I started using a menstrual cup more than 3 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Hence, I want others to start using a menstrual cup to make their periods leak-free, rash-free, smell-free and most importantly, stress-free.
My quest for a better alternative
I had my first period when I was 10 years old. Most girls are clueless about this natural phenomenon at that age, and so was I. I never used a cloth, but a sanitary napkin. However, I was quite active in sports and would come many a times during those days with my white sports uniform stained. Not only that I would also develop a bad rash on the inner thighs by the 3rd or 4th day and that area has now permanently turned black.
I started using tampons after I got married, but Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) scared me. When I came to know about menstrual cup, I inquired about it and once I was satisfied with the answers I got, I didn’t have a single qualm in switching to it.
So let me tell you what is a menstrual cup and how it can actually change your life. But firstly, let’s know what menstruation is.
What is menstruation?
This monthly guest helps women slough off their old uterine lining and replace it with a fresh new lining.
ABCs of Menstrual Cups
As the name suggests, it’s a cup that holds your menstruation discharge. It is made of soft silicone or latex which makes it very easy to slip on or pull out.
- They are comfortable: Menstrual cups are so comfortable that you can actually forget you are wearing one. Bye bye rashes and discomfort while walking.
- They are safe: Your skin is highly permeable – especially the skin in and around the vaginal area. Anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution throughout your body. This is why it is generally said, “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body too.”
Sanitary pads and tampons are usually laced with dioxins, petroleum products and chemicals. These chemicals on your skin may be worse than eating them. At least enzymes in your saliva and stomach help break down and flush chemicals from your body. But when they touch your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream, going directly to your delicate organs. Once in your body, they can accumulate because you typically lack the necessary enzymes to break them down.
Menstrual cups are made of food-grade silicone, so you don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in your reproductive organs.
- They are hygienic: The cup is made of medical grade silicon and bacteria cannot grow on it freely, but you still have to take care of the hygiene. You will have to handle your cup full of blood and yes you will have to clean it with soap and water. You will also need to wash the cup after each use and sterilise it before and end of each cycle, and wash your hands before inserting the cup.
- They are discreet: Remember the discomfort or constant awareness of the bulk of the sanitary napkins against your pants. The cup is as discreet as they come as it is worn inside the body. Moreover, you need not buy, carry, wear or dispose pads or tampons anymore. In fact, cups give you the privacy to keep your period to yourself.
- They promote a smell-free period: The cup traps all the blood inside. This eliminates the smell accompanying your periods.
- They are environmental friendly and cost effective: Good for your body and good for the earth, a silicone cup can be used for up to 10 years. That’s a truckload of pads and packaging you do not buy and then throw away.
- You need to touch yourself and the blood every time you insert or remove it.
- It needs to be washed before each insertion.
- Once a month, you need to sterilise it.
Measure yourself before buying a menstrual cup. The following image will help you determine it. You can also consult a gynaecologist to help you choose the right size.
Measure your flow
To measure your flow, note how many pads or tampons you use in a day.
- A sanitary pad can absorb 100-500 ml.
- Tampon capacity:
- Light/regular – 6-9 ml
- Super – 9-12 ml
- Super plus – 12-15 ml
- Ultra – 15-18 ml
- Cup capacity:
- Light flow – 10-16 ml
- Medium – 17-22 ml
- Large – 23-29 ml
During heavy flow days, you might have to empty the cup within 4-6 hours. And then within 8-12 hours. You will understand your flow within 2-3 cycles.
Some useful advice for first time cup wearers:
- Ask a gynaecologist before making the switch. Every one’s body is different, your gynaecologist would be able to advise you better.
- Always squat to insert and remove the cup. It will make the whole process smoother.
- Fold the cup (silicone makes it easily foldable) into C or U, hold the folded portion by the neck and then insert the cup. Check the image.
Check out the article to know various ways of folding the cup.
- Buy a cup with the handle as it helps you fish out the cup from inside and break the suction.
- Use a sanitary pad in addition to the cup to avoid accidents. In the night also, it is better to use a spill proof mat or dry sheet like we use for babies under you.
Care for your cup:
- It is extremely important that you follow a good cleaning routine. Always wash your hands with soap while handling the cup.
- Wash the cup with soap (I use vaginal wash as it is less harsh than regular soaps) and water after dumping the contents in the toilet bowl and before reinserting. In case of non-availability of soap, just plain clean water will do.
*Some cups come with soap strips or wipes. They are good for use too. However, you will need to re-order once they are over.
Also, you will also need to sterilise it once a month (before or after use – I sterilise both times).
Sterilising the menstrual cup
Take clean water in a deep bottomed pan. Boil it for 10-20 minutes. Turn off the gas, immerse the cup in this water, put on the lid and keep it for at least 10 minutes. Fish it out with clean hands.
Very important – Do not leave the cup unattended in the pan while the gas is on. It can burn or deform. I have actually managed to burn two cups as I left them in the pan with the gas on. The cups burned and filled my kitchen with silicone ash. Thanks to that, I had to spring clean the kitchen twice before Diwali.
If you have a steriliser at home, you can use it to sterilise your cup the same way as you would sterilise your child’s bottles, silicone nipples, etc.
*If you feel icky about using your kitchen pan for the cup, keep a separate utensil for the purpose.
Removing stains from the menstrual cup
With frequent use, the cup can be stained or become discoloured. To remove the stains, soak it in white vinegar and water (1:10 ratio) for 24 hours and it will be as good as new. If you are not too fond of the vinegary smell, boil the cup for a few minutes to remove the smell of the vinegar.
Storing the cup
Menstrual cup should never be stored in a plastic bag but a cotton bag which is breathable. Most cups come with a cotton bag. After sterilising it, wipe it with a clean tissue paper and place it in the bag until the next cycle. Tada!
Frequently asked questions about menstrual cups:
Does menstrual cup affect the bladder or hinder the flow?
No. Menstrual cup doesn’t affect your bladder because the diameter of the cup is designed for the female body and the silicon is soft and hence avoids any discomfort once you get used to it.
Can menstrual cup be used with those wearing an IUD?
Yes, IUD users can use the cup as the position of IUD and the cup are different.
However, it is advisable to consult your gynaecologist who can help you measure your cervix for determining your cup size.
When you should not wear a cup?
Unless you are allergic to latex or have had a surgery or otherwise indicated by your doctor. If you have recently had a vaginal birth, consult you gynaecologist before you start wearing a cup.
Is cup safe to wear during swimming and other exercises?
As you are inserting the cup inside your body and the suction ensures the cup doesn’t fall out, it is perfectly safe to use it while swimming, gymming, dancing or running marathons. However, it is a good practice to empty the cup before any form of physical exercise.
A word of caution for Yoga practitioners – check your cup after the session as some asanas can break the suction and make the cup leak.
Can wearing menstrual cup lead to TSS?
- Pain areas: in the abdomen or muscles
- Whole body: high fever, low blood pressure, chills, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, or light-headedness
- Gastrointestinal: diarrhoea, nausea, or vomiting
- Skin: peeling or rashes
- Also common: organ dysfunction, fast breathing, headache, insufficient urine production, mental confusion, or sore throat
Can teens or virgins wear the cup?
There are small cups, generally size one cups, available for teenage girls. However, it is a good idea to consult a gynaecologist before wearing a cup. It could be painful for them in the beginning, they can start with tampons and slowly change.
There are many options and brands available in India today. I use SheCup, some use Diva Cup, Lunnett Cup or Silky Cup. Visit Amazon and you will find a whole range of cups there. Choose as per your budget or colour preference ?
Several NGOs like Aurobindo Ashram also supply menstrual cups.
This question bank is prepared by my friend, Manisha Singh and I with valuable inputs from other menstrual cup users. We have a Facebook page Cup O’ Freedom dedicated to menstrual cup use and also have a What’s app group where we hold sessions for new cup users on the 1st Sunday of every month.
Feel free to reach us in case you want to be added to the What’s app group. It’s a non-promotional group.