What is a menstrual cup and how does it work?
Not sure what a menstrual cup is and don’t know how to use one? Don’t worry! We’ve got you. Even though they’ve been around since the 1800s, (the first menstrual cup was invented in 1867. Crazy right?!) in recent years they’ve had a growth in popularity for a number of reasons (we’ll get to that in a bit). These first inventions were often made of rubber or non-corrosive metals, and sometimes included a sponge for added absorbency and don’t look so comfy! Luckily though, we’ve come a long way from there.
Earliest menstrual cup patents:
Nowadays, a menstrual cup is a flexible, funnel-shaped ‘cup’, designed to be inserted into the vagina, below the cervix, to collect menstrual blood. The cup is placed entirely inside the lower part of the vagina, just behind the pubic bone below the cervix. It’s held in position by the seal formed by the walls of the vagina and the vaginal muscles. You don’t need to do a thing! Most cups are made of either silicone or rubber while some are made of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) a rubber like material. The majority of cups have a ‘stem’, which can help when removing the cup…though some people end up cutting it off for comfort. (Don’t worry, you can still remove them without the stem!) Check out Lunette’s cup!
We’ve come a long way!
So, why have menstrual cups got so popular? Lots of reasons!
- They’re good for both the environment and your wallet! A menstrual cup made of medical grade silicone can last several years (getting your money’s worth!).
- Cups can stay in longer! You can leave it in for up to 12 hours (also overnight) while tampons and pads need to be changed every 4 to 8 hours. And once you get the hang of inserting a cup, you may not need to use pantyliners as back-up.
- Your vaginal pH and beneficial bacteria aren’t disturbed. While tampons absorb your vaginal fluid along with the blood, which may disturb the delicate pH and bacterial balance in your vagina, menstrual cups don’t disturb this delicate balance.
how do you put it up in there?
1. Wash: Wash your hands and wash your cup! (We have a cup cleanser right here!). Also check that the air holes at the top of your cup are clear and not blocked by anything (like blood or other bodily fluids).
2. Fold + Hold: Get comfy: you can insert the cup while sitting, standing or squatting. You might want to step one leg up onto something higher, like a toilet seat. Spreading your legs will help with a successful and comfortable insertion. Relax. Fold the cup in on itself to make flat, then in half to form a C shape.
3. Insert: Keep it rolled up and guide it rim first into the vagina. It should open on its own once inside. Vaginas are tilted backwards, so guide the cup towards the small of your back (not straight up). Moving it up and down will help you find the correct and comfortable position.
To check that the cup has fully opened, slide a clean finger up to the cup bottom and feel it – it should be round. You can rotate the cup to check that it has fully opened so it doesn’t leak. Your cervix may move during menstruation, so inserting the cup requires practice and knowledge of your own anatomy.
4. Wear + Empty throughout the day: Depending on how heavy your flow is, you might want to remove and empty your cup multiple times in a day To remove, wash your hands and relax your muscles. Choose a position which is comfiest for you, this could be sitting on the toilet, lifting one foot and resting it on something, or squatting. Grasp the bottom of the cup. To break seal, squeeze the bottom of the cup. Be sure not to pull it out by holding the stem alone. Tip contents into the toilet. Rinse & Reuse.
5. Clean + sanitize: Your menstrual cup should be cleaned before and after your cycle, and after emptying. To avoid odor and discoloration, first rinse it in cold water, and then wash with hot water. We would also suggest using a cleanser designed for silicone cups, like this one!
Worried about using it in a public bathroom? Or in a place without access to clean water? Have no fear! Yes, it can be daunting, but cleansing wipes like this one are a great alternative when you’re in a public bathroom or if you don’t have access to clean water. Or you can always use toilet paper to clean your cup and then clean it properly when you can access to clean water.
FIRST TIME TIPS
First time using a cup? We got some extra tips just for you! Read on to learn some great tips for insertion and removal.
TIPS FOR FIRST TIME MENSTRUAL CUP INSERTION:
Relax and take your time: Choose some alone time when you can focus without distractions or interruptions. Perhaps after a warm bath when you are relaxed. If you are too nervous, the vaginal muscles will tighten, making it uncomfortable, if not impossible, for successful insertion.
Get Acquainted with yourself: It is always a good idea to know your own body. Take some time to locate the vaginal opening and even insert a finger to locate your cervix. It feels exactly like the tip of your nose. Knowing where your cervix is will help you to position the cup properly and not insert it too high.
Practice during your period: The vagina is more flexible and the blood works as a lubricant. OR . . .
Take a “dry run” before your period: You might be more comfortable practicing before your period if you feel squeamish about touching blood. In this case, use water as a lubricant.
Try different folds that accentuate the insertion point: Most use the typical C-fold. However, there are many ways to fold a Lunette. Check out the most common different folds that you can use with your period cup.
Be patient: Know that it may take several times before you are successful. If you begin without the expectation of perfect insertion, you are more likely to be relaxed and pleasantly surprised when success happens.
Assess the stem: Once inserted, you will need to decide whether or not to keep the stem. If it protrudes, it will be uncomfortable. In this case, you likely won’t need the stem and can trim it off. However, if not, you may need it to assist with removal.
Tips for first time menstrual cup removal
Again – RELAX: Just as with insertion. Take your time!
Do NOT pull on the stem: The stem is used to gain access to the bottom of the cup. If you pull on the stem, it will hurt! It will also create a mess since the cup won’t be supported or controlled when it exits.
Squeeze bottom to release suction: This is the key – the bottom of the cup has ridges for gripping. Grip the bottom and tweak the cup to the side. The idea is to pull an edge away from the vaginal wall to release suction. You will hear it when this happens.
Rock gently: Once suction releases, gently rock the cup from side to side as you pull it out. This technique might not be necessary, but helps with removal!
How do I decide which menstrual cup to get?
Every menstrual cup has its own unique features that you need to consider! They come in different shapes, sizes, lengths, colors, materials and diameters. They have different stems, rims, number of air holes, texture, firmness, and price When deciding which cup to get, some initial features to think about are: your cervix height, the cup capacity, cup shape, firmness of the cup, and the cup material. For instance, if you’re latex-sensitive, you should probably get a cup made out of silicone
At Allbodies we’re big fans of Lunette! Why Lunette? We love the thought that is put into the design!
Lunette is slightly shorter in length than some other brands, which allows for more comfortable wear, it has a smooth rim, which for some, results in more comfort and easier insertion and we love the stem, which is flat and flexible and so if you decide to leave it on, it can’t be easily felt while wearing.
It also has larger air holes and a smooth interior surface, which makes it easier to clean then other menstrual cups. What’s more (there’s more!) it has two different types of consistency, one firm and one soft! The larger model (size 2) is firm and easily pops open during insertion, while the smaller model (size 1) is softer and squishier, so you can choose which cup depending on your preferences. AND it has measuring lines on the cup to help monitor your flow and easily learn your rhythm. Great right?
Written By: Martha Michaud
All content found on this Website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats, was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
(1,2) Renault, Marion. “Menstrual Cups Were Invented in 1867. What Took Them so Long to Gain Popularity?” Popular Science. Popular Science, August 23, 2019. https://www.popsci.com/menstrual-cups-history-period-care/.
(3) Coughlin, Sara. “The First Menstrual Cup In History Was…Complicated.” First Menstrual Cup Period Invention History, June 12, 2015. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2015/06/89096/first-menstrual-cup-history.
(4) Team, Women’s Health. “Tired of Tampons? Here Are Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, December 18, 2018. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/tired-of-tampons-here-are-pros-and-cons-of-menstrual-cups/; Scaccia, Annamarya. “Everything You Need to Know About Using Menstrual Cups.” Healthline. Healthline Media, April 9, 2019.