This is a topic I have been excited to write about. For a couple of years now, I have been a passionate user of a menstrual cup. My sister and a good friend used to tell me about them and to be honest with you, I had no idea what they were talking about and I had a hard time imagining what this “thing” even looks like or how in the world it could be better than tampons. Also, it sounded gross to me, especially after they described it to me, I thought to myself “Good for you, I guess, but, no thanks. I am going to stick with my familiar method of getting through my period with tampons.” I have the hardest time with PMS and cramps already, I don’t need anything new.
Well, let me tell you. My only regret about using a menstrual cup now is that I didn’t start using it much sooner.
It is convenient, simple, freeing, money saving, comfortable and does not produce any (plastic) waste. It takes a little while to get used to, but now I cannot even imagine going back to anything else. I know it might sound a bit funny to say that starting to use a menstrual cup was one of the best decisions I have ever made, but, when it comes to my period, it certainly was. In the following paragraphs I will explain how to use the menstrual cup and talk about some pros and cons.
What exactly is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene device that is made from flexible medical grade silicone and shaped like a bell with a stem. Its purpose is to collect menstrual blood by inserting it into the vagina during menstruation. Instead of absorbing the fluid like tampons or pads it collects and catches it.
The first menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s, but were not commercially successful. It wasn’t until 1987 that menstrual cups were more widely known in the US and several companies started manufacturing them. Menstrual cups have steadily been on the rise, but even to this day an overwhelming majority of women are hesitant about using one. I was one of them and the reasons make sense. Women are grossed about the process of inserting, emptying and changing it, and more nervous about leaks than with other products.
But after I tried it, I must say that I find the whole process less gross than using tampons or pads. I will get into the pros and cons below, but first I want to explain briefly how to use the menstrual cup.
How do you use menstrual cups?
Before your period begins, you fold the menstrual cup tightly (U shape) and insert it like a tampon. The best position to do so is squatting or while sitting on the toilet. When it’s used correctly and sits in the right spot, you shouldn’t feel it at all.
For the cup to open, you might need to rotate it. Once it opens, the sides will rest against the walls of the vagina and form a seal to prevent leakage. Then the fluid can drip into the cup.
To remove the cup and empty it, you pull at the stem and slightly pinch at the base so that the seal gets released. You empty the fluid in the toilet, then rinse and wash with soap and water before inserting it again. At the end of each cycle, you should sterilize the cup with boiling water, let it dry and then store in a small cotton bag. Usually when you buy a menstrual cup it comes in a small cotton bag.
What are the pros and cons of using a menstrual cup?
- Menstrual cups are eco-friendly and save money in the long run. Some of the reusable ones cost around $30 or $40 but last for up to 10 years which means less waste and less money over time.
- Menstrual cups are great for overnight protection and during long travel since you can leave them in for up to 12 hours. And once you know exactly how to insert them and you don’t feel them, there really is no reason to worry about leakage. This is my personal favorite part. You insert it in the morning and are good for 12 hours, maybe 8 or 10 during the first two days, then you change it before you go to sleep and don’t have to worry about it all night. It is so convenient for long plane or car rides, too. I think this is by far the pest part of it all.
- There is no odor. Menstrual blood can start to smell when exposed to air (when using pads especially), but the cup forms an airtight seal, therefore the fluid you empty does not smell.
- It can be tough to find the right fit. Cups come in a variety of sizes depending on age, flow and whether you had a child. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error which means, you might have to deal with some leaks in the meantime. I personally didn’t have many issues and started feeling very comfortable after two days of using one.
- The removal can be a bit messy and tricky and I can see why this might be an issue for some women. Like I said before, I find it personally less gross (less smell, no trash, less changing overall) and I think just doing it a few times will help to get used to it quickly, but it might not be for everyone for that reason. It also can be tricky when it comes to public restrooms since you are supposed to rinse them with soap and water. I personally don’t worry about that step when I use a public restroom. Make sure your hands are clean and you can use a wet wipe (or even toilet paper) to clean it, and you can insert it again right away and not worry about rinsing it.
Words of Encouragement
If you have been thinking about it or have been trying to think about ways to reduce waste, give it a try! I was hesitant at first as well and the first two times of using one were a bit frustrating, but once you realize how freeing it can be, you will not want to go back to tampons or pads.
Here are two cups I have personally tried and have been happy with. I was hoping that the second one would have lasted a bit longer, but I think two years is a pretty good amount of time for the price. I can highly recommend the Lena Menstrual Cup.
2. Sckoon Cup Beginner’s Choice (this one lasted for two years, so not as long as I was hoping)
I am hoping to write some future reviews on a couple of different brands that I would like to try myself. Stay tuned!