It would seem that menstrual cups are a recent fad – a new product that’s only just making its way from crunchy, alternate users into mainstream use.
While the use of menstrual cups may seem new, they have actually been around since the 1930s, about as long as the tampon.
I guess the fact that it’s reusable and lasts up to 10 years is not as good a business model as a disposable product you can only wear for a few hours and need to keep buying month after month.
You can almost imagine the suits rubbing their hands and saying keep spending ladies.
But are reusable sanitary products sending us back to the dark ages of rags, bad hygiene and the sacrifice of two pigeons? Or are menstrual cups an innovative and better way of dealing with your monthly menses?
Made from a soft medical grade silicone, menstrual cups are very modern, clean, convenient and a far cry from washing rags. While it can be hard to get your mind around the ick-factor of dealing with your period on a more intimate level, you may find yourself never going back to the costly (both to the budget and the environment) disposable product.
According to a study on the use of menstrual cups, published in the Canadian Family Physician Journal, 91% of women who tried a cup would continue to use the cup and recommend it to others.
And the reason an overwhelming majority of those who try a cup prefer it is because of it’s many benefits over its disposable sisters. I covered all the benefits in my last article on menstrual cups, so I won’t repeat them again here, but check out the article if the whole concept of a menstrual cup is totally new to you or you’re on the fence about trying one.
Like anything new, it can take some time and practice before you’re a Master Jedi cup user. Here are some tips that will help you become a pro in no time.
- I use and prefer the award-winning Mooncup*, but there are lots of different brands on the market. Just as we are all different sizes and shapes, so are the different brands of cup, so if one doesn’t work for you, a different brand might. The best way to find the right one is trial and error. Juju is Australian. DivaCup is another popular brand.
- Having said that, your cervix height can help determine which brand of cup is right for you. (Juju has different sizes depending on cervix height). Your cervix moves during your cycle, but generally speaking, if you have a high cervix (hard to reach or cannot be reached at all), a longer cup is best for you. If you have a low cervix (sits just inside your vagina about an inch or so), a shorter cup may be best. If you have an average cervix, most menstrual cups are good to use. Check out this article on finding your cervix height.
- Most brands of cup come in two sizes – check the sizing chart on your chosen cup’s website and get the size that’s right for you.
- Like anything new, it might take a bit of time to get used to using a cup. Remember the first time you used tampons? It took time and practice before using them became second nature. Don’t give up on the cup too soon.
- Cups come with a stem for easy removal and the most important thing when first using your cup is to keep trimming the stem until you can’t feel it anymore and the cup is comfortable. You should not be able to feel the stem rubbing or poking into you in any way. If you can, you need to trim the stem it further. Keep trying it and trimming the stem until it feels right. I ended up cutting off the stem altogether – that’s just what ended up working best for me. Unlike a tampon, the cup is meant to be worn low in the vagina.
- One of the main objections to using a menstrual cup is the idea of changing/emptying it in a public toilet. However, because the cup can be used for up to 8 – 12 hours, it’s unlikely you’ll have to change it in a public place unless you have very heavy periods.
- In the case you do have to empty your cup while out and about, you don’t need to wash it. You can simply wipe it with a bit of loo paper and reinsert and wash your cup next time when you get home. Just make sure to clean your hands before and after emptying your cup (that goes at home as well and of course, using a tampon). If you like, you can take a bottle of water into the toilet to rinse your cup or use fragrance-free hand wipes, but a quick wipe with loo paper is sufficient.
- To clean during use, rinse in warm water and wash with a fragrance-free, oil-free soap, then rinse the soap off thoroughly. Warm water is best because it’s way more comfortable than reinserting a cold cup.
- Between uses, sterilize your cup. You can boil it for 3-5 minutes or you can use the sterilizing tablets you buy in the supermarket for baby bottles. Rinse well after sterilizing and store dry in your cotton storage bag.
- If your cup becomes discoloured, you can clean it with bicarb soda if you wish. Just wipe over with a damp cloth or soft brush.
- At home, it’s convenient and easy to change your cup during your morning or evening shower.
- When it comes to inserting for the first time, it may be easier to rinse it first so it’s not going in dry. Relax your muscles, fold the cup up to fit, try different positions and remember, once you’re used to it, it will be as easy as using a tampon.
- Check out this video on 9 ways to fold your cup. Don’t over-complicate it though, choose one fold that works best for you.
- Once inserted, make sure the cup has completely opened. You should feel a slight ‘pop’ as it opens up. You can check by giving the cup a small twist or squeeze to squeeze the fold open, or you can run your finger around it to ensure it has created a seal.
- To remove, give it a ‘push’ if you need to, squeeze the base to break the seal and then gently pull. What feels weird to start with becomes super easy with practice.
- The cup is meant to create a seal to stop leakage. You need to break that seal before removing, otherwise, it’s not going to be comfortable. It can be easier to remove by squeezing the bottom to break the seal and then remove the cup semi-squashed.
- For a backup, these period-proof underpants are a great, low waste option.
- If your cup leaks it could be because it’s inserted too high up, it’s full, you have a retroverted uterus or your cervix has moved. If you’re nervous about leakage, use with a pad until you’re confident using your cup and you’ve got it in the right position for your body shape.
- If you have medical reasons not to use tampons, seek the advice of a gynaecologist before using a cup. Other reasons why a cup might not be right for you is if you have prolapses or fibroids or use an IUD or Nuvaring. Check with your gynaecologist first.
It’s normal to dismiss something new and different, especially when it comes to dealing with our bodily fluids. But the many benefits of using a cup make it worthwhile to give it a go.
What are your tips and tricks for using a menstrual cup?
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Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.