Want to try a menstrual cup? Here's what you need to know
I remember the first time I saw a menstrual cup sitting on the shelves of a health food store and thinking “there’s no fucking way I would ever bring myself to use that”. “I use tampons! Tampons are fine!”
Except they aren’t fine. Even less so when they are your toxic, chemical laden supermarket stocked tampons. You know the ones. With the bright packaging and the expensive advertising budgets. Non-organic pads and tampons typically contain dioxins (a known carcinogen), chlorines, rayon, plus the herbicides and pesticides that were used in the process of growing the cotton. These aren’t things we should be putting inside us every month, particularly in a place as sacred as our womb.
And then you weigh up the environmental impact. Not only from the pads and tampons themselves (plus packaging!) but also from the entire lifecycle of the products in terms of cotton production etc.
“The average woman uses approximately 20 pads/tampons per month, equating to 240 per year which over the average lifespan of a menstruating female (approximately 40 years worth of periods) gives us the grand total of 9,600 feminine hygiene products used during one woman’s lifetime. Now multiply that by the 3.5 billion women on the planet and we have a considerable amount of potentially avoidable waste!” [Source: 1millionwomen.com.au]
So when I started educating myself on this, and realised that I could actually come round to the idea of wearing something that looked like baking paraphernalia in my vagina—I never looked back. And I’ve made it my mission (one of them) to help educate other women to empower themselves in this same way. Not only because it’s good for the environment, and our bodies physically, but it allows us to foster a more emotional and spiritual connection to that part of our femininity.
So here are the questions I get most when it comes to menstrual cups.
Which brands of menstrual cup are the best?
Ultimately it’s going to come down to personal preference and what feels good in your body. I have tried Lunette and Mooncup brand and like both (my Lunette is larger for heavier days). One thing I would suggest you consider is the material that the cup is manufactured from. Most are made from medical grade silicon, but some are made from TPE which is mix of rubber and plastic. Personally I wouldn’t want to wear plastic inside me due to the chemical toxicity of plastic, but that’s just me. Check out the comparison chart here.
How long can you wear a menstrual cup for?
Most brands say up to 12 hours, but on heavy days I probably change mine every 4 hours, similar to tampons.
How do you actually insert a menstrual cup?
There’s a few ways, which are typically displayed in the booklet that comes in the box with your menstrual cup, but I do the ‘C’ fold as I find it’s easy to hear it ‘pop’ open inside you which means it has sealed. Check out ways to fold here.
And how do you remove a menstrual cup?
To be honest, the first time I did this I freaked out because I couldn’t get it out. I hadn’t read the booklet and learned that the simplest way to remove it was to “bear down” as if you’re birthing it. This makes it much easier to grab the stem (some people trim theirs, or remove theirs altogether) and then pull it the rest of the way out. I tend to pull on the stem slightly, then pinch the bottom of the cup and pull it out. It doesn’t hurt at all to remove.
What happens if my menstrual cup leaks?
Occasionally my menstrual cup will leak, either because I’ve left it too long and it’s full, or it hasn’t suctioned properly. I always wear an organic pantyliner for this reason, and remember to give the cup a bit of a ‘nudge and sweep’ after I’ve inserted it to help seal the edges. It’s total trial and error. Some days are great and others are total shark week.
How do you use a menstrual cup in public toilets without making a mess?
Great question, and one I’m still trying to discover a solution to. On the occasions I have had to do this, I’ve wrapped the menstrual cup in toilet paper, run to the sink, washed it out and run back to the cubicle. You can also buy special menstrual cup wipes which you can use in the cubicle (but this just creates more waste in my opinion.)
You’ll save money. The average cup is between $25-55 NZD, and lasts up to 10 years, which is a lot cheaper than tampons and pads.
Menstrual cups are friendly on the environment, considering the only think you’re flushing down the toilet is your blood (unless you’re like my friend Monica who puts it on her pot plants).
You actually get to see your blood and connect with it. You can tell a lot about your health by your blood and many spiritual communities manifest with their period blood. It’s not my kind of fun right now but you never know where I’ll end up.
My period is shorter with a menstrual cup, and many women report less cramps (I don’t get cramps at all). I think this is because the cup is ‘collecting’ rather than ‘pulling’ the blood out like a tampon does.
No running out to the shops when you’ve forgotten to buy tampons
It can be tricky at work if you don’t have a disabled toilet with a handbasin where you can rinse the cup out. In saying that, on lighter days you should be able to last a full working day without needing to empty it.
You need to boil your menstrual cup in a saucepan for 10 minutes after each cycle. Can be a bit awkies if you live with flatmates or your parents and they catch you cooking something that’s been inside your baby maker in the pot they cook dinner in.
The leakage factor, until you get the hang of it.
I haven’t quite mastered the art of ‘removing the menstrual cup with my right hand, wiping my undercarriage with my left, then waddling to the bathroom sink with my pants around my ankles, rinsing it out, waddling back and putting the clean menstrual cup back in’. There must be a workaround for this so if there is please let me know in the comments. I’ve been lucky so far that no-one has caught me in the midst of this but it’s only a matter of time.
I hope that I have given you something to consider when it comes to weighing up your period care alternatives. If you’re not quite ready to make the switch to a menstrual cup, please at least switch to organic sanitary items, or even period underwear which is really gaining popularity! We need to do more for this planet of ours. Any questions I haven’t answered, pop them in the comments below and I’ll update this post.
Till next time!