Menstrual cups – the crash course!
What is a menstrual cup?
It is cup shaped and made of medical grade silicone.
How do they work?
A menstrual cup is designed to sit inside the vagina, just below the cervix. It catches the flow of blood and holds it separate to your body within the silicon cup.
The opening to the uterus is too small for the cup to fit through so don’t panic, you will not lose it.
It is non-absorbing so the blood needs to be emptied periodically. It holds a lot of liquid and as a result does not need to be changed as often as other sanitary items. Because it holds the blood separate to your body it has not been associated with any instances of toxic shock syndrome.
It forms a vacuum seal when inserted correctly, ensuring no leaks even in a busy life style.
How do you choose your first menstrual cup?
- Check your cervix.
The first thing you need to do is work out how low your cervix is. For most people, this is not really an issue but it is a good thing to know in advance. You do this by standing and lifting your one leg up onto the toilet (similar position you take when inserting a tampon). Then stick your middle finger into your vagina and see how far you can insert it before you can feel your cervix. Your cervix will feel like a round marble (smooth) with a dent in the middle. It feels completely different to the rest of your vaginal walls. Then take not of how far your finger can be inserted.
High – You can get your finger in all the way without feeling your cervix.
Medium – You can just get your finger in and feel the cervix.
Low – You can touch your cervix and your finger is only in to the second knuckle.
Very low – Getting even less of your finger in.
Depending on how low your cervix is you might need to get a shorter cup than the standard shapes.
- Go for a tested brand.
The good brands have FDA certification. This means the silicon has undergone rigorous testing and is safe for internal use. It is not going to leach any colourants or metals etc into your body.
- Look at softness and shape.
This can be quite hard to do but the supplier should be able to give you an indication of softness.The softer silicon is very comfy and you can almost forget it is there. If you are sporty you may want to look at a firmer silicon so that it holds its shape better and you don’t get leaks while you are active. For beginners and younger girls, it is better to avoid the very soft cups as they can be hard to use.
As for shape, this preference is something you might only discover after you have tried one. However, if you have bladder problems, consider getting a cup without a prominent rim as these can put added pressure on your urinary system. For most people, this is not a problem.
- Find a cup with good grip rings.
Menstrual cups that have lots of grip rings along the bottom are easier to remove with first time users as you can grip the bottom of the cup and get it out easier. If the cup you are using for the first time has very few grip rings you may struggle to grab it and panic about getting it out. Some cups also have grip rings along the stem which also really help when removing them.
Most brands come in two sizes. The basic guide is:
Size 1 or small – For women under the age of 30 that have not had a baby yet.
Size 2 or large – For women over the age of 30 or have had a baby.
How do you use them?
When you first get your menstrual cup, it will need to be sterilized. You can do this by boiling it for five minutes.
Once it has cooled down, you then fold and insert. There are various folds you can use. The most common are the “C” fold and “Punch down” fold.
Insertion is easiest when you are sitting or squatting. Remember that your vagina is tilted towards your back and not straight up when pushing the cup in.
When you have it in, let go and the cup should pop open. You can check by running your finger around the base of the cup. If it is not properly open then you can grab the base and twist it to open it.
For a better fit you can squat down and bare down with your muscles while pushing your cup towards your cervix. Keep pushing the cup and relax your muscles. This will make a very comfy fit as close to your cervix as possible.
After approximately 8-12 hours (this could be more or less depending on your flow rate), you will need to remove the cup to empty it. To do this you grab the bas of the cup and squeeze to break the seal. You then remove it and tip the excess blood into the toilet. You can at this stage go straight to the sink and rinse or you can use a bit of toilet paper to remove most of the blood before rinsing. Rinse in clean water and re-insert as before.
At the end of your cycle the cup can be given a good rinse and sterilized again by boiling.
If you haven’t tried them yet, you really need to!