Why did you start using cloth diapers on your child? Did you want to save money? Did you want to stop throwing away disposable products that were destined to sit in a landfill for hundreds of years? Did you want a healthier diaper for your baby? These are all the very same reasons that you may want to consider reusable menstrual cups for yourself.
Let’s start with a few facts about menstrual cups:
- They are made from medical grade silicone and are safe to use; even if you are allergic to latex.
- They will last for years without having to replace them.
- They may only need to be changed every 8-12 hrs (*depending on flow).
- They can be used if you have an IUD in place. (Read more)
- They are easy to use; but have a learning curve.
- They are LESS gross than pads and tampons.
- It’s normal to be afraid to try something new.
There are several brands of menstrual cups on the market but they all work very similarly. We sell the Diva Cup and the Lunette Cup. The Diva Cup is available in two sizes and is clear in color. The Lunette Cup is available in two sizes and is available in clear or four fun colors (pink, green, orange and blue).
What size should I get? Both come in size 1 and size 2. Size 1 is typically used for teens and women who have not been pregnant. Women with strong core and pelvic floor muscles, women with a low cervix, and those with sensitive bladders may also prefer the size 1. Those of us who have had children find the size 2 to fit better. There is a detailed sizing guide available from Lunette and Diva Cup on their websites.
How do I get it in? There are several different ways to put the cup in. You can fold the cup (see diagram below) and gently push it into your vaginal canal. You will feel the cup unfold and form a seal to prevent leaks. I found the Lunette Cup (Size 2) to be a firmer silicone and it formed that seal quicker. Sometimes with the Diva Cup I have to gently pull or twist the cup to get it to seal properly. Everyone is slightly different and it may take a few tries to get the hang of it but once you do it’s a breeze to insert.
How do I get it out? It’s not as difficult (or messy) as it may seem at first. You can grab the stem and base of the cup with your hands and push (like giving birth or going to the bathroom) until the cup comes out.
How often do I have to empty it? It really depends on your personal flow. Most menstrual cups hold about 12-15 ml. On my heavy days, I still only have to empty it 2-3 times. Some women may have heavier flow and find that it may need to be emptied more frequently.
Then what? How do I empty it? How do I clean it? I have emptied my cup over the toilet and in the shower. If you are over the toilet you will want to dump the contents directly into the toilet. If you are near a sink you can rinse the cup to remove any other residue left behind. Our sink is right next to the toilet so I can do it quickly after wiping and then reinsert the cup. I actually found that changing it while showering was much easier because you don’t have to worry about leaks while rinsing the cup in the sink; but a pad can help here if you are worried about that. You can rinse clean with warm water or you may use a gently wash (each brand makes their own). There is no need to dry it between uses. There are also disinfecting wipes by Lunette that can be used to wipe clean if you are not near a sink (public bathroom).
What if I’m in public? Since the menstrual cup only needs to be emptied every 8-10 hrs for most women, you may not ever need to empty it in public. I find that even on my heaviest day I only need to empty it once in the morning and once in the evening. If you are in a public restroom you may; 1) use a handicap (or family) bathroom with a private sink in the stall, 2) use disinfecting wipes, or 3) carry a bottle of water with you to rinse out the cup. I have emptied my cup in a port-o-let, airplane bathroom, and while traveling. You just need to be aware of your surroundings and options. I try to empty it right before leaving the house so I won’t have to worry about it.
What if I have a low cervix? The menstrual cups actually sit pretty low in your vaginal canal and should allow for your cervix to sit within or above the cup. If you experience leakage it may be due to your low cervix. You may want to position the cup lower or change it more frequently.
How long can I leave it in? It is recommended to empty your cup once every 12 hours to reduce your risk of infection.
Is it gross? Is it messy? OK, let’s first start by acknowledging that menstruation is not pretty. It’s not something even as adults many of us are comfortable with. With practice, you can insert and empty a menstrual cup without getting blood on your fingers. It may happen. I actually found it to me much less gross than tampons. I had to change those every 4 hours and find someplace to wrap them and trash them. That to me was gross. With a cup, all of the blood goes down the drain. You only have to empty it 1-3 times a day, which means you don’t have to touch it as often. There is a learning curve and you will quickly become familiar with your body and your flow. I actually find it pretty neat to see how much (or how little) flow there actually is. Each cup holds around 12-15 ml of flow.
Do they leak? I usually wear a pantyliner or cloth pad on the first day – just incase! Once you get the hang of using a menstrual cup it shouldn’t leak unless it’s full.
Can I sleep while wearing a cup? Yes!
Can I exercise while wearing a cup? Yes! Yoga, running, handstands, anything goes! On the heavy flow days I still wear a pad as back up but it may not be needed.
How do you store menstrual cups? After your cycle it is recommended to clean them (or even boil them – see care instructions) so it’s ready to use again for your next cycle. They come with small storage bags that will keep them clean and discreet.
Are they really LIFE CHANGING? Yes, if you talk to any women who has made the switch that is the phrase they will use to describe menstrual cups. No one looks forward to their menstrual cycle (unless you are trying to conceive) but menstrual cups make dealing with your menstrual cycle less stressful and more comfortable. I often forget that I’m menstruating at all and if I didn’t tell my husband that I was menstruating he’d never know (unless I was being a bit mean or hormonal). Menstrual cups really are LIFE CHANGING!
Need more convincing? Watch the Menstrual Cups: What Every Woman Should Know video by Kim from Dirty Diaper Laundry. Other popular posts: What Menstrual Cup is Right for You, and Menstrual Cups: One Size Doesn’t Fit All (a good review on the different sizes of Lunette) by Amanda from The Eco-Friendly Family.