Are you thinking about switching from pads or tampons to a menstrual cup?
Originally designed as an eco-friendly, affordable alternative to pads and tampons, menstrual cups are small, flexible cups that are inserted – and seal – in the vagina, right below the cervix. The blood that would typically absorb into a pad or tampon during your period is collected in the cup. Depending on your typical flow – light, medium or heavy – you simply remove and empty the cup, and reinsert it again, until your period has finished.
The Menstrual Cup Low-Down
Before we proceed with pros and cons, let’s discuss a few of the FAQs regarding cups:
Menstrual cup brands
There are multiple menstrual cup manufacturers. Some of the most common are:
- Diva Cup
- Blossom Cup
- Soft Cup
- Sckoon Cup
- Dutchess Cup
All are available online, and some brands are available in grocery stores, health food stores and pharmacy aisles where tampons and pads are sold.
The typical cost of a menstrual cup runs anywhere from $15 to $30+ dollars each.
How often do you need to change it?
It depends on your flow. For most women, the lightest days only require a change in the morning and the evening; for heavier days, you may need to empty and reinsert it at least three, four or five times per day. Either way, cups can hold notably more liquid than pads or tampons can absorb.
How do you insert it?
Menstrual cups are not all that different from tampons (especially o.b. or non-applicator style tampons) and are very similar to a diaphragm. If you’ve used either of those in the past, inserting the cup should be no problem. Each cup comes with specific insertion/application instructions.
Pros of Using a Menstrual Cup
Aside from eco-friendliness, the pros of using a menstrual cup include:
- Affordability and fewer runs to the pharmacy. The cost of a single cup is typically around $25 to $30, but they last for up to three years when well cared for. Thus, this makes a menstrual cup exponentially cheaper than standard, pad or tampon alternatives. Similarly, you won’t have to go to the store for the sole sake of purchasing pads or tampons anymore.
- Great on the go. Most women we know have two cups – one for their bathroom and one for their purse. Most come with their own little “pouch” that can be tucked easily a purse or toiletry kit so you’re always prepared and never have to make a 9-1-1 run to a pharmacy or grocery store in a strange town – or on vacation.
- Less odor. Tampons and pads are known for having a less-than-desirable odor, but menstrual cups are tucked so high inside – and contain, rather than absorb the blood and other discharge – that no odor is distinguishable from “the outside.”
- Healthier vaginal flora. Because the cup sits higher in the vagina and doesn’t absorb anything (rather, it contains the blood that flows into it), menstrual cups keep healthy, vaginal flora largely intact. This is different from tampons, which absorb vaginal fluids, including healthy bacteria, as well as blood.
- More time between changes. Most women find they have to empty and reinsert (aka “change”) their cup far fewer times than they have to change a tampon or pad.
- No need to remove it during intercourse. This is a personal choice, but many women like that they don’t have to remove the cup as the penis or finger can slide up alongside it – without requiring removal.
Cons of Using a Menstrual Cup
Women who use menstrual cups, love them, but there are plenty of women who aren’t as keen. Their typical complaints or list of cons include:
- More mess. It takes a few times to figure out your method of removal, disposal and reinsertion – especially when you’re using public bathrooms. At home, you typically have the freedom to remove it, hold it upright and dump it in the toilet or the sink, rinse it out and reinsert. In a public restroom, we recommend removing it, dumping its contents in the toilet, wiping it off/out with some toilet paper and reinserting it. Your fingers may also have some blood residue after you remove the cup, but this is easily washed off.
- Difficulty inserting/removing it. Some women have a hard time inserting it properly so that it fits where it’s supposed to (high up and around the base of the cervix). This is the only way for the cup to work properly. If it isn’t inserted properly, it can be uncomfortable and is more prone to leaking. When it comes to removal, forget about the stem. Bear down a bit to push the cup down, and then grab the base with your fingertips as you pull.
- More personal intimacy than you want. Similarly, inserting and removing the cup requires the ability to insert your fingers up and into your vagina. For some, this is no big deal – for others, it is.
- Maintenance. Because it can’t just be “thrown out,” menstrual cups should be boiled or sterilized with a solution made for baby bottles after each cycle. This keeps it free of harmful bacteria.
Are you thinking about giving menstrual cups a try? Go for it, but make sure the brand you select allows you to return it for a refund if you aren’t satisfied. And remember, it can take a cycle or two to become adept at the ins-and-outs of menstrual cup use.
Have other questions about menstruation or your reproductive health? Contact us here at Overlake OB/GYN.