An American actor, Leona Chalmers is credited with the invention of the menstrual cup, a reusable, medical-grade silicone cup that holds menstrual blood, back in the 1920s. Back then, most Indian women had not even heard the concept of sanitary napkins (disposable pads), let alone cups.
While a century has passed since its invention, most of the Indian girls, women and girls, do not find the idea of inserting a cup inside their body reliable and safe and are more comfortable using sanitary napkins. Although menstrual cups have come a long way in terms of design and availability, women in most developing countries are still grappling to come to terms with this innovative device.
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a small, flexible, funnel-shaped cup used by women during menstruation. It is made up of silicone or rubber inserted into the vagina to collect the menstrual blood.
Menstrual cups come with the capability to hold more blood than other forms of feminine hygiene products such as sanitary napkins or tampons, leading to many women switching to eco-friendly menstrual cups. Depending on your menstrual flow, you can even wear the menstrual cup for up to 12 hours. Also, in comparison to tampons and sanitary napkins, a menstrual cup is more cost-effective.
How to Use a Menstrual Cup?
A consultation with your gynecologist can be helpful before you decide to switch to a menstrual cup. As many feminine hygiene brands sell menstrual cups in different sizes, you will have to find your size first. To do that, you and your gynecologist must consider:
- Your age
- The length of your cervix
- Whether your menstrual flow is heavy or low
- The capacity of the cup
- The flexibility and firmness of the menstrual cup
- Your pelvic floor muscles strength
Menstrual cups are usually available in two sizes, small and large. If you are below 30-years of age, you should use the smaller-sized cups. However, if your age is more than 30-years, or your periods are heavy, or you have had a vaginal birth, the larger-sized cups are ideal for you.
Unless you have used a tampon before, you may find using the device uncomfortable initially. However, with the right technique and a little bit of practice, you can learn how to use a menstrual cup the right way.
Inserting a Menstrual Cup:
The following are the steps to use a menstrual cup:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Apply a water-based lubricant at the rim of the menstrual cup; this can make the process of inserting the menstrual cup inside your vagina easier.
- Fold the menstrual cup in half. Make sure the rim of the menstrual cup faces upward.
- Insert the menstrual cup (with the rim facing upward) inside your vagina. The cup should fit a few inches below your cervix.
- Rotate the menstrual cup after inserting it inside your vagina. When you rotate the cup, it will spring open; this will create an airtight seal inside the vagina and stop any leakage.
If you insert the menstrual cup correctly in your vagina, you will not feel its presence. It will also allow you to perform your routine activities without the menstrual cup falling out.
Normally, you can wear the menstrual cup for 6 to 12 hours without worrying about leakage. If you experience normal blood flow, you can even wear the menstrual cup overnight. However, you must remove the cup without exceeding the 12-hour mark.
Removing a Menstrual Cup:
The following are the steps to remove a menstrual cup:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Gently insert your thumb and index finger into your vagina. Slowly, pull the stem of the menstrual cup until you reach its base.
- Gently pinch the base to release the airtight seal. Then, pull down to remove the menstrual cup.
- Once you take it out, empty the blood into the toilet or sink. Wash and clean it thoroughly with water and insert again.
If you switch to reusable menstrual cups, you must wash and clean them thoroughly before reinserting them into your vagina. The menstrual cup should be emptied twice a day to reduce the risk of irritation.
With proper care, your reusable menstrual cups can last about six months to a year. Disposable menstrual cups need to be thrown away after each use.
What are the Benefits of Using a Menstrual Cup?
Menstrual cups come with the following benefits:
- A menstrual cup can last for a longer time. However, doctors recommend replacing your cup every year to reduce the risk of irritation or infection from its material.
- Buying a menstrual cup will cost you less than the total amount spent on tampons and sanitary napkins every year.
- Tampons and sanitary napkins need to be changed every five to six hours. With menstrual cups, you can go up to 12 hours without having to change them or worrying about leakage.
- Menstrual cups hold five times the amount of blood tampons and sanitary napkins can hold.
- When inserted correctly, a menstrual cup will reduce your chances of leakage significantly.
- Sanitary napkins can cause rashes and itching in your intimate area. With menstrual cups, this possibility is eliminated.
- Menstrual cups are designed to handle all stages of your blood flow, whereas, with tampons, you should take care to match the absorbency with your blood flow.
- Unlike tampons and sanitary napkins, you do not have to worry about leakages or constantly change your menstrual cup during nighttime.
What are the Advantages?
The following are some of the menstrual cup advantages:
One of the major advantages of using a menstrual cup is that they are eco-friendly. It even lasts for a long time, which means you will not be contributing to harm the environment and nature.
Even though one menstrual cup may cost you more than tampons and sanitary napkins, you pay a one-time price for it. On the other hand, other feminine hygiene products have to be purchased continually, adding to the total cost.
- Safer than other hygiene products
Unlike other feminine hygiene products that absorb blood, menstrual cups collect it; this makes them safer and reduces your risk of getting a bacterial infection, such as toxic shock syndrome.
- Can be used while having sexual intercourse
Reusable menstrual cups need to be taken out before having sexual intercourse. However, the soft disposable cups can stay in your vagina while you get intimate. Not only will you experience no leakage, but even your partner also will not feel the cup inside you, making your sexual experience smooth.
- Holds more blood
Tampons hold up to one-third of an ounce of blood, whereas a menstrual cup can hold up to two to three ounces of blood. Hence, this also suggests you can wear a menstrual cup for a longer time than other feminine hygiene products.
What are the Disadvantages?
Although eco-friendly and budget-friendly, there are still a few menstrual cup side effects and disadvantages that you must keep in mind before switching to a cup:
- Finding the right fit may be tricky
Since menstrual cups come in different sizes and every woman may need a different size, finding the right fit may get difficult. To find your right fit, you may have to try out different brands and cup sizes first.
- Difficult to insert and remove
Sometimes, you may find it difficult to insert the menstrual cup inside your vagina or you may not be able to remove it correctly, which can cause pain and discomfort.
- Allergic reactions to the menstrual cup
Many menstrual cups are made from latex-free materials; this makes them a perfect option for women with latex allergies. However, in some women, the rubber and silicone material can cause allergic reactions, which can be very painful and discomforting.
- Chances of vaginal irritation
If the menstrual cup is not cleaned properly after every use, it can cause irritation in your vagina. If you insert it without using any lubrication, it may even cause discomfort and pain.
A menstrual cup is a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to using tampons and sanitary napkins during menstruation. You can weigh in the advantages and disadvantages of a menstrual cup before making the switch. If you are still unsure, you can talk with your gynaecologist first about your options and whether a menstrual cup may be the right option for you.