A menstrual cup is a menstrual product that can be a good alternative to those that are typically seen on the shelves such as disposable tampons and pads. Most menstrual cups are made of silicone; however, there are a few that are made of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) and a couple that are made of rubber. The material may differ but menstrual cups are reusable, making them cost-effective and eco-friendly.
If you think menstrual cups are a hot new trend, think again! The menstrual cup design that we see today was first patented in the 1930s by the American-born actress, inventor and author, Leona Chalmers.
Menstrual cups come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, their general shape is similar to a bell. They are worn internally under or around the cervix to collect the menstrual flow instead of absorbing it.
How to Use a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup may appear large at first, but it is folded into a smaller shape prior to its use. It is then inserted like a tampon without an applicator into the vaginal canal. The cup then unfolds and may create a slight seal just under or around the cervix. Menstrual flow collects into the cup and stays there until you remove and empty the contents. Most companies suggest emptying the menstrual cup at least every 12-hours or twice a day depending on how heavy your flow is.
To remove the menstrual cup, bear down with your pelvic floor muscles (PFM) and bring the cup closer to the vaginal opening. Use the stem to wiggle the cup down enough for you to reach the base. Once the base can be reached, pinch it to release the seal and wiggle the cup the rest of the way out. Dump the contents into the toilet or drain, rinse and reinsert as needed or store away for your next cycle. Click here for a complete guide on how to choose and use menstrual cups.
Are They Comfortable?
When a menstrual cup is the right size and shape for you and it is inserted correctly, it is undetectable and cannot be seen or felt.
A menstrual cup collects your flow instead of absorbing it, and it won’t interfere with the delicate pH and bacterial balance in your vagina. This also means that it’s less drying and may be more comfortable because it doesn’t absorb your body’s natural lubricants.
Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups
Cost-effective – Most companies state that their menstrual cup should last upwards to ten years with proper care. That’s right! You may only need to buy ONE menstrual cup for the next ten years! That’s a whopper of savings!
Eco-friendly – Because menstrual cups are reusable, there will be less disposable menstrual hygiene products rotting in landfills!
Can be worn for up to 12 hours – Menstrual cups normally hold more than a regular absorbency tampon or pad, so they need less attention throughout the day. Most companies state that you can use their menstrual cup for up to 12 hours depending on your flow before it needs to be removed, emptied, and rinsed. It can then be reinserted or stored for your next period.
These benefits make menstrual cups perfect for overnight protection, long days of work, or a full day of doing whatever your heart desires!
More comfortable – Tampons absorb everything, including your body’s own natural secretions. A menstrual cup collects your menstrual flow and doesn’t interfere with the delicate pH and bacterial balance or the natural lubricants in your vagina. No more cringe-worthy, painful, dry removal!
Odor-free – When blood comes into contact with air and allowed to dry, bacteria starts to grow and create an odor. Because menstrual cups collect the flow instead of absorbing it, blood is kept in a liquid state. When the cup is removed, the contents are emptied into the toilet or down the drain. The cup is then washed and reused or stored. No more stinky trash cans!
It takes a little practice – Like almost everything else we learn, it may take some practice. For some individuals, inserting, using, and removing the menstrual cup will come easy. For others, it may take a few cycles to get the hang of it.
It may seem messier – When you first start using a menstrual cup, it may seem a bit messier than removing a pad or tampon and tossing it into the trash. New users might need some practice keeping the cup upright until they’re ready to dump the contents into the toilet or down the drain. You may even find your fingers or hands covered in blood. As time goes on and you get more practice using a cup, you’ll find easier and less messy ways to insert and/or remove the cup.
It can take time to find the right one; menstrual cups are not “one size fits all”. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, which is pretty awesome because people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, too! Finding the right cup that will be both comfortable and right for your needs may take a bit of time but there are some things you can think about when trying to narrow down your selection.
Knowing the approximate height of your cervix can be a big help in finding your “Goldilocks” cup. Don’t know how? We can help! Locating & Measuring Your Cervix.
Public bathrooms – You got us there. Yes, it may be easier to just throw a disposable in the trash while using a public toilet. But, remember: most menstrual cups hold more than a regular absorbency tampon or pad, so you won’t need to deal with it nearly as much! If your flow is light enough, you might be able to use a cup all day until you get home. You can also seek one of the many higher-capacity cups on the market.
If you do find that the need to empty your cup in a public restroom, you can bring a water bottle with you, a wet wipe, or just grab a couple of paper towels provided in most bathrooms and wet them before you enter a stall for easy cleanup.
Initial cost – It’s true that a single menstrual cup will cost you more than a package of disposables – possibly more than even two or three packs. However, once you find the perfect cup, you won’t need to purchase another one for up to TEN years! Purchasing a 2-pack of cups containing a small and a large size cup may be beneficial. Not only does it normally cost a little less, but you get to try each size and see what feels the most comfortable to you! You never know, both sizes may come in handy on different days of your period.
But, no worries! We’ve built a really awesome menstrual cup size comparison tool to help match you up with your Goldilocks “just right” cup.
If you’re still not sure which cup to try, why not ask for help in our forums? Our community is always here to help.
It may cause issues with an IUD – If you have an IUD inserted, there’s some concern that the suction of the menstrual cup could pull the IUD out of place. One study found no evidence that this actually happens, but it makes sense to get the okay from your doctor before using a menstrual cup if you have an IUD.
Where Can You Find Them?
There are a few select brick-and-mortar stores that sell menstrual cups, but there’s a MUCH wider selection available online. If you want to get right to the goodies, check out our list of the top 10 menstrual cups.
Do You Have More Questions?
We’re sure you do. (You should have!) Here are some helpful sections on our website.
- Comparison tools: Check our menstrual cup size chart.
- Cup size & shape: Check out this article: Best Cup for Your Cervix Position (Low/High).
- FAQs: You can search your question on our main FAQs page, but here are the main categories:
- Our forums: Have you visited our new forums yet? Come on in and join the conversation!