Every Woman’s Guide to Menstrual Cups
Welcome to your one stop resource about menstrual cups. Read on to learn more about why this menstrual product might be the perfect solution for your red days.
When it comes to hygiene, no other part of a woman’s body is in need of more care than the vagina. Yet most women fail to see that the popular menstrual products sold today aren’t even good for our bodies. In fact, some of them make us prone to various infections and diseases like candidiasis, TSS, and even cancer.
So which period product is best for us, you ask? That’s easy. It’s none other than the underappreciated menstrual cup.
Menstrual cups, unlike disposable sanitary pads and tampons, are a safer, earth-friendlier choice. You can leave them on longer (even overnight), and they offer better protection against heavy flow and leaking. It isn’t surprising that these silicone wonders are becoming the top choice for women who want convenience and practicality.
What's a Menstrual Cup, Anuway?
A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped period product made from medical-grade silicone or rubber. It seals around the interior of the vagina, collecting menstrual fluid instead of absorbing them like tampons or pads do.
For some women, a menstrual cup is more than just a long-term solution to menstruation. It’s a symbol of power and freedom. Gone are the days when you have to meekly go to your local department store to buy pads and tampons. With period cups, just buy one or two and you have all you need to last you for up to 6 years. Talk about big savings!
- 1Fold the Cup
- 2Hold the Cup
- 3Get Comfortable
- 4Insert the Cup
- 5Seal and Adjust
Are Menstrual Cups New?
The very first menstrual cup created and patented was around the 1930’s by a woman name Leona Chalmers. But during this time, not many women were comfortable handling their own blood. They preferred simply flushing or throwing away their menstrual product rather than clean and reuse it.
The later version of menstrual cups never gained much popularity either. Women would blame that the material was too hard or that the cup was too heavy to be comfortable for daily use. Another reason women were hesitant was because they felt squeamish about placing things in their vagina.
Menstrual cups have come a long way since their first appearance. There are now over dozens of different brands and designs to choose from. And they are slowly gaining popularity because of the many benefits they provide – not just for periods, but also for women’s bodies and the environment.
How to Use a Menstrual Cup
Always wash your hands and the new menstrual cup before doing anything else. It’s recommended that you sterilize the cup in boiling water for up to 10 minutes before using it for the first time.
When washing your hands, be thorough and include the creases in between fingers to remove any dirt that may be there. Spend at least 15 seconds washing your hands. Cleanliness is key when handling any type of menstrual cup.
It might be a good idea to cut your fingernails before washing your hands, you will get much cleaner hands and avoid the ‘ouch’ from those fingernails…
1. FOLD the Cup:
There are several ways to fold a menstrual cup. You will need to try different variations to find a fold that you’re most comfortable with. Moreover, you can choose from different period cup sizes and shapes to find one that fits you perfectly.
2. HOLD the Cup:
Once you’ve chosen a fold, hold the cup firmly between your thumb and forefinger. The stem should be facing your palm and the rims facing forward.
3. GET COMFORTABLE
Inserting a menstrual cup is daunting for first-time users. This is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Take deep breaths and get comfortable as much as possible. Think about the benefits you get from using cups and how they outweigh the initial awkwardness. You’re saving a LOT of money, reducing plastic pollution, and making a healthier choice for your body!
4. INSERT the Cup:
With your thighs and vaginal muscles relaxed, gently separate the labia with your free hand and insert the cup rim-first into the opening. Ease the cup further in until the stem is no more than half an inch away from the labia.
Avoid pushing the cup too high or else you’ll have trouble removing it later on. It may also prevent the cup from sealing properly and cause leaks.
4. SEAL and Adjust the Cup:
Gripping the base of the period cup, rotate the cup a full 360 degrees in either direction. The cup should rotate easily if it is properly positioned. Make sure the cup is directly horizontal your tailbone to ensure proper sealing.
How to Fold the Menstrual Cup
The two most popular folds women use for inserting menstrual cups are the C-Fold (also called the U-Fold) and the Shell-Fold (or Punchdown-Fold).
The C-Fold or U-Fold is the most popular type of fold used by most women.
How to do:
The Shell Fold
The Shell-Fold or Punchdown-Fold creates the smallest areas of insertion. It’s good for smaller openings.
How to do:
How Long to Use a Menstrual Cup
Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours depending on your flow. For heavy flows, we recommend draining it every 6-8 hours to avoid leaking or overflowing. Some women find that emptying their cup twice a day works: once in the morning and again in the evening.
Although it’s perfectly fine to empty your cup 3 to 4 times a day, you should use your first few cycles with the cup to determine what suits your flow best.
How to Remove a Menstrual Cup
Using the same position that you used to insert the cup, you should be able to remove it easily as well. However, some cup users find it helpful to sit on a toilet with legs spread apart during the removal. This helps to make the process less messy in case of spillage so nothing goes to the floor.
Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups
According to one research, an average woman throws away as much as 300 pounds of disposable menstrual products in one lifetime. This is in addition to other wastes she builds up from discarding plastic bags, plastic straws, and disposable utensils.
But a menstrual cup is different. It can last for years without needing to be replaced. This means it reduces your waste and helps our planet become a better place for future generations.
Aside from the obvious green benefit, buying even just one period cup a year will let you save more than buying a box of tampons a month. A reusable cup is a very economical choice that’s friendly on the wallet and on the environment.
Menstrual cups are available in different shapes and sizes. This gives women more freedom to choose a type that feels comfortable and provides them the most protection. Just keep in mind that you may have to go through multiple brands and shapes to find your perfect cup.
This might be the biggest concern women think about. And rightly so. Your cup needs to be properly cleaned each time before insertion. This means your hands as well. Without this step you risk sending germs back into your body. If you don’t think you will have private access to a bathroom in-between cup changes it may be better to use an alternative product at that time.
Sometimes individual anatomy can make proper use of the cup difficult. For instance, if you have a dropped uterus or fibroids, the fit may not be comfortable. There are many different sized and shaped cups and it will just take some dedication and trial and error to find your perfect cup.
How to Clean a Menstrual Cup
Your vagina is a sacred place that must be kept clean for your overall wellness. That’s why maintaining your vagina’s normal pH levels is crucial to safeguard against infections, bad odors, and irritation.
CLEANING DURING YOUR CYCLE
1. The best practice to cleaning menstrual cups is to drain and wash them at least twice a day, or every 12 hours. For best care, you can drain it every 4-8 hours to keep your pH levels well-balanced.
2. When washing your cup, you can use a small amount of soap.
CAUTION: DO NOT USE anti-bacterial soap or any cleaning product that contains fragrances and oil in its ingredients.
3. To preserve the appearance of your cup, use cold water first to rinse it then followed by warm water to avoid stains and discoloration.
4. If you need to clean the cup in a public restroom, drain the menstrual fluid down a toilet and use a tissue or paper towel to wipe it clean. It is still safe to re-insert the cup afterwards as long as your hands and the materials used to wipe are clean.
Different menstrual cups will come with different instructions for proper care and cleaning. But if you’re using a silicone hygiene cup, the cleaning recommendations will remain the same.
CLEANING AFTER YOUR CYCLE
Medical-grade silicone is the most common material used to make menstrual cups today. This is due to its anti-allergenic properties, making them ideal for even sensitive skin.
It is recommended that menstrual cups be sterilized before and after your cycle. Here’s how you can do that:
1. Rinse your cup as you normally would.
2. Prepare a basin of boiling water and place the cup, taking care not to let it sink to the bottom to avoid melting.
Note: You can use a whisk or detachable strainer to keep the cup from sinking.
3. Let the cup remain in boiling water for 2-10 minutes to properly sterilize it.
4. Remove the cup and let it air-dry. You may also place it under sunlight (but not where it’s too hot since it could melt) to prevent discoloration.
In Case of Damage
Always replace your period cup if it gets damaged or burned to prevent health and safety problems. Silicone can easily melt under high heat so handle them with caution when sterilizing.
Boiling Vs. Using Anti-Bacterial Soap
The frequent use of anti-bacterial soap raises some concerns among doctors and researchers. Bacteria possess the ability to adapt and become more resistant to anything that tries to kill it (such as antibacterial soap). And products that contain active cleaning agents can lead to the evolution of stronger bacteria, or “superbugs”.
Furthermore, using anti-bacterial products may even eliminate the good bacteria that fight off illness and diseases. This is important to consider when sanitizing period cups since even the vagina should not be completely “bacteria-free”. Opt to boil instead of using anti-bac products to keep your vagina healthy and pH-balanced.
OTHER WAYS TO CLEAN THE CUP:
Using a Vinegar Wash
One option to naturally clean the cup is to use a vinegar wash. If you want to remove the metallic smell of blood, use a combination of one part water and one part vinegar. Let the cup soak for at least an hour in the solution.
For regular rinsing, however, you can use one part vinegar and nine parts clean water to rinse the cup and remove unwanted bacteria.
Using Water and Peroxide Solution
Some brands of period cups specifically warn against using peroxide for sterilizing silicone cups. Many women, however, find that using a solution of peroxide and water (1:1 ratio) does wonders for removing stains and funky smells.
Dangers of Using a Menstrual Cup
While the benefits of using a period cup are impressive, there are still some who debate its efficacy and safety. The important thing to remember is that all menstrual products, whether it be tampons, pads, or cups, come with their own set of dangers.
This is because you are dealing with a very sensitive and exposed part of your body: the vagina.
For menstrual cups, below are the possible dangers you should be aware of:
Extremely Sensitive Skin
The only way to find out if your vagina is too sensitive for menstrual cups is to try using one. Some women have reported bruising or tender areas after using a cup for a full cycle. However, these cases happened to women who used the cups and had sexual intercourse during their cycle.
It’s best to consult your gynecologist first before deciding to use a cup. This way, you are better advised on its safety and recommended usage.
A prolapse in your vaginal or pelvic area means that one or more of your organs have fallen out of their normal place. Health experts recommend that women with vaginal prolapse should not use menstrual cups (or even tampons). This is to avoid complications and discomfort from having a feminine hygiene product lodged inside the vagina.
If you have had a recent operation and your health care provider advises against using tampons, it’s best to also avoid menstrual cups. Furthermore, if you are using an IUD, you need to talk to your medical practitioner or gynecologist about using a period cup.
Most period cups sit low, near the vaginal opening. This should put some distance between the cup and the IUD. However, if the seal is not properly released during the period cup’s removal, there is a risk of dislodging the IUD. The IUD string may also be accidentally pulled. Consult with your gynecologist about trimming the string and regularly checking your IUD for changes in position.
Other Dangers from Using Cups:
Menstrual Cups vs. Tampons
Which contains more harmful chemicals?
Tampons are made from cotton and rayon fibers. Although rayon is made from cellulose, a natural fiber, the chemical procedures needed to produce rayon are known to cause health problems.
Some chemicals that are commonly found in tampons are carbon disulphide, sulphuric acid, caustic soda, and chlorine.
The main reason people get ill from tampons is because of the fibers that rub off from the product and attach to the vaginal walls. This, in turn, causes several problems such as:
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
- Bladder infection
- Vaginal infection; and
- Ovarian cancer
Since most menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone, they’re hypo-allergenic and do not shed toxic fibers and chemicals that harm the body.
Which is better for pH-balance?
Tampons absorb up to 65% of your menstrual fluid and 35% natural moisture. All this creates an imbalance in your vagina’s natural pH levels. The ingredients used to produce tampons can also lead to a change in pH levels.
Menstrual cups, however, won’t interfere with vagina’s natural environment.
Which is better for odor control?
The menstrual products you use can also affect the smell of period blood. As soon as you use a tampon, the process of oxidation starts and the development of bacteria causes a pungent odor.
Menstrual cups do not contain ingredients that cause unwanted smells, therefore making them better for managing period smells.
Keep in mind that other factors may also affect the smell of menstrual fluid such as changes in pH levels, infections, and even your vitamins.
Which is more cost efficient?
A box of tampons typically cost anywhere between $5 to $50, depending on quantity and absorbency. If money is tight, you can even buy individual pieces for $0.25.
Compared to menstrual cups that cost between $30-50, tampons may seem like the affordable choice. But menstrual cups are reusable and will take years to replace. And the best part is that you only need ONE cup for all your cycles.
With tampons, you may spend $20 on every cycle which adds up to almost $250 yearly. Obviously, that would make menstrual cups the more cost efficient option.