Yes, you read that correctly. A menstrual cup – and no, I’m not talking about your favorite mug that you bring to coffee with your girlfriends. A menstrual cup is just what it sounds like: a cup for your menstruation.
Are you ok? Did I just totally confuse you? Is your mind completely blown?! Don’t worry – a menstrual cup is actually a fantastic thing! I have learned to love it, and you can too. I am still fairly new to the menstrual cup world, but here is my story about my experiences using a menstrual cup.
I had never even heard of a menstrual cup until after I had my daughter in 2012. I was lucky that it took me awhile to get my period back – but – when flo finally came back to town, I discovered that my favorite tampons were just not holding up like they used to. They were no longer comfortable. I felt like I could feel them All. The. Time. Being on your period is annoying enough, why do I need the constant reminder of feeling a tampon…isn’t that the point of a tampon!? So I reached out to my mommy friends and asked questions like, “Did wearing tampons feel different for you after you had your baby?” “What brands do you use?” etc. Then someone mentioned a menstrual cup. At first, I was shocked. A RE-USABLE tampon?!!? How is this possible? This sounds dirty. How do you even…? I had to do more research. This is what I love about mommy groups – after having a child, mothers seem so much more open about personal topics!
As I started asking my mommy friends about their period patterns, the topic of the reusable cup kept coming up. Although it does sound awkward and dirty at first, I really find that it makes a lot of sense. I’ll explain. Unlike a tampon that absorbs blood, the menstrual cup holds it. You fold the silicone bell-shaped cup and insert it. Unlike a tampon, which you insert UP, you insert a menstrual cup back towards your tailbone. It suctions to you (not painful I promise). Then, you have to have to rotate it 360 degrees (THIS IS KEY!). Rotating the cup makes sure that it is placed properly and will prevent leaking. Then…you’re good to go! When you are ready to empty the cup, I suggest undressing from the waist down (just until you get the hang of things) then grab it and pull it out. I personally try to only empty my cup in the shower so I don’t have to worry about spilling. You can keep it in for up to 12 hours; however, if your cycle is heavy, you will want to empty it more frequently. In the beginning, I would also use a panty liner just in case there is leaking. This is definitely a different experience than using a tampon or pads, but ultimately, I feel like the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
Here is my list of pros and cons of a menstrual cup:
Pros of a menstrual cup:
- Cost effective (one time purchase! I bought mine at a natural foods store, but you can also look online – there are a variety of brands)
- No toxins. Menstrual cups are made out of hospital grade silicone. At first I was excited to be reducing my risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome – which reminds me of learning about periods in my 4th grade health class). But after doing some research, it seems that our chance of getting TSS is actually pretty low. If you change your tampon every 4-8 hours and only use the absorbency that matches your flow, the likelihood of bacteria growing on the tampon inside of you seems low (according to webMD). However, TSS is not the only concern of using tampons. Tampons are made of cotton and most of the cotton in the United States is chemically treated (GMOs, pesticides, etc) and some are bleached. This is my main concern with using tampons. When we insert tampons into our body, any toxins in/on the tampon are being absorbed into our bloodstream, which could lead to a variety of unhealthy and potentially unsafe side effects. I do keep traditional pads/tampons as a back up, but I make sure to have only non-toxic organic tampons.
- Much cleaner!! There is no wrapping your tampon in toilet paper and sticking it in your wastebasket then having your bathroom smell all week (insert hospital mask emoji).
- You only have to empty twice a day. With the menstrual cup you can empty it every 12 hours. I suggest “changing it” (taking it out and rinsing with a mild soap) in the morning and in the evening in the shower. The shower seems to be the easiest, cleanest, and most convenient place.
- You’re saving the planet!! Tampons go straight to the landfill and usually their applicators follow.
- I truly do not feel it.
- One-absorbency fits all! You no longer have to worry about light, regular, super, super plus. On your heavier days, simply empty your cup more frequently.
- You won’t have to rush out to buy more tampons every month! You only need one cup.
Cons of a menstrual cup:
- Much more invasive than a tampon. I have always used an applicator when using a tampon; I never pushed a tampon in with my fingers. So, for me there was an adjustment to having to get “up in there.” You do have to push the cup in (don’t worry, it can only go so far), then rotate it 360 degrees. If you weren’t up close and personal with yourself yet…you will be now!! Then, to remove the cup, go in there, grab it (get a good grip, almost a pinch) and pull it out. Voila!
- There is definitely a learning curve, but there was a learning curve when you started using tampons too, remember? You have to learn how to put it in, how long to keep it in, how to remove it, make sure you’re not leaking, etc. After my first cycle, I didn’t feel like I mastered the menstrual cup, but by the end of my second cycle, I really felt confident in my menstrual cup abilities! So don’t get discouraged, it takes time but is so totally worth it.
At the end of the day, how you tackle your period is your choice. Period. But if you are unhappy with pads/tampons and looking for an alternative for whatever reason, take a chance and try it for yourself – you may be surprised!