Are menstrual cups the new trend? Menstrual cups have existed since the 1930s, but the general population was slow to catch on. Since then, there have been several other produced from different substances ranging from rubber to silicone.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup, also known as a vaginal cup, is a sanitary device inserted in the vagina to collect period blood. Menstrual cups are usually made of soft medical-grade silicone, a thermoplastic isomer or latex. It is shaped like an inverted bell with a small handle or stem, which helps in insertion and removal. The menstrual cup rim seals the vaginal opening and prevents leakage. Unlike tampons and sanitary pads, it does not absorb the menstrual fluid but instead collects it.
The cup is removed every 4 to 8 hours, depending on the flow, emptied, rinsed and reinserted. A single cup can be used for up to 10 years. This reduces their long-term cost compared to disposable counterparts, though the initial cost of a menstrual cup is higher. It requires thorough cleaning once the period is over.
They are available both in colours and as transparent. Some companies have size options. Menstrual cups generate less solid waste overall. It is a safe alternative to other disposable options. The risk of toxic shock syndrome is equal to or less compared to other sanitary disposable products.
How do Menstrual Cups Work?
Some are disposable, but most are reusable. Menstrual cups are inverted bell-shaped and, when placed inside the vaginal cavity, fit and seal the opening like the diaphragm used for birth control. The blood then collects into it throughout the period. It can collect menstrual fluid over extended periods compared to tampons and pads.
To remove it, you pull the stem from the bottom and pinch the base to release the seal. Then you just empty, wash with soap and water and replace. You can sterilize your cup in boiling water at the end of your cycle.
How to Insert a Menstrual Cup?
Inserting a menstrual cup can be a bit tricky. Before your menstrual cycle starts, fold the menstrual cup and place similar to a tampon. With correct use, you shouldn’t feel it. It’s similar to putting a diaphragm or birth control ring in the vagina.
Your cup will open up and rest against the walls of your vagina. It forms a seal and prevents leaks. The blood then drips into the cup.
Is a Menstrual Cup Safer than a Tampon?
Overall the menstrual cup is considered safe than a tampon as it does not absorb normal vaginal secretions and fluid and does not alter the pH of the vagina. Menstrual cups prevent infections.
Moreover, tampons need changing every 4-8 hours to prevent toxic shock syndrome. In contrast, the chances of toxic shock syndrome are reduced with menstrual cups.
Some Tampons also use fragrances which can lead to allergies and skin irritation in some women.
How to Insert a Menstrual Cup for Beginners
Sanitize your Menstrual Cup
Before your first use, you’ll need to sanitize the menstrual cup after boiling it in water for five minutes, using tongs or a slotted spoon to make sure the cup doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan (this is how you’ll sanitize it after each cycle as well). Let it dry and cool before using.
Wash your Hands
Once your cup has been sanitized, wash your hands in warm water with non-toxic hand soap.
Fold your Menstrual Cup
There are three recommended menstrual cup folds for beginners. Here are the specific instructions for each fold.
C-Fold Menstrual Cup:
Fold your menstrual cup by flattening it and bending it in the middle, bringing the two ends together to create a C-shape.
Punch-Down Fold Menstrual Cup:
Use Your index finger to press down on the rim and collapse the menstrual cup. Pinch to hold into place.
7-Fold Menstrual Cup:
Fold the menstrual cup by squeezing the cup to flatten it. Once flattened, fold the top right corner of the rim down and across the opposite side of the cup’s body, creating a 7-shape.
Get Into a Comfortable Position
Try sitting or squatting on the toilet with one leg raised. If you’ve used a tampon before, I suggest getting into the same position you do when you insert one.
Insert Your Menstrual Cup
Once your menstrual cup is folded and in a comfortable position, use one hand to separate your labia gently and the other to insert your cup slowly, rim-first, into your vagina. Slide it up and back at a 45-degree angle (towards your tailbone, not straight upward) until the body of the cup is entirely inside of your vagina, with the stem of the cup within approximately 1/2 inch of your vaginal opening (this will differ person to person, depending on the position of your cervix). The cup should sit lower than a tampon, with the rim right below or around your cervix.
Secure Your Menstrual Cup
Once inserted, give the stem a very gentle tug to ensure your cup is properly in place and has formed a suction-like seal around the walls of your vagina. You should feel some resistance as you softly pull down. You can also double-check to ensure your menstrual cup is fully opened by running a finger around the cup’s body. If you feel any folds, use the stem to gently rotate the cup until it opens completely, creating a seal.
Confused about the Menstrual Cup?
Chances are if you’re reading this, then you’re somewhat familiar with the concept of a menstrual cup but still have some questions you need answering before you make the leap (How do I choose it? Fold it? Insert it? etc.)
Trust me, and I was once in your shoes, which is exactly why I created this guide on what is the correct way to insert a menstrual cup for beginners.
Because while it can be super intimidating to start using a menstrual cup, once you make the switch, I can almost guarantee you’ll never go back to tampons again.
Not only are they much less expensive (think $30 once every ten years vs. $15 a month), but they’re free of toxins found in conventional period products, including aluminum, alcohol, fragrance and bleach that lead to cramping, painful periods, and hormone imbalances like endometriosis.
Add on the fact that they also help cut down on environmental waste and are extremely low maintenance (change once every 12 hours), and it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
But before you start using your menstrual cup, some key tips will make insertion as a beginner so much easier, optimizing your menstrual cup experience as a result. Read below for more!
Pro-Tip: Need help to select a menstrual cup perfect for your needs, size, flow, etc.? See this guide featuring a roundup of the best menstrual cups for beginners.
How to Remove a Menstrual Cup?
Follow the steps below to take out the menstrual cup:
- Rinse your hands.
- Place your finger and thumb into the vagina. Pull the stem of the vaginal cup gently until you can reach the base.
- Pinch the bottom of the cup, and the seal will be released, and the cup can be pulled out easily.
- Empty the cup into the toilet or sink once it is out.
- Rinse and replace it.
How Do I Know When my Menstrual Cup is Full?
The menstrual cup for a period can be worn for 8 to 12 hours, depending on the flow of the period. It can give you overnight protection.
Always remove your cup by the 12th-hour mark. It can even be emptied earlier if you feel it has become full.
Signs when your cup is full
- A “heavy” feeling. Your pelvic muscles feel tired after holding a full cup.
- A bubbling sensation. Cups that are about to overflow can create a sense of bubbles.
- Light warning leaks. If the cup is at capacity, you may see signs at your next toilet visit.
- A slipping cup. If the cup fits fine earlier and is now slipping, it might signify it’s full.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Menstrual Cup?
Advantages of Menstrual Cup
It is eco-friendly. These can last up to 10 years, meaning less waste and cheapness compared to disposable alternatives. It is a one-time investment. These benefits of menstrual cups do not apply to disposable options, though.
It can be used for a longer time duration. Depending on your flow, you must change tampons every 4 to 8 hours. But period cups can stay in longer, so they’re suitable for overnight use. And once you know how to insert it, wearing a backup liner is no longer necessary.
It holds more significant amounts of fluid. A vaginal cup can have 1 ounce of liquid, roughly double the amount of a super-absorbent pad or tampon. More comfortable on heavy flow days.
Have mess-free sex. You must remove most of your menstrual cups if you please to have sex. But the disposable, soft ones are designed with sexual activity in mind. They look like a diaphragm; the shape is like a bell or like a dome (not like the usual bell). Your partner can’t feel them and is mess-free.
Medical use: It can help keep track of the amount of fluid produced each period for medical reasons. It is more accurate.
There’s less odor. Exposure of menstrual blood to air makes it smell. But your cup forms an airtight seal.
Disadvantages of Menstrual Cup
Finding the right size is challenging. Cups come in different fits depending on your flow, age, and whether you’ve had a child. Finding the exact fit can be difficult, especially if you have a low cervix or tilted uterus. The trial and error method will help you out eventually.
Removal can get messy or embarrassing initially. Removing the cup can be messy and tricky, even if you easily insert it. In a sitting position, you need to use pelvic floor muscles to squeeze the cup down, then use your fingers to pull the stem out. Pinching the base breaks the seal, and then angle the cup slightly to keep it from spilling.
In public areas, remember you will have to rinse the cup in the restroom sink. (you can bring a bottle of water in with you and rinse it out, then wipe it with toilet paper.)
It can interfere if you have an IUD. It is better to avoid using it with an intrauterine device (IUD) in place, as there is a chance it could pull on the IUD string or dislodge it. But a 2012 study found no evidence of this. Still, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before combining the two.
Tampons vs. Menstrual Cup
She was wearing sanitary pads and tampons, limiting activities for women, like swimming and dancing. This risk of leakage was initially reduced by tampons and improved by using menstrual cups. Though tampons are suitable for leakage prevention and physical activity, menstrual cups lessen the waste produced by tampons comparatively.
In the comparison of Tampons vs. Menstrual cups, declaring one is tricky as nothing is perfect. Everything has Pros and Cons. A product that is suitable for one may be better for the other.
Advantages of tampons:
- They are disposable. These products are inserted in the vagina to soak the menstrual fluid.
- Allow Physical activity. Compared to sanitary napkins, tampons allow a better range of movement and do not cause uncomfortably.
- Tampons do not interfere with IUDs. The chances of tampons interfering with the IUD are comparatively less compared to IUD.
Disadvantages/ Side effects of tampons:
- Tampons can disrupt the pH of the Vagina. Tampons absorb the menstrual fluid along with the moisture in the vagina, disturbing the pH balance.
- Tampons may irritate the skin. Multiple tampons come with artificial fragrances and can irritate skin or cause rashes.
- Need to be changed after 4-8 hours. To avoid Toxic shock syndrome, tampons need to be changed every 4-8 hours.
Advantages of Menstrual cups:
- Does not disrupt vaginal pH. It does not interfere with the vaginal pH and, in turn, does not cause rashes and skin irritation.
- Has a life of at least ten years. It can last up to 10 years with proper use. This makes it cheaper to disposable products.
- Holds for 10 -12 hours. It does not need continuous emptying. It can keep menstrual blood for up to 10 -12 hours.
- Better sleep and lifestyle. You do not even feel that you are wearing it; thus, it does not interfere with everyday life activities and sleeps.
Disadvantages / Side effects of Menstrual cups:
- Not very convenient if you do not have access to clean washrooms: It may only be suitable if you have access to clean restrooms as it needs rinsing and handling.
- Uncomfortable while emptying it: Not everyone can be comfortable seeing blood.
- Yeast or bacterial infections: rare with menstrual cups but can occur if vaginal pH changes.
- Latex Allergy: Some women can be allergic to latex menstrual cups
Vaginal irritation: It may cause vaginal irritation in some females if used without a lubricant.
- Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but serious danger with menstrual cups if you do not properly sterilize them.
How to Clean a Menstrual Cup?
Over recent years menstrual cups have increased in popularity. People consider them as a more eco-friendly period product as they are reusable. But, if you are using a menstrual cup or considering using it for the first time, you must educate yourself on how to clean it to limit the risk of infections and other health complications.
It would help if you cleaned your cup each day once you started using it – before and after use.
Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup (at home)
- Remove your cup and empty the blood down the toilet.
- Wash your cup in the sink using gentle soap and warm water.
- Use a block of soap or washes with a similar pH level to your vagina, as the normal vaginal pH range is between 3.8 and 5.0 (moderately acidic).
- The vagina is self-cleaning. Heavily scented and alkaline washes and soaps can agitate your microbiome and lead to infections.
- When shopping for your menstrual cup wash, you should buy mild soaps that are fragrance-free, oil-free, and comprised of natural ingredients.
- Hot water is ideal if you have access to it, but if not, you can also use fragrance-free body-safe wipes to clean it.
Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup (away from home)
Now, the question arises: How do I wash my menstrual cup in a public bathroom?
- First, find a public toilet where the sink and toilet are located in the same place.
- Clean your cup with water.
- If you cannot find any such place, empty the cup’s contents, and before reinserting it, wipe it with some toilet paper properly.
- Remove any bits of tissue and ensure the cup is completely clean.
- Reinsert the cup and continue the rest of your day with ease.
- In an ideal situation, you should clean your cup before leaving the house and remove it when you return home.
Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup (while travelling)
Just imagine you’re about to cherish a few days while camping in a tent with your friends or family, and you’re excited, except you get your period at the last minute.
This might cause stress since you will be at a place where it is difficult to find out clean water supply for cleaning insertable products.
Well, there is no need to panic, as you have the following options to ensure you can still have a comfortable and hygienic period.
- Bring bottled water with you for rinsing your cup.
- Pack an oil-free, unscented soap, many of which come in mini sizes that are perfect for travelling.
- When camping or hiking, if you have no other options, you can pour blood down a hole in the ground, like any other waste. Then, rinse the cup with your bottled water and wipe it with a tissue before reinserting it.
- Take some storage pouches if you don’t need your cup for the trip. This allows it to remain clean while not in use. When not in use, you should be extra careful of the cup becoming contaminated with bacteria or dirt from the outdoors.
- If you are going on a trip with friends or loved ones, don’t be ashamed to tell someone about your worries. They might have tips to offer or be able to shield you while cleaning your cup. Don’t let a period prevent you from enjoying your trip.
FAQs about Menstrual Cup Answered by Your Doctors Online Team
Only some people who use a menstrual cup will experience getting or feeling ‘stuck,’ BUT it is super common and can happen even to the most experienced cup user. If you face this issue, relax, breathe, and don’t panic.
Following are a few reasons why this may have happened:
1. The cup might have dislocated from its position. Fix it at an oblique angle in the vagina.
2. The cup may have moved up towards the cervix due to body movements or suctions.
3. If the cup size is more significant than what is suitable for you, then the vacuum and suction might need to be stronger, which could make it challenging to pull the cup out.
Following are the reasons why menstrual are still not popular:
There is a lot of stigma and social and cultural “rules” that dictate women consider themselves dirty or wrong if they have to touch their blood or put their fingers in their vaginas.
It is costly to advertise to a national audience, making it harder to spread the word.
Pads and tampons are easier to use, cleaner, more comfortable, and more widely available than menstrual cups.
1. Emptying and cleaning menstrual cups is gross and can be highly embarrassing if you have to use a public bathroom.
2. Sterilizing cups is a lot of work. It’s hard to put them in, and removing them can be a nightmare.
3. You also have to find the right size for you, or they will keep falling out and leaking (they’re pretty expensive too, so if you’ve got the right size, it’s a good use of money).
Boil a pot of water, and keep the cup in the boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. Monitor the cup so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.