Disclaimer: This post is written from my own personal experience while using a menstrual cup. Every person is different so your experience may vary.
Menstrual cups are sweeping the nation and changing the world of feminine hygiene products. If you haven’t heard of a menstrual cup yet, allow me to introduce you to what I consider to be one of my favorite purchases. You might be wondering what a menstrual cup is, how you use one, what the best menstrual cup on the market is, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of using a menstrual cup. Do they live up to the hype? Read more to find out.
Since I was a young girl, I always felt as if the world was always telling me that periods are disgusting and under no circumstances, you should ever talk about your period. In elementary school, I remember watching a video about puberty and leaving the room feeling embarrassed and gross due to the way the information was presented. A few years later the boys at my school watched the same video (as we watched theirs). After, there were a barrage of comments and harassing remarks by a few of my male classmates. This left myself, and I’m sure others, feeling embarrassed by the female body.
I say this to explain that I am not writing this article to make anyone feel uncomfortable by talking about periods and feminine hygiene products, but rather to educate readers. I feel that using a menstrual cup has changed my life for the better and allowed me to feel more confident and carefree during my cycle. Let’s stop the stigma on periods together!
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped silicone cup that you insert into the vagina. It collects menstrual blood during your period rather than absorbing it like tampons and pads do. You can leave your menstrual cup safely for up to 12 hours, however, depending on your flow, you might need to empty it more often.
Photo Credit: The Wirecutter
How do you use a menstrual cup?
Using a menstrual cup for the first time can be a bit strange. But with practice and continued use, you’ll be wearing it with ease in no time at all! Here are some fool-proof steps to inserting your new menstrual cup.
Photo Credit: Lena Cup
- Wash your hands and open up your new menstrual cup box. Take a look at your cup and practice a few different folds prior to insertion and see which one feels most comfortable for you. I personally prefer the “c-fold.”
- Similar to tampons, you will insert the folded cup into your vagina, tilting it slightly backward. The cup should sit low with the stem fully inside. You may need to trim the stem a little if it is too long. When the cup is inside, it will open creating a light suction to prevent leaking. If you cannot tell if it’s fully open you can twist the cup until you feel it’s secure. After insertion, you shouldn’t be able to feel the cup. If for some reason you do rotate the cup or remove it and try again.
- Wear your cup for up to 12 hours. However, depending on your flow you might want to remove and empty it more often than that. To remove the cup, gently pull the stem down until you can grab the base of the cup. Pinch the base of the cup with your fingers and take it out.
- When you have removed your cup, empty it into the toilet and rinse with warm water or wipe it out with toilet paper if you don’t have access to water and reinsert after emptying.
What are the benefits of using a menstrual cup?
Menstrual cups cost less than other feminine hygiene products.
While the initial cost of a menstrual cup can be anywhere from $20-$40 it will save you significant bucks over time. I personally have been using my cup for a year. In a years time, I’ve had 12 regular periods that have lasted 5 days each.
If I was still a tampon user, I would be changing my tampon every 4-6 hours as instructed to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection you can acquire from wearing an absorbent tampon for too long. So, 1 tampon every 6 hours = 4 tampons per day x 5 days of a period = 20 tampons per cycle x 12 periods a year = 240 tampons. At 36 tampons per box, that’s 6.7 boxes of tampons x $7 for each box = $46.67 spent on a yearly supply of tampons.
Pads or panty liners may be a most cost-effective choice in comparison to tampons but at 15 liners per cycle (changing three times a day) x 12 periods a year = 180 pads. At 36 pads per box, that comes out to 5 boxes a year x $7 for each box = $35 spent on a yearly supply of pads or panty liners.
Now it may seem like it’s not that much of a price difference right now but with proper care, a menstrual cup can last anywhere from 2-4 years. So let’s say I purchase a menstrual cup for $25 every 3 years. If I was purchasing tampons for three years I would be spending $46.67/year x 3 years = $140.01 and if I was purchasing panty liners for three years I would be spending $35/year x 3 years = $105! Needless to stay, the cost is significantly less over time.
Using a menstrual cup creates less waste.
Since menstrual cups are made for long-term use (2-4 years+), there is less waste created in landfills, sewers, and fewer trees used. Basically, by using a cup you’re also able to make a positive impact on our planet.
Using a menstrual cup is better for your body.
Recently studies have been shown that some synthetic materials, used in combination with traditional cotton feminine products, can cause an imbalance in bacteria. This results in conditions such as toxic shock syndrome. Other concerns include chemical byproducts of the bleaching process such as dioxin. The World Health Organization has stated that dioxins are “highly toxic” and are classified as a “known human carcinogen.” These chemicals can be absorbed by the vaginal mucosa where they can pass into your bloodstream. Pads aren’t necessarily the solution either, produced through a similar process, they are just less invasive than tampons. Menstrual cups may not be the perfect answer for everyone but may provide lower risks for complications vs disposable products.
You only have to change it twice a day.
Unlike tampons which you change every 6 hours, menstrual cups only need to be emptied twice a day. However, you may need to change it more often if you have a heavy flow. But for most, this means you will empty it once in the morning and once again in the evening.
What are the disadvantages of using a menstrual cup?
When learning to use a menstrual cup, it can be messy.
Rather than absorbing like tampons and pads do, menstrual cups simply collect menstrual blood. When removing your cup it’s important to remove it carefully to prevent spills. Since you can wear your cup for up to 12 hours you can usually try to avoid cleaning out your cup in a public restroom. However, if you cannot avoid changing it in public there is a trick for traveling and using a menstrual cup.
Carrying a few disinfecting wipes or a water bottle is extremely handy for using your cup on the go. There are wipes made specifically for cleaning your cup but you can also use unscented baby wipes or wet down a paper towel before entering the bathroom stall. Wipes also handy for using on your hands until you get out of the stall and wash them (just in case things get messy). Another option is carrying a water bottle and pouring some water in the cup to rinse it out in the stall. Don’t have any of those options? Don’t worry – it’s not necessary but can make your cup cleaner.
There is a possibility of an improper fit.
No two cups are created equally. Each brand has its own flair and often there are at least two sizes per brand. The key thing to know before finding the best menstrual cup for yourself is finding a reputable brand and which size you’ll need. Most cups come in two sizes, small (before childbirth) or large (after childbirth). However, I’ve talked to many women that have had children that purchased the small with no problem, and women without children that purchased the large due to their flow. Most of these best menstrual cups offer a risk-free guarantee so you can get a new one free of charge if you aren’t happy with the size or a refund if you aren’t happy with it at all.
Here are some of the best menstrual cups on the market:
- LENA Cup: This is the one I personally use and love – perfect for beginners too! – $25
- Diva Cup: One of the most popular cups and one of the larger ones – $25
- Lunette: Also a good cup for beginners – $40
- INTIMINA Lily Cup Compact: This is by far the most compact cup – $40
- FemmyCycle Cup: Best for those who have a low cervix – $40
However, there have been many extensive studies on different types of menstrual cups. I have found the site Put A Cup In It has been really useful for finding the best menstrual cup for your body.
Removing a menstrual cup can be tricky.
I have never had any trouble removing my cup but have spoken with a few friends that have said their menstrual cup has been harder to take out. My recommendation? Pull the stem of your menstrual cup down until you can easily grab the base of the cup, pinch the base, and remove. If you’re still having trouble, try laying down and pulling lightly on the stem then remove over the toilet. If you are having many issues with removing your cup after these suggestions you may want to look into a different cup altogether.
There is more necessary maintenance.
Each time you take out your menstrual cup you will have to rinse it with water or wipe it clean with toilet paper. As I mentioned above, there are also rinses and wipes you can purchase to clean out your cup prior to inserting it again. After your cycle ends, you’ll need to sanitize your cup. You can do this by bringing a small pot of water to a boil and placing your cup in the water for approximately 5 minutes.
Using a menstrual cup can make it more difficult to urinate.
Menstrual cups can slightly push on your bladder causing slower urination or a feeling of increased frequency to urinate. This is the only disadvantage I found for myself but have found that if I move my menstrual cup lower it solves this issue. I have also heard of some women that have turned their menstrual cup inside out to help with this issue. You can also switch to a sensitive menstrual cup that is thinner.
How has using a menstrual cup changed my life?
I won’t lie to you when a friend of mine first brought up her menstrual cup I was very skeptical about using one. But after researching the benefits of using a menstrual cup, knowing I could save a significant amount of money, and realizing that I could make a difference in the environment I decided to give it a try. Since I started using a menstrual cup a year ago, here are some of the things I’ve learned.
I can wear ANY kind of underwear I want.
Before using a cup I was hesitant to use only a tampon on my first two heavier flow days. I would always end up wearing panty liners and my designated “period undies.” Now I feel confident enough in my cup that I wear whatever underwear I please and never worry about leaking and ruining them.
I don’t feel like I’m on my period.
Yes, of course, I still know that I’m on my period. But before using a cup I would dread that time of the month because I always felt gross and was worried about the timeliness of my tampon changes. Now I simply put in my cup and don’t think about it again for 12 hours. I can also hike, swim, run, exercise, work, and more without fear of leaks.
It’s SO easy to use while traveling.
Instead of packing tampons, pads, the dreaded period undies, etc. I now only have to worry about bringing my menstrual cup and it’s light fabric carrying case.
After using the cup for a year I can now say with confidence that I am not ever planning to go back to tampons and pads again. While there might be a small amount of maintenance required when using a menstrual cup, the benefits deeply outweigh any negatives!
Do you use a menstrual cup? Tell me about your thoughts on the best menstrual cup on the market! Have I convinced you to try a menstrual cup? Let me know what you think!
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