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menstrual cycle

What is a menstrual cup and why should I use one?

A menstrual cup is exactly what you think it is: a cup to catch menstrual fluid. The concept has been around since the 1930’s, but has recently become more popular. Some cups are made of rubber, but allergies to latex and other components of rubber are increasingly more common so the best option is a cup made of medical grade silicone, which is hypoallergenic.

A menstrual cup might take a little getting used to if you have never inserted a diaphragm (check out The Green Girls for a pretty accurate, and funny description of the process). Once it is positioned correctly it should not be uncomfortable. There are several different cups on the market, so if the one you chose is a little uncomfortable, look for a brand that has a shorter length cup.

How to use: the cup should be removed every 12 hours (you can remove it more frequently if you have a particular heavy flow) to empty, clean with mild soap and water, and then re-insert. A cup holds more menstrual blood than a tampon, so you can wear it for longer. At the end of every menstrual cycle it should be boiled for 20 minutes. Don’t use anything but soap and water to clean the cup or the silicone will be damaged. When used correctly a silicone menstrual cup should last for a year.

There are typically 2 sizes: small for women under 25-30 (varies by brand) who have never been pregnant, and large for the “older gals” (not that 30 is old, I’m just saying) or women who have had either a vaginal delivery or a c-section.

Why choose a menstrual cup?

The environment. In the U.S. alone we dump 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons every year; because tampons are often flushed applicators frequently wash up on beaches (yuck). A menstrual cup is clearly a more green alternative.

They have a high user satisfaction: in the FLOW study (Finding Lasting Options for Women, seriously, even I couldn’t have made that one up) 91% of women who tried a menstrual cup said they would continue to use it and recommend it to others. There was some increase in irritation in the first cycle, but that decreased as women became more familiar and comfortable inserting and removing. There was also no higher incidence of vaginal infections or bladder infections in this study between cup and tampons.

Convenience. Ever realized you were out of sanitary products, searched the cupboard under the sink in vain for a rogue pad or tampon, and then made do with waded up toilet paper because you were late for work? With a menstrual cup under your bathroom sink those days would be over.

Travel: You know how awesome it is to fill your suitcase with pads and tampons in case your period comes while you are away, right? Well, a menstrual cup takes up a lot less room and you don’t have to worry about the tampons falling out of your purse like some crazy game of pick up sticks if your bag gets taken apart by the TSA.

Are cups expensive? Women use an average of 13 menstrual products/cycle or 169 products/year. A box of brand name Tampax at Walgreens.com today is $6.79 for 40 tampons. So if we round up and say you have to buy 180 tampons for the year (because you always have to throw a few away that have been sitting in your purse for so long they have sprouted out of their wrapping), that’s about $30.54/yr. The Keeper menstrual cup on Amazon.com is $24.28 and the DivaCup is $25.17.

Anyway, that’s the run down on the cup.

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Discussion

19 thoughts on “What is a menstrual cup and why should I use one?

  1. Thanks…I’ve been wondering about these things. I’m going to give it s try. Do you use one?

    Posted by Peggy Butler | August 14, 2011, 1:59 pm
  2. A year? Other brands last longer much than the diva cup then e.g.: Mooncup UK has a guideline of at least 5 years.

    The menstrual cups Livejournal page is THE place to go for more info.

    Posted by QoB | August 14, 2011, 5:38 pm
  3. I had no idea you were supposed to replace your Diva cup every year. I’ve had mine for three or four years and it still seems good as new.

    Also, to cup-skeptics who might be reading: seriously try one, it really is the best thing ever. Benefits that weren’t mentioned in the above article:
    – Because they’re non-porous, the risk of toxic shock syndrome is much, much lower than tampons
    – Also related to being non-porous, they won’t suck up your vaginal moisture and dry you out if your flow is less than expected

    Posted by The Intransigent One | August 16, 2011, 3:11 pm
  4. I don’t get much of a period anymore as I use a Mirena IUD but I love my Diva Cup. Wouldn’t use anything else. Have used it exclusively for at least 7 years now.

    Posted by OMum22 | August 16, 2011, 6:26 pm
  5. I’m another who adores my cup and has used it for several years. Definitely wouldn’t go back to pads or tampons now, I hated both of them. My biggest worry is actually that I’ll completely forget I’m wearing it at the end of a period!

    Posted by Deb | August 19, 2011, 3:24 am
  6. I am so impressed that something environmentally friendly is being marketed for a process that occurs for most women each month. It’s about time we were given a choice like this.

    Posted by Brooke | August 19, 2011, 7:08 am
  7. I didn’t even know these things existed. Daughters alerted.
    BTW Jen, if you could email me (contact via gravatar), I have some info for you.

    Posted by anarchic teapot | October 24, 2011, 9:08 pm
  8. I’m very excited to find a doctor knowing about and advocating the use of a menstrual cup! I have used a diva cup for about 5 years, and the lunette for a couple. I would never go back to tampons.

    Posted by picanini | May 24, 2012, 6:07 pm
  9. I’ve read about risk of endometriosis using the cup, is it true?? what is your experience on it??, also I am trying to get pregnant, would it make a difference or is it the same?

    Posted by Ximena | December 23, 2012, 8:35 am
  10. I don’t like to use tampons because it feels like it’s going to fall out when I go to the bathroom. Are diva cups the same way?

    Posted by Candice | February 27, 2013, 7:21 am
    • If the tampon feels like it’s going to fall out you probably didn’t push it in all the way, or maybe your cervix is so low you couldn’t push it in too far therefore leaving it too low. The first time I wore a tampon I didn’t know how far to push it (didn’t have instructions on me) and it did slide down a little after a while.

      The diva cup shouldn’t feel that way but if you’re worried look into other brands (there are many), read any reviews you can find (you may come across a similar worry) and if your cervix does happen to be low there are short cups and short but wide cups available, just look for menstrual cup size comparisons.

      Posted by Naya | May 31, 2013, 12:46 am
  11. Isn’t there an effect like expandin d vaginal when using these cups?

    Posted by jecyka | March 13, 2013, 10:35 am
    • If you’re asking if it will make you “loose” then no. The cup won’t have any effect on your vagina, if anything seeing as how the vagina is a muscle the cup would be more likely to strengthen/tighten your muscles rather than stretch them like an old hair tie that doesn’t work anymore.

      Posted by Naya | May 31, 2013, 12:50 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: The GYNO guide to mess-free period sex « Dr. Jen Gunter - October 23, 2011

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  3. Pingback: More birth prep – padsicles! | Blog of a holistic mum - June 2, 2014

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