Tired of how heavy sanitary pads feel after a few hours? Menstrual cups are the perfect alternative for an easy-go-lucky period that leaves you at ease for almost 12 hours. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it is also cost-effective. Although you may believe that it is a new concept, menstrual cups were actually invented in 1937 by American actress Leona Chalmers. But sadly, she was forced to shut down her company due to a shortage of latex rubber during World War II.
In the 21st century when we are getting more conscious about the impact on the environment, switching from a tampon or pad to a menstrual cup will help you reduce your carbon footprint. In addition, it will also contribute to your health and well being.
If you have any questions about what menstrual cups are and how to use them, I’ve written a detailed account of everything you need to know about menstrual cups.
Direction To Use
Direction To Wash
Buy In India
Choose Right Size
What Is A Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a cup-like structure made of silicon or latex rubber, used during a female’s menstruation cycle. Unlike a pad or a tampon, it does not absorb the blood during your periods. Instead, it stores it in the cup that you insert into your vagina. Sounds painful? It’s actually not! It is considered one of the most hygienic and environment-friendly way to dispose of period blood. Most of the cups available in the market are reusable, so you also save a lot of money by using a menstrual cup.
How To Use A Menstrual Cup?
It is a soft and foldable product with edges that have been smoothened for comfort. The insertion of a menstrual cup is pretty simple. You fold the cup and hold it for a few seconds, the number of folds depending on your convenience. Next step is to insert it, while still folded, into your vagina, just as you would a tampon. Tilt it back towards your spine a little bit, but make sure it sits low in your vagina. Preferably lower than your tampon usually would, with the stem fully inside yet easily accessible for when you need to take it out. Once inside, the cup will pop open and create a suction-like structure as it sticks to the walls of your vagina and prevents the blood from seeping out.
Things To Remember When You Use A Menstrual Cup
- Wash your hands properly before you touch the cup. You do not want to catch any infections down there, especially during your period.
- Wet the cup before you insert it because naturally, your vagina needs a lubricant. Most women prefer to insert the menstrual cup in the shower. But as a first-time user, it might get a little overwhelming, so you can just stick to wetting the cup.
- After you put in your cup, check lightly with your fingers to see if it has unfolded properly to create a suction. If it hasn’t, then the blood may seep out. Twist the cup a little and rotate it to help it unfold.
- It is a little messy. You may be saving the environment and a lot of money, but you will get blood on your hand. Be prepared to have a drop sprinkled here and there when you are taking out the menstrual cup to clean it. But that isn’t really a deal breaker, is it? Just clean it and you’re good to go. Once you get used to it, you’ll be a pro in no time.
- Insert the cup at an angle of 45 degrees, so that it slips in smoothly. Do not insert the cup straight up your vagina, instead aim towards your spine.
- Squat when you put in your cup! I know it sounds funny, but it actually gives you easy access and is effective. So, squat on your knees and insert till you can no longer see the stem of your menstrual cup.
- Your menstrual cup should sit low into your vagina, so don’t go shooting it up in there. Yes, you should no longer be able to see the stem, but it shouldn’t be further than 1 cm from your vagina’s opening. However, if it does slip in further it wouldn’t hurt you, you will just need to reach a little deeper to take it out.
- If you ever do experience any discomfort with the insertion, just take it out and slip it back in again.
- Feel free to customize the folds when you’re inserting the cup. Because every vagina is unique and there is no standard way of doing this. As you progress, you’ll find out what you’re comfortable with.
- Last but not the least, if you have ever in the past experienced latex or silicon allergies, then it is highly recommended that you get a test done by a doctor and then ask them to prescribe you the perfect cup to use. The skin in your vaginal area is very sensitive, so it is important that you do not risk any infections or allergic reactions.
When Should You Take Your Menstrual Cup Out?
The best thing about a menstrual cup is that you don’t have it clean it multiple times a day. It lasts up to 12 hours and is completely safe. However, you can decide when to empty it according to how heavy your flow is. Most menstrual cup users only empty it twice a day. Emptying it once in the morning and once in the evening is enough to go through your daily activities without any breaks.
How Should You Take Out Your Menstrual Cup?
Reach out and fold the cup and you pluck it out of your vagina. The best way is to reach for the stem and make your way to the base of the cup, folding and adjusting it as you take out the cup. Be sure to wash your hands before you reach in there. Also, there will be drops of blood that may leak when you take out the cup, so make sure you are positioned in a safe space.
You can empty the cup, rinse it, and pop it back in once you’re done. However, if you don’t have access to water, then you can clean it with a tissue and put it back in, but make sure to wash it as soon as possible. Sterilize the cup once your complete cycle is done and I’ll tell you how!
How Should You Wash Your Menstrual Cup?
During Your Cycle
During your cycle, you can simply wash your cup with water and reinsert it. In order to prevent discolouration, you can wash it first with cold, followed by warm water. If you want to be extra careful, you can also use a scent free, water-based (oil-free) soap to clean your cup. For example, a Neutrogena liquid soap or most baby soaps are good for this purpose.
After Your Cycle
The best way to keep your menstruation cup clean is to sterilize it with boiling water at the end and the beginning of each cycle. Bring a pot of water to boil and place your cup in it. However, make sure that your cup does not touch the bottom of the pan as it will melt. You can boil it from 2-10 minutes depending on what your specific brand of menstrual cup recommends. Once you take it out of the pan, allow it to air dry itself. If you are keeping it out during the day, then keep it away from direct sunlight to avoid the risk of melting it.
If you want an easier solution, then you can purchase a microwave steriliser bag that you place your menstrual cup inside and pop into the microwave for 5 minutes. It is reusable and a solid investment if you’re traveling.
What Are The Advantages Of Using Menstrual Cups?
If aren’t convinced yet, then here are a few advantages of using a menstrual cup that will surely change your mind! Not only is it easy on the pocket but it also is great for the environment. Plus, no disposing off stinky pads in public washrooms. Think about that.
- It is cost efficient and a one-time investment! In an ideal situation, your menstrual cup can last you anywhere between 5-10 years. It is good to go until it tears or develops holes. Either way, it is way cheaper than a pad or a tampon.
- A menstrual cup is environment-friendly. You are protecting the landfills and trees that need to be sacrificed in order to make paper-based alternatives. Sanitary pads actually take 800 years to degrade! Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
- No more stinky moments that sneak up on you when you decide to bend or squat. Since your fluid does not get exposed to air and is neatly tucked in, it eliminates the possibility of odour.
- Unlike a tampon which absorbs the natural vaginal fluid along with your blood, menstrual cups do not mess with the pH balance of your lady part and help you stay healthy.
- The menstrual cup can stay inside longer, for up to 12 hours! This saves you approximately 3-4 changes if you are a sanitary pad user. It is also much safer to sleep with.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Using Menstrual Cups?
Menstrual cups are high maintenance and will take up a few extra minutes of your time. Is that a sacrifice you’re willing to make?
- It can be a bit messy. So if you’re someone who can’t get their hands dirty, you may find dealing with a menstrual cup to be difficult. Also, loads of blood right in front of you.
- Learning to get a hang of the insertion and removal can be a task. But once you are used to it, you’ll be a pro. However, the first few initial cycles can be confusing and stressful.
- Finding the right size for your vagina will be necessary because if the size is wrong, the cup may slip out or blood may leak. I will be covering the steps necessary to find the perfect cup size.
- If you have had fibroids or have a dropped uterus, a menstrual cup will not fit in a place like it is supposed to. In that case, you should consult your gynecologist before replacing your tampon or sanitary pad with a menstrual cup.
- Maintaining a menstrual cup requires attention and dedication. But after all the advantages I listed, this seems like a small task.
What Are The Most Common Menstrual Cups To Buy In India?
If I’ve done a good job at convincing you to switch, then you can buy a menstrual cup today. Here are the top five picks of menstrual cups in India, that are easily available online and great at what they do.
- Lena: One of the oldest brands in the industry, Lena is a bit on the expensive side but is the best out there. So if you are looking for something sturdy and dependable, Lena is a sure-shot choice.
Price - Rs 3,232. Buy here
- Sirona: Sirona makes everything from pain relief strips to panty liners, tampons and diapers. Truly a brand that is good at what it does, they have a range of sizes to choose from and is FDA approved.
Price - Rs 220. Buy here
- Super Jennie: A brand that is recommended for active women who are always on the go. It is known for holding in place and never leaking.
Price - Rs 4,019. Buy here
- SanNap: A cup that lasts you almost 15 years! Easy to use, odourless and does not hinder your everyday activities. P.S. This cute cup comes with a cuter pouch that you can store it in.
Price - Rs 299. Buy it here
- Everteen: Affordable and easy to use, this cup avoids dryness and itchiness in your vaginal area. It also guarantees a 12-hour leak-proof period!
Price - Rs 455. Buy here
How Do I Pick The Right Size Of Menstrual Cup For My Vagina?
- The most basic rule is according to your age. If you are younger than 30 years of age and have never given vaginal birth, then you can use a smaller cup size. However, if you are older than 30 years of age and have given vaginal birth, you should pick a larger cup size.
- It is trial and error in most cases. It will take time for you to realise how your cervix sits and which size suits your needs the best. All you need to remember is that these menstrual cups are designed to hold in your flow, no matter how heavy it is. So, don’t buy your cup based on the illusion that a bigger cup will hold in your flow better.
Can I Use A Menstrual Cup If I Am A Virgin?
Of course, you can use a menstrual cup if you are a virgin. You can start using a menstrual cup as soon as you begin your period, no matter your age. It only depends on how comfortable you are with your body and how willing you are to switch to the cup.
Is It Painful When Putting It In Or Taking It Out?
You may experience a little bit of discomfort, but it is not painful. When you pick out a menstrual cup for yourself, make sure you run your fingers across the rim and stem to make sure that it is soft. As long as your menstrual cup is soft and well-cut, it will not harm you as you fold and insert it into your vagina.
Is It Hygienic To Use A Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is more hygienic than a sanitary pad or a tampon. A menstrual cup reduces the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome which is caused by a bacterial infection. TSS has 100,000 cases in India in a year. The most recent case is of model Lauren Wasser who had to get both her legs amputated because of her case of toxic shock syndrome. Menstrual cups are definitely a better option and you should switch right now.
Images - Giphy, Diva cup
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This story was updated in January 2019.