Menstrual cups.

What are they?

A menstrual cup is an alternative sanitary product, compared to cotton solutions such as pads and tampons. It’s a silicone cup that you fold and insert into your vagina, which then opens up to fit the curves of your uterus and form a seal. The blood then collects in the cup for up to 12 hours, depending on how heavy your flow is. When you’re ready to take it out, you just break the seal by pinching the bottom and pulling it out. They can be used for up to 10 years (this differs for each brand!), with prices around £20/$25. The process of insertion can take a few tries to get used to, but it’s completely painless. There are many ways to fold your cup, depending on which way is most easy for you!

Some people are intimidated by the size of the cup, but they’re roughly the same diameter as a tampon when folded in ways such as the U/caracol/E methods.

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What are the benefits and drawbacks?

Benefits

Drawbacks

Save money

Takes time to get used to

Environmentally friendly

Leaks if not inserted correctly

Friendly to your body

May have to cut off stem for comfort

No frequent change

 Possible spillage/blood on hands

Wearable for sports/swimming etc

Benefits

  • Save money– One menstrual cup on average costs £20/$25, and can be used for up to 10 years depending on how well you take care of it. As people with periods typically menstruate for around 40 years, this would total up to £80/ $100 for your whole lifetime’s worth of period products. Due to the cost of tampons/pads (not helped by the tampon tax),and their disposable nature, the average person spends over £18,000/$23,000 on a lifetime of period products. From swapping you can save you thousands of pounds, which is the perfect solution for people with lower income or in developing countries.
  • Environmentally friendly– compared to disposable tampons/pads which ends up in landfill , the impact of 4 cups in a lifetime is minute. Tampons/pads are bad for the environment in the extraction of plastics/cotton and then how these take months to decompose– which have a huge impact as we use so many of them. Menstrual cups are made of silicone which is derived from silica, one of the most abundant minerals on earth. Image result for menstrual cups good for environment
  • Friendly to your body– Menstrual cups are made of 100% soft medical grade silicone (this does not affect you if you’re allergic to latex, however you may be allergic to silicone but this is very rare). Unlike tampons/pads, menstrual cups have no bleaches, deodorisers or absorbency gels. They don’t interfere with your vaginal pH/environment at all, unlike tampons which absorb around 65% menstrual fluid and 35% natural moisture; and leaves behind fibres. This reduces risk of irritation and infection!
  • No frequent change– Menstrual cups only need to be changed every 12 hours at most, meaning they’re perfect for sleeping and need alot less attention compared to pads/tampons. You can go out and get piss drunk or stay in bed and do nothing and not need to worry about any carnage!
  • Wearable for sports/swimming– as the cup provides an air tight seal, this means there are no spillages/leakages if you do it right. Not only does this mean comfy swimming/activity, it also means that your blood does not come into contact with air until you empty it. This means no horrific smells either.

Drawbacks

  • Takes time to get used to– this is probably the biggest drawback, but is practically the same as when you (probably) first started using tampons. Insertion and removal is an absolute breeze once you get it; but before that you have to get used to it. It can take a few cycles to get used to since changes are less frequent than with tampons so you have less opportunities for trial/error. It also takes a bit of time to see how often you need to change, depending on your flow. Most cups have measuring lines on the inside, which can help more accurately and even help monitoring your menstrual cycle.
  • Leaks if not inserted properly– if you don’t insert your cup properly, the whole concept of the seal doesn’t work. This means at the start you may need to continue using panty liners just incase you get it wrong. However, if you’re in a rush putting your cup in later down the line it may leak too! The leaks may be considerably large if your flow is heavy, which may be disastrous. You may also leak if your cup overflows, if your cervix is titled/low or if your pelvic floor muscles are very strong (but you can just get a different cup!).
  • May have to cut off the stem for comfort– for some people, the stem that comes out of the bottom to aid with removal can tickle/irritate their labia majora. Nonetheless, this can easily be cut off!
  • Possible spillage/blood on hands– for the more clumsy users, there are many possibilities for a slip up when using a cup. There’s a possible slap to your vagina if you don’t hold the folded cup tight enough when inserting, maybe dropping it in the toilet or dropping on the floor. As the cup is like a tiny wine glass full of blood, a lack of steady fingers can be a deal breaker. I would still recommend the cup for the less coordinated as it gets alot easier to control over time, and the benefits outweigh the negatives!

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How do I clean it?

During your cycle, you should quickly rinse your cup with water and possibly a splash of any gentle soap that you would use on your vagina (to not alter pH do NOT use hand soap!). If you don’t have access to water, a quick wipe with a dry/damp piece of toilet paper is fine for the moment. In between cycles, cups are simple boiled for 5 minutes at then dried off. Over time cups may become stained as they’re constantly in contact with heavily pigmented blood, you can do a deeper clean for stain removal but this is not recommended if you want it to last for a long time. The stains do not mean that you need to replace a cup. Examples of deep cleaning techniques include boiling with baking soda, but using any products you wouldn’t use near your vagina requires a thorough wash afterwards. You also need to keep up the tiny holes in the top of the cup to make sure no blood is stuck, which can be cleaned by slightly stretching and running water through them; or by using a toothpick/designated soft toothbrush (even one of these interdental brushes!).

Which cup should I buy?

There are many different types of menstrual cups. Each brand normally comes in multiple sizes, typically two (‘pre-birth’ and ‘after-birth’). Each brand also has their unique aspects, such as shape, size, firmness etc. It’s important to do a bit of research into this and not just go for the biggest brand, in order to have the best experience possible and find a cup that best compliments your body!

New posts will be uploaded every Sunday on sex/relationships and everything in-between; and any questions or dilemmas can be submitted to thepresssureblog@gmail.com.

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