Have you ever come across a menstrual cup and wondered if it was worth a try? You are not alone. I started using a menstrual cup 1 and a half years ago after a colleague of mine spoke out about wearing one and happily answered all the (very detailed) questions I had. After that I felt confident enough to buy one and experience myself the comfort of using a menstrual cup. It’s a real game changer! Later I also started learning about the environmental benefits, which mean a lot to me and are another very good reason to switch to a menstrual cup or at least try it out.

In this post I will go into detail about why I think a menstrual cup is good for you, your purse and mama earth. I will answer all your questions, so you will feel as confident as me to try one out in no time!

Why I prefer a menstrual cup rather than a tampon

A big part of the (negative) environmental impact of regular menstrual products comes from their disposable nature. Something I think that we have been led on to believe is “the way to go”. Disposable menstrual products (also called single-use menstrual products) are the main used products today, simply because it was marketed abundantly instead of the reusable options. And why? Because companies saw dollar signs when they realised that with promoting single-use products there would be a recurring purchase every month.

What also supported this, is the belief that periods are something to be ashamed of, something to not speak about in the presence of men and to handle discretely so no one will have to know that you are on your period. This taboo has been around for ages and when single-use menstrual products came on the market it aligned perfectly with that vision. It has never been easier to keep something a secret than to dispose of it right away. The companies even use this in their marketing strategies. Did you ever notice how menstrual product commercials are showing you blue liquid instead of red or using the terms “discreet” or “quieter wrapping” which reinforces the view that periods can’t be seen or heard.

To get back to the environmental aspect, the positive impact would be tremendous if we would all change to a more sustainable option, read: reusable. Because I haven’t mentioned yet that nearly all single-use menstrual products contain plastic and are therefore a source of single-use plastic. So when we dispose of them this obviously creates a whole lot of (plastic) waste. This either ends up in landfill and takes more than 500 years to break down or ends up in our oceans where it breaks down into micro-plastics and is harmful for our marine life.

Most menstrual cups are made of 100% medical grade silicone, that can last up to 10 years! After that they can be recycled or burned without releasing any toxins. 

 

Now that you know most single-use menstrual products contain plastic I thought you might want to gather more knowledge about the other cocktail of ingredients in menstrual products. 

According to this study single-use menstrual products contain synthetic materials like rayon, adhesives, artificial fragrances and toxic chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol-A and petrochemical additives, which are recognized environmental pollutants and are also known to be endocrine disrupting substances linked to some diseases, such as heart diseases, infertility and cancer. Even traces of dioxin, created when these products are bleached white, and pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate, can be found in menstrual products.

To me that definitely doesn’t sound as something I want to put into my vagina. The vagina is actually one of the most absorbent parts of the body, which means that the ingredients in those products can make their way into your bloodstream (and it’s a direct route to your reproductive organs).

So how is all of this compared to a menstrual cup? Well, like I mentioned earlier, most menstrual cups are made from 100% medical grade silicone. The “medical grade” means the silicone has been tested and approved for biocompatibility. Biocompatibility means it is designed to be worn safely inside the body. I use Organicup which is also made from this material. Organicup is certified hypoallergenic, without hazardous chemicals, BPA, latex or dyes. Although there are menstrual cups which are made from other materials, so be sure to check this.

Apart from the material and ingredients there are other benefits to a menstrual cup, which to me are also health related. Such as the fact that menstrual cups only collect blood instead of absorb it like a tampon. Did you know that 1/4 of the fluids absorbed by a tampon are actually natural and necessary vaginal secretions? By only collecting blood, a menstrual cup therefore eliminates any irritation and dryness while ensuring the natural pH balance is kept intact. Another benefit is that due to the suction seal while using a menstrual cup, the blood won’t come into contact with air, meaning no odors. This is ultra hygienic and anti-bacterial.

 

Although I got pretty comfortable with the use of a tampon, I never knew a menstrual cup would be even better. It does take a bit of practice with inserting and removing at first, just like my 15-year-old self had to practice with using a tampon for the first time. But once you get the hang of it, you will thank me for talking you into it. One of the best things is that I don’t feel the cup at all when I am wearing it, whereas a tampon would move downwards when it got soaked and always gave me this uncomfortable feeling. It was the sign that I needed to change my tampon because it was saturated, which is another thing you don’t have to worry about while wearing a menstrual cup. You only have to change it once every 12 hours (unless you have a very heavy flow), which means I only change it in the morning and in the evening and can literally forget about it the rest of the day.

Another benefit is that you can play sports and even go swimming with the cup in. It changed my whole “swimming while having my period” experience. Swimming with a tampon always got me worried about the string showing and made me feel the need to change it after every dip I took (because if it is soaked with water it can’t take up your period blood). But swimming with a cup does not have either of those worries, since there is no string and the water can’t enter your cup. So I said goodbye to “showing strings and soaked tampons while swimming” for good.

Lastly, it is such a comfort to know that there is minimal to no chance of leakage while using a menstrual cup. This is if you insert the cup the right way and wear the right size (more on this later). To back this up, four studies made a direct comparison between menstrual cups and regular products for the main outcome of leakage and the reported leakage was similar or lower for menstrual cups than for disposable pads or tampons.

Money wise it’s a bigger amount you will have to pay at first, since menstrual cups are around €24 (Organicup) / £25 (Lilycup) / $35 (Divacup). Just to name a few brands with different currencies. However, using a menstrual cup instead of single-use tampons or pads, would result in annual savings of €18 to €119 per person (most menstrual cups last between 5 and 10 years) and over a lifetime savings could exceed €4400. If that doesn’t want to make you try out a menstrual cup I don’t know what will!

How to use a menstrual cup

I understand you might still have some questions about how a menstrual cup works. So I posted a question box on my Instagram Stories yesterday (@myinnerblend) and now it is time to respond! Let’s quickly touch on some of them and I will answer from my own experience:

  • Which size do I need?

Usually there are two or three sizes depending on the brand. Since I use Organicup I will tell you about their size guide:
1. Mini, recommended for teens (17 ml capacity)
2. Size A, recommended for those who have not given birth vaginally (25 ml capacity)
3. Size B, recommended for those who have given birth vaginally (30 ml capacity)

I included the capacity since you might want to switch to a larger cup if you have a heavy flow or a smaller cup if you have a very light flow. Every body is different so there is no one size fits all, but these are just guidelines. What is good to know is that Organicup has a 90-day satisfaction guarantee. Which means that if you have bought the wrong size you can exchange it free of charge.

  • How do I insert the cup?

Please note that before you use the cup for the first time you have to sterilise it by boiling it in water for 3-5 minutes (I will get back to this in “How do I clean the cup?”). Also remember to always wash your hands before you insert or remove your cup.

Once the cup is sterilised and your hands are washed, you have to fold the cup in order to insert it. The two most common ways to fold the cup are the C-fold (see the image below) and the Punch Down-fold. It does not matter which fold you use, but it is important that the cup unfolds correctly once inserted (this will prevent you from any leaks). You can check this by feeling the base of the cup, this should feel round. If you can still feel folds or dents you can try to rotate the cup (at the base not the stem) to make it unfold better. Or try to pull the stem a bit, if you feel resistance, it means that the suction seal has been created and you inserted the cup correctly! If you are having trouble inserting the cup you can try to add some water or water based lubricant, this really helps to ease up the process.

In my experience I always add a bit of water on the outside of the cup and I like using the C-fold the most as I noticed that it unfolds better once inserted, but this might be personal. As for the position, I insert the cup while sitting on the toilet. But it is all about finding your most comfortable position. For example, standing doesn’t really work for me, neither did it with a tampon. I always had to squat a bit to insert it good and it goes the same for a cup. So if you already are familiar with a tampon, a cup won’t be that different. Position wise.

  • How do I clean the cup?

Like I mentioned above you have to sterilise your cup before usage by boiling it in water for 3 to 5 minutes. While doing this make sure the cup doesn’t fall to the bottom and burns, but keep an eye on it.

When you are using the cup and you have just emptied it (in the toilet or sink), you can simply rinse it out with water before reinsertion. Remember to first use cold water to avoid any discolouration or smell, after that you can move to a warmer temperature for cleaning. There is no need to sterilise your cup while you are still using it. When your period has finished however, you need to sterilise it again. That way when your next period starts it is ready for use right away.

If you don’t have access to boiling water or water to rinse your cup (think: public restroom with the sink outside of the bathroom stall), you can use OrganiWipes (biodegradable) or another dedicated menstrual cup cleaning wipe. I used OrganiWipes once when I was travelling and I think they are a good solution for those occasions!

  • How do I remove the cup?

Again, start by washing your hands. Then try to pull the stem a bit to reach the base and pinch it to release the suction seal. Or insert one finger next to the cup all the way up to the rim and press the cup, making a dent there. When the suction seal is released you can get the cup out by gently pulling the base or the stem. Just avoid pulling the stem while the suction seal is still in place as this is very unpleasant. Removing a full d cup might be a bit messy in the beginning, so I always recommend removing it while sitting on the toilet. Just don’t drop it haha! I promise you will get better with time and soon there will be no spilling. 

A little side note: Don’t worry that your cup will get lost in there, it won’t. I speak from my own experience since I had a bit of a scare the first time. My menstrual cup moved up a little while wearing it and I couldn’t reach it properly anymore. Just remember to relax and to take your time removing it. Again, it just takes some practice the first times. Another tip is to use your pelvic floor muscles as if you are trying to push the menstrual cup out, during the “push” the cup will move down a bit and you will easier get a hold of it.

  • Does the cup leak?

If you are wearing the right size and if you inserted the cup the right way, there shouldn’t be any leakage. But remember that placing the cup takes a bit of practice. So when you are just starting with your menstrual cup and haven’t got the hang of inserting it correctly quite yet, some leaking might occur in the beginning. For this, I would advise to wear period panties or organic cotton panty liners (no added chemicals) while you have your first month of trying out your menstrual cup. I personally had no problem with any leakage from the first moment I started using a menstrual cup. But I just want to make sure you know it is a possibility if you are not familiar with the process yet. After that, there is no need to wear double protection as you will surely find out for yourself.

  • How do you know when the cup is full?

The cup can be worn up to 12 hours without emptying, longer than that is not recommended. Personally, my cup is never completely full after 12 hours (it can take up quite a lot of blood). But like I said, if you have a heavy period, you might want to size up or empty your cup more frequently: for example every 6-8 hours. Your first month is going to be your trial month where you will figure out what will work best for you. If you are just starting I would recommend taking it out after 6 hours to see for yourself how full your cup is after these 6 hours & take it from there. You will probably experience you can leave it in longer next time and that builds confidence.

  • What about (oral) sex?

Not a question that was submitted but I am here to answer it for you anyway. The short answer: No, you can’t have sex (penetration) with your cup in. BUT what many informational sources do not include is that oral sex with a menstrual cup is very much possible. No blood, no tampon string, no odor. I might even think menstrual cups are made for oral sex during periods.

Thank you for reading! I hope you liked this blog post and feel inspired by all the benefits to try a menstrual cup yourself. If you have any more questions I’d be happy to answer them! Just let me know in the comments, send me an email or DM and I will quickly respond to you.