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Unlike pads and tampons, the menstrual cup is a menstruation management technique which collects menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it. The menstrual cup is made from medical-grade silicone which is long-lasting and hypoallergenic. Menstrual cups, like tampons, are placed inside the vagina during one’s menstrual cycle to collect menstrual fluid. The contents (menstrual discharge) are then washed out with water, the cup is dried and then it can be reused. Menstrual cups, if sanitized properly, can last for up to 10 years.
Common fears women have during periods while using various methods include:
- Leakage – Women are concerned that their pads/cloths might leak. A menstrual cup, when positioned correctly, is completely leak-free.
- Discomfort – Women report that menstrual cups are so comfortable that they forget about having placed a cup inside because they cannot feel it.
- Odour – When using cloths or pads, the blood comes in contact with the air, which creates a foul smell. When using menstrual cups, the blood is collected inside the body and never comes in contact with the air, which is why there is no odour.
- Falling out – Most women are conscious that their cloth or pad might get out of position or fall out. When the menstrual cup is being used, the cup remains inside the body, forming a seal, and does not come out until the user willingly removes it.
- Cost – Cloth can be a very cheap option, since women can use a variety of cloths available at home. In the case of disposable pads, women spend roughly Rs. 70 on their periods in every cycle and this can be a burden for many. The menstrual cup is a one-time investment for a total of 10 years.
What about other benefits?
- Menstrual cups are reusable for up to 10 years, unlike pads and tampons, which are one-time use products. Its cost ranges from Rs. 300 to 3000, but this purchase will pay itself off quickly and save considerably more money.
- You may spend Rs. 12,000 on your periods in 10 years, while a menstrual cup can be purchased anywhere between Rs. 300 to 3000.
- The contact with air also creates a foul smell, from oxidation, which does not take place in menstrual cups. A part of this foul smell also comes from the blood that reacts with the chemicals in most non-organic disposable sanitary napkins. The seal also diminishes the potential for creating odour as it does not come into contact with the air.
- The cup can store blood for up to 12 hours. Sanitary pads and tampons are generally used for as long as 6 hours, after which, they are not considered safe to use. The menstrual cup can safely hold 3-5 times more blood than a large size tampon or sanitary napkin can.
- No waste, besides the blood, is created using the menstrual cup. It is a much more environmentally sustainable method compared to the waste from pads – wrappers and pads or applicators and tampons. Also, this means that you don’t have to wrap the pad in newspaper and unsuspectingly drop it in a dustbin.
- Menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone which is allergy free and devoid of the chemicals used for bleaching as in most pads and tampons. These chemicals, such as dioxin, are carcinogenic, meaning they can contribute to cancer. Additionally, sanitary napkins and tampons can cause irritation, itchiness and or a feeling of wetness.
- When placed correctly, the menstrual cup is secure with the seal and allows for a great range of motion for exercise, swimming and other life activities without leakage.
Steps of placing a menstrual cup
Step 1: Folding – Different folds
Punch-down fold – This provides the smallest diameter, therefore, the insertion is easiest. (skinny at the top, wider toward the bottom)
C-Fold- a wider fold technique, uniform width throughout
7-Fold- maintains the skinny insertion point as does the punch down fold but has a more consistent width.
Step 2: Inserting the menstrual cup
It is very important to relax the pelvic muscles to insert the cup. Here are the instructions for insertion:
- You have to stretch your legs apart during insertion, either by parting your legs, placing it on a higher ground, squatting or sitting on the toilet seat.
- Use one hand to expand the vaginal opening.
- With the other hand, slowly insert the cup and do not let go of the fold. Precaution – if you let go as soon as it goes inside, it will open and cause discomfort. If this occurs, simply, pinch and remove to retry.
- Insert the cup at an angle rather than straight up as the uterus is slightly tilted.
- Continue to insert the cup until the opening of the cup is at least an inch past your vaginal opening. Then, slowly let the cup open. Wait for the pop sound.
- If cup does not open properly, insert your index finger and circle around the outside of the cup to open it.
- Now, the air suction seal should be created.
- You may have to gently rotate and push the cup upwards so that the stem is not visible from the vaginal opening or so that it is comfortably inserted.
- Remove your hand and wash your hands with soap and water.
Videos for insertion tips:
- Video on insertion: (English) Sarah Tran
“How to Insert the Cup”– https://youtu.be/Voqd8e8aaBs
- Video on insertion: (English) Precious star pads
“How to insert a menstrual cup, pain free!”- https://youtu.be/RzjzD8kQ260 –
This is a first-hand video of different folds and more tips on how to insert the menstrual cup so that it does not hurt.
Step 3: Removing the menstrual cup
It is very important to relax the pelvic muscles to remove the cup. To remove:
- Pinch the bottom of the cup and break the seal
- If you can’t reach the bottom, grab the stem and pull it until you can pinch it.
- Slowly pull the cup out of your vagina, once again at an angle and by rocking it from side to side
- Pour the cup’s contents into the sink or pot
- Rinse the cup with water or clean it with tissue
- Place it back inside following from step 1
Here are videos of different users and brands which demonstrate how the menstrual cup is sterilized and how it can be inserted and removed as well as their experiences:
- Video on folds, insertion and removal: (English) Organicup
“How to use a Menstrual Cup – In-depth Instructional Video”- https://youtu.be/o9fPUfm-uYE
This is an advertisement for Organicup. They take you through how to insert it and how to take it back out. This video is very useful in learning about various positions you may have to try to and other tips and tricks.
- Video about menstrual cup benefits: (In Hindi) Hygiene and You
“मैंने कपड़ा या पैड लेना क्यों बंद किया? मेंस्ट्रुअल कप क्या है और कैसे उसे यूज़ करे? Happy women’s day”- https://youtu.be/4h32jF3orh4
This is a first-hand video of a new person trying the menstrual cup. She goes through a lot of pros for using the menstrual cups and very importantly, why should you use the menstrual cups. She also shares important tips on how to insert the menstrual cup.
- Video about insertion techniques with model: (English)
“How to use a menstrual cup? How to insert a menstrual cup?”- https://youtu.be/7Ka8KmdgdUQ She demonstrates using a model on Insertion and removal techniques. There is information on different heights of cervix and a need for different sizes of cups accordingly. It is important to relax to remove the cup – with tension the cup is harder to remove.
- Video reviewing Sannap cup: (English) DELIFASHIONBLOGGER
“MENSTRUAL CUPS in INDIA! & My experience”– https://youtu.be/QbQ4-msyyY0
This is a first-hand experience of a new person being introduced to menstrual cups. She talks about the menstrual cups in the context of India.
How can I get a menstrual cup?
- There are many brands available such as the Sirona, Sannap cup, Ruby cup, Silky cup, DivaCup, Organicup, Silky Cup, Lunnette cup, SheCup, and Rustic Art menstrual cup (prices vary).
- There may be a menstrual cup available in a medical store near you.
- Most of these brands are available on Amazon or Flipkart.
Some important things to know before you try the menstrual cup:
- You may not be able to insert it the first time. A little persistence and the right technique are required for success. This is mentioned previously.
- Water or water-based lubricants can help in the process of insertion (not oil-based as this can damage the cup).
- There are several different types of sizes of menstrual cups depending on the height of one’s cervix, the amount of blood flow, whether one has given birth and or is above the age of 30.
- There is a very small chance that your hymen can break upon use as the menstrual cup is inserted into the vaginal canal. When in correct position, the menstrual cup sits well below the cervix and vaginal fornices.
- You must wash your hands with soap before and after using the cup.
- The cup should be stored in the cloth pouch provided after each cycle as it needs proper aeration.
- When it is placed correctly, the cup will only leak if it is completely full.
- When the cup is full, you may not feel anything. If the cup is leaking, this is when you can feel a leaking sensation. It is important to know roughly when your cup needs to be removed and reinserted. It is recommended to wear a pad until you have a better idea of when to switch and how to prevent leakage. This comes with experience after a few cycles of using the cup.
- The vaginal canal is a muscular, elastic tube. The cup can move with your body as your body heat softens the silicone and allows it to conform to your body shape.
- The vaginal canal is an elastic, muscular tube only about four (4) – five (5) inches (10.2 – 12.7 cm) long and is designed to stretch and return to its normal size. We know this to be true because our vaginas do just that during childbirth or intercourse.
- It is not necessary to remove the cup for urination or bowel movement.
Common Fears, Questions, Concerns
- Can the cup get stuck inside of me? What if it does not come out?
Rest assured. The cup cannot get lost inside your body, as it will only go so far as up to your cervix. Try to relax and squat down as this shortens the length of your vaginal canal. Then, push gently (as if going for a bowel movement) until you can grab ahold of the bottom of the cup. The goal is to grab enough to break the seal. (A note, this seal is secured as the cup will not come out during any kind of excretion until the bottom of the cup is pinched to break the seal, which is only possible if done by hand.)
- “It is too big for me”
Menstrual cups are available in all sizes, so the first step is to consider your body’s needs according to the amount of flow, the height of one’s cervix, one’s age and whether or not one has given birth. Even so, at first it may seem too big; however, the cup is flexible and can be placed by various folding types and it is a matter of adjustment. Since the cup is made of silicone, it takes on the shape of one’s body. For those with a higher cervix- a longer cup is recommended, while those who have a lower cervix, a shorter one. Heavier flows require larger sized cups such as a medium or large, while lighter flows need a smaller sized cup.
- “It will hurt too much”
There is a slight pain during the initial period of getting used to the cup, however, it has been mentioned by the users that its almost negligible. This pain goes away once a person gets used to the menstrual cups and learns how to place it inside. It can be slightly challenging at the beginning, but persistence pays for the hard work. You must get to learn about your own body, for example, realize that the vaginal walls are elastic, yet sensitive. When taking out the cup, one should do so carefully and slowly. First, be sure to break the seal, and then remove the cup by rocking it from side to side. If you do it correctly and carefully, inserting or removing the menstrual cup should not be painful.
- I am afraid of using the menstrual cup.
Your reaction is quite common, and this is the reaction that most women have at first. There is no need to fear the cup, as it is simply a helpful menstrual hygiene tool. With some patience and persistence, you can experience the comfort and benefits that come with using a cup.
- What do other girls feel about the menstrual cup?
Many women are making the switch to the menstrual cup. More gynaecologists are recommending the menstrual cup as an alternative to pads and tampons.
- Can any woman use menstrual cups?
Any women who are of menstruating age can use the menstrual cup although women who are experiencing their first period are advised to get used to their cycle first.
- Why have I not heard of menstrual cup before now?
Menstrual cups have been around for decades, however, they have not been advertised enough. With the boost of social media, they are picking up their market and will soon find home in every women’s purse.
- But I like using pads and I have been using it for years.
The most important reason why you should make a switch is because it can store the blood for almost 12 hours and no pads can store the amount of blood menstrual cups can. (There are numerous other reasons why menstrual cups may be better choice which can be found in the previous pages.)
- Are menstrual cups expensive?
The prices of menstrual cups vary, from Rs. 300 to 3000. Compared to buying pads or tampons every cycle, the menstrual cup pays itself off.
- Does it make the vaginal space bigger?
The vaginal canal is a flexible tube which can expand and retract. The menstrual cup will not stretch you out.
- Can I feel the cup when using it?
As you become more experienced and know exactly how to fit the cup, you almost forget that you are wearing the cup because it is so comfortable.
- What should I do before use?
Check that the air holes at the top of your cup are open as this is what creates a small suction. Wash your hands and clean the cup by washing with water and a mild water-based soap. Then boil it in a large amount of water for a few minutes before first use. Or pour the boiling water in a mug and drop the menstrual cup in the mug.
- I have long nails. Can I still use the cup?
You can, but you may need to be more careful than other women, during insertion and removal. The material is thick enough to where your nails will not damage it, but long nails may hurt the delicate skin in that area, if special care is not taken.
- How do I choose the right size of menstrual cup for me?
There are different available options. They vary on your age, flow, fitness, birth given and size. You have to explore. Generally, a large size can be used for women who have given birth vaginally or by C-section and a small size for women who have not.
- Will my cup get full and leak?
A cup can hold from anywhere between 18mL to 42mL, while a regular pad can only hold around 8mL (varies for different brands). Even the smallest cup can probably hold a complete day’s menstrual fluid depending on the fluid. Do keep changing the cup every 12 hours maximum.
- Is it messy to use a menstrual cup?
During insertion and removal, it is inevitable that some blood will get on your hands. Menstrual blood is a part of your body and is a natural part of life. After removing the cup, pour the contents into the pot or toilet. Also, have some water, tissues and or rags to clean the cup before reinserting it.
- What is the best position to insert and remove the menstrual cup?
You have to stretch your legs apart during insertion, either by parting your legs, placing it on a higher ground, squatting or sitting on the toilet seat. You will find the method that works for your after some experimentation.
- How do I know which size is appropriate for me?
By gauging the amount of one’s flow as heavy or light can determine a larger or smaller cup. Also, the length of one’s cervix can determine a longer or shorter cup. Women who are over the age of 30 and or who have given birth, are recommended larger-sized cups. Once you have mastered the insertion and removal of your cup, you can then decide if you need to cut the stem for more comfort. This depends on the height of one’s cervix. Women with a higher cervix may not require the stem to be cut, and me advised a longer cup while those with a lower cervix might cut the stem or need a shorter cup.
- How do I know it is placed correctly?
You will know it is placed correctly when you can no longer feel the cup, the seal has been created and there is no leakage.
- I am new to using menstrual cups, should I use back-up methods?
There is a learning curve to using the menstrual cups. In the beginning, as you’re are getting used to the placement of the cup, wearing a pad or liner is recommended as there may be leaks with improper seals or cup sizes. However, once you master the technique which works best for you, there should not be any leakage.
- I am having difficulty in inserting the cup. Is it common?
It is very common to find some difficulty in inserting the cup. There is a learning curve as it is unlike pads or tampons, but the hard work pays off very soon.
- Does it obstruct the menstrual flow? Does it create a backward pressure?
No, there is no backward pressure and research studies have proven this. The cup only collects the collects the menstrual blood.
- How does the cup stay in place?
Thanks to your pelvic muscles, they prevent the menstrual cup from moving.
- What is the menstrual cup made out of?
Medical grade silicone or latex depending on the brand. This is a special material that is compatible with the use of skin and is non-toxic.
- I thought silicon was bad for me.
Silicone is hypoallergenic so it will not cause allergies or irritation. The menstrual cups are also non-absorbent, so it does not change the pH balance in one’s body as do tampons.
- The cup has holes on top. Why does the cup need to breathe?
These holes are strategically placed on the cup to keep the cup in place and help create the seal.
- How do I empty and clean my cup in a public restroom?
Since the menstrual cup lasts from day to night, you should not need to use the public restroom. However, if you have to and bring a bottled water with you. Remove the cup, wash it with the bottled water and re-insert the cup.
- How often do I have to empty the cup?
It depends on how your flow is. If you have a very heavy flow, the cup might fill faster. You have to get a feel for yourself. Once you become experienced, you will intuitively know when your cup is full. Generally, it should last easily for 12 hours.
- Can you share the cup with someone else?
No, this is not advised for hygienic and safety reasons.
- How do I clean my menstrual cup after I empty it?
After every use, wash the cup with water and then reinsert. If water is unavailable, use a tissue or cloth to wipe and then reinsert. After every cycle, you must sterilise the cup in boiling water for at least 5-10 minutes. You can either boil the cup in a container or place the cup in a mug and pour boiling water in it.
- How do I store the menstrual cup when I don’t use it.
The menstrual cup needs to be stored where air circulation is possible. Generally, the cup comes in a silky bag, please keep the cup in that bag at all times when not in use. Never store the cup in a plastic bag or air-tight containers as the cup can mould.
- What if there is no water to clean the cup?
At first, you can use some clean cloth/tissue to wipe the cup and reinsert. At next available option, you can wash it with water.
- Why is there a stem on my cup?
The stem facilitates the removal of the cup. If the cup goes as far as the cervix, you can grab the stem to slowly remove the cup.
- Do stems help you to remove the menstrual cup?
Yes. Stems are extremely helpful and play a big part in removing the cup. You can hold it to pull it slowly and then pinch the bottom of the cup to smoothly remove it.
- Are some menstrual cups softer or firmer than others?
Different cups are meant for different reasons. The firmer cups are suitable for women who are very active in sports or exercise and have stronger pelvic muscles, while softer cups are best when one is not engaging in this type of activity.
- I can’t get the menstrual cup out and I am freaking out. Should I worry?
Don’t worry. When you’re stressed, your pelvic muscles contract. It is important to relax these muscles while removing the cup. Try squatting to the ground to shorten the length of your vaginal canal to the cervix. Push as if you’re going for a bowel movement and reach for the stem. As you can reach the stem, try to stay relaxed and continue to push. Then, break the seal by pinching the sides of the cup and slowly pull down until you can remove it completely.
- What do I do if it feels like the menstrual cup is falling out of me?
If you feel like the menstrual cup is going to fall out, or if it feels loose inside of you- you need to try to reinsert it to make sure that it has opened properly, formed the seal, and is of adequate size for your individual situation.
- Can I use menstrual cups if I am very active in sports and fitness activities?
This is one of the most important reasons why you should consider using the menstrual cups. Women who are very active prefer menstrual cups because of the liberty you have with a secured cup- no leakage.
- How long should my menstrual cup last?
Menstrual cup can last for up to 10 years. Numerous users have used it for an even longer period of time. The only change that happens is that the colour fades over time. It could get damaged from sharp edges or oil-based liquids. If proper care is maintained, it should last for ten years. Do check the cup for breaks, tears or severe discoloration as this is when the cup should be replaced.
- What is the best recommendations for caring for the menstrual cup to preserve its life-span and keep it from getting damaged?
When wanting to keep your menstrual cup’s life-span preserved you should always clean it after emptying, sterilize it monthly via boiling for 10 minutes, store it in a cool, dry place, and do not expose it to harsh cleaners, bleach, or sterilize it using methods that are not meant for your specific cup brand. During insertion, the recommended methods are putting one leg on a stool, squatting or sitting on the toilet seat. Different methods may work for different people, so it is important to try a few for yourself.