What is a Menstrual Cup and how does it work?
A menstrual cup is a bell shaped (usually medical grade silicone) reusable cup that is used during a woman’s period as an alternative to pads and/or tampons. A menstrual cup is placed inside the vaginal cavity and when fitted securely, will collect (rather than absorb) the menstrual fluid (blood). While the idea of using a menstrual cup is still gaining traction in the wider community, the first menstrual cup was actually designed and patented nearly 80 years ago (in 1935). While the use of menstrual cups is great for the environment and also an excellent financial saving, there are also many other benefits to using a menstrual cup. A couple of these include less odour, usage time of up to 8 hours, and convenience.
What is a Menstrual Cup made from?
Most reusable Menstrual cups are made from either medical grade silicone, TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), or rubber. While some companies offer coloured cups, most others have decided to produce only colourless cups to ensure there is no risk whatsoever of potential chemical leaching into the sensitive vaginal cavity. To add a little bit of colour and feminine prettiness to the menstrual cups, some companies provide coloured carry pouches for cup storage.
Will a Menstrual cup fit?
Menstrual cups are quite large to look at and can seem daunting to women new to the menstrual cup idea. However, the vagina is a soft and stretchy canal which is designed to stretch larger and then return to its normal size, just as it does during childbirth and sexual intercourse. Menstrual cups usually come in 2 sizes, with the smaller size generally being most suited to women under 30 who have not given birth vaginally, and the larger size being for women over the age of 30 who have given birth vaginally.
Is a Menstrual Cup suitable for me to use?
Menstrual cups are suitable for women of any age, from teenagers who are only just beginning to menstruate to older women who are going through menopause. Caution should be used by virgins, since wearing a menstrual cup does have the potential to stretch and tear the hymen. If you suffer prom prolapse or other vaginal conditions, you may need to consult with your physician before using a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are NOT designed for use immediately post birth, since the uterus and vaginal canal need time to heal after the birthing process.
Using a Menstrual Cup
If you are new to menstrual cups, it is realistic to allow two to three cycles for getting used to correctly inserting and removing the cup. You may also decide to wear a liner the first few times as added protection should you experience any leaks.
To insert a menstrual cup, you will wash your hands and then fold the cup in the way that suits you best. You then need to gently insert the folded cup just inside the entrance of the vaginal canal (following the instructions included with your cup). Once inserted, the cup will pop open and is then ready to begin collecting menstrual fluid.
Each Menstrual cup is designed with a stem. When it comes time to remove the cup, wash your hands and use the stem to guide your fingers to the base of the cup. You will then carefully pinch the base to release the suction seal and then slowly remove the cup from the vaginal canal.
Cleaning a menstrual cup is as simple as rinsing it under running water between changes and then boiling it in a pot of water for 10-20 minutes to sterilise it at the end of your cycle (or according to your brands directions). It can then be safely stored in the carry pouch that is included with most cup brands. You should not store a menstrual cup in an airtight container.
As with any form of feminine hygiene product, proper hygiene and hand and cup washing procedures should be followed to reduce the risk of possible infection.
Since Menstrual cups are used internally, there are some situations in which medical advice should be sought prior to using one. It should be emphasized that menstrual cups should not be used during sexual intercourse.