Menstrual cups have been around for a while. At first, I was quick to decide I would never use them… a reusable period product? Eww!
As I travelled more I found myself becoming frustrated at this particular aspect of personal hygiene while on-the-go, so finally decided to try it out. I purchased the Model 1 in Violet.
I read reviews, familiarised myself with the instructions, and searched forums for the disadvantages experienced by others. An overwhelming majority vouched for this product declaring it had changed their lives and they would never look back.
As these things go, my period came the day before a trip to Bali. Typical.
Knowing the value of first-hand information when considering a new product, I wanted to provide my own. From the first challenges to becoming comfortable with the cup, here is my experience in the form of FAQs.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
It is a bell-shaped silicone cup which is inserted to collect fluid during your period. Made from natural, medical grade silicone which is BPA free and contains no chemicals, it resists bacterial growth.
- It felt soft and smooth, yet firm.
- It was my favourite colour, a vibrant violet, along with a yellow satin pouch. It would've been nice if the colours matched but that's me being super picky.
- There are two measurement lines for those keeping track.
- It is smooth on the inside for easy cleaning.
- There are three ridges on the outer base, three ridges on the stem and four air holes to aid removal.
How is it used?
I realised that nothing was more valuable than a blogger who mentioned an odd quirk or difficulty they experienced during their time using the cup, and what they did to overcome it. So, to help in your transition to a sustainable period product I have detailed my learning curve.
After reading countless reviews, blogs and recounts there didn’t seem to be one that was more recommended than another.
Realising it came down to personal preference (after all, it is a very personal thing) I decided to try each of the folds until one was successful. I started with the C-Fold with instant success! It suited me so well I stopped there.
If one doesn't work out for you don't worry. Relax, take a break, and try a different fold. There are now so many video demonstrations.
This was quite easy, and for me the trick was to insert so the stem was no longer sticking out. This positioning allows you to go about your day without feeling anything.
Taking it out was tricky. Finding the base of the cup using the stem, I pinched the base of the cup where I felt ridges. Then the trick was to tilt it to one side and release the suction. You’ll hear the faintest suction sound… And you’re on the right track!
This took a few days to get used to.
How is it cleaned?
Place the cup in a medium to large pot of boiling water, making sure it doesn’t touch the sides or the bottom as it may burn. Remove it after 20 minutes and place on a paper towel until it dries. Pop it back in the satin pouch ready to use when it’s needed.
- Wash your hands!
- Remove the cup, tip the contents into the toilet and rinse the cup in the sink.
- To avoid discolouration and odour, rinse with cold water first, then warm.
- Clean the four small air holes near the rim: fill the cup with water, cover the opening with the palm of your hand, flip it over, squeeze gently so the water comes out of the four holes, repeat until the water runs clear.
- Once clean, dab with some toilet paper, pop it back in and you’re good to go for another 10 hours.
Out and About
I carry Lunette CupWipes in my handbag that allows me to clean out my cup but don’t have access to a sink.
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have the wipes or a sink handy, after tipping the contents into the toilet, give both the outside and inside a wipe down with toilet paper, pop it back in and you can do a better clean next time you’re back at home or your hotel room. Some women recommend having a water bottle when you know you may need to clean in a public toilet. While not ideal, it’s better than nothing.
Having said that, given that it can be left in for so long, I’ve never had to clean my cup while out and about.
Disinfect the cup by boiling in a pot of water for about 20 minutes. Leave it on a paper towel to dry and pop back into your satin pouch ready for next time.
How do you get over the Ick Factor?
We all get it, this stuff can be a bit gross, as are most bodily excretions. I’ve had my period since I was 12 and particularly around that time while I was getting used to this new reality I had many accidents - we’ve all been there, right?
Numerous were the mishaps where underwear and bedsheets were ruined.
There’s no magic cure for it. Over time I came to accept this as a normal part of life and got used to it. It became less gross and more… normal!
What about leakage?
I’ve always had to supplement tampons with panty liners to manage any leakages, so this aspect was a concern.
On the first day of use, I was still getting the hang of it, and didn’t get the seal quite right resulting in a small amount of leakage. On the second day, there was none! Once I learned how to insert it properly and make sure the seal was created I didn’t have to worry about it at all.
Of course, this will depend on your body, flow and the process of learning to use this product.
Can I use it overnight?
YES! Unlike tampons, since it isn’t soaking up the fluids and changing your internal environment you can safely leave it on overnight.
After my first night with the cup I got a fright when I couldn’t feel the stem immediately. During the night, it tends to travel higher so be prepared.
Can I use the toilet normally?
YES! With no strings to pull out of the way it’s much easier.
Does it help with period pain?
I’ve read a few accounts of women claiming that they experienced less cramping while using a menstrual cup. While this is exciting to hear, as someone living with endometriosis, I didn’t have high hopes. After having used it for a year it has made no difference to my symptoms.
Pros & Cons
- Healthier: Many disposable products contain harsh chemicals that are absorbed into the body. Using even a slightly more absorbent tampon than your flow runs the risk of leaving small shreds of fibre, the perfect bacterial breeding ground. The cup acts as a container for fluids leaving the internal environment undisturbed.
- Longer between changes: The absorbency of a tampon approximates 6-18g and the capacity of the Model 1 is 25mL (1g is comparable with 1mL). Greater capacity means it can be left in longer between changes which is particularly beneficial for heavier flows. I could, potentially, go for a full 12 hours.
- Cost Effective: You'll make a huge saving on your normal period bill. I average 1 box of tampons/period (excluding pads and liners), costing about $7AUD per box. Assuming I can use my cup for 5 years:
|1 cup x 5 years = $60||1 month = 1 x box of tampons = $71
year = $7 x 12 = $84
5 years = $84 x 5 = $420
- Eco-friendly: On average 7 billion sanitary products end up in landfill each year. If looked after, a cup can last up to 10 years! Accounts vary on how often a cup should be changed but as a general rule of thumb, if you notice a combination of changes in colour, odour, stickiness or tears then it's time for a replacement.
- One cup: Initially thought different cup sizes were needed for different stages of the cycle. Or that I needed an extra cup whilst cleaning the other. Happily, I was wrong! The one cup will easily see me through the entire cycle.
- No strings attached: Unlike tampon strings, which can get in the way while using the toilet, the cup stem in completely inside, thus avoiding any messes. Just check that it's still in place afterwards and you’re good to go.
- Get to know your body: Sure, it’s not pleasant, but isn’t it better to understand your normal bodily functions and be able to quickly identify when something is amiss?
- Less odour: Odour occurs when discharge comes into contact with air, a common occurrence when using pads. As the fluid in the cup is sealed, odours cannot occur.
- Tricky for younger users: If you've just started your period and still getting used to tampons this may be tricky. For younger users, I recommend buying the smaller size (Model 1), taking it slowly and trying it out when you're having an inside day. Give yourself longer to trial the product and if it doesn't work out, don't worry! Sanitise it, put it away and come back to it when you're ready.
- The Ick Factor: You'll be in direct contact with blood. It may get on your fingers and, in the beginning, you will spill some on the floor but over time and with practice this will pass. For women with a heavier flow, getting used to this product may be a messy process.
- Initially hard to remove: Removing the cup in particular, presents a steep learning curve. If it feels stuck the best thing to do is remain calm - it has nowhere else to go. Just be patient with yourself, relax and if needed, come back to it later.
- Fit issues: If in doubt get the smaller one. Try different shapes or sizes to find the one that's right for you. Depending on your individual anatomy, like a dropped uterus, you may find this product just isn't for you.
- Trial and error is expensive: The Lunette Cup is the only one I’ve tried and luckily, I had instant success.While the mid to long term savings are massive the prices of cups range from $30 - $60, depending on the brand and your shipping costs, if the first, second or even third one doesn’t work for you it ends up being a very expensive process.
- Maintenance: Opting for a reusable product means more maintenance. You'll need to clean before, during and after your period to avoid bacterial growth.
- Messy in public: You won't always have a sink nearby and if you need to make an unscheduled change it can get a little messy in public toilets. Take the wipes or a water bottle with you if you know you'll have to clean without a sink.
- May interfere with IUD: Some women have noted the suction of the cup dislodged their IUD. If you have an IUD check with your doctor whether a cup is safe to use as they may need to clip or bend the wires of your IUD.
I wish I could hop into a time machine and tell myself to get one sooner. For me it was immediate success and like most others, the challenge was in the removal, but by the third day I got the hang of it.
The only way to know is to give it a go.