What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is an alternative to pads and tampons that’s eco-friendly and cost effective. Menstrual cups might seem to be a hot new trend, but they’ve actually been around since the 1930s. It’s only recently that they’ve started to catch on in the United States. What exactly is a menstrual cup?
Menstrual cups are small and usually bell-shaped, made from silicone or latex. Some menstrual cups are disposable, but most of them are designed to be reused.
They’re inserted into the vagina to catch and collect menstrual flow. They don’t absorb blood like pads, tampons or sponges.
How to Use It?
While the cup might look larger than you expected when you first see it in person, it’s easy to insert because you fold the cup to make it smaller. Then, insert it just like you would an applicator-less tampon. Once it’s inside you, the cup unfolds and creates a natural seal with the walls of the vagina that protects against leaks. Blood flows into the cup and stays there until you remove it. The menstrual cup is held in place with gentle suction, so you don’t have to worry— it won’t fall out!
To remove the cup, you have to give the “bell” section a squeeze to release the suction that’s holding the cup in place. Then pull on the stem at the bottom to remove the cup (kind of like pulling on a tampon string). Empty the collected menstrual fluid, rinse out the cup and reinsert.
You can sterilize your cup in boiling water before you put it away at the end of your cycle.
Are They Comfortable?
You’ll know your cup is correctly inserted when you can’t feel it, just like with a tampon. You can usually trim the stem on the menstrual cup to make sure it’s at a comfortable length for you.
Some women say that menstrual cups help cut down on the severity of menstrual cramps. Additionally, they’re smooth, and they don’t dry out the vaginal tissues like tampons can. And of course, there’s no chafing like you can get with pads.
Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups
They’re good for your wallet and the environment. Reusable cups can last up to ten years. That’s right. You only have to buy one, and you potentially will never have to buy another feminine hygiene product again for another ten years. Ca-ching! That also means less disposable feminine hygiene products clogging up landfills.
They can stay in for up to 12 hours. Cups are perfect for overnight protection because they hold more menstrual fluid than a tampon can absorb. Most cups hold about 1 ounce of blood. That’s two times more than a super tampon or pad.
They can be worn during sex. This pro applies to the soft, disposable menstrual cups. The silicone and latex cups typically need to be taken out before sex. But the disposables are often made specifically with period sex in mind. Yippee!
They keep you, fresher. Menstrual cups form an airtight seal in your vagina. This keeps menstrual fluid from being exposed to air. When menstrual blood is exposed to the air, odors can start to develop. Menstrual cups stop that from happening.
They’re safe. Menstrual cups don’t absorb blood like tampons, and the airtight seal helps cut down on bacteria growth. Because of that, they have a much lower risk of toxic shock syndrome and infections compared to tampons.
It takes a little practice. Getting the seal just right can take a few tries. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. Taking it out also takes finesse. It’s better to try removing it the first time at home when you’re not rushed, as opposed to in the bathroom at school or work. Additionally, they can be a little messy because the blood can spill out of the cup when you take it out.
It can take planning. Ideally, you’d rinse off your menstrual cup in a sink after you empty it out. But if you’re in a public restroom, that’s not going to be easy to do. One option is to take a wet paper towel into the bathroom to wipe the cup off with. You can also take in a bottle of water to help with rinsing.
It can take time to find the right one. There are different shapes and sizes of cups. The size that’ll work for you depends on your age and whether you’ve given birth. Even the position of your cervix can make a difference when it comes to finding a comfortable fit with a tight seal.
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 if you have an IUD, it makes sense to get the okay from your doctor before using a menstrual cup.
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 here.
Have more questions?
We 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 our Best Cup for Your Cervix Position (Low/High) page.
- FAQS – You can search your question on our main FAQS page, but here are the main categories:
- Our Forums – Have you visited our new forum yet? Come on in and join the conversation!
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