Ever heard about menstrual cups? Ever wanted to switch to using cups but the idea of inserting a cup inside your vagina seemed daunting enough to deter you from trying it ?
Here’s your guide with everything you wanted to know about menstrual cups.
What is a menstrual cup?
Menstrual cups are small, flexible funnel-shaped cups made of rubber or silicone that you insert into your vagina to catch and collect menstrual blood. They are a period product that holds more blood than any other product.
Why make the switch ?
Menstrual cups are a much more sustainable and eco friendly alternative to pads and tampons which generate a lot of plastic waste. It often happens that the waste is not properly managed which may lead to soiled pads/products exposed to community places and further contaminate waters etc. Rag picked*
They’re budget friendly. One reusable menstrual cup will last for around 5 years, unlike tampons or pads and also much less hassle is involved when it comes to changing/emptying the cup which can be done in 6-12 hours , provided you have access to a toilet and water. When inserted properly the cup ideally doesn’t leak and many women find it very comfortable to conduct physical activities like athletics, swimming, exercise wearing cups.
Menstrual cups are safer. You’re not at risk of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare bacterial infection associated with tampon use because cups collect blood rather than absorbing it. Hence they do not provide a ground for bacteria to breed.
How to choose a menstrual cup?
It’s best to talk to your gynaecologist before you choose to switch to cups and buy yourself an appropriate menstrual cup. Things like your age , your cervix height, whether or not you have a heavy blood flow, if you’ve given birth (not for vaginal size but for strength of your pelvic floor muscles ) should be considered for choosing a perfect size for you. There are many brands offering two 2 sizes – teen and adult – and some brands even offer 3 or more sizes .
How to insert a cup ?
Although it may look daunting at first, with a little practice, you will get used to it . Don’t be intimidated by a small piece of silicone. There are many tutorials on the internet and youtube by experts and doctors (scroll till the end for links) that explain the process in detail. Very importantly give yourself time to become comfortable. When you buy a cup you often get a manual that gives a step by step guide to insert your cup.
- DISINFECT: Before you use your menstrual cup for the first time it’s important to disinfect it. You just have to boil the menstrual cup for five minutes, and that’s it. let it cool down completely before insertion. Wash your hands as well. Make sure your fingernails are short or it might hurt your vulva or vagina during the insertion process.
- FOLDING : there are majorly two folds that are recommended to help in inserting . The C-fold and the other is push down fold. Make sure you clean out the tiny holes just below the rim of the menstrual cup—these are responsible for creating suction so that blood doesn’t leak past the cup.
- POSITION : find a comfortable position, sitting down, standing, or squatting. Hold your folded cup in one hand and with the help of the other hand find your vaginal opening.
- INSERTION: Insert the rim of the folded cup , slowly push it towards your tailbone As you insert the menstrual cup, try to maintain the folded position of the menstrual cup. When it gets difficult to hold the fold, release it, it will “pop” open inside your vagina. You keep gently pushing till the stem is no longer protruding out of your vaginal opening. Do not push the menstrual cup so deep that you are unable to grab the stem of the cup. Many health educators and companies such as Put A Cup In It have YouTube channels with models of the body demonstrating the insertion of the cup if you need better visualization.
- Adjust the cyp with your finger to make sure you are comfortable. Try standing and check if there is any discomfort. A correctly fitted cup should not hurt or poke you.
How do I remove it ?
You can empty your cup after 5-12 hours of inserting. To remove , find a comfortable position, seating or standing . Gently pull the stem to pull the menstrual cup down the vagina until you can reach the base of the menstrual cup. Pinch the base of the cup to break the suction seal—now you will be able to remove the cup more easily.
To avoid spillage, pinch the base instead of just pulling by holding the stem.
Wash your cup with warm water each time you empty it . You do not need to disinfect it each time during your period. Only necessarily disinfect before inserting at the start of your period and at the end of every period.
Make sure you clean out the tiny holes just below the rim of the menstrual cup—these are responsible for creating suction so that blood doesn’t leak past the cup.
Things to remember
It’s okay to take time to get used to this. Kindly consult your doctor or gynaecologist if you are uncomfortable about any aspect of the process.
It is important to note that not everyone unfortunately has access to a clean functional toilet and water which might be a little bit of a hassle while using menstrual cups. (It should be noted that the amount of water required when using a menstrual cup is minimal compared to other methods).
You have to maintain a high standard of hygiene especially while inserting and removing your cup – wash your hands thoroughly with soap before and after the process.
If you get queasy looking at blood it might be something to think about before using cups as you might often have to deal with blood and sometimes the contents of your cup can spill especially as you begin using the ( However please note that period blood is normal! It is not impure or dirty as some taboos or myths might suggest. )
You can use panty liners for the first few times you use a cup if you are concerned about leakage.
Here are some videos on menstrual cups by doctors and experts.
Menstrual cups explained by a Gynecologist Dr Anjali Kumar:
Part 1- https://youtu.be/8jhnVwunTRQ
Part 2 : https://youtu.be/vDXLfUalfQk
How to insert a cup …All questions answered – Dr Tanaya @dr_cuterus on Instagram https://youtu.be/tgXpWtGFbwE
Menstrual cups : use and benefits- Dr. Tina, consultant gynaecologist https://youtu.be/Xp4nLPH1-G8
- The Lancet Public Health.
- www.susana.org. APHRC (2010). Use of menstrual cup by adolescent girls and women: Potential benefits and key challenges – Policy Brief No. 22. The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Nairobi, Kenya
Anushka Kulkarniis a second year engineering student from Mumbai. She enjoys writing, art, Bharatnatyam. She is a reporter for her college magazine and a writing contributor to Girl Genius and Period Society .
Dr Chitra Wagh
MBBS DGO AFIH
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Mumbai Port Trust Hospital