Image credit: Flickr
Image credit: Flickr

A menstrual cup is a tool that, unlike a sanitary pad, doesn’t absorb but collects menstrual fluid. Generally, it’s two inches long and made from a medical-grade, soft silicone or rubber. It’s also reusable. Some ladies who don’t want the hassle of changing pads every few hours prefer menstrual cups as the cup can be put to place safely for close to 12 hours straight. Also, the lack of bleaches, chemicals or fibers means menstrual cups don’t cause allergic reactions.

Generally, there are two varieties of menstrual cups:

  • First is a flexible, soft, disposable cup that looks like a diaphragm.
  • The other variety is a silicone or rubber-made bell-shaped cup that could be reused multiple times post thorough cleaning.

A menstrual cup generally holds close to 30 ml of the flow, which is close to a third of the total average flow every period. When the cup is placed inside the vagina, there’s a small seal formed with the vaginal wall, ensuring the flow doesn’t leak and falls into the cup.

Using/ Inserting Menstrual Cups

Squeezed menstrual cup. Image credit: Flickr
Squeezed menstrual cup. Image credit: Flickr

When inserting the cup into the vagina, the ring must be squeezed and the cup folded, rotated and pushed until it rests right below the pubic bone. When let go, the cup ring seals within the vaginal walls, amassing menstrual blood. Once filled to potential, the cup must be pulled out, cleaned with soapy warm water, and reinserted. Sanitizers must be avoided as the chemicals could erode the silicone and irritate the vagina.    

Menstrual cups must be positioned just inside the vaginal entrance and shouldn’t go deep into the vagina, close to the cervix, unlike tampons. If the cup drips fluid, it’s probably not placed low enough inside the vagina. 

When properly inserted, a menstrual cup is rarely felt. Inserting it the first time could be a hassle since the correct position and angle inside the vagina needs to be determined. Women sensitive to latex must resort to cups made of only silicone. These reusable cups should be sterilized in boiling water post every cycle.     

Once the cup’s in, swimming, running, jogging, etc. is possible without any fear of leakage. An overflow is also not likely since a single cup can accommodate menstrual blood worth an entire cycle.

Menstrual Cup Positives and Negatives

Menstrual cups are light on the pocket, last long and environment-friendly. Other positives include:

  • Much higher fluid retention capacity than sanitary pads or tampons. This means the cup need not be removed and cleaned every few hours – usage for 12 hours straight is generally the norm.
  • Also, a single menstrual silicone cup will easily last a year.
  • Does not instigate or worsen vaginal dryness (vaginal pH balance maintained).
  • No fibers or parts left behind post usage.
  • Zero likeliness of toxic shock syndrome.
  • No absorbency gels, deodorizers or bleaches.
  • Ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Little to embarrassing blood odor, thanks to the airtight seal.
  • Though not recommended, sexual intercourse is possible with the menstrual cup.

As far as negatives go, menstrual cups are slightly more difficult to put in and remove compared to tampons, especially for first-time users. These difficulties, however, could be overcome with knowledge about insertion techniques and one’s own physiology. Other negatives include

  • Cleaning the cups could be messy, especially in public bathrooms.
  • Fitting issues, particular for women with fibroids. (Thankfully, multiple sizes and formations are available)
  • Trouble removing the cup. Pinching the base and pulling it out properly is a learning curve.

Debatable Aversions

Though menstrual cups have been around for substantial amount of time, their usage is not as widespread as a sanitary pad or tampon. Some despise the concept of collecting menstrual flow. There are others who don’t prefer knowing their blood flow in absolute measures.