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Menstrual Cup: Should You Use It?
Did you know that one single plastic napkin could take 500 to 800 years to decompose, according to Down to Earth India? Statistics such as the ones included in the article have pushed many women and girls to switch to more eco-friendly ways of handling their red days. That’s where menstrual cups come in. On the surface, they’re a wonderful waste-free alternative to wasteful disposable napkins.
There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding menstrual cups, especially for us girls who were taught that anything that goes inside our lady parts is inherently harmful or indecent.
But that’s not at all the case! In fact, there are plenty of great reasons to switch to reusable cups. Plenty of girls get allergic reactions to sanitary napkins and tampons due to their shock absorbent material. They also have a pretty short lifespan, which isn’t always the most convenient for girls who have busy lifestyles.
Thinking of making the zero-waste switch? We’re here to give you all the needed information on menstrual cups. Let’s take a look at its pros, cons, and everything in between!
Why should you use a menstrual cup?
Honestly, when I first heard about menstrual cups, it seemed like a crazy idea too. Seeing ads for a popular brand like the Lily Cup had confused me at first. If you’ve been raised in a somewhat conservative household like me, our knowledge of sanitary hygiene and how our reproductive organ works is probably somewhat limited. In other words, any feminine hygiene products that had to be lodged in your vagina, including tampons, were deemed either unsafe or just plain gross.
But the inventor of these cups, Leona Chalmers, intended them to be more than that. There are plenty of benefits to using cups. Let’s take a look at them!
You’re putting your health and safety first
Menstrual cups are completely safe to use. Much safer, in fact, than our usual disposable napkins. Since they collect fluid in the cup rather than absorb them like pads and tampons do, you’re reducing your risk of getting toxic shock syndrome.
TSS is a disease, potentially fatal, that can happen to menstruating women who wear super-absorbent tampons or pads. Menstrual cups don’t contain the same toxins found in disposables, such as bleach and dioxin.
Menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone or latex rubber, which makes them flexible while also completely reusable. Fans of the product report fewer cramps, although this is anecdotal.
Getting TSS when wearing a menstrual cup is incredibly rare. The most irritation you’ll probably get from the cup is from first-time use or purchasing the wrong size. More on that later.
You’re helping save the planet
The rising awareness of our environmental footprint has led to a boom in the use of eco-friendly lifestyle changes. Whether it’s our food, strawless coffee cups, or even our periods, there are boundless alternatives that can help us minimize the waste we dispose of on a daily basis. Which is a lot.
Sanitary pads are particularly devious because they take so long to decompose, filling up landfills, and their very nature requires continuous disposal. A tampon also takes years, even the ones that have a wooden applicator. The Women’s Environmental Network documents an average of 11,000 disposable menstrual products used by menstruating women in the UK throughout their lifetime. Given the country’s population, that’s around 200,000 tons of plastic waste each year from these disposables alone.
The Philippines is also one of the world’s largest ocean polluters, and our landfills are quickly piling up. Switching to reusable hygiene products is just one of the billion ways we can lessen contributing to this waste.
They’re less high-maintenance
You might think that because napkins are disposable that they’re more convenient. Sure, you can throw them away after using them and never think twice about it.
But what about the effort it takes to clean up leaks on a particularly heavy cycle? Or the inconvenience of having to interrupt your meeting, lunch out, or date to go change in the nearest stall?
These are just a few worries that switching to a reusable cup can eliminate. This is because a menstrual cup can stay inside your body for up to 12 hours on an average flow. With a cup, you very rarely have to change in the middle of the day. It can collect your body’s discharge for longer, unlike disposable pads that have to be managed every 4 hours. It’s also less likely to leak, as the cup sits just under your cervix and can catch the discharge before it has a chance to leak.
Plus, cups can be way more comfortable than pads! If you’re someone who performs a lot of physical activities during the day, a cup can let you freely move about without worrying about leaks.
Now, if you’re already aware of all of that and are struggling to use your menstrual cup, have no fear! There’s a learning period when it comes to these babies, but they’re worth it, so don’t give up on them.
Our vaginas, including the canal and cervix, all vary somewhat in shape and size. This means the correct position of the cup will also vary from person to person. Some people have a higher cervix, so the cup has to go farther in. The reverse goes for those who have a lower cervix.
Which fold should I use with my menstrual cups?
The most common fold is the C-fold, which is simply forming a C-shape with the tip of the cup. To do this, press the cup to make it flat, then fold it once.
Other women may find this too large to be comfortable in their vagina, in which case they can use alternatives like the punch-down fold, which is considered the fold with the smallest insertion point. All you have to do is fold one tip down instead of flat like the above, and then fold the cup in half. You should end up with a really small c-shaped tip.
Another favored cup fold is the 7-fold method. Instead of folding your cup in half, flatten it and fold the right tip down to the left stem. This cup fold is great for those who may be struggling with the removal process, as it allows the cup to break the suction seal much easier. If you want it to be smaller, simply fold it twice to achieve the double 7-fold.
Can I use a menstrual cup if I’m still a virgin?
Absolutely! It’s a common misconception that if you haven’t had sexual intercourse that it’s impossible to use a menstrual cup or even a tampon. As long as you are properly lubricated, be it with water or a lubricant, then rest assured you’ll be able to use a menstrual cup just fine. There are a few things to note, though.
The best way to ease yourself into using a menstrual cup for the first time is getting to know your parts better. Take some time to locate where your cervix is situated. If you can insert a finger, the cervix should feel like the tip of your nose.
You should also make sure you’re relaxed when trying to insert a menstrual cup because tension can make your vagina tighten.
Now that we’re done with the preparation stage, here are the steps on how to successfully use a menstrual cup:
1. Wash Your Hands
By this point in the global pandemic, we should all be crazy hand washers. Washing your hands before inserting them or touching anything you’ll be inserting into your coochie is not only sanitary, but can prevent serious bacterial infections from happening.
2. Get Comfy
Some are more comfortable while sitting and others standing up or squatting. Your preferences might not be apparent on the first try, but that’s okay! Try out different positions to see which way you’re most comfortable with. Remember that there’s a learning curve which requires patience. Take a deep breath and get comfortable.
One thing that differentiates tampons and napkins from menstrual cups is that the latter is made of silicone. These silicone cups require some lubrication in the vagina in order to properly insert. For some people, lubrication from the blood is enough for comfortable insertion. If it’s not the case for you, try wetting the cup with water when you’re in the shower or using a store-bought lubricant. When all else fails, some people recommend simply using your vagina’s own lubrication and touching yourself in order to make the insertion process easier.
4. Fold ‘em and Hold ‘em
We’ve mentioned three basic cup folds above: the c-fold cup method, punch-down cup fold, and the 7-fold. We’ll leave it to you to decide which one is your favorite!
5. Insertion in the Vagina
Make sure to hold the cup firmly and guide it rim-first into your opening, moving it towards the small of your back rather than pushing it upwards. You should be able to feel a pop inside, a sign that your menstrual cup has successfully opened.
To check that the suction is working, simply run a finger around the rim of the cup to see if it’s fully opened and there are no folds. You may also try rotating your cup. If it moves, that means your cup isn’t fully opened and needs to be adjusted or re-inserted.
Depending on the design of different brands, there should be less of an inch of stem showing. Other designs can have a longer stem or a shorter one. Once again, each user will have varying experiences! If you’re uncomfortable with your cup’s stem length, one of the recommended solutions is to trim it.
You can wear menstrual cups for 12 hours as well as overnight. The amount of times you’ll have to wash it during the day will vary on your own flow.
7. Take It Off
They say with a menstrual cup, you either struggle most with the insertion or the removal. In my case, inserting it was a pain but boy, did removal feel easy. But don’t just go about pulling the cup down because that’s going to hurt. Instead, squeeze the bottom of the cup to gently break the suction. Good brands should have a strong suction that is also easy to remove.
Make sure your pulling motion is gradual so you don’t spill the fluid all over yourself. Gently tip the fluid into the toilet. By this point, you can clean your cup with cold water and soap, then sterilize it with hot water. Make sure to clean your cup before and after use!
Disadvantages of a Menstrual Cup
Of course, a product like this isn’t all pros. Despite its innovativeness in terms of women’s wellness and hygiene, there are a few disadvantages that come along with it. Healthline lists three: irritation, infection, and toxic shock syndrome.
Keep in mind that these dangers are significantly rarer in a menstrual cup than they are in disposable hygiene products like napkins and tampons. Specifically, there has only ever been one reported case of TSS due using a menstrual cup.
Another disadvantage is simply the mode of operation. Some girls just don’t want an internal apparatus, and that’s totally okay! If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of inserting a cup into your vagina during your period but still want to remain eco-conscious, a reusable pad might be your solution.
Commonly known as a pasador, a reusable pad is a great alternative to menstrual cups for certain people. However, the difference in convenience is glaring as reusable pads are harder to maintain than disposables.
Plus, application is inherently hard with a menstrual cup. Some just don’t get over the learning curve. I myself took a few cycles just to be able to put it in correctly, and even then, it was prone to minor leakage because the suction was faulty. Those with a heavy flow are also going to have to remove and reinsert their cups more often.
That said, if you think the advantages of a menstrual cup far outweigh the cons, then you’re in for a wonderful waste-free journey!
We hope this article has provided you with beneficial wellness and health information about menstrual cups. Stay tuned to our page for all the best health content and beauty content!
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Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.