Meta Description: Menstrual cups have become all the rage as an alternative to pads and tampons. But what exactly are they, and how do they work?
For most women, ‘that time of the month’ comes with its share of worry and anxiety. For some, periods mean debilitating cramps and bloating. Others may experience a degree of mood swings. Yet, for others, it is the anxiety that comes with heavy days and the constant need to check that you are well protected.
For a long time, women have had to choose between sanitary pads and tampons as the only care products available during menstruation. In recent years, menstrual cups have emerged as a suitable alternative. But what exactly are menstrual cups, and how do they work? If you want to learn more, this article takes an in-depth look at this alternate form of period care.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a small, funnel-shaped cup made of silicone or rubber inserted in the vagina to collect period blood. It is different from pads and tampons in that it does not absorb the fluids. Instead, it catches them. Unlike pads or tampons, menstrual cups can hold more blood, which means that they can be worn for up to 12 hours, depending on flow.
Although only recently popular, menstrual cups or the idea of them has been around for many years. Research shows that they were around in the 50s and 60s before slowly fading out in the 80s. Their recent comeback can be attributed to the fact that they are reusable (although disposable types exist), convenient, economical, and eco-friendly.
How does a Menstrual Cup Work?
A menstrual cup is designed to be inserted into the vagina, much like inserting a tampon. Because it is made out of rubber or silicon, once inserted, it suctions to the vagina walls, preventing any leaks. The period fluids are then collected into it.
To insert the menstrual cup, you may want to grease or wet its rims for easier application. You then fold it in half and insert it the same way you would a tampon. Once inside, you should rotate it, allowing it to spring open and rest on the vagina walls. If correctly inserted, you shouldn’t feel it, and you should be able to carry out your daily activities without any discomfort.
Depending on your flow, you can keep the cup in for anywhere between 6-12 hours. It is not recommended that you keep it beyond 12 hours. To remove it, insert your hands into the vagina, feeling for the stem of the cup. Press on the base slightly to unlock the seal and gently pull it out. If it is a reusable cup, clean it thoroughly before re-inserting it.
What are the Advantages of Using a Menstrual Cup?
If you are considering a switch to menstrual cups but are still on the fence, here are some of the advantages you stand to benefit from:
It is cost-effective– Reusable menstrual cups can be used for up to 10 years with proper care. This means that if you buy it once, you will save money in the long run, unlike pads and tampons that you have to buy every month.
It is environmentally friendly– Because of their reusable nature, menstrual cups are sustainable and eco-friendly and do not contribute to waste in the same way as sanitary pads.
They don’t require constant changing– If you have heavy periods, you may need to change your pad or tampon every so often. Menstrual cups can last for up to six hours even with heavy flow, allowing you to continue your activities worry-free.
They don’t produce odor– Once a menstrual cup is inserted correctly, it seals tight, preventing any odors from going out.
They are safer– Tampon use has been associated with toxic shock syndrome (TSS), mainly due to overuse. Menstrual cups have no such risk and also have a low risk of leakage when properly inserted.
You can have sex during your period– Some soft, disposable menstrual cups don’t require removal during sex. Your partner cannot feel it, and it means that you can have less messy sex.
What are the Disadvantages of Using a Menstrual Cup?
Menstrual cups come with some disadvantages, which include:
Difficulty inserting/ removal– If you have been using sanitary pads, a menstrual cup may not be the easiest to insert or remove and requires some practice.
Removing it can be messy– Unlike a sanitary towel that you peel off or a tampon that you pull, removing a menstrual cup is slightly technical and can result in spills.
It can cause allergies– Menstrual cups are made out of silicone or rubber. You may find that you are allergic to one or both materials.
It can irritate the vagina– If you don’t clean and dry your menstrual cup properly before re-inserting, you may end up suffering from vaginal irritation or even an infection.
One size doesn’t fill all -You may have to try several menstrual cups before establishing which one works best for you.
What should I Consider When Buying a Menstrual Cup?
If you are ready to try the menstrual cup, there are several things that you should keep in mind. These are:
Cup size- Just like there are mini, regular, and maxi pads, there are different sizes of menstrual cups, depending on manufacturers. Although the shape is the same, some are shorter for lighter flow and longer for heavier flow. Your cervix size will also influence the cup size you buy. Some women have high cervixes, which call for a longer cup, or shorter cervixes that require a shorter cup. You may have to try a few to find the perfect fit or consult your doctor for advice.
Material– As mentioned, menstrual cups are made out of silicone or rubber. You may have an unpleasant experience if you are allergic to any of these materials. Confirm before you make a purchase.
Cup design– Some menstrual cups are pretty firm, which can be uncomfortable against the bladder. Again, you may need to try a few types to see what fits comfortably.
Cost– You may be wondering how much menstrual cups cost. As discussed earlier, the fact that they are reusable makes them cost-friendly. This means that you will only incur a one-off cost in the beginning. A spot check online shows that menstrual cups range from $20-$50 depending on the maker, type, material, etc.
Brand- You will find different menstrual cups in e-commerce stores such as Amazon, but not all of them are legitimate. Some may be knockoffs made from inferior material that doesn’t last long or can even cause infections. Be careful about what you put down there!