What is a Menstrual Cup?

     
woman with menstrual cup

All your questions about menstrual cups answered

If you're fed up of buying numerous pads and tampons every month, a menstrual cup can be a cheaper alternative - and it's a lot better for the environment!

With more talk about menstrual cups cropping up than ever before, we thought we'd write a handy guide to answer any questions you might have.

So what is a Menstrual Cup?

A menstrual cup is a soft cup made out of silicone rubber. It’s about two inches long can hold up to 30ml of blood.

What do I do with it?

Basically, you have to manually position it in the vagina so that it can catch and hold menstrual fluid, in the place of tampons.

If you're a seasoned pad or tampon user, it might be a little tricky to get your head around at first. But it’s surprisingly easier than you think to insert, and it becomes even easier with practice. The trick is to aim towards your lower back as you would with a tampon.

Are there different sizes?

Some brands do provide different sizes, such as Mooncup which sells two - Model A and Model B. Feminesse, another brand, comes in one size.

The Mooncup website claims that “Model A is recommended for women who have given birth vaginally or are aged 30 or above. Model B is recommended for women who have not given birth or who have had a caesarean section, and are aged below 30."

Feminesse's menstrual cup holds 28ml of blood before it needs to be changed.

So how do I put it in?

When you first receive your menstrual cup, it’ll have a 'stem' sticking out of the bottom of the cup. DO NOT cut this off until you know you can get your cup out without it.

For now, ignore the stem, fold the cup in half and then half again... and then just go for it. The cup sits lower than a tampon would, so just ease it in until all of the cup sits snugly inside. After this, you'll need to check the seal has formed – grab the stem and gently twist it to make sure the cup isn’t folded up inside you. You can also physically feel around the rim of the cup to put your mind at rest.

Now for the stem. You can try your cup with the stem for a few days, but if it’s sticking out and pinching you, it's gotta go! Ideally, you shouldn't be able to see the stem at all – it should be inside you totally. If it’s not, it may be that you need to snip the end off to make it more comfortable.

There’s no rush, so just do what feels right. It's better to cut it down slowly, than to cut too much off in one go.

Tampons pads and mooncup

How often do I change it?

It's recommended that you change a tampon every four to eight hours, which is really the same with your menstrual cup. But it is recommended that you use it for no more than a maximum of 12 hours.

As it’s not highly associated with toxic shock syndrome (TSS) like tampons, it's not as urgent that you change it as often. It also doesn’t affect or dry the internal environment of your vagina. You can even sleep in it too!

And how many do I need?

Just the one.

If you sterilise it and care for it properly as explained in the instructions, it’ll last you several years, so it gives you a good money-saving incentive.

How much is it?

It's £19.99 including P&P from the Mooncup website. Feminesse's cup costs £17.99 + P&P from their website. You can also pick one up in-store from Boots for £21.99. 

Pros and cons

So what are the pros and cons of the Menstrual Cup?

Pros

  • You won't be contributing to landfill or other environmental nasties
  • It works out cheaper than using any other form of sanitary protection
  • It’s not linked to any diseases
  • It won’t leak if it’s in properly
  • It doesn't smell or make you more prone to infections, like tampons can
  • It’s discreet – you don’t have to carry around tampons everywhere when you’re on your period
  • It doesn’t dry you out or leave fibres in your lady garden
  • It comes in a neat little bag!

Cons

  • It isn't ideal for swimming, as there's a chance the water could fill it up a little higher 
  • It’s not the best if you're squeamish - you will see your own blood and then have to clean it out
  • It can be a bit awkward cleaning it in a public bathroom, but the website recommends carrying a small bottle of water with you so you can rinse it into the toilet temporarily until you can clean it properly later
  • You may have to give it a good few tries before you can get the cup in - but practice makes perfect!
Period tracking

FAQs

"I'm having problems getting the cup in"

Nerves can play a big part in this. Relaxation is key. The good thing about menstrual cup is that you can practice any time with it, because it doesn’t dry you out.

If you need a helping hand, try a little water-based lubricant to help you pop it up there. Remember to fold it as tightly as possible.

"How do I get it out?"

Sometimes when you go to pull the cup out, it may feel like it's formed a vacuum. It’s not going to pull your uterus out, but it is a little uncomfortable.

The way around this is to put your finger right up to the rim of it and push down gently on it – it’ll break the seal and allow you some more leeway. Then place your finger and thumb either side of the cup and gently squeeze it until it pops out. It also helps if you 'bear down' and push the muscles in that area. Take care not to be too violent or spillage may occur.

"How do I clean it in public toilets or at friends?"

As mentioned above, taking a water bottle with you into the toilet cubicle means you can give your cup a quick rinse into the toilet. 

Failing this, thoroughly wiping with toilet roll will do until you can get it home and clean it a little more thoroughly will do the trick.

At the end of your period, you can sterilise your cup with some boiling water and sterilising fluid if you want to. This stops it getting clogged and further prevents infection risks. Keep an eye on the tiny little holes at the top of the cup too, as these can sometimes get blocked. If this happen, gently push them out with a pin.

"I’m having problems peeing with it in – I feel like not all of my pee is coming out"

If you feel this is the case for you, try taking your cup out when you go to the toilet - it can't emptying your cup often anyway!

"Sorry but I hate it!"

Give it a couple of tries before you decide it's not for you - the Mooncup website has some different folding techniques you can try.

If you really can't see yourself using it, you can send it back. The Mooncup website accepts used cups and provides refunds.

A user's experience

TSR user lessthanthree shares her opinion about her mooncup:

 

"The Mooncup is excellent. I really think it’s so fantastic to be able to go out without a bagful of tampons when I’m on my period. I’ve gone from being scared to stay at people’s houses to not being bothered.

Of course, it’s not that great to see your blood if you’re squeamish, but it is something that you get used to. In a few ways I prefer tampons because you don’t see the blood as much, but the Mooncup holds much more than a tampon and it makes me feel better at night knowing that it’s in.

It’s also cool because when you think you might be coming on, you can just stick your cup in. You can’t really do that with tampons because you’re not supposed to use them unless you’re bleeding. This way, you can stop worrying about leaking because you’re not quite sure when your bleed is going to start.

I think it’s definitely worth a try. What’s the harm? You can send it back and get your money back if it’s not for you – but if it’s good, you’re helping yourself, your wallet, AND the environment. It’s an appealing concept, really."

Have you tried using a menstrual cup? What do you think of it? Join in the conversation below.

Related on TSR:

Six reasons to switch to a menstrual cup

The lowdown on periods

What to expect from a smear test