everything you need to know about menstrual cups
Menstrual cups have kind of earned a bad rep as the weird, hippy sister of pads and tampons. The first time I heard about them I thought they were a) gross, b) scary, and c) never going within three feet of my vagina.
But now, I tell anyone who will listen about how amazing they are. Give me the chance and I’ll spend a good half an hour waxing lyrical about how buying a menstrual cup is the best decision I’ve made since I ditched underwired bras.
So, what’s the deal? Are they scary? Can they get stuck? Are they super expensive? Let’s investigate…
What exactly is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a soft, silicone cup that you insert into your vagina when you’re on your period.
How do they work?
Instead of absorbing fluid, like a tampon, menstrual cups collect it. You insert your cup (more on that later), wear it for up to 12 hours, empty it, rinse it out and reinsert. It’s that simple!
What’s so good about them?
- They’re good for the planet. If you’re a bit of an eco warrior like me, you can stop stressing about adding to landfill because you can reuse the same one for years.
- They save you money. They usually cost between £20 and £30, which might sound like a lot but considering you only have to buy one, you’ll save some cold hard cash in the long run.
- They’re convenient. You never have to worry about forgetting to stock your bag with enough tampons for the day again!
- They last longer. Menstrual cups can hold more fluid than a pad or tampon meaning fewer changes.
- They don’t dry you out. Everyone who’s ever removed a tampon on the last day of their period knows what I’m talking about...
Which one to choose?
Choosing the right size has a lot to do with how positive your menstrual cup experience will be. Most brands do two main sizes: one for women who’ve given birth and one for those who haven’t. But there are loads of other styles and sizes available too. There are shorter cups, teen cups, compact cups, even cute coloured cups! Do some research first and choose the best one for you.
How do you put them in?
To insert your menstrual cup, start by folding it in on itself to make it smaller (I can hear your sigh of relief...). There are a few folds you can try so it’s worth experimenting a bit. You can take a look at the leaflet that comes with your cup or, if you want a bit more help, check out the videos and diagrams that most menstrual cup brands have on their websites.
Once you’ve mastered the fold, in it goes! You can sit, squat or stand, it’s totally up to you. Just relax and take your time. There are two important things to mention here. 1. A menstrual cup sits lower than a tampon, so that the base is just inside your vagina. 2. As it gently unfolds into place, you might hear a suction sound. DO NOT BE AFRAID LIKE I WAS! This is fine, it just means your cup is nice and secure and leak-free.
How do you take them out?
To remove your menstrual cup, you need to break the seal it creates. You can do that by gently running your finger around the rim of it or by squeezing the bottom of it. Then you simply pull it out. I like to fold mine in on itself a bit to make it easier.
What’s with the stem?
The stem is there to help you remove your cup but generally, manufacturers make them a bit on the long side so that you can trim them to the length you want. If the stem is too long, you might be able to feel it. If it’s poking or annoying you, remove your cup and trim the stem in stages until it feels comfortable. Some people even completely remove theirs; it’s all about personal preference. Reminder: never, never, never trim the stem while your menstrual cup is inside you! Always remove it first.
Do they feel weird?
This was my major worry and I can tell you 100% that they do not feel weird. In fact, once your cup is in the right position, you can’t feel it. Sure, it’s a slightly different inserting/taking out process to get used to but once you’ve got that down, there’s zero drama.
Can they get lost?
Nope! Your vagina isn’t an endless chasm, so your menstrual cup won’t – and can’t - just disappear into the abyss. If it ever goes a little out of reach (this is unlikely) just take a big, calming breath and push down with your muscles.
How long can you leave them in?
Menstrual cups can hold up to three times as much fluid as pads and tampons. They can be left in for up to 12 hours, giving you much longer between changes. When your period is heavier, you might need to empty it earlier but you’ll settle into a rhythm really quickly and figure out how long you can go depending on your flow.
What about public toilets?
Because you can wear them longer, you’re less likely to have to empty it in a public toilet but if you do, it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Although most information says something along the lines of ‘remove, rinse and reinsert’, that’s not always possible. Luckily, you don’t have to rinse it every single time. It’s totally fine to just empty it, give it a wipe and pop it back in.
- Always wash your hands before you insert or remove your menstrual cup.
- Take your time the first time you use it. Some people take to them straight away, some don’t. No pressure.
- Don’t be tempted by a super cheap one from a dodgy website. Proper menstrual cups are safe and certified. Put your health first.
And that’s it. You’re a menstrual cup expert now!