Menstrual cups are a type of feminine hygiene product that helps collect menstrual blood in a flexible, bell or funnel-shaped cup made of silicone, plastic or rubber. Unlike tampons or sanitary pads that absorb menstrual blood, the cup that is inserted into the vagina collects the blood in an air-tight seal. As it can hold more blood than tampons or pads, it can be worn for as long as 12 hours, depending on the flow. The menstrual cups are usually reusable but some disposable ones or latex-free menstrual cups (if one is allergic to latex) are also available these days.
Steps to Use a Menstrual Cup:
If you have been using a tampon, inserting a menstrual cup will be easy for you as it is similar to a tampon without an applicator. However, finding the right size of the cup is important before using it to avoid leakages or discomfort. The recommended size depends on the length of the cervix, the type of flow, capacity and flexibility of the cup and whether you have had a vaginal delivery.
For heavy flows and history of vaginal delivery, larger cups are advisable while for younger females who haven’t had vaginal childbirth, smaller sizes are advised.
- Lubricating the rim of the cup with water or a water-based lubricant is important for easy insertion into the vagina.
- Tightly fold the cup into half and insert it into the vagina with the rim facing upwards.
- Once the cup has reached the vagina, rotate it 360 degrees to spring it open.
- It will now, align along the walls of vagina to create an airtight seal. The blood drips into the cup without causing any discomfort or mess. One can even jump, dance, exercise or play sports with the menstrual cup firmly in place.
Depending on the flow, the cup can be used for up to 12 hours. For removal of the cup, just pull the stem slowly and pinch the base to loosen the seal. Empty the contents of the cup into the toilet or sink, wash and wipe it thoroughly and reuse. After the menses are over, sterilising the cup in boiling water is always recommended.
Advantages of a Menstrual Cup:
- Cost-effective: As a cup can be reused again and again for up to 10 years, it is very budget-friendly and cost-effective than other hygiene products.
- Environment-friendly: Since they can be reused and not thrown after each use, they contribute much less to environmental waste than other plastic or non-biodegradable products.
- Safer: As they collect blood rather than absorb them, they do not cause bacterial infections or Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) that may occur with the use of tampons or pads.
- No bad odour: As menstrual blood can produce a bad odour when exposed to air, menstrual cups prevent that odour by forming an airtight seal.
- More comfortable to wear as they do not cause vaginal irritation or dryness associated with other products.
- Can be worn for a longer duration as they collect more blood as compared to tampons or pads that require a change after every few hours.
Disadvantages of a Menstrual Cup:
- Difficult to get a perfect size: As the sizes of menstrual cups differ, it might be difficult to find the right size.
- Trouble inserting or removing: It takes a while to learn the art of using a menstrual cup.
- Messy: One can spill the blood from the cup if not removed properly leading to a messy situation. Also, in the case of public washrooms, it might not be possible to clean or wash the cup properly.
- Uncomfortable to use, if not fitted properly.
- Menstrual cups can interfere with the inserted IUDs or having sex. However, certain cups are shaped like a dome that can be kept worn even during sex.