Why have you never heard about menstrual cups?I was oblivious to the fact that menstrual cups actually existed until one of my friends on a mission actually convinced me to give it a go. While researching menstrual cups I noticed there was no guide online that covered them and their benefits in great detail. As a now devout user, I have created the guide I would have wanted to read while when I first discovered menstrual cups and I hope that it helps you too. Although menstrual cups may appear to be a new invention, they were actually patented in 1932 by a group of midwives (around the same time as commercial tampons were introduced). So why do you hear so little about them? Well, it all comes down to funding. Pads and tampons are an ongoing cost that guarantee the manufacture repeated purchases. Guaranteed purchases equals guaranteed profits and these profits are HUGE (The tampon and pad industry is worth over $700 million in the US alone). The profits are then partially used by the manufacturers to fund monstrous advertising campaigns to promote more buying.
Image via leslolos.comSince menstrual cups are a one off purchase that can last up to 10 years, the manufacturers do not see the same level of profit and as a result are unable to help raise awareness. To be fair, if you were a retailer, which would you stock on your shelf out of the following?
What is a menstrual cup?A menstrual cup is an eco-friendly alternative to your typical type of feminine hygiene product (like tampons, pads and liners) constructed of a flexible material. It is inserted inside the vagina during menstruation to catch blood. The menstrual cup gets it’s name from how it collects blood. Rather than being absorbed into the feminine hygiene product (like a tampon or pad) the blood pools inside a cup and is collected until the menstrual cup is removed and emptied. Unlike tampons and pads, menstrual cups are reusable.
If you have not heard of the term MENSTRUAL CUP before then you may have heard of by one of it’s other names:
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a menstrual cup?It is amazing that menstrual cups are not more commonly used given that they have so many benefits. These benefits include convenience, health, cost and environmental. Lets look at each of these benefits in greater detail. If you are new to menstrual cups then you will definitely be surprised at all the positives.
Convenience BenefitsLonger wear – A menstrual cup can be worn up to 2 – 3 times longer than a tampon. This means that menstrual cups are great for overnight use or those times when you don’t have ready access to a bathroom. No strings attached – Literally, menstrual cups have no strings or wings making them the perfect menstrual solution for women who lead physically active lifestyles. Running? Swimming? Yoga? Enjoy them all in comfort. Travel light – Menstrual cups are perfect for holidays and road trips as you do not need to worry about buying or disposing of products. If you enjoy hiking, camping or travelling a menstrual cup should be your feminine hygiene product of choice. Absorb more – Menstrual cups are capable of holding up to an ounce of liquid, that’s five times as much liquid than a tampon can hold. Lady’s with a heavy flow rejoice! A friend of mine recently converted to menstrual cups has a heavy flow. Previously she used BOTH a tampon AND pad because her tampon would always leak. She now only uses a menstrual cup without leaks. Focus on your job – Menstrual cups allow you to focus on your job. Are you deployed? A firefighter? No need to pack the pads and tampons. A single menstrual cup will do.
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Health BenefitsNothing harmful – Unlike other feminine hygiene products, menstrual cups contain no harmful substances.
Cost BenefitsThe average woman spends approximately $120 a year or on pads, tampons and liners. This works out to be approximately a whopping $5600 over your lifetime. While many women consider tampons and pads a necessary monthly expense, buying these products can still be a major struggle for low income households. Menstrual cups are a one time purchase that saves big in the long run. A menstrual cup is a one off cost that will last many years if properly cared for. Now you can skip the tampon and pad section at the grocery store!
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Environmental BenefitsLets say that you are on your period. If you were to use 5 disposable feminine hygiene products a day for 5 days you will use 300 disposable pads or tampons across a year. This grows to over 10,000 disposable products across your lifetime! Seriously, if you were to line up that many tampons they would end up to be twice as tall as the empire state building. That’s a LOT of waste. Menstrual cups will help to reduce landfill because they are reusable and last for many years if you care for them properly. Using a menstrual cup means being more environmentally friendly and makes for a greener period (although, if you ACTUALLY have a green period, you should definitely see your doctor).
But There Are Disadvantages…After reading all those benefits menstrual cups sound too good to be true, don’t they? I’ll be honest with you; despite all the benefits, there are some disadvantages to menstrual cups. This guide is designed to inform you about every possible aspect of menstrual cups. While I do want to convert you, I want you to be sure they are right for you. Menstrual cup disadvantages include: Learning curve – Unlike other feminine hygiene products, practice is required to perfect the technique of inserting and removing the menstrual cup. More mess – While using menstrual cups you will be washing your hands more than usual. Particularly when you are just learning how to correctly use a menstrual cup. Difficult if young If you are a younger girl who is yet to have intercourse then you may find inserting a menstrual cup difficult. A menstrual cup can also break the hymen, which is used as the evidence of virginity in some cultures. This can discourage young women who have been brought up in those cultures from using menstrual cups. Fit problems – Menstrual cups will not fit everyone. If you have fibroids (benign tumors that develop on the walls of the uterus) or a dropped uterus (the uterus sags into the vagina itself) then you may find a menstrual cup will not fit correctly. Maintenance – After each cycle it is recommended that you sterilize the menstrual cup before storing it away. While a minor inconvenience, it is still a step that is not required with pads or tampons. So as you can see, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Despite this, menstrual cups are not for everyone.
The Anatomy of a Menstrual CupAs you can see, the design of a menstrual cup is quite basic. Despite numerous brands being available, the vast majority resemble the bell like shape above. The only real exception to this look are disposable menstrual cups, which closely resemble a contraceptive diaphragm .
How to choose the right menstrual cup for your bodyUnlike tampons and pads, menstrual cups are a bit more difficult to fit. It may take you a few cups before you find the perfect one for you. Below are all the things to consider when choosing a menstrual cup. It’s not a perfect science but by taking the following into consideration you will be able to make an educated guess. Chances are you will love your new menstrual cup!
What is your age and have you given birth?The majority of menstrual cup brands come in two different sizes. Manufacturers recommend that women under the age of 30 who have never given birth vaginally should choose a smaller size menstrual cup. On the flipside women over 30 or who have had a vaginal birth should wear the larger size. How does age affect the required menstrual cup size? As you age your hips will naturally widen. With this widening your vaginal muscles will lose some of their elasticity. As a result a larger menstrual cup is recommended. This is just a general rule Every woman is different. For instance, some woman are over 30, have children but still have incredibly strong pelvic floor muscles due to being very physically active. If this is you then you may still feel more comfortable with a smaller cup. You will be able to make the best decision if you know your own body and use that information alongside manufacturers suggestions.
How high does your cervix sit?Did you know that the position of your cervix rises and falls according to your menstrual cycle? Knowing where your cervix sits during menstruation can also play a role in determining the right menstrual cup for you.
How heavy is your flow?Despite many women believing that they have a heavy flow this simply isn’t the reality. Studies have shown that the average woman’s flow is only moderate. So what is moderate? 1 – 4 oz of menstrual blood (2 – 8 tablespoons if you are having a hard time picturing it in your head) over then course of the entire period. The average sized menstrual cup is designed to satisfactorily cope with the average flow. If you do have a heavy flow then you should choose a cup with a higher capacity. A menstrual cup with a higher capacity will need to be emptied less frequently. When in doubt of your flow it is always best to overestimate. This way you will not be changing your menstrual cup too often.
Menstrual Cup Buyers GuideNow you know what a menstrual cup is. Check. You know how to measure your body for a suitable cup. Check. Okay, now for the final step before you buy. It’s time to take a look some questions you should ask when comparing one menstrual cup to another.
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What material is the menstrual cup made of?By and large, reusable menstrual cups are made from one of three different materials:
Does the menstrual cup have a stem?Some menstrual cups have a stem or handle on the base. The stem is designed to assist with inserting and removing the menstrual cup.
There are numerous types of stems used on menstrual cups including:
How firm is the menstrual cup?Certain brands of menstrual cups are firmer than others and can vary according to the size of the cup itself. A firmer menstrual cup will pop open after being inserted easier than a softer cup. A firmer cup may press tighter against the vaginal wall which can result in a tighter seal which in turn prevents leaking. The downside is that some women find a firmer menstrual cup less comfortable to wear than a softer cup. That said, aside from effectivity, also take into consideration how comfortable you are with the menstrual cup you are using. If it feels too tight in your vaginal canal, you might want to consider getting a softer cup that can still do the job effectively.
What color is the menstrual cup?While looking around you may have noticed that menstrual cups come in either a colored (made from food safe grade dye) or clear silicon option. What you may not have realized is that the color serves a greater purpose than just looking pretty. As you are no doubt aware, blood is great at staining anything it touches. Since menstrual cups constantly come into contact with blood they will eventually start to stain. Clear menstrual cups tend to lose their initial appearance faster than the colored variety and get yellowish stains. While the shade of colored cups may change over time, stains are not as noticeable; particularly on darker colored cups like blue or purple. Stains do not affect the performance and should not be used as an indicator of whether a menstrual cup is clean or not. If you really like a particular colored menstrual cup over the others then just go with it!
Does the menstrual cup have measuring lines?Some brands of menstrual cups have measuring lines on the side of them (similar to a measuring cup you would use when cooking). These markers are useful in determining exactly how much menstrual fluid is collected over a period of time or if you want to know how heavy your menstrual flow is. Not all menstrual cups have measurements so if this is a feature that appeals to you then be sure to shop around.
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Does the menstrual cup contain suction holes?You may have noticed that some menstrual cups contain tiny little holes just below the rim. These holes allow air to flow inside the cup, preventing a vacuum like seal from forming. Essentially, these holes allow the menstrual cup to be removed easier than a cup that does not feature them. While these holes are a benefit, they can get dried blood stuck in them if you do not properly rinse your menstrual cup. This isn’t the biggest issue as you can easily remove it with toothbrush bristles. The larger the suction holes on the menstrual cup, the easier they will be to clean.
Is the menstrual cup ribbed?You may notice that some menstrual cups feature ribs or a textured surface towards the base of the cup. No, it is not ribbed for your pleasure (there isn’t that much pleasurable about a period), the textured section allows you to better grip your menstrual cup when inserting and removing it. These textured areas are particularly handy if you have removed the stem or handle from your cup.
Does the menstrual cup have FDA approval?The sales of menstrual cups is strictly regulated by government health agencies. It is vital that you check that the particular brand has approval from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to buying . Brand name menstrual cups will all have FDA approval however there have been reports of rogue importers selling low quality menstrual cups from china at a cheap price. This object is going to be sitting in your vagina on a monthly basis. You do not want to run the risk of infection or other health conditions for the sake of saving a few dollars.
The Best Menstrual CupsNow that you know what to look for when comparing cups its time to review some of the most best menstrual cups available. These cups are the favorites of women the world over. Lets take a look at what makes them so great. Remember, your vagina is unique. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. You may have to try a few different types of menstrual cups before you find the perfect one for you.
Most Popular Menstrual Cup
Size 1 (small)For pre-childbirth and under the age of 30.
If you have birthed a child or are over the age of 30.
Best Smaller Sized Menstrual Cup
Model 1For light to normal flow.
For normal to heavy flow
Best Rubber Menstrual Cup
Size AFor women who have given birth
For women who have not given birth
Best disposable menstrual cup
Menstrual Cup Users GuideThis section covers everything you need to know about how to use a menstrual cup; from inserting and removal to cleaning and maintenance. I even look at how you can get your head around using the menstrual cup for the first time. Use the below links to jump to your preferred section. If you are a menstrual cup beginner I strongly recommend reading through so you know exactly what to expect when it comes to using a menstrual cup.
- 1How to fold a menstrual cup
- 2How to insert a menstrual cup
- 3How to remove a menstrual cup
- 4How to clean your menstrual cup
- 5How to maintain and store your menstrual cup
Before You Use Your Menstrual Cup for the First TimeOkay, so you have purchased your brand new menstrual cup and are now cant wait to get started (or like me and looking for reasons not to start using it). Let’s take a look at some things you will need to overcome before you get started. The stare off – I know what you are thinking because I thought it too. How on earth is that thing going to fit in my hoo-ha? Yes, menstrual cups do look intimidating but when folded it is only just larger than a regular tampon. Your vagina is a magical place. If it can make room for a baby coming out it can definitely handles a squishy piece of silicon barely two inches in diameter. Reassuring words: You have already bought the thing, it would be silly to turn back now. At least give it a go! Take your time – You will need practice inserting a menstrual cup (and if you nail it first time then lucky you, you are much more coordinated than me). Using the correct folding technique and angling your body correctly are skills that you will soon perfect. It just takes time. This is a normal part of learning any new skill. Reassuring words: It’s like learning bike, you don’t just hop on and do it! You may leak – Even if you think you inserted the menstrual cup perfectly on your first it is worth wearing a disposable liner. After the first cycle or two and you are feeling confident then you can skip the liner. Reassuring words: It’s still like learning to ride a bike, you need training wheels before you are confident to ride on your own! Okay, stop trying to talk yourself out of it you big baby. Lets look at how you can fold menstrual cups to a less scary size.
How to Fold a Menstrual CupMy first thought when I saw the size of a menstrual cup is “how on earth is that thing going to fit into my hoo-ha?”. Yes menstrual cups do look intimidating but they fold down to a fraction of their size. Learning the folding technique that works best for you is a vital part of owning a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are folded up before “popping” into place after being inserted.
The C foldThe most basic and commonly used fold is the C fold. The C fold gets it’s name by the shape left when the fold is completed (it looks like the letter C. Or the Letter U, depending on how you hold it). This fold is commonly found in the instructions on menstrual cup packaging. It is also one of the thicker folds you could use.
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How you do it:
The punch-down foldThis fold is much easier to insert due because the width is decreased. So why doesn’t everyone use this fold? Depending on the menstrual cup you use, you may have difficulty with the menstrual cup popping open when inserted.
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How you do it:
The 7 FoldAnother fold that helps reduce the width of the menstrual cup. Try this fold if you are having trouble getting the punch-down fold to pop open with your brand of menstrual cup. The name comes from the shape of the rim resembling the number 7.
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How you do it:
The triangle foldThe triangle fold is a variation of the 7 fold above. While it will not work with all cups, it makes the fold slimmer again for easy insertion.
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How you do it:
The labia foldThe labia fold is aptly named because it resembles a labia (well it does on menstrual cups with a thinner rim. A thicker rim will distort the look somewhat but the fold will still work). This fold can be a little tricky to get the hang of and will require practice.
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How you do it:
Easily Insert a Menstrual CupDo not use OIL BASED or SILICON BASED lubricants to insert a menstrual cup. These ingredients in lubricant can actually break down and damage the silicon in your menstrual cup. If a lubricant is needed, use a water based one. The key to inserting any menstrual cup is relaxing. If you are tense then you will find it much more difficult to insert your cup. 1. Prepare – Wash your hands with soap and rinse your menstrual cup with water to remove any dust that may have accumulated. Do not use soap on the menstrual cup.2. Take your position – Get into a comfortable position:
Wearing Your Menstrual CupWhether or not you can feel the menstrual cup inside you will vary from woman to woman. Some women report not being able to feel it all unless they really focus while others declare that they can slightly feel it but it is in no way uncomfortable. If your menstrual cup causes discomfort try reinserting it using a different fold. It is possible that you are using the incorrect size and may need to try a different one. If discomfort persists it is best that you discontinue use. You can now wear your menstrual cup for up to 12 hours before you need to remove and empty it. By monitoring how full your cup is you will quickly learn how often it will need to be emptied. You will be pleased to know that you continue wearing your menstrual cup even when going to the toilet to urinate or empty your bowels.
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How to Easily Remove a Menstrual CupSo while you have been working, playing or simply hanging out and chilling; your menstrual cup has been busy collecting blood and will have to be emptied. Let’s take a look at the steps to take to easily remove your menstrual cup.
Emptying Your Menstrual CupSo you have removed your menstrual cup and it is now balancing precariously in your in you hand. The next step is emptying it. Simply empty the menstrual cup into the toilet or sink. Be careful not to pour the cup out from too high up or you risk the blood splattering everywhere. The lower the height you empty your cup from, the less chance of mess.
Cleaning Your Menstrual CupOnce your cup is empty you will need to clean it before you reinsert it. A menstrual cup should be washed at least twice a day ( a minimum of once every 12 hours, aligning with how often you need to empty it). Regularly washing your menstrual cup will prevent bad smells from occurring. Ignore what menstrual cup companies recommend; you do NOT need to use their specific brand of wash/tablets in order to effectively clean your cup. While there is nothing wrong with using these products, they work just as well as any mild soap but are generally more expensive.
There are five ways you can wash your menstrual cup
Do not use the following cleaners on your menstrual cup
Menstrual Cup Maintenance and Storagebefore you put your menstrual cup into storage it is important that you give your cup a good clean and sterilization. It is important that you follow your menstrual cups instructions regarding the sterilization process (some cups, such as the keeper are not recommended to be boiled). The most common way to sterilize your menstrual cup is in a pot of boiling water. Simply add water to a saucepan and bring to the boil before adding your cup. The boiling time varies from cup to cup so be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions. If your cup can be boiled, use a deep pot. This will allow your menstrual cup to float. Try to avoid your menstrual cup from touching the bottom of the pot as this will very likely result in your cup turning into a melted mess.
Image via rebelcircus.comOnce your menstrual cup is sterilized store it in a fabric drawstring bag. Many menstrual cups come with their own storage bag. If your menstrual cup did not come with a bag then they are fairly inexpensive to buy. With your menstrual cup tucked safely away you can now store it in a drawer or cabinet. Do not store your menstrual cup in an airtight container or plastic bag. You run the risk of mold growing if you use these storage options. You don’t want mold growing on anything that you are going to insert into your vagina! During the sterilization and storage process you should inspect your menstrual cup for signs of wear. While discoloration is normal, keep a look out for a thin white film on the surface of the cup or areas where the smooth surface has turned coarse. These features can cause vaginal irritation. If present it is best that you dispose of your menstrual cup and buy a new one. It is important that you correctly care for your menstrual cup. A properly cared for menstrual cup can last up to 10 years. Some women even report that with proper care they have had their menstrual cup for over 15 years and is still going strong.
Menstrual Cup FAQBelow I will answer commonly asked questions surrounding menstrual cups. If you have a question regarding menstrual cups not covered in this guide; ask it in the comments below and it may even be added to this section.
How long can you wear a menstrual cup for?menstrual cups can be worn for twice as long as tampons. Use the chart below to determine how long you would wear a menstrual cup vs. your tampon use.
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1 – 2 hours
2 – 4 hours
3 – 6 hours
6 – 8 hours
5 – 6 hours
10 – 12 hours