Menstrual cups provide an innovative reusable feminine hygiene alternative to disposable pads and tampons. The small, flexible bell-shaped cup is inserted during your period to collect and contain menstrual flow. Menstrual cups offer many advantages for health, sustainability, and convenience compared to throwaway period products. This guide covers everything you need to know about how to use menstrual cups properly, why they are important, the different types available, and helpful care tips.
What Are Menstrual Cups and How Do They Work?
Menstrual cups are small, bell-shaped cups made from soft medical-grade silicone, rubber, or thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). They are designed to be folded and worn internally in the vagina to collect your menstrual flow during your period. Menstrual cups collect and contain blood rather than absorb it. This means they only need to be emptied every 8-12 hours, unlike pads or tampons. The reusable cup stays in place through suction and vaginal muscles rather than abrasive materials. Most modern menstrual cups have a little stem or tab to help you remove them. The cups can be washed and sterilized between cycles.
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Top Reasons to Consider Using Menstrual Cups
Switching to menstrual cups has many potential upsides women should know:
- Less waste – Reusable cups generate far less waste than thousands of disposable period products used over time. This makes them better for the environment.
- Cost savings – One menstrual cup can be used for 5-10 years. Although the starting cost is higher, they save money in the long run by eliminating the need to buy disposables monthly.
- Comfort – Menstrual cups feel less irritating than dry tampons. Once inserted correctly, you often can’t even feel them.
- Convenience – Cups only need to be emptied every 8-12 hours. This lets you go about your day without worrying about leakage.
- Safety – Unlike tampons, cups carry no risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) as they collect rather than absorb menstrual flow.
- Exercise/swim-friendly – The smooth flexible cup stays securely in place during rigorous activities, unlike pads or tampons.
- Improved intimacy – Menstrual cups reduce concerns about odor or leaks during sex. Many report better intimacy after switching to cups.
Choosing the Right Menstrual Cup Model for You
Consider factors like your flow level, body shape, activity level, and sensitivities when selecting a menstrual cup:
- Size – Size A or small cups are better for younger ages or women who haven’t given birth vaginally. Size B or large cups work best for over age 30 or after vaginal childbirth.
- Capacity – Higher-capacity cups handle very heavy menstrual flows, while lower-capacity cups are fine for lighter flows.
- Firmness – Softer cups are usually easier to insert and comfortable for beginners. Firmer cups open more easily but can feel uncomfortable if positioned wrong.
- Shape – Rounded or bell-shaped cups conform best to your anatomy. Consider a shorter cup if you have a lower cervix.
- Material – Healthcare-grade TPE or silicone cups produce the least irritation generally. Avoid latex if you have sensitivities.
Step-By-Step Instructions for Using Menstrual Cups Correctly
Follow these steps when inserting, wearing, and removing your menstrual cup:
- Wash hands and cup – Before inserting, wash hands with a gentle soap. Sterilize cup by boiling or washing with unscented soap.
- Fold the cup – Fold or compress the cup into a “U” shape, “C” fold, or “punch down” fold to make it small for comfortable insertion.
- Relax muscles – Get into a comfortable position. Breathe deeply and relax muscles before inserting.
- Insert cup gently – Still folded, gently insert cup into vaginal canal until it is completely inside. Ensure it opens fully.
- Check placement – Run a finger around the rim after insertion to confirm cup is fully open and sealed. The stem should not stick out.
- Empty and clean – When ready to remove, bear down muscles to move cup lower before pinching base to release suction. Empty contents, rinse and reinsert.
- Disinfect between cycles – At end of period, disinfect cup by boiling before storing for next cycle. Replace cups every 5-10 years.
Troubleshooting Common Menstrual Cup Problems
With some practice, most women adjust to using cups comfortably. But some common issues can come up:
- Difficulty inserting – If insertion is uncomfortable, use a water-based lubricant on the cup or gyrate folds closed to ease it in. Relaxation helps too.
- Leaking – If leaking occurs, the cup may be too small or not fully open. Twisting, pushing deeper, or reinserting can reseal it. Consider a higher-capacity cup.
- Discomfort – Wrong placement or a too-firm cup can cause discomfort. Try angling differently, folding the rim in, or picking a softer cup.
- Hard removal – Stay calm. Gently bear down, stand with your leg raised, or try different folds/angles. Never force the cup out.
Tips for Safe, Proper Menstrual Cup Usage
Follow some simple guidelines to ensure good hygiene and avoid problems when using menstrual cups:
- Empty cup every 8-12 hours max, even on light days
- Always thoroughly wash your hands before handling the cup
- Never share or use someone else’s cup
- Don’t use during abnormal discharge or infection
- See your gynecologist if discomfort continues
With a bit of practice, most women find menstrual cups to be a convenient, eco-friendly period solution with many advantages over disposables. Their benefits make cups worth trying for sustainable, effective feminine hygiene.