Are menstrual cups worth it?
Invented in 1937, menstrual cups were hiding in the shadow of disposable period products for decades.
In the past ten years though they slowly but surely began gaining a lot of popularity. Now more and more companies are coming out with their own versions of the menstrual cup.
Even the mammoths of the disposable menstrual products industry – Always and Tampax – now each have one.
I’m sure you already know what menstrual cups are, but in case you don’t, here’s the recap.
Menstrual cup is just that – a cup, which is designed to sit in the vaginal canal and collect all of the menstrual blood. It’s usually made out of medical grade silicone (sometimes thermoplastic or latex). It’s safe, easy to use and eco-friendly.
I’ve used a menstrual cup on and off for a little bit over a year now and compiled a list of pros and cons that I experienced during that time. Honestly, it was a rollercoaster, but I like it overall. Fair warning, this post is going to be quite TMI for obvious reasons. Here we go.
You don’t feel it
Despite it being placed pretty close to the opening (depending on the individual variables, of course), unlike the tampon, even if it’s placed wrong, you won’t feel it. The cup is very malleable and fits all the shapes and curves perfectly. The softer it is, the less noticeable it will be. Firm ones aren’t that much different in that aspect either though.
Let’s be honest, periods are uncomfortable in every way there is. A cup is definitely one of the most comfortable period products in existence. Besides not feeling it, there are other perks of using menstrual cups – unlike tampons they don’t feel incredibly dry, which can happen a lot during the last days of your period. There’s no annoying string attached to it, and you won’t be a sweaty mess if it’s a hot day outside, like you would be if you would wear a pad.
Fits in way more than a tampon or a pad of any capacity
A cup holds up to 25ml of blood, which is pretty impressive, considering that the largest tampons can only hold up to 12ml and overnight pads up to 15ml.
Sidenote – the capacity of a cup can be affected by how low or high your cervix is, though. If it’s lower, it will most likely take up some space in the cup.
Saves you a ton of money – you only need one and it lasts for years
Pretty self-explanatory. An average woman spends up to $2000 on tampons and pads in her lifetime. A crazy amount of money to take care of something naturally occurring, right? Those things should be free in my opinion, but that’s a story for another time. A cup on the other hand is reusable and costs anywhere from $5 to $35. Even if you get quite a few, it’s still way cheaper than most of the alternatives.
You can swim with it
Yeah, I know, tampons work in that regard too, but they soak the water up eventually and need changing. With a cup you don’t have to worry whatsoever – the blood is not getting out, and the chlorine and bacteria are not getting in. Besides, it’s not only swimming, you can do pretty much anything you want – almost any kind of physical activity.
Better for the environment
Not only is it good for your bank account, it’s also great for the Earth.
The menstrual cup is obviously reusable, so it significantly reduces the amount of waste. A single cup can be used safely for ten years, and during those ten years one person would use approximately 1800 tampons that would eventually end up in a landfill. Add all the packaging to that and there’s a pile of garbage that could potentially not exist if they chose to use a cup instead.
While there are some undeniable solid pros of using a menstrual cup, there surely are quite a few downsides also. For me pros outweigh the cons at the end of the day, even though I struggled quite a bit (and still do sometimes)
You have to be absolutely comfortable with your body and blood
For many women this is the biggest obstacle.
Not everybody is okay with dealing with their own blood, some are even freaked out by that.
If you are not mentally prepared to have regular contact with your period blood, menstrual cups are definitely not for you, because it surely is a very bloody experience.
Besides, you would have to get to know your vagina on a very personal level lol. If you weren’t ever curious about it enough to… investigate what’s up (which definitely has to be done in my opinion), it can be pretty overwhelming.
A cup is undeniably one of the messiest methods of dealing with your period. Especially when you’re just in the beginning of trying to figure everything out. It can be a problem if you will need to empty the cup out outside of your home. And even when you’re at home it still gets messy sometimes.
Can be psychologically difficult if you’re experiencing horrible cramps
Period pains are a normal thing, after all, your body is getting rid of the lining in the uterus – it just can’t feel good by default. But whenever you’re having pain that can be described as unbearable, using a cup can be hard on your psyche.
Even though the cup itself never causes any pain, if the cup is on the firmer side, it can cause some additional pressure. When you’re in pain, it’s a natural reaction to want to take the cup out (same can happen even with tampons).
It definitely happens to me, not every cycle – just occasionally. Logically I understand that the cup is not the reason for the pain, but the urge to take it out is still there and over time I can’t resist it, regardless of it not helping in the slightest.
Might be tricky (or even impossible) to use with an intact hymen
Even though the cup can be folded to be pretty small, not much bigger than a tampon, there still are people who won’t be able to use it.
Hymens come in all shapes and forms and some of them are not suitable even for a tampon, let alone a cup. Also, the cup involves quite a bit of maneuvering in the vagina, especially in the starting stages, which can get very uncomfortable.
Hell, the first time I ever used it I had to do a ton of digging around to get the cup out.
Of course, it can be very much doable, but at the very least you need to consult with a gynecologist first.
Probably will still have to use liners or another backup (at least in the beginning)
Chances are you won’t be lucky enough to install the cup perfectly each and every time from the get-go. Accidents are pretty much unavoidable, so keep that in mind.
For me this one is the most irritating, but inevitable.
See, when the blood gets into the cup, the air that’s in the cup has to go somewhere. That’s why there are little holes under the rim – for the air to escape.
It doesn’t make any sound, so nobody will know about it – nothing to worry about. It’s just the feeling itself that is annoying, because you never really know whether it’s the cup leaking or just the air coming out.
You might want to pee more because of the pressure
The firmer the cup, the more it pushes on the walls. Considering the fact that the bladder and the vaginal canal are placed pretty closely together, the cup can be putting some pressure onto it, therefore making you go number one more often. Not a big deal really, but still worth mentioning.
Takes time to get used to
No matter how much you do your research beforehand, no matter how many tutorials you watch and how many reviews you read, it’s still quite a journey to go on.
Even when you feel like you’re 100% prepared, it will be difficult to get used to anyway.
Figuring out your personal time limits for keeping it in, leaking, learning to put it in and take it out – all of it takes a lot of determination, and frankly speaking not everybody is willing to go to such lengths.
You probably will need to try a few different menstrual cups
Everybody is different. Every vagina is built differently. So, in the realm of menstrual cups there’s no such thing as one size fits all.
Picking one from a variety of brands and sizes can be quite tricky. Maybe you will get lucky and the first one you’ll try will be perfect, maybe you will have to test out five different ones before finding a match.
A lot depends on the inserting position
Most positions are fine to do in any place, including public restrooms – squatting, sitting down, standing.
But there is a chance – albeit a small one – that you will be able to insert the cup lying on your back only (that’s what happened in my case). Then it won’t be possible for you to change it outside of your house.
That depends on whether your cervix is low hanging or is slightly higher.
Mine is pretty low throughout the entire cycle, so, there’s just not enough space for the cup to open up unless I’m on my back. I tried pretty much every position there is, but nothing else works for me personally.
Probably will have to take it out before pooping
Again, it depends on the softness of the menstrual cup – the firmer the cup, the better it holds in place. Softer cups tend to travel up and down a bit more and get affected by bowel movement, since there’s a pretty thin wall between vagina and rectum.
You will have to experiment with this, but there is a possibility it will get pushed out in the process.
- First time using it should definitely be on your day off, so you can figure everything out in the comfort of your home.I don’t know a single person who was 100% percent successful on the first try. You don’t want to be at work or in school while experimenting with a cup, I assure you.
- Use a little bit of lube, especially in the beginning. There’s gonna be a lot of trial and error, and if you attempt it without lube, you’ll probably end up having some irritation.
- Take notes about your experience to refer back to later. It really helps to see the progress you’ve made and not let the small important details slip your mind.
- Make sure the cup is fully opened and your cervix is inside it. It’s super easy to do – just run your finger around the cup or try to rotate it.
- Start introducing it into your routine during the daytime. It just makes more sense than going to bed right after the first insertion, what if you put it in wrong?
- Try different positions. Sitting on a toilet, squatting, standing, etc. Who knows what will work for you? If nothing seems to work, try lying down as a last resort, it always does the trick.
- Try different folding methods. Punchdown, seven fold, c-fold (a.k.a u-fold), s-fold – there are so many different ones! Most people I know prefer the punchdown fold, but my personal favorite is the c-fold.
- Always make sure to break the seal before taking it out. You don’t want to be pulling on it without releasing the suction, it’ll be painful and the cup won’t actually come out that way.
- Set alarms in the beginning to check on it. It is comfortable enough for you to forget about it altogether, trust me. Set a reminder and see how it’s going in there, just for your own peace of mind.
It’s going to get lost inside
No, it won’t. There’s just not enough space for this to happen. Yes, sometimes it moves up and down, but nothing more than that, so, you don’t need to worry.
You will need to take it out to pee
Whether it’s the lack of education on this topic or something else, a lot of people don’t know that urethra and vagina are two absolutely separate things, not connected in any way. So, yes, you can pee as usual, without even thinking about it.
Blood will get back in
Hell no, even if you’ll spend an entire day upside down, nothing will get back into the uterus. While you’re on your period, your body is actively trying to push the uterine lining out, so there’s no chance of anything getting back inside.
Blood will start decaying
Nah. The cup usually stays inside no longer than 12 hours (unless you forget about it – but that’s on you lol), and it’s definitely not enough time for that to happen. Besides, there’s not much air in a cup, so the process won’t be sped up either.
The cup will get stuck
It can be difficult to take it out sometimes, yes, but nothing scary will happen. Don’t cut the stem all the way, so you’ll have something to grab onto, and always make sure to break the seal before taking the cup out, and you will be okay. If it travelled too high up, try squatting, that should help, and if it doesn’t, the best practice is always calm down and try again later
With ALL of that being said, I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of the menstrual cup.
Sometimes I really enjoy using it, other times it’s a pain-in-the-ass.
I appreciate that in theory I don’t have to buy pads and tampons, but realistically I still do anyway.
It annoys me that I struggle with inserting it a full year later (fucking ridiculous). I rarely use the cup when I’m going out because of the fact that I can only put it in while lying on my back and I have a heavy flow, so I would have to empty it out in a public restroom. If I wouldn’t work from home, I probably wouldn’t use the cup at all due to those difficulties.
That is the biggest downside for me.
Maybe one day I will manage to fix this somehow and then the menstrual cup will be one of the best things that ever happened to me for sure.
But for now, it is what it is.