Ready to switch to a menstrual cup? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to choose, and use, the right one for you.
Sanitary pads and tampons are common go-to menstrual hygiene products during periods, but menstrual cups can be a game changer. A menstrual cup is a reusable menstrual hygiene device designed to collect and hold menstrual fluid directly from your cervix. Although menstrual cups have become popular only recently, it has been around since the 1800s—actress Leona Chalmers patented the first usable commercial menstrual cup way back in 1937.
Shaped like a bell, with a stem or a ring attached, these cups are generally made up of hypoallergenic silicone or rubber, and can hold from 10 ml to 38 ml of blood (some cups can hold even more). The menstrual cup is flexible, and when inserted into the vagina, it forms a suction seal.
In a 2019 review of studies published in The Lancet Public Health, menstrual cups were deemed generally safe for use, and in 13 studies, 73 percent of the participants were happy to continue using them. The review also suggests that in comparison with other products, menstrual cups show similar or reduced leakage.
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Benefits of Using A Menstrual Cup
1. Eco-friendliness: The reusability of most menstrual cups is perhaps its biggest plus, and can help you do your part towards protecting the environment. According to a 2018 study by WaterAid India and Menstrual Health Alliance India, in India alone, the waste load of disposable sanitary napkins was an estimated 12 billion per year, which could each take 500 to 800 years to decompose.
2. Pocket Friendly: A menstrual cup, with proper care, can last up to 10 years, which reduces your expenditure in the long run in comparison to the recurring cost of disposable pads and tampons.
3. Less irritation: Unlike tampons, which absorb all vaginal fluid, menstrual cups only hold menstrual blood. As a result, there is less chance of dryness and associated irritation, and vaginal flora is not disturbed. However, cups also can feel uncomfortable if you do not wear the size suitable for you. Some people also have difficulty with lack of moisture during insertion, in which case, lubricating the outside with water or water-based lubricant helps.
4. Less odour: Menstrual blood can cause noticeable odour when it comes in contact with air. As cups collect the blood inside the vagina, there is less chance of odour.
5. Ease: If properly inserted, you should not feel your menstrual cup inside. Depending on your flow and the cup you are using, menstrual cups can go up to 12 hours (but not more) before needing to be emptied, so they can last overnight and go more time between changes. Cups are also convenient if you go swimming on your period.
However, every person is unique, and not all things are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor to see if the cup might work for you.
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How To Use A Menstrual Cup
The first step is to learn how to choose the right menstrual cup, which can depend on several factors, such as your flow, the height of your cervix, the size and firmness of the cup, and so on. Follow your doctor’s advice. To determine the height of your cervix, while on your period, wash your hands and insert a finger into your vagina. Mark how far inside it goes to locate the cervix, then measure that length to determine if you have a high (2.25″ or higher), average (1.8″-2.25″) or low (1.6″ or lower) cervix. Using a menstrual cup has a learning curve, and can be a little difficult at first, but for many, it gets easier with time.
To insert the cup:
1. Wash your hands properly and make sure your nails are clipped short.
2. Fold the cup in a way that is suitable for you. Some common folds include the punchdown fold, the 7 fold, and the ‘C’ fold.
3. Insert the cup slowly into your vagina, rim side up, at an angle tilted towards spine. A squatting position is effective.
4. Once the cup is about halfway in and sits a little below your cervix, rotate it to pop it open and form the seal.
5. Run a finger around the rim to check if the seal is properly formed.
To remove the cup:
1. Clean your hands thoroughly.
2. Grab hold of the base of the cup’s receptacle in a pinch to break the seal.
3. Gently and slowly wiggle it out as you push with your pelvic muscles. To avoid spilling the contents of the cup, tilt the cup to one side as you take it out so that one half of the rim comes out first, then tilt it the other way to remove the other half and keep it in an upright position.
How to Clean Your Menstrual Cup
While the cup itself is mostly safe, not washing your hands thoroughly and not properly cleaning the cup can cause infections. To reduce chances of vaginal infections, UTIs and Toxic Shock Syndrome, always pay careful attention to hygiene and safety. Before and after every period, sterilise your cup by boiling it in water for about five minutes without letting it touch the bottom or side of the container, for which, you can place your cup in a metal whisk. During period days, empty it within 12 hours, and wash the cup simply with water, or with mild, water-based, fragrance-free soap. If you are in a public restroom and do not have convenient access to water, wipe the cup with clean toilet paper, or carry cup wipes. Always wash your hands before handling the cup and follow instructions.
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