In continuation of the plastic free period article from a few months back, this one is all about menstrual cups. As these little fellas grow in popularity there are new companies with new designs popping up all over the world. They are, once you get the hang of them, easy to use, economical, eco-friendly, convenient and comfortable. With a little research and trial and error, you should be able to find one that works for you. And with the help below may your menstrual cup never runneth over.
Menstrual Cup Sizing
There are a lot of options out there. For a long time it was one cup to rule them all, and after the great yoga class spill of 2009 I found out one size does not fit all… Since then, thankfully, there have been leaps and bounds of improvement in the cupping world.
Like bras, there will be cups that fit and those that don’t and you need to know your measurements. The main qualifiers for sizing are where your cervix is located, whether you have had children and how heavy your flow is. Unlike bras, you can’t return after trying. So whether you need a shot glass or a chalice, do a little research, read the reviews and make your best-educated guess before buying.
Here is a very helpful sizing chart. You can sort by cup size and capacity.
Most cups are made from silicone. Some are better than others, look for medical grade silicone if you are going to go that route. Silicone is inert and should not have a reaction with the pH of your vajine. Things to consider: BPA free, colors/dyes, plastics. Other materials include rubber, plastic, and TPE, a thermoplastic elastomer which is a combo of plastic and rubber. Rubber is the only material made from a plant, which I think is neat.
Cups come in all colors of the rainbow, things to consider are dyes used in the process, how excited the color purple makes you and potential staining on clear (dye free) cups.
There are a couple ways to skin a cat. In general, you have to fold the cup before insertion (check this article for photos of 6 folds). Next, insert it just like you would a tampon, pushing up so the top of the cup sits above your cervix. When placed correctly you shouldn’t feel any discomfort. After that, you have to make sure the cup opens up fully to create a seal. To do this either grab the dangle on the bottom of the cup and rotate to open, or gently pinch the bottom of the cup and rotate to open the top rim. You will know it’s properly inserted if you tug on the bottom nubbin (different cups have different jangles from balls to stems to rings) and it doesn’t move.
Go easy on yourself. There is definitely a learning curve. Just like the first time you used a tampon, or put on those teeny elastics on your braces- at first, it will feel weird, time-consuming and frustrating. But eventually, it will be second nature.
There are a few suggestions on online forums, and two times to clean the cup in between use and in between periods. Let’s start with in between uses, which will usually be a shorter time period and a quicker process.
First things first- to remove the cup, sit on the porcelain throne, scoot to the back, reach up in there and pinch the bottom to release the seal. Try to pull out upright so it doesn’t spill until you’re ready. To remove use your finger to press in the top rim so it slides out easily.
If the bathroom is private:
Remove the cup, dump contents in the toilet, rinse, dry and reinsert. You always want to dry the cup when possible because water has a neutral pH and the vagina is more acidic.
You can also clean with an odorless soap as well.
If the bathroom isn’t private:
Remove, dump and wipe out with toilet paper or a moistened paper towel you thought ahead and brought in with you. If you are a fan of baby wipes, unscented ones would do here as well.
In between periods:
The cups should be sterilized before and after each period. There are several ways to clean them and each cup comes with a recommendation on the directions. If you have more than one cup you can sterilize more often to prevent bacterial growth. Also be sure to use the tiny scrubber they give you to swab out the teeny air holes under the rim.
Boil it– bring water to a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer and boil that sucker for 5-10 minutes
Vinegar– soak in a diluted vinegar for 30 minutes
Bleach– soak in a diluted bleach for 30 minutes (personally this makes me squeamish)
Rubbing Alcohol– wipe with a soaked cotton cloth or pad
Baking Soda– mix with water and soak for 30 minutes
Tea-Tree– mix a few drops with warm water and soak for 30 minutes
Sun– leave cup out in the sun, or on a window sill for natures bleaching
Sex-Toy Cleaner– follow the directions, everyone loves a multi purpose right?!
Cup Cleaners– Femmycup offers a specifically designed soap for their cups
Cups range from $10 – $40 and can last for 1- several years. They pay for themselves after a few months of waste free and tampon-run free months.
When you are on the move, especially somewhere with less than stellar water it can be tricky to travel with your menstrual cup. But tricky does not mean impossible. You don’t actually have to clean the cup out during your period, just before and after. There are options for every comfort level;
- Clean using rubbing alcohol, alcohol wipes, unscented baby wipes
- Bring two and sanitize with bottled/boiled/filtered water source and tea-tree oil in the room at night and alternate use
- Dump out and wipe out with T.P.
Can I use it with an IUD?
Will it get stuck?
Naw. If you’re having trouble reaching it, sit down, push gently, relax and retry.
Won’t blood get all over my hands?
Maybe. That is the risk of periods. But you will get better at emptying it. Practice in your home shower first if you’re worried to avoid a bathroom massacre.
How long can I leave it in?
How often should I empty it?
Check as often as you would a tampon or pad.
Can I do cool stuff like the chicks in the period commercials?
Ya, go for it. Best to empty your cup first and avoid any inversions (legs above the head) the only time I have had a code red was during yoga class.
Will it really shorten my periods?
Some women find that it shortens their periods by up to a day.
There are blogs, Reddit threads and online forums devoted to the cup community full of helpful information for every occasion. Got FAQ? They got answers. Want comparisons? Trouble shooting? Weird/embarrassing stories? YUS.
Great for Q’s