If you have the slightest inkling towards menstrual health and technology, it's quite likely that you've seen these soft shot glass- like looking things with antennas at the base we refer to as menstrual cups. In this post, I shall briefly discuss the purpose, uses, maintenance, safety, and shortcomings of menstrual cups and my personal experience using them for the last year; as well as answer some specific questions my followers asked on my Instagram when I announced I was writing this article.
So, what is a menstrual cup after all?
A menstrual cup is a menstrual hygiene product made of silicone or rubber. It's inserted in a vagina during menstruation to collect menstrual fluids. Menstrual cups are safer and eco-friendlier than most available options. Cups are also available in multiple sizes.
How is it eco-friendly?
Unlike pads and tampons, menstrual cups are reusable. Depending on an individual's flow, a cup may hold fluids for up to 12, yes TWELVE hours. With proper maintenance, most cups can be used for up to 10 years, drastically cutting down the amount of waste generated to keep up with a spotless menstrual hygiene routine.
Why are they safer?
Menstrual cups collect fluids as opposed to absorbing them and hence cut down the chances of TSS - Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare yet serious bacterial infection related to tampon use that may lead to many distressing symptoms, including death.
How to choose the right size?
If you've never had sex, extra small/ small works pretty well. If you've never given birth or given birth via c-section a small/ medium should be apt. If you've given birth vaginally, medium/ large is ideal. This works well for most people.
If you have a low cervix you need to use cups that are smaller in length but may still need the usual diameters.
If you have a gynecological condition, it would be ideal for you to take your doctor's advice before making the switch at all.
How to insert a menstrual cup?
If you know how to insert a tampon, the cup's a fairly easy transition to make. Even if you don't, here are some simple guidelines I hope help.
Thoroughly wash your hands.
Wash and wipe the cup
Fold the cup in half, the rim of the cup faces upwards and the antenna downwards.
With one hand, slowly slide in the folded cup with its rim facing upwards in the vagina.
Once the cup's inside the vagina, just a few inches below the cervix, rotate it so it opens up and seals itself to your vaginal walls with suction.
If the process of insertion feels rough due to dryness or is painful, apply some water or water-based lube while inserting the cup.
Inserted right, you should not feel the cup inside you.
Click here to watch a demo of how to wear a menstrual cup and more information explained by Dr. Tanaya, who also has a super fun and informative Sex- ed Instagram account Dr_cuterus!
When to take the cup out?
Depending on your flow, you may be able to wear a cup for 4-12 hours. ALWAYS remove the cup by the 12-hour mark. If you feel extra moist, you probably need to empty your cup. If you're leaking, you need to empty out the cup for sure.
How to remove a menstrual cup?
Wash your hands thoroughly.
Place your index finger and thumb into your vagina. Pull the stem of the cup gently until you can reach the base.
Pinch the base to release the seal and pull down to remove the cup.
Once it’s out, empties the cup into the sink or toilet.
How to maintain a menstrual cup?
At home: Rinse and wipe the cup every time while insertion and removal. Wash the cup with a fragrance and oil-free soap at least once a day. Disinfect by soaking it for a minute in isopropyl alcohol and then hot water before and after each menstrual cycle.
Outdoors: Carry a bottle of water to rinse the cup. If there's NO water you may dry wipe the cup post emptying it, just make sure no stray bits of paper/ cloth remain on the cup. The cup has to be washed thoroughly at least once a day, it might be a good idea to carry travel-sized oil and fragrance-free soap with you if you're out for more than a day.
What can you do about spotting/ leaks?
Using the cup right, there should be no leakage or spotting, but it may take a few days for most people to get used to the cup and wearing it correctly. During this period, you may use panty liners/ reusable pads to catch any stray spotting.
Pros of using menstrual cups:
They're cost-effective, as opposed to a few thousand rupees a year on pads/ tampons, a cup costs a few hundred to a thousand rupees and lasts a few years at least.
They’re eco-friendly. Reusable menstrual cups can last a long time, which means you’re not adding unnecessary pollutants to the environment.
Menstrual cups hold more blood. A menstrual cup can hold about 30-60 ml of menstrual fluids. Tampons, only hold up to 10 ml approximately.
Cons of using menstrual cups:
They have a learning curve, the exact fold, size and cleaning out duration have to be figured individually.
There can be an increased chance for infection, if not maintained properly.
You may be allergic to the material, menstrual cups are normally made from latex-free materials, making them a great option for people with latex allergies. But, silicone or rubber can cause allergic reactions in some people.
My experience using menstrual cups:
I made the switch from menstrual pads to a cup a little over a year ago.
It took me three period cycles to get used to the exact positioning and grip of my cup in order to prevent it from turning and leaking, in this period I used panty liners to catch any staining. I still use reusable liners under the cup to get any stray droplets that may find their way to my panties, which isn't a frequent occurance but, I prefer being over prepared.
I was incredibly apprehensive at first, although I must admit, as a person who menstruates, this was the best decision of my life. Wanna swim on your period? NO FOMO Got splits to do at your dance class? GO FOR IT BBY
Which cup do I use?
I use Sirona's Reusable Menstrual Cup in Size S
This was the first one I purchased and it turned out to be very comfortable for me, this can be individual to the wearer and need a bit of trial and error.
There were many myths and misconceptions regarding the menstrual cup coming my way when I asked my audience to send in queries they may have. I shall try and write an article debunking those very shortly.
Another common question I received was if I've tried using menstrual discs yet, I haven't; perhaps I shall try those out soon, I do like the idea of being able to have sex on my period without worrying about the mess or general ickiness.
In the meanwhile, you may write to me with any queries you may have to my Instagram ( @toshadaa) or at firstname.lastname@example.org!