Whenever I bring up menstrual cups to my girlfriends, I swear it looks like they’ve seen a ghost. Yes, I realize putting a foreign object up there can seem a lot scarier than it actually is. But with more information and a little bit of bravery, making the switch to menstrual cups may actually turn out to be one of the best decisions you can make for your vaginal health.
What are they?
Menstrual cups are reusable flexible cups that are made out of silicone or latex rubber, according to WebMD. Menstrual cups actually catch the blood from your period instead of absorbing it. The cup fits tightly around the walls of your vagina, creating a suction effect that prevents any leaks. Many menstrual cups hold the same amount of blood as around 3 super tampons.
In addition, menstrual cups are a lot better for the environment than traditional period products like pads or tampons, which you have to throw away after each use. Instead, menstrual cups allow users to take it out, empty it and wash it out so you can reuse the product over and over.
How do you use it?
For many, menstrual cups seem a bit intimidating and many are apprehensive when it comes to trying new period products. However, it’s not scary!
To insert, you have to fold the cup so it’s about the size of a regular tampon. Since there’s no applicator, sometimes insertion requires some practice to get used to. But insertion should not hurt, just like inserting a tampon. Once inserted, the menstrual cup should expand open and sit inside the vaginal canal. Just like tampons, you won’t feel your menstrual cup at all once it’s inside. If you’re apprehensive about the size of menstrual cups, there are a large number of brands that offer different sizes if you’re a beginner or depending on how heavy your flow is.
How is it different from other period products?
One of the biggest benefits of using menstrual cups is how long you can keep them in for worry-free. According to Tampax, you should only leave a tampon in for up to 8 hours, but most experts recommend 4 to 6 hours to stay on the safe side. On the other hand, pad users are recommended to change their pad every 3 to 4 hours at least to avoid discomfort as well as “an odor from bacteria that can grow in the blood,” expert Molly O’Shea told U by Kotex. Menstrual cups, however, can be worn for up to 12 hours which is great for people who hate changing their period products during work or forget to replace them while they’re on-the-go. The suction effect of menstrual cups prevents the odor you can get from traditional period products, since “period odor” occurs when menstrual fluid is exposed to air.
Since menstrual cups do not absorb your menstrual fluid, your vagina’s pH balance and healthy bacteria won’t be affected by wearing one. In addition, there is no link between Toxic Shock Syndrome and menstrual cups. Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by certain bacterial infections that have been associated with wearing super-absorbent tampons.
What brands do you recommend?
Menstrual cups have recently become more popular in the mainstream as an eco-friendly alternative to tampons and are getting more accessible and common. June Cup, Nixit and Mira all have popular models. My personal favorite is FLEX Cup, which offers a unique design that allows you to take out the menstrual cup like a tampon, making messes virtually impossible.
Whether you’re a long-time tampon wearer who cares about environmental issues or a working woman constantly on-the-go, I urge you to give menstrual cups a shot. Who knows, you might love it!