Are you a woman regularly experiencing all the troubles that come with having your menstruation period? And have you then already been introduced to the menstrual cup? If your answered ‘yes’ followed by a ‘no’: I’ll hook you up! I promise your life will never be the same again after letting the menstrual cup in. If you answered the questions differently: you too are very welcome.
The menstrual cup can be used as an alternative to sanitary pads and tampons. Menstrual cups are most commonly made out of silicone and have to be inserted into the lower part of the vagina, which fits perfectly due to the ‘elastic nature’ of the vagina. Once there, it will neatly collect all menstrual fluids, until you take it out, clean it, and reinsert it.
But why would you use such a thing? Isn’t it hard to insert? Isn’t it gross? So many questions! When I first read about the menstrual cup, I too had my doubts. After having used my cup for over half a year, these doubts have fully disappeared. My menstrual cup is from the brand Mooncup, because those were the ones being sold in the local organic store. I have never tried another one, but I know that there are different ones available and that they are quite similar.
So, why a menstrual cup?
- More freedom. Whereas sanitary pads and tampons have to be changed every four hours, menstrual cups have to be cleaned only afer about 8 hours.
- Environmentally friendly. One cup lasts for years. (I thought five, but this might also slightly differ.) The Mooncup website states: ‘On average, one woman will use over 11,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime, which will end up in landfill or in the sea.’
- Cheaper. I spent about 25 euros on my cup. This might seem like quite an investement, but don’t you cringe a little every time you have to buy sanitary pads again? When you think about it, one cup for all those years against having to buy so many tampons or pads? The menstrual cup wins for sure.
- Safer. Tampons and pads are usually treated with all kinds of chemicals to get them clean and white. Cups are just made out of clean medical grade silicone, without all the nasty toxins. I heard there are also rubber ones out there, for people with silicone allergies.
Those are some significant reasons to go for a menstrual cup! Well, there are way more advantages if you ask me. I will let you know how convenient they are while answering your remaining questions.
Inserting and removing
Cups may seem hard to use, because they are significantly larger than tampons. Luckily, they are soft, so you can easily fold them, making them smaller and easier to insert. This may need some practice, but you’ll get there! Cups sit in the lowest part of the vagina, which I think is another advantage over tampons, because now you don’t have to go that deep for inserting it.
The cup and your vagina together create a ‘seal’, which makes sure there’s no leakage. That’s great, but how do you get it out when it’s all sealed? You can break the seal by using your finger to go around the edge of the cup. Then you can pull it out. You have to figure out yourself how it works. The first times it’s a bit annoying, but it gets easier.
Before trying to remove it, you can get the cup lower into your vagina, thus more accessible, by using your vaginal muscles or by pulling the ‘stem’ of your mooncup. About this stem: you get to cut it to the length you find comfortable. It has no other use than to help you to remove your cup. I myself cut the whole thing off, because otherwise it was irritating, and I just push the cup down internally.
Cleaning and hygiene
It may seem off-putting to be using such a thing for so many years and all, but actually I feel way cleaner while using the cup than while using tampons or pads! Why? Because when you insert it, it’s clean and smooth. It collects the fluid inside of the cup, where this fluid has no contact whatsoever with your vagina. It is just sitting safely in the cup, until you pour it out. Of course, the outside won’t be sterile, but it is still way better than wearing a tampon or pad soaked with blood.
When you got the cup out, you have to clean it. You can do this by rinsing it with water. Ideally there would be a sink to use, but otherwise you can also use bottled water. If that’s unavailable as well, you can also clean it with some paper towels, and rinse it later. You can of course also clean it in the shower. If you want, you can use some soap as well.
In between your periods, you should steralize your cup by sofly boiling it in a pan. This way the bacteria die. You can assign a specific pan for this purpose. There’s also other ways to clean the cup, but I haven’t been using them. I read something about baking soda, which would help to decolor the cup if nessecary. The cup can get yellowish after having used it for a long time.
Some people think it’s gross to have to clean the cup in a sink, but personally I don’t think this is much different from washing your hands after changing tampons. Plus, when using the mooncup, you aren’t building a collection of used, nasty items in the bin next to the toilet. Isn’t that great?
When to use
Menstrual cups are safe to use whenever! At night, while swimming, in the sauna… I’ve done it all. Plus, when using the menstrual cup in such occasions, there is no chance of a tampon string peeping out.
There could also be some questions about using it in combination with certain forms of anticonception, like the Nuvaring, but I don’t know so much about that. For those kind of things, I’ll have to redirect you to the ‘advice centre’ on the Mooncup website. Or go to the website of the one you would want to buy (the one you can find in your stores for example).
Sizes and brands
This differs per person/cup combination, but of course menstrual cups can leak as well. I think you just have to try out if it works for you. There are cups in different sizes, so you might want to try another size if one doesn’t work. This also depends on how heavy your flow is. You just have to try. I hope you find your cup! If you have found one that works quite well, but still leaks a bit on the heavy days, you can consider using reusable, cotton sanitary pads along with it.
I don’t know about the other brands, but the Mooncup comes with a little bag to keep and carry it in. There are two different sizes and the packaging explains when you have to have which one, which depends on your age and if you have given birth or not. Other brands also have different sizes. And as I wrote before: next to the silicone ones, there are also cups made out of rubber. The Mooncup is dye-free, but other brands also sell colored ones. If you want to try one, you can just buy the one you can find in stores, like I did, or you can do some more research on different brands and sizes.
Do I need to say more? You might have wanted to know this before reading my story, but on the homepage of the Mooncup website, there is a nice video showing a battle between the menstrual cup and the tampon, summing up all the advantages of the menstrual cup. There is also way more information and everything you want about how to use it, etcetera.
And now of course I hope you’ll give it a try. It might not completely change your life, but it can make a difference. I recently found this arcitle on Huffington Post: How Menstrual Cups Are Changing Lives In East Africa. It’s about how much it can mean for women in East Africa to be able to use a menstrual cup during their periods. It means a lot to them to be able to wear them for so many hours straight and to not have to buy new pads regularly. This enables young girls to go to school more often and to do better in school, which is really important. Femme International’s Feminine Health Management Progam distributes menstrual cups with the right information and hygiene materials in East Africa. If you want to donate a cup or more, you can surely find a way to do so!