Asking For A Friend: Should I Use A Menstrual Cup?

They're better for the environment. Period.

If you were to take a stroll through my Google Search history, you’d assume that the search engine and I were close friends. Not only do I talk to it as if it were human (anyone else miss that weird little butler from Ask Jeeves, PS?), I have asked it some very intimate (and oftentimes highly ~embarrassing~) questions over the years, pertaining to everything from pregnancy questions to that weird blotchy skin rash I sometimes get on my face when I’m drunk. 

I know I’m not the only one. We’re flawed humans after all, and sometimes our bodies like to do unsettling things. And so, our new segment ‘Asking For A Friend’ was born! Each week we’ll be discussing questions that you might not always wanna ask for yourself. Consider this Dolly Doctor for grownups. First up, we take a good look at the new sanitary sherif in town: menstrual cups! 

Plastic has been a big talking point in the office of late, and in particular what we can do to gently shove it out of our lives. ICYMI, we dissected all the ways in which you can sub plastic out with easily-implementable alternatives (like beeswax > glad wrap, genius). Good for the environment, good for your soul.

Despite a good effort to R.I.P. plastic from my life, I still find myself absentmindedly grocery shopping, only to realise that I’ve filled my basket with various plastic-encased goods—like frozen berries, self-serve nuts in ziplock plastic bags, microwavable rice for work salads, etc. My beauty shelf is brimming with plastic containers (which reminds me—love you more than anything, beauty PRs, but what’s with all the unnecessary packaging used for gifting?). Plastic is everywhere, and when it comes to cutting it out of my everyday life, there’s always one thing that always slips my minds: my period.

If I’m being completely honest, I am still very much team tampon. Those little cotton warriors have been serving me well since my period came knocking on my door when I was 11-years-old (cry for young me). I’m yet to dabble in the world of period cups, but in my quest to reduce single-use plastic, it makes sense to make the switch. I’ve been speaking to a few friends about period cups, and the general consensus is that they’re a great alternative to tampons/pads. As such, I hit up the internet to find out more about what they are, how they should be used, and what the benefits of using one are. If you’re thinking of making the switch, read on, friands! 

What Is A Menstrual Cup (see also: Moon Cup, Diva Cup, Period Cup)

Period cups are smol, flexible bell-shaped cups that collect menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it, like your average tampon or pad. The stem is used for insertion and removal—once inserted, the cup creates a suction seal against the vaginal wall just below the cervix. Every 4-12 hours (depending on the amount of flow), the cup is removed, emptied, rinsed and re-inserted. One cup is reusable for up to five years or more.

Can You Feel It?

Not if you insert it correctly!

So How Do I Insert It Correctly?

  1. Wash Yo’ Hands. That one’s pretty self-explanatory.
  2. Fold + Hold. Get comfy: you can insert the cup while sitting, standing or squatting. 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. To check that the cup has fully opened, slide a clean finger up to the cup bottom and feel it—it should be round. Your period cup can be used any time in your menstrual cycle, from heavy to light flow days.
  4. Wear and learn. Your period cup should be emptied about 2–4 times a day, can be used for up to 12 hours, and also overnight. The measuring lines on the cup help monitor your flow and easily learn your rhythm.
  5. Remove and empty. Wash your hands and relax your muscles. 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.
  6. Clean and sanitize. Your period cup should be cleaned before and after your cycle, and after emptying. To avoid odor and discoloration, rinse first in cold water, and then wash with hot water and a specialised period cup cleanser.

Can I Still Live My Most Active Life?

Yeah, gurl. You can do anything you would do with a tampon in. Dance, run, move mountains, do whatever you like—this is your world, we’re all just living in it.

The Benefits

The environment: As discussed, it’s far more kind to the environment to use a cup rather than going through a packet of tampons and/or pads every month. The average woman uses around 10,000 to 12,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime. That’s a whole lot of plastic going to landfill.

Your wallet: Menstrual cups cost around $50, and last over 5 years. It’s estimated that a woman spends around $2,000 on sanitary items throughout their lifetime (remember that here in Australia, tampons are considered a ~luxury~ item, and are taxed accordingly). I’m no mathematician, but it seems that investing in a period cup will save you a whole lotta cash!

They hold more: Most people who use a period cup insert in the morning, and then empty of an evening. No trips to the bathroom every 2 hours!

You get to know yourself better: Admittedly, I find blood in all its forms to be a little terrifying/gross. But! Period cups come with lines of measurement along the sides so that you can tell how much menstrual fluid is produced during your period. Kewl.

What If I Need To Change It In Public?

If the thought of washing your cup in a public sink fills you with terror, you can take a bottle of water into the cubicle to rinse it, or if you’re in a real bind just clean with a tissue and wait until you get home to give it a more thorough cleanse. Since you can usually keep it in all day, this shouldn’t be a regular issue.

Where Do I Store It When I Don’t Have My Period?

After thoroughly cleaning your period cup (most places suggest rinsing your cup, and immersing in boiling water for 5 minutes to disinfect), store in a fabric bag. Don’t store your cup in an airtight container, as it needs ventilation. Natural materials such as cotton are best.

Are The Cups One Size Fits All?

Not quite. The cups come in two standard sizes—one for women under the age of 30 who haven’t had a vaginal birth, and the other for women over thirty and/or women who have given birth vaginally. Why? Pelvic walls shift with age and childbirth so your cup size will change accordingly. Makes sense! Each company has different names for their sizes (some go by numbers, others by letters), but they all use this metric. No matter what, your a period cup will absolutely be able to fit properly inside of you. Woo!

Can You Sleep With One In?

Yep! You can rely on a menstrual cup to be worn during a full night’s sleep. However, if you have a heavy flow you may also want to back it up with a pad to prevent any accidents or leaks.

Where Do I Buy One?

Lunette make cute ones, as do Moon Cups.

More questions? Let us know in the comments section below!