How To Use A Menstrual Cup
In recent years, menstrual cups have become an increasingly popular alternative to tampons. They're more environmentally friendly than disposable products and can save users hundreds of dollars. However, as most users will attest, there's a bit of a learning curve that can discourage women and girls from making the switch.
So what do you need to know to use a menstrual cup?
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup
The first step is selecting the right size. Most cup brands have two sizes: before childbirth and after childbirth. Like tampons, a menstrual cup won't cause the loss of virginity, so that isn't a consideration in sizing.
There are several brands to choose from, ranging from the stylish Diva Cup to the tried and true brands like The Keeper. In essence, the designs are all very similar, so the only thing you really need to consider is the material. There are latex (rubber) and non-latex (silicone) menstrual cups. Latex cups are biodegradable and so arguably the more Eco-friendly choice, however silicone cups will have a longer life, meaning they need to be replaced less often. Silicone is also the obvious choice for anyone with a latex allergy. In the end, it's simply a matter of personal preference.
How to Insert a Menstrual Cup
This is when most women report becoming frustrated with the cup. Those who've been used to the simplicity of inserting a tampon via an applicator will likely be surprised by how much more complicated the process is. However, those who stick with it report – almost uniformly – that it was worth the trouble of learning how to properly wear a menstrual cup.
When inserting the cup, most instructions will tell you to fold it, and offer diagrams of different folding techniques. You'll probably need to experiment to see which one is easiest for you. Once the cup is fully inserted, pinch the bottom of the cup to get it to open up, creating a seal. If it's properly in place, you won't be able to feel it.
*Not everyone's body is able to insert a menstrual cup. Check with your doctor to see if your canal has the ability.
How to Empty a Menstrual Cup
Although there's a lower associated risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome) with a cup than a tampon, poor menstrual hygiene can foster the growth of the bacteria that causes TSS, regardless of what device you use. While most cups are made from medical-grade silicone – which doesn't foster bacterial growth – blood is still an excellent incubator for bacteria. Therefore, it's important to empty and clean your cup every 4-8 hours.
To remove the cup, you can re-fold it while it's still in the vagina to break the suction seal, or pinch the bottom, then remove it as is. Next, simply empty the contents into the toilet. Ideally, you'll want to rinse or wash the cup thoroughly under warm water, removing any traces of blood. If this isn't possible, use a baby wipe to clean away all matter inside and outside of the cup. Once the cup is clean, you can reinsert it.
A Few Important Notes About Menstrual Cups
- Cups can be worn overnight, in the water, and while playing sports.
- Unlike a diaphragm, cups cannot be worn while having vaginal intercourse, and are NOT a method of birth control.
- It is best to still use a back up for leaks and stains. You can purchase PantyProp panties to absorb any mishaps or over-spills.
Despite what many supporters say, menstrual cups are not for everyone. Though they're far less messy than tampons or pads when being worn, they're messier when emptying. And though they can save anywhere from $250 to $1000 dollars and up over the course of the life of the cup, some women will prefer the convenience of disposable tampons.
However, as most menstrual cups are around $30 and last up to 10 years, it may be worth giving it a try.