The Ultimate Guide to Menstrual Cups; Everything You Need To Know
Menstrual cups are such a buzz term right now. You'll read about them in magazines, see your favorite blogger talk about their experiences with one, and scroll through artsy images of them on Instagram. But what is a menstrual cup, and how does it really work? Is it really supposed to go up there? And why are people raving about it?
Never fear! Because below we have your most common questions about menstrual cups answered in a very simple way. We have all the menstrual cup information you would ever need, so you too, can chat about cups knowledgeably around the water cooler at work!
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a small ‘cup’ that you put into your vagina to collect your period blood. It is generally bell shaped, and will usually have a little stem, or ring on the base to help with inserting and removing.
The cup will collect your menstrual blood before it exits the body, unlike a sanitary pad. And unlike a tampon, it does not soak up your menstrual blood, which can cause vaginal dryness and discomfort.
When the cup is full, or whenever you have a shower, you can remove the cup carefully and tip the collected menstrual blood into the toilet or down the drain. Rinse it off, and then re-insert. You can leave your cup in for up to 10-12 hours (even while sleeping!), and if cleaned properly, your cup can last you for years!
How to Use a Menstrual Cup?
There are many different 'folds' to use when inserting your cup. The easiest would be to squeeze it so that the 'O' rim is squished into a 'C' shape. Then you carefully insert the menstrual cup into your vagina. Once the cup is inside, it will usually pop back into shape. You can use a finger to swirl it around to make sure it opens up.
The cup's rim will seal against the vaginal wall, just below the cervix. This is where the menstrual blood will be collected before it leaves your body. Every few hours, depending on your flow, the cup is pulled out, very carefully, emptied down the toilet or shower, rinsed off if possible, and then reinserted.
What Menstrual Cup is Best for Me?
We are so lucky to have so many different choices on the market. Many of them are reputable brands that usually come in at least 2 different sizes.
To find the right menstrual cup size for you, you will need to consider the following as a starting point:
- The length of your cervix (see How to Measure your Cervix?)
- If you have given birth vaginally
- If you have a light or heavy flow (see Best Menstrual Cup for Heavy Flow)
- Cup capacity
- Firmness and flexibility of the cup (see The Differences between Hard vs Soft Cups)
- Strength of your pelvic floor muscles
- Your age and/or how physically active you are
How to Insert your Menstrual Cup
If you have used tampons previously, you will find the menstrual cup relatively easy to use. Like with tampons however, it may take a few attempts before you find the easiest way for you and your body. Just follow these steps to use your menstrual cup.
- Always make sure your hands are clean
- Squeeze the cup with your thumb and forefinger. Your forefinger should fold or push down one side of the cup, with the rim up
- Insert the cup, rim up, and slowly wiggle it up just like with a tampon. It should sit a few inches below your cervix.
- Once the cup is in your vaginal, release the finger that was holding the cup so it will spring up, and create a seal to collect the blood.
If the cup fits, and has been inserted properly, then you shouldn’t be able to feel it in your body. You should be able to move around, go running on your period, do jumping jacks, go swimming comfortably, do yoga etc. without discomfort, and without it falling out or leaking.
When to Take your Menstrual Cup Out
Menstrual cups have been designed and are tested to be safe enough to wear for up to 12 hours at a time. This means you can even use a cup overnight, which was something not recommended for with tampons.
If you have a heavier flow, you should empty it more often, but you will find that a cup can actually hold a lot more than pads or tampons. Up to 8 times the amount of a super pad, or a super tampon!!
Because the menstrual cup can be so comfortable and convenient, the wearer might actually even forget that they have a cup inside! Various users have reported forgetting about their period and their menstrual cup and inadvertently leaving it in for longer than the recommended 12 hours. So far, it's been safe to do so, but of course, is not recommended.
How to Take your Menstrual Cup Out
- Again, always try to make sure your hands are washed and cleaned.
- Using your forefinger in your vagina, try to find the stem of the cup and use it to find the base of the cup. You might find this easier if you squat or 'bear' down using your kegels.
- Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch the base of the cup to break the seal from the rim, and gently wiggle it around, while pulling it out.
- Make sure you hold it upright while easing it out of your vagina, so the contents won't spill. Hold it up, and marvel at the contents of your body, before gently pouring it out into the toilet, sink, or shower.
How to Clean your Menstrual Cup
After emptying your menstrual cup, it is ideal to give the cup a rinse before inserting again. If you're in the shower or private bathroom, you can rinse it under the tap, making sure there's no residue in the rim of the cup or in the air holes.
If you are outdoors, or in a public bathroom, you might want to bring a small bottle of water with you to rinse it off. Alternatively, if you don't have water with you, then you could pee on the cup to sterilize it. A little gross, we know. But it's your own body!
Your menstrual cup should be emptied at least twice a day, and at least rinsed properly once a day. If kept clean, your menstrual cup can last up to 10 years.
What are the Advantages of using Menstrual Cups?
- Affordable; buy it once and it'll last for years
- Safer than tampons as there is no dryness in your vagina
- Less toxic; no pesticides, dioxins, or harmful bleaches that can be found in pads and tampons
- Eco-friendly, less waste than tampons and pads
- Discreet and no smells
- More convenient and safe to use up to 12 hours at a time, which means putting it in and forgetting about it. Even when sleeping!
- Less messy; once you've got the hang of it, it's just tipping it out and rinsing. Even easier in the shower! No wrapping bloody tampons and pads and storing them in the bin.
There are so many Benefits of a Menstrual Cup. If most women switched, we would have less single use waste in our world. (Next step is removing those pesky straws!) There are also a few menstrual cup brands that have a great initiative where if you purchase one of their cups, they will also give a cup to a less fortunate girl who doesn't have access to clean feminine hygiene products. Win-win!
What are the Disadvantages of using Menstrual Cups?
- Can be messy the first few times you learn how to use it
- May be difficult to insert or remove
- May be difficult to find the right menstrual cup for your body
- May cause an allergic reaction
- May cause vaginal irritation
For more information on how to fix these problems, click here!
How Much does a Menstrual Cup Cost?
There are many menstrual cups to choose from, but generally they range from $20 to $40 per cup. They are an initial investment, but with proper care, you could reuse your menstrual cup for up to 10 years.
Considering tampons and pads are disposable, and you will need to use several a day during your period cycle, you could be spending up to $150 a year on these products.
Sign Me Up!
So now you know the benefits of switching to a menstrual cup; from the financial, to the environmental, and of course, for your body. You're ready to try out a menstrual cup for yourself, but there's just so many to choose from! Don't worry, as we've actually got you covered. We have checked out the best menstrual cups for you whether you have a heavy flow, low cervix, or even if you plan on using a cup with your IUD! Here's a few posts to get your started!
Let us know what you think about menstrual cups, and comment below!