The menstrual cup is a silicone holder designed to work exactly like a tampon, but with many more benefits. I came across it maybe a while ago but didn’t reach my interest right away, therefore I can say I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the concept. Recently though I’ve seen ads for the Organicup on my Facebook feed, and those ads triggered my memory and opened the drawers containing info about the menstrual cup. And that, my friends, is why marketing and advertising in general is so great. You may be surprised to learn that the menstrual cup has been around and available to buy for decades and was officially certified as safe for public use in 2003.
The reason why it’s still widely unknown? It’s designed to last 5-10 years and costs a mere €25 on average, which makes the menstrual cup a lousy candidate for supermarkets. Stores always favor products with high replacement rates, consumables, as they generate continuous cash flow and repetitive buys. That is why the most advertising and thus popularity goes to the worst possible menstrual solution: the pads. They’re big, uncomfortable, subject to leakage, smell, they’re visible and terrible for the environment. But an average woman spends about €60 yearly on pads, and throughout her 35-40 years of cycle she’ll buy at least €2.000 worth of pads and tampons. That is 20 times more than the menstrual cup. Let that sink in. So the next time somebody says that marketing is unnecessary for a good product because it can sell itself and blast off competition, ask them about the menstrual cup. There, I’ve ended my marketing lesson for the day.
The biggest problem about the menstrual cup is women don’t know (enough) about it. While it looks straightforward and seems simplistic, there’s a lot going on: it’s not a one size fits all. We’re talking here about multiple variables: vagina shape, cervix position, pelvic condition. Nobody knows your body better than yourself, and the trickiest part of using a menstrual cup is finding the one that fits you best. To minimize the chances of buying the wrong one, do your homework and define your 6 variables:
- vagina size: how wide is it? The size of the tampons your normally use can give you an indication
- what’s your cervix position? Your cervix may change positions during the menstrual cycle
- are you wearing an IUD?
- did you start your sexual life? did you have children, either natural or through C-section? How are your pelvic floor muscles?
- do you have fibroids? Is your uterus dropped?
- how heavy is your menstrual flow?
Quirk Heaven recommends you talk to your gynecologist to help you with these questions
Advantages of using the menstrual cup:
- nothing hangs down there: there are no strings nor sticky wings
- nothing smells: the liquid stays in the cup and doesn’t get in contact with air until you remove it
- unlike the tampon, which absorbs the liquid as well as the body moist and leaves an annoying dry sensation when removed, the cup slides out smooth and easy
- no perfumes and other chemical substances, more or less hazardous to health and environment. It’s just a piece of silicone
- collects 2 to 3 times more liquid than the average tampon, which means you won’t have to empty it too often: every 4 to 6 hours should be enough for the most abundant flow and it’s guaranteed to not leak for 12 hours straight at night
- doesn’t absorb water when swimming, like the tampon
- less chance of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome: the cup just collects liquid and doesn’t favor bacteria development
- leaks half as often as pads or tampons
- although not tested, some women report having less menstrual cramps
- environmentally friendly: plastic takes about 50 or more years and cotton starts degrading after 90 days but only if it’s composted – both are main components of the classic tampons and pads
- the disposable version can be kept during sex
- a menstrual cup has a 5 to 10 years lifespan. All it requires is to be sterilized in boiling water for a few minutes after each cycle
Ok I know, it sounds great, even ideal so far, however, here in Quirk Heaven we try to give you the most complete advice to help you make the best choice. Here come the challenges and disadvantages of using a menstrual cup: almost all have solutions and you can easily overcome them once you know how
- using a menstrual cup comes with a learning curve: you need to practice some before you master the technique, but that’s how it is with tampons as well. You’ll know you got there when you don’t feel the cup and when it doesn’t leak
- to apply and remove the menstrual cup correctly you need to learn to fold: find the style that suits you best
- you need to get the cup that fits best your characteristics, you might need to try out a few models until you find the right one
- if it feels uncomfortable it may be too firm, try using a softer, more flexible one. The firmer the cup, the better the isolation
- some women report having issues when urinating. This issue appears when the cup is too firm and presses upon the urethra wall, blocking the urine flow. Using a softer cup is the solution here
- the stem, if present, may stick out and create discomfort. Just adjust it with a scissor, or use the cup upside down and you’re set
- women with pelvic organ prolapse, IUD and fibroids can’t use the menstrual cup safely. It can also cause hymen rupture to those that didn’t start having sex yet
- especially beginners can use water based lubrication when inserting the cup
- removing the cup is messy: best do it over the toilet and break the vacuum by gently squeezing the cup before pulling it out. Empty and rinse the cup before reapplying it. Using a menstrual cup requires you to wash your hands more frequently
- when using a public toilet with no direct access to a faucet, you can simply wipe the cup with wet wipes or use a water bottle to rinse it. You may need to secure yourself with napkins until you’re ready to reapply the cup
- the cups, especially the transparent ones, get stained over time, gaining a yellowish shade. This is only an aesthetic issue, it doesn’t affect the cup in any way, however there are colored options available which hide this aspect
- most of the brands offer the menstrual cup in 2 sizes: the bigger one is said to fit women who gave birth to children (by any birth method), but fitness condition plays a big role in choosing the best fit, so a mother that exercises a lot may be fine with the small version