I think a lot of us are trying to reduce our plastic consumption at the moment. Who couldn’t be moved by the devastating images of plastic in our oceans? I have written about items we have swapped in our house already, and one of these items is that I have swapped to using a menstrual cup for my periods. I know a lot of people have quite a few questions about them, and I did when I started using one too. So I thought I would write a really open post to help anyone considering switching to one.
I looked into menstrual cups for a while, but I’ll be honest I was put off by the ick factor. In the end it was the really heavy periods I have been experiencing that made me decide to make the switch. My periods are often really heavy after having a baby, they were so bad after Aria I actually had to have a scan. Logistically it means that I go through a super plus tampon every hour. The whole experience leaves me feeling so stressed as I worry about flooding all the time and how and where I am going to change so regularly, it also makes me sore changing it so often too. What helped me decide to make the switch was that super plus tampons hold 12-15ml of blood, the menstrual cup I have purchased holds 30ml. With a heavy flow, it’s easy to see the appeal.
How do Menstrual Cups Work?
For now though let’s start completely at the beginning. What are menstrual cups and how do they work? A menstrual cup is a cup made of medical silicone or rubber. You insert it just like a tampon, but instead of the tampon absorbing the blood and then being disposed of the cup collects the blood which you then remove and pour down the toilet when it is time to change it. Rinse the cup and then reinsert.
How to Remove and Insert the Cup
The cup has very small holes around the outside rim, which forms a seal against the vagina wall holding it in place. When you first see the cup it looks a bit intimidating in terms of size, as it is bigger than a tampon, but to insert it, I fold it into a D shape and it goes in fine. Sometimes you need to get the cup to pop out after it’s been folded, to do this I just run the tip of my finger around it after it’s been inserted and it solves the problem. Once the cup is inserted, I don’t even notice it’s there and it’s comfortable.
The cup has a little stem at the bottom to help pull it out. Now my understanding is that it really depends here where your cervix is. I’ve heard some people find the tail bit sticks out a bit and they have to cut it. This has not been a problem for me, I suspect I have a high cervix as after insertion my cup tends to ride up quite high inside me.
To get the cup out you can just pull it out using the stem. If the seal is stuck really well you may need to run your finger down the rim to break the seal. If your cervix is high like mine, you may have a little panic that you cannot reach the stem and are not going to be able to get it out. One of the first times I used the cup I got in a right flap about this let me tell you! But you just need to bear down which them moves the cup down and you can then reach the stem. The more times you remove and insert it, the easier it gets! I also prefer to pull the cup out over the toilet in case of any spillage, I have heard other people prefer not to do it over the toilet in case they accidentally drop it down there. I think that’s all about personal preference.
The Ick Factor
So one of the real things that put me off this was how icky I thought the whole process would be, so let’s be candid about this. First up, your hands are going to get a bit bloody. But you can just wash them after. You will get to see how much blood you actually menstruate, I actually find this quite interesting and you do have to put this blood down the toilet.
I’ve never had to change this in public toilets (yet) and I work from home, but I do think it would be preferable to change this in a cubicle with a sink in. But I have just managed to change my cup around the times I know I am going to be at home. The cup can be worn for 12 hours (depending on your flow) so if your flow isn’t too heavy you may just be able to change at the beginning and the end of the day.
If you do need to change in a public toilet or at work, and I am pretty sure there will come a time when I need to, I’ve heard taking a bottle of water to rinse the cup before reinsertion is a good idea. Or people just wipe it with toilet tissue if they need to.
How Often do you have to Change / Empty your Cup?
This is one of the biggest sellers for me as the cup holds so much blood. On the heaviest days of my period I have to change this every 3-4 hours. When my flow hits more normal levels I change this morning, late afternoon and bed time. So just 3 times per day.
I wear this overnight with no problem at all, in fact, prior to using a cup on my heavier days I often wore a tampon and a super heavy sanitary towel to bed and would have to get up in the night to change it all to prevent flooding. It still wasn’t unusual for me to have to change the sheets in the morning. I no longer have to do this, although I have to empty the cup as soon as I wake up and I do wear a sanitary towel as a back up. It’s taken away so much stress for me!
Frequently Asked Questions
I thought I would use this section to add in any questions I had when I wanted to buy one and also I will add to this section any I encounter via social media too.
I rinse it with water after I empty it, but I sterilise it between each cycle. At the moment I just chuck it in with any baby bottles I sterilise, but you can just put it in a pan of boiling water.
This was the thing I found hardest when I decided I wanted to try a menstrual cup as there are so many out there! You can get soft or hard cups and all sorts of different sizes and variations. In the end I looked for volume as I knew I had a heavy flow and I wanted a bigger one. But there is a really useful quiz you can take on Put a Cup in it.
Really comfortable. Tampons used to irritate me and sometimes make me feel a bit itchy, no such problem with a cup.
Occasionally if the cup isn’t sealed properly. This takes practise. I usually wear a panty liner as a back up, but I used to do this with a tampon anyway. (Next stop to find a reusable version of those!)
I have a Lena cup and so far have been really pleased with it. It also comes in a little cotton bag which is handy for carrying it in your bag when you know you’re due on soon.
Yep, just like you can with a tampon, no problem at all.
When you have decided which brand cup you’re going to get, have a look at their sizing guide. It usually depends on your age and whether you have had children or not which size you will need.
I’m a complete convert. I’ve completed about 4 cycles now with a cup and there is absolutely no way that I am going back to tampons. I have to change it less, it doesn’t make me sore, it costs me less, I’m not worried about floods or leaks all the time (other than the first couple of tries with the cup!), I’m not generating loads of waste (I can have a huge carrier bag full easily by the end of me period) and generally I just feel more comfortable with it. Yes, you are going to get some blood on your hands inserting and removing it, but for me it’s been totally worth it.
Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them and add to this post as I go along.