Alright guys, today we are really going to get into it. I’ve learned so much about my body in the past few years since I’ve been on this journey of shopping more mindfully and organically. The one area that took me a bit longer to really figure out was my period. I was in my comfort zone (as much as one could be) when it came to my period products that I was afraid to stray from it. Two years ago, I finally took the plunge (lol) and decided to try out a menstrual cup. I’m going to be fully transparent in this post so if that makes you uncomfortable, I would just go ahead and skip this one. But back when I was considering a cup, I would have loved to read a post like this one and I know there are others like me out there! So read on if you want to learn everything there is to know about the menstrual cup.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a small, bowl-shaped product you use during your period in replacement of a tampon. You can wear it for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow, so it’s very low-maintenance. I switched from tampons to a menstrual cup two years ago out of pure curiosity because I heard that they were a cheaper alternative in the long-run and better for your body. To be honest, I didn’t know too much about the science behind all of it when I bought it but it was being sold at Sprouts and I was down to try something new.
Why should I use a menstrual cup?
I am not here to tell anyone what to do with their body, a person’s period is a very personal topic and I get that! But you’re here reading this post so I’m thinking you’re a little cup curious. Let me share some reasons why I love my menstrual cup…
It saves me money. A box of tampons can range from $5 to $10. A menstrual cup ranges from $30 – $40. I know it sounds like a lot up front, but let’s break this down. You get about 12 periods a year, use maybe 2-4 tampons a day, for an average of a five-day period. That’s 20 tampons in one cycle, which is about how many are in a big box, 240 tampons for the year. Let’s say you buy 10 boxes of tampons in a year (because you don’t always finish that box in one cycle) that’s close to $100! In just one year you’ll save $60 in period products, and menstrual cups can last up to 10 years with proper care! I don’t want to do more math but that’s a lot of savings.
It’s safer for my body. We’ve all heard the horror stories of Toxic Shock Syndrome, right? The news reports on people who had left a tampon in for a little too long and end up with serious medical issues, some even resulting in death? It’s terrifying and makes us want to change our tampons more often than we need to sometimes, which can be a waste. Because the cup collects blood rather than absorbs it as tampons and pads do, it’s a less likely environment for bacteria to grow. This decreases the risk of TSS. As long as you clean it properly, it is safe to leave in for up to 12 hours, which is also great for those busy days where you just forget and end up panicking because it’s been longer than the 4 hours tampons recommend. Plus, you won’t be inserting literal chemicals into your body on the daily for the majority of your life. And if you’re anything like me, you’re down with less chemicals going into your body.
It’s better for the environment. Yes I could have included this in my post on Reusable Products (you can read that one here) but it was so important it just needed its own post. The Ocean Conservancy collected 27,938 used tampons and applicators on beaches around the world in a single day in 2015. Tampons are not recyclable, even organic and compostable ones can take years to break down, and because many people flush them away they can end up in sewer systems or in waterways. Most cups can last up to 10 years with proper care, which (according to our math above) means in those 10 years you are using one product rather than 2,400 tampons.
I’ve learned so much about my body. When I first used a cup, I snapchatted my best friend (with permission) my half-filled cup that had been inserted all day to show her that I didn’t bleed as much as I thought I did when I used tampons. I know you look at that cup and wonder if you’ll need to change it way too often because your flow is that heavy and let me assure you, it’s not as heavy as tampons make it appear. It’s pretty fascinating to know how much I actually bleed, and I should share that since I’ve ditched tampons and have just used the cup, I experience way less cramping and bloating!
It’s empowering AF. I know this sounds pretty crazy, but pretty much every person I’ve spoken to who uses a menstrual cup agree…it’s really freaking empowering! You feel so much more in charge of your body and your period, you are unafraid and unashamed of your menstrual blood, and you can give a monthly middle finger to the pink tax. I tell every person I know who gets periods about the cup because it just revolutionized the way I think about periods. Seeing and cleaning up my blood has made me so much more comfortable with my body and discussing my cycle, I mean here I am writing an entire post about my periods! Take that, patriarchy!
Now that you know why I love my menstrual cup so much, I wanted to share a little Q&A of the most common questions I get from friends when they learn I use a cup!
Q: Is it hard to insert?
A: There’s definitely a learning curve. I always suggest giving yourself some time to learn which way is the best/easiest for you to insert because it’s a process you’ll need to adjust and get used to. But once you get it down and you’re comfortable with it, insertion takes only a few seconds.
Here’s some tips for easy insertion: wet the rim of the cup with some water. With your thumb and forefinger, pinch the cup closed. Then halve the cup so that it’s in the shape of a U. Now you just bear down and put it right up there. Once you’ve got it in enough that the stem is inside as well, I release my fingers and give the cup a few turns so that it suctions (you can also gently push on the walls of your vagina). And that’s it! You’ll know it’s in correctly when you don’t feel it, but I do recommend using a pad or checking yourself for leakage the first few times because the suction part takes some trial and error.
Q: How do you clean it?
A: For daily cleaning, you can use warm water and a water-based, unscented soap from a clean brand like Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers. I use those brands for my hand soap anyways so I didn’t have to buy a specific “cup cleaner” or anything, but those products are available!
At the end of my cycle, I wash it as usual and then place it in a pot of boiling water for five to ten minutes. Don’t leave your cup boiling unattended as it can get burned and will need to be replaced. After it’s out and dried, I put it back in its little case, ready to use for my next cycle!
Q: What do you do if you need to change it in public?
A: Because you can keep the cup in for up to 12 hours, I hardly have to change it in public! I put it in in the morning before work and take it out to empty once I get home, which is so great because I don’t have to do that awkward walk to the bathroom with a tampon in my hand in my office.
If I do happen to be out all day and have to change it in a public stall, it’s not much of an issue. Don’t worry, you don’t have to carry your bloody cup all the way back out to the sinks to clean it! I just wash my hands before I head into the stall, take it out, use my water bottle to rinse it or just use toilet paper to dab it clean, then reinsert. You can also buy some wipes specifically made for cup cleaning on the go like these from Lunette. Once I’m home and take it out for the day, I make sure to clean it extra well.
Q: Can you sleep in it?
A: Yes, but I don’t. I have a lighter flow, so with that and gravity, I am fine not using any products overnight. If you have a heavier flow and need to use something, this would be a great time to test out your cup! I would also highly recommend some period panties from Thinx, I have a few pairs that I use here and there and they’re so easy to wash and reuse it’s ridiculous.
Q: What cup do you use?
A: I started out using the DivaCup for about a year because that was really the only one being sold at the time, and while it got the job done it wasn’t the most flexible or comfortable cup. There’s so many more options available now, tons of brands are even selling at Target! I currently use the Lily Cup Compact by INTIMINA because it is so soft and flexible and extremely comfortable, and it’s fully collapsible so it fits in this tiny contact-like case!
There are two sizes for menstrual cups, one for those who have given birth vaginally and the other for those who haven’t. The sizes have nothing to do with how heavy your flow is, you will just need to empty it more often but you don’t want to change your size if you haven’t given birth. You can also trim the stem of any menstrual cup if it feels a little too long for your body, you will just have to test it out and see how it feels!
So, how you feeling? Lots of period talk today, right? We’re so lucky to be living and bleeding during a time when there’s SO many reusable period products on the market. From menstrual cups, period panties, sponges and discs, there’s something out there for everyone. It’s so convenient and great for the environment and our wallets to find a reusable period product that suits us best. Plus, you won’t ever again find yourself in a pinch when you’ve started your period and realize you’re out of tampons or pads and have to run down to your nearest drugstore. I hope you guys enjoyed this rather educational post! If you have any other questions, feel free to comment down below!