups hold around 30 ml of menstrual fluid, which is around one third of the average total flow each period.
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 odour.
It's likely that you'll empty a menstrual cup less frequently than you'd replace tampons or pads.
“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
Why Is A Menstrual Cup Better?
Menstrual cups are so much better for your body, the environment and your pay packet!
Here are 9 reasons why a menstrual cup is better for your body:
#1: A Menstrual Cup Won't Interfere With The Vaginal Environment
Tampons can can cause or worsen vaginal dryness.
A tampon absorbs around 65% menstrual fluid and 35% natural moisture.
This creates an imbalances of moisture and pH levels of your vagina.
However, a menstrual cup will not interfere with the vaginal environment.
#2: No Fibres Left Behind
Unlike tampons, a silicon made menstrual cup will not deposit fibres in your vaginal wall.
#3: No Toxic Shock Syndrome
Menstrual cups have not been associated with toxic shock syndrome.
#4: No Nasties
Menstrual cups contain no bleaches, deodorisers or absorbency gels.
#5: Gentle On Sensitive Skin Too!
A silicon menstrual cup will not cause irritation. They are perfectly suitable for women with sensitive skin, thrush, eczema or allergies.
#6: Safe To Use
Menstrual cups are made from a special medical grade non-allergic silicone. Silicone is derived from silica, which is one of the most abundant minerals on earth.
#7 Does Not 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 does not absorb your body’s natural defence mechanisms.
#8: Menstrual Cups Are Better For The Environment
Can you imagine the sheer amount of liners, pads and tampons you'll use in your lifetime? They end up in landfill sites, along with every other woman's too.
The average woman throws away around 125 to 150kg of tampons, pads and applicators in her lifetime.
Unlike pads and tampons, menstrual cups are reusable, eliminating the need to carry bulky spares. Your menstrual cup should last for several years, with proper care.
#9: They're Better For Your Bank Account Too
Depending where you live (and if you're taxed on sanitary products, like we are here in Australia), lets say it costs around $10 a month for sanitary items. This figure may be higher; according to research, around one in ten women in Australia buys all three mainstream sanitary options (pads, tampons and panty liners) every month.
That works out to be $120 a year. If you had your first period when you were 12, and if your period stops at the average of 51 years, you've spent a grand total of $4,680 — you could have taken a nice holiday for that amount!
And that's not including the times where you've had extra heavy periods or longer bleeding cycles.
“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 that you wont even know it's there.
It may take a little practice at first as you need to find the angle and position that is 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 eight hours depending on your flow. The fluid remains inside the cup, and the process is not messy or uncomfortable.
A menstrual cup can safely be used overnight and is great for all sports, swimming and travelling. It can be cleaned in the same way as baby equipment: with sterilising fluid, or by boiling for five minutes in an open pan of water.
“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 Use A Menstrual Cup?
- 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 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 menstrual 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 the top of your head. You do not need to push the menstrual cup up 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.
Many women find the stem to be too long. Simply remove the cup and cut the stem to your preferred size.
It's important to keep your menstrual cup clean, so wash it regularly with mild soap and hot and water. It can be cleaned more thoroughly between periods.
Menstrual Cup FAQ’s
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 it with water. Or, you could wipe the cup with toilet paper, before giving your menstrual cup 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 much more comfortable compared to a tampon.
Q. Why is my menstrual cup leaking?
A. If your cup is leaking, you are likely not placing the menstrual cup low enough in your vagina. The cup needs to be placed just inside the entrance to your vagina, unlike tampons which need to be closer to the cervix.
Make sure you check that 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 your 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 comfortable.
One other reason for leakage may be due to 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 may occur due to any small holes below the rim of a cup becoming blocked. A clean pin can be used to remove anything blocking the holes. Sterilise your menstrual cup and re-insert.
If you're still having problems, the cup size may not be a good fit, so you may need to try another.
See a range of menstrual cups, including the best selling Diva Cup, here.