Geek’s Guide to Menstrual Cups
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a small cup (usually made of silicone) that sits in the vaginal canal to collect menstrual fluid. They can be disposable and generally come in two sizes.
Why Use a Menstrual Cup?
There’s a variety reasons to use a menstrual cup over tampons or pads. First reusable menstrual cups cause way less waste. There’s the added benefit of saving money since you don’t need to go out for more supplies every month. They can stay in longer than tampons (generally for up to 12 hours) and so they can be worn overnight. As long as the seal is solid and it doesn’t leak there will be no odor and there’s the added benefit that it’s easy to keep in a bag so you can always have it with you.
What are the Different Types and Sizes?
There are many brands of menstrual cup, though as of this writing there’s only one brand of disposable menstrual cup. Some of the more popular brands are DivaCup, Lena, Lunette, Lily Cup, etc. They all advertise different benefits and some are better for certain people.
Most cups come in two sizes. Some brands differentiate the sizes based on whether or not you’ve had children others do this based on the amount of flow you tend to have.
Note that the average volume of menstrual fluid for the entire duration is 35 mL and the normal range is about 10-80 mL. Most cups can hold around 30 mL so unless you have quite a higher than normal flow the ability to hold larger volumes is probably not a concern.
Menstrual cups generally have lines on them for measuring fluid so if you’re interested in data about your body and cycle it’s all right there.
Picking the right cup requires a fair amount of knowledge about yourself and menstrual flow. You should be familiar with the location of your cervix and be aware that this changes during your flow.
You can figure out if you have a high or low cervix by inserting your finger into your vagina and feeling for a small nub (your cervix). Based on how deep you have to insert your finger to reach it will tell you. Anything before the first knuckle of your finger is a low cervix and anything after the second knuckle is high. Between the two is medium.
People with a low cervix should consider shorter cups or those made for people with a low cervix additionally if it’s not super low they can get away with trimming the stem (note: make sure where to trim first and that you aren’t cutting a hole in the cup).
If you have a high cervix there aren’t really any special considerations, but you may want to look for something with a nice long stem.
How are Menstrual Cups Inserted?
First things first, before inserting the cup you’ll want to sterilize it by boiling it in water for about 5 minutes (unless it’s disposable).
- Wash your hands
What the Fold?
Okay okay okay. How you fold menstrual cups is one of the biggest discussed things about them. I’ve seen so many different types of folds discussed and created. Some people just like making up their own folds. Whatever works. I’ve even seen one called the clown fold. I don’t even want to think about it.
In general there’s two main folds that are most often used:
Just fold the cup in half like the letter C.
Take one side and push it down so the top forms a soft point. This is generally easier to insert if you are a bit smaller than the C-fold.
Once you have it folded you can apply some water-based lubricant or just water to give it a little help sliding in. Never use silicone based lubricant on any silicone products, like menstrual cups, because it will cause it to deteriorate. You’ll probably want to get into the ‘hover’ position over a toilet - or Captain Morgan it which ever works for you. Then just relax and ease the cup toward the small of your back.
After you insert it you’ll want to rotate it to make sure it’s fully open. It can be a little shocking to feel it pop open if you don’t do this. I don’t recommend forgetting to make sure it’s open.
Don’t worry - this will all take some getting used to. It can take a bit to figure out the right fold. The right position to to place yourself in. It’s just a process to learn your body and how it works.
How are Menstrual Cups Removed?
Wash your hands first. Removal generally requires squeezing the base of the cup to break the seal and you’ll hear a little pop. You’ll want to then slowly rock the cup from side to side to remove. Some kegels can also help push it along. Relaxing is super important here so your muscles won’t hang onto the cup. I’ve also found that folding the cup on the way out helps prevent it from hitting urethra which is super painful and not fun at all.
Empty it out in the toilet and then wash. You’ll want to wash with icy cold water at first to prevent any staining and then you can follow up with hot water and mild soap or menstrual cup wash.
If your period is finally over you can boil the cup and store it in a breathable bag and be ready for next time.
Do some research on what sort of cup you may want. Determine if you are able to have a menstrual cup if you have specific medical concerns. Figure out what your body is like and what your cervix position generally is. When you get your cup remember to be patient with yourself and relax because it does take a bit of practice and can honestly take a number of cycles to master.