Menstrual Cups: Everything You Need To Know
I’ve learned a lot about my body over the last 12 months - from going on the elimination diet for food allergies to transitioning off of hormonal birth control. I made the swap from organic cotton tampons to a reusable menstrual cup, and it has been a total game-changer. So, if you think pads and tampons are the only way to manage your flow, think again. Below I share my personal experience with menstrual cups, reasons you should consider one, and answers to all of your cup-related questions. I’m not holding anything back, so if that makes you uncomfortable then feel free to skip over this post.
Why use a menstrual cup?
I ditched toxic tampons over two years ago( (chemicals in my hoo-hah? NO THANKS) by switching to organic cotton tampons. While that was one step in the right direction, I still felt uncomfortable with the fact that I was creating a ton of waste. Did you know we use around 22 pads/tampons during each monthly cycle, adding up to 20 BILLION tampons, pads, plastic wrapping and applicators going into landfills (in North America alone!) every single year. Awful.
Not to mention, the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) for all of the times I'd leave it in too long. I discovered the menstrual cup back in 2016 (and wrote this post), which addresses all of these concerns in one simple product swap. But, I gave up because the learning curve was too much for me / couldn’t find the right size for my cervix. Well, here I am again, but this time, I’m over a year in with the cup. I found the right fit (I use Lunette - Model 1) and all the effort was worth it. No turning back now.
So, what makes the cup so great?
It’s Safer for You.
Menstrual cups are a bell-shaped, reusable cup made from medical grade silicone. Once inserted and fitted securely cups will collect menstrual fluid for up to 12 hours, rather than absorb it as tampons and pads do. By absorbing fluid, tampons create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. This alone makes cups one of the safest menstrual products out there. Not to mention, you’re sparing your vagina cotton soaked with pesticides and toxic chemicals that are linked to cancer. Win-win for both you and Mama Earth, right?
It’s Better for the Environment.
Fun fact: Reusable menstrual cups have been around since tampons and pads, but the industry chose to promote disposable products instead due to the recurring purchase necessity, meaning more cash for the corporate entities in female hygiene. It isn’t enough that we are taxed on these products? Ridiculous.
While the purchase price is typically around $30-40, a cup can technically last 5-10 years with the proper care. So regardless, you’ll end up saving thousands, as the average woman uses around 11,000 tampons during her lifetime. That’s a whole lot of tampons you don’t have to buy and a whole lot of unnecessary waste you can cut down on. The sustainability factor alone was a huge reason for me to make the switch once and for all.
It’s (Unexpectedly) More Convenient.
Maybe not at first, but once you master it, menstrual cups are WAY more convenient I’m telling you. As long as you’re wearing the cup correctly, there should be zero issues with leakage. No more saying farewell to another wrecked pair of undies or feeling nervous about wearing light colored bottoms during your period. Gone are the days of needing to be around a bathroom every few hours to change my tampon or remembering to stash an emergency tampon in every bag I own. There’s less to pack when I’m traveling, and it is so comfortable I can’t even feel it when it’s in.
Menstrual cups force you to get more comfortable with your body. Our cycles communicate with us. The blood, the cramps, the mood swings, all of it is necessary for us to understand our bodies better. Since getting off of the pill, switching to a hormone-free birth control method (Daysy Fertility Tracker), and using a menstrual cup, I’ve learned so much about my body, and I wonder why they don’t teach us these things in school, so we can make more empowered decisions rather than resorting to synthetic hormones to manage irregular periods and prevent pregnancy. I could go on, but I’ll keep the focus on the cups for now.
Let’s get into it. Here’s the nitty-gritty of actually using a menstrual cup.
How to Insert It
If I’m being honest, using a cup is really challenging in the beginning. You might spill blood all over yourself. You might accidentally drop it in the toilet. You might pinch your vagina with your fingernails (cut your nails, please ha). So yeah, you won’t be a pro at this right away. It can take a few cycles to really get it down, so don’t get frustrated. Once you get past the awkward stage and figure it out, it's actually EPIC.
To insert the cup, first, fold it in half so it creates a taco shape in your fingers.
Once it’s inserted, let the cup unfold and expand. Spilling and leaks happen when it isn’t open all the way so you’ll want to make sure it’s up far enough and secure.
To check this, run your index finger alongside the rim to check if it’s fully round and not dented in anywhere (if you can feel dents or wrinkles in the rim of the cup, you’ll experience leakage).
After it’s in place, pull down at the base slightly to make sure that it is sealed and to create a slight suction.
If it won’t open all the way it could be one of 2 things:
The cup is too large for your cervix, so you need a smaller size.
It’s not up there far enough.
Most good menstrual cup brands offer a couple different sizes. If you’re built more petite like me, you’ll most likely need the smaller size. I use Lunette - Model 1 size.
How to Remove It
Don’t worry your menstrual cup won’t ever get lost inside you.
To get it out, contract your abdominal muscles as if you’re going to push out a baby (lol). This will push the cup further down so you can grab onto it with your middle finger and thumb.
While it may be your first instinct, don’t try to pull it down with the tab. Because of the suction that’s created, pulling on it won’t actually help remove the cup.
Instead, when it’s low enough, grab the bottom of the actual cup, squeeze it, and wiggle it from side to side so the suction releases.
If the suction is not released and you try pulling down, it will not feel pleasant I promise you that. HAHA.
Choosing the right cup for you
I personally love Lunette, because I trust their standards, and it really works with my body. They offer two different sizes - depending on your personal flow and whether you’re pre or post-childbirth so you have options. Since I'm a petite lady, I needed a smaller size (model 1). There are tons of different brands out there, so it’s all about finding what’s right for you.
How do you clean it?
I rinse mine with warm water and a natural eucalyptus soap before re-inserting it each day of my period. At the end of each period, I simply boil the menstrual cup in a saucepan for 20 minutes.
How do I get rid of stains or discoloration?
This is actually the biggest reason people end up purchasing a new cup (as opposed to deterioration). Yes, menstrual fluids are some pretty potent stuff, and over time you’ll notice that there is some discoloration that happens. It’s no biggie and doesn’t impact the functionality of your cup. Once stains happen, there’s no real way to remove them so the best thing to do is to prolong their accumulation. Washing your menstrual cup between uses and cleaning properly at the end of your cycle by boiling it is the best way to care for it and keep it looking fresh.
What about changing it in public places? Sounds awkward!
A lot of people were wondering this. I personally avoid having to change it in public places, because it can be messy, and I like to be right next to a sink. So, I plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be at your work all day or away from your home for an extended period of time, simply empty and clean your cup right before you head off for the day. Since it can be left in for 12 hours, you can usually plan to remove it in the morning and then again closer to bedtime.
If a situation arises where you have to change it in public, you can rinse it in the stall with a water bottle or use a non-toxic cleansing wipe.
Can I wear it…
When I’m sleeping? Yes! In fact, if you’re switching to a cup, try sleeping in it at night to get started and use tampons during the day while you’re still getting comfortable. You might want to get up a few minutes early to practice removing it, since there is a learning curve. As long as it’s in there properly, there will be no issues with overnight leakage.
When I’m exercising? Yes, since the silicon is very flexible and it creates a seal, it will move with you very comfortably. You shouldn’t feel the cup inside you, even when you’re doing physical activity.
During sex? No, you can’t have sex with a cup in.
Remember, it's YOUR body. It's your power. You can do whatever you want. Whatever you choose, it's your choice and your choice alone. I can only share my experience, and everyone will have something different to share. Keep an open mind, and make the best decision FOR YOU.