I Want to Try a Menstrual Cup: Answers to your FAQ’s
Recently, I tried the DivaCup menstrual cup- an alternative to traditional tampons and sanitary napkins. While I was pretty concerned that it was going to look like a blood bath and I’d have a horrible experience, to my surprise, it was quite the opposite. You can read all about my experience, including how it feels, how to put it in, take it out, and more in this post HERE.
When we shared the article, the community flooded us with questions, and comments on their own personal experience, and we thought we’d share them here. Have more questions for us? Comment below and we’ll add answers into this post.
Note that my experience is with the DivaCup, but the answers to these questions, in general, apply to other popularly used menstrual cups.
First thing’s first… what is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is an eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons. Typically made of silicone or latex rubber cup, it’s designed to be inserted into the vagina during your period. Instead of absorbing your flow like a tampon or pad, it catches and collects it.
Yikes… that sounds messy
I know, I had the exact same concerns before trying it myself. But it honestly isn’t nearly as messy as you may be picturing. In fact, it was a surprisingly clean experience and I was totally over any concern of mess after using it my most recent cycle.
I’ve always wanted to try one but it also REALLY freaks me out. How did you get over that?
I decided I was going to write a review of it for Bad Yogi Magazine. 😉
Actually, I had the exact same concerns. If it weren’t for this review, I likely would have never considered it. But I’m so glad that I did. I am extremely shy when it comes to my period (despite writing two articles about it in one week) and thought the blood was going to be too much for me.
I got over it by remembering that dealing with pads and tampons is really no less “clean” and was actually very surprised with how not messy dealing with a cup was. Also, the DivaCup is designed to sit low in the vaginal canal, so if you’re picturing having to insert it WAY UP THERE, you don’t.
Can I use a menstrual cup if I have an IUD?
Short answer: YES! My official answer is to consult your doctor if you have an IUD and would like to consider a menstrual cup. However, everything I’ve read is that research shows that menstrual cup use is safe in combination with IUDs, and that they have no increased risk of causing the IUD to expel.
With that said, it’s recommended to wait three months after having an IUD inserted before using a menstrual cup. This is because an IUD is at its highest risk of natural expulsion during this time period. However, an IUD is placed in the cervix, and menstrual cups sit lower in the vaginal canal. Below is a picture of where the DivaCup is placed.
Does it feel like a tampon or can you feel it at all?
My official answer: You can not feel the cup if it’s placed properly.
Give me more info: I don’t know if it was a mental thing, but I “felt it” more the first couple days of use. It wasn’t painful, but there was a sensation I felt. By the end of my cycle, my body had made any necessary adjustments and felt totally normal wearing it. You can feel it minimally if it’s not inserted properly, which is generally a “first time user” issue. Pro tip: look up a video on how to insert the cup. It’ll make things so much easier.
But is it comfortable?
Yes, if inserted properly, it is extremely comfortable. I know it doesn’t look like it will be, when you first pick it up, but just trust me.
Can anyone use a menstrual cup?
With all things, there are exceptions to people who can use a cup. However, these exceptions are very small. In general, people with tilted or dropped cervixes may find difficulties finding a cup that works, or may find that a cup simply doesn’t work. The good news? There are plenty of brands out there that are different sizes and shapes, so if a particular cup does not work for you, but you have the desire, keep trying!
I’m a virgin- can I use a menstrual cup?
You sure can! The menstrual cup does not interfere with the hymen.
If you are a virgin, or new to periods, be sure you’re purchasing a cup with that in mind. The DivaCup, for example, has a model that is designed specifically for those new to periods. It’s slightly smaller.
What are the pros/ cons over reusable sanitary pads?
- Can be worn, without replacement, up to 12 hours
- Can be washed and reused up to 10 years*
- No mess while using the cup (no leaking)
- No smell (when blood comes in contact with air, it creates a smell. Keeping the blood in the cup eliminates that smell)
- Excellent for active lifestyles- the cup can be used, mess free, from yoga to high intensity sports
- Not all women can use a cup (for example, women with tilted or low cervixes may not be able to use a cup, or specific cups)
- Some cups are made of rubber latex, which some are allergic to
*What is the lifespan of a cup?
You’ll see and hear conflicting answers for this, but my official answer is that if you’re taking good care of the cup, and it’s not showing signs of wear, you can continue to reuse it for up to 10 years. As many popular cups are made of medical-grade silicone that is free of dyes or BPA, you can rest assured that as long as the cup is still in good shape, so are you.
How do you change it in a public bathroom?
The least ideal part of menstrual cup use… the public bathroom. However, there is good news and options. A menstrual cup can be worn up to 12 hours without being changed. This means decreased chance of needing to change it in public.
If you DO need to change it in public:
- Use an accessible stall with a sink in it
- Bring a bottle of water into the stall with you to wash it out
- Know that it is an option to simply dump it out, wipe it out, and reinsert it- just give it a proper washing when you take it out the next time at home
Don’t believe me? Check out this comment from someone in our community.
Is it recyclable? Won’t it just end up in the landfill?
A silicone menstrual cup is not recyclable. However, when you consider the amount of waste you reduce by not using tampons (especially with plastic applicators, which can take centuries to degrade) and pads, it’s considerable.
Since silicone starts out as sand, it degrades over time depending on the temperature, anaerobic activity and moisture in the landfill. This applies to all products made from silicone, like baby bottle nipples and toys.
To dispose of your silicone menstrual cup, thoroughly wash it, cut it up into smaller pieces, and dispose in the trash.
How can I make sure my cup is getting as clean as possible?
Here’s a great tip from the community on washing your cup to prolong the longevity.
Is it expensive?
After a quick search of cup options on Amazon, the price ranges from $15-30ish.
Pads and tampons average around 20 cents per tampon or pad (I know this can vary). So let’s do some quick math to put it into perspective:
Let’s say you use 5 tampons a day for 5 days, 12 times a year.
.20 x 5= $1.00/ day
$5 per period
$60/ year for tampons, compared to $25 (what I spent on my DivaCup) which will potentially last me 5-10 years
Is there risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?
There is a VERY small risk of TSS associated with menstrual cup use. There are globally only two cases of TSS in connection with menstrual cup use that have been reported since their invention in the 1930s. As with any device, it’s recommended to keep it clean, don’t leave it in for too long, and use a trusted brand, to minimize this very small risk.
Do gynecologists approve?
I asked Dr. Margaret Dow, gynecologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Here is what she had to say:
So there you have it.
What if I have a very heavy period?
Check out what this member from the community had to say about her experience with a menstrual cup and a heavy flow:
You’ve tried it, would you actually recommend it?
To be honest, absolutely positively. I lucked out and found a cup that worked for me right away, so it might be kind of annoying if I had to try several to find the right cup for me but I still think it’d be worth it. Reasons I think I’ll continue using a cup:
- I’m a pretty active person, so move around a lot, and still had zero concern of leaking
- It was comfortable and effective
- It was the easiest period I’ve had in a long time, without the worry of having tampons on hand if I was out running errands, worrying about leaking, etc.
How can I determine the best cup for me?
Sometimes, it may just be trial and error. Like a bit more science? Putacupinit.com is a super helpful resource for helping you identify which cup may be best for you. It also has a quiz to determine the best brand for you.