Next in our period product parade is the menstrual cup – sometimes called a diva cup or moon cup (Diva & Moon cup are just names of some of the brands you can buy). A Menstrual cup is a small flexible silicone cup that fits inside your vagina and collects your flow rather than absorbing it like our friend the trusty tampon.
Menstrual cups are much better for the environment than disposable pads or tampons as you reuse them by simply emptying the blood from the cup down the toilet, washing it and using it again.
You can keep some menstrual cups in for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow, so you can sleep with one in (just check the instructions and set an alarm if you plan on having a really long lie-in!). Generally, this means you wouldn’t need to change it while at school or out for the day, which is also good news! Some women, girls and young people who have periods choose to have 2 cups so if they do need to change it while out and about, they don’t need to wash the same one out. Most cups come with a little bag, so you can empty it down the loo and pop it in there or wrap it in toilet paper, then clean it later.
Like tampons, menstrual cups give you more flexibility when it comes to certain activities like swimming and sports, with lots of women, girls and young people who have periods finding them more comfortable than pads and tampons. Like all period products, they also come in lots of shapes, styles and sizes (usually small, medium and large). When it comes to size, it’s essential to find what’s comfortable for you. If you’re fairly young, you’ll probably want something small but take some time to do some research so you can find a style and size to suit your body and flow. There are lots of brands online that sell cups and offer lots of information on their websites, as well as in shops.
Another benefit of menstrual cups is that they’re reusable so can last you up to 10 years! Much cheaper than tampons and disposable pads!
How does it work?
At first, it might seem like a big ol’ thing to get up there! But the soft, flexible silicone makes it easy to fold and shape to make inserting it easier. One of the key things when using a menstrual cup for the first time is to be patient, not many of us get it right the first time, trust us!
The cups work by creating an airtight seal or vacuum around the vagina. When you insert the cup inside you, tiny holes on the outside of the cup create this seal which stops blood from being able to leak out. The cup collects your flow, and then you simply remove the cup, pour the blood away, wash it out and you’re good to go again! Remember, you should always make sure your cup is clean before use and always sterilise it (in boiling water) before and after your period. Depending on your age you might need an adult to lend a hand with this bit. To make sure the cup is completely clean (sterile), you need to boil the empty cup in water for 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure you use a designated pan for this, and like we said, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
How to use a cup
There are lots of different ways of putting a cup in, so don’t be afraid to try a few other techniques. You’ll usually find some different folds in the instructions you get with the cup, so be sure to read them thoroughly first! Also, if you feel a bit unsure about using a cup, you can speak to a nurse at school or your doctors for advice and guidance.
1. Always boil your cup before you use it to make sure it’s super clean
2. Wash your hands really well to stop dirt or bacteria getting on the cup or in your body
3. Find a comfortable position – there are no set rules with this, just find what’s comfortable, but you could try squatting, sitting, or even putting one leg up on the toilet seat
4. Choose a cup-fold that suits you – once folded hold the cup tightly as low down the cup as you can keeping the rim facing up
5. While keeping it folded, use your other hand to guide it up into your vagina, towards your back, you want the cup to be in just enough, so the stem isn’t outside of your body then let go
6. Once you let go, give the cup a little twist so it unfolds and creates the seal
7. Check the seal by giving the stem a little tug – if you feel some resistance it’s in!
Removing a cup
1. Wash your hands well
2. Sit on the toilet or squat
3. Gently pull the stem of the cup to move it down your vagina slightly to make it easier to grasp the base of the cup
4. Using two fingers squeeze the base of the cup to release the seal
5. Still holding onto the cup with your fingers, gently ease the cup out.
More tips and tricks for using a cup
Always wash your hands – this seems obvious, but we don’t just mean after emptying your cup. You must wash your hand before you use any period products, so no bacteria enters your body.
Find a folding technique for you – everyone is different; what works for someone else you know might not work for you. There are a few different ways to fold your cup before inserting it, so if the first time doesn’t work out, try a few different folds to find what suits your body.
Try wetting your cup first – if you find the silicone can feel a little ‘sticky’ when you try to insert it, you can use clean water to wet the cup first to help it slide in a little easier.
Be patient – like riding a bike, learning a musical instrument or perfecting winged eyeliner, these things take time. You might not get it right the first time but don’t be embarrassed or disheartened (hardly anyone gets it right the first time), just take your time and practice!
Wear a liner – this is to look after your undies when you’re first getting used to your cup. If the seal isn’t quite right, you may leak a little, so just pop a liner in your pants to keep them stain free.
Cold water first – this is an excellent all-round tip! To avoid bloodstains on your cup, in your pants or anywhere really, always use cold water to rinse out the blood first then clean with hot water. Obviously, a little period stain never hurt anyone, but if you want to keep your cup looking like new and your pants pristine, always use cold water first.
Keep things clean - we mentioned it before, but it’s is so important that you keep your cup clean between wears and before and after your period. Always check the instructions with your cup for the best way to clean it.
Keep the holes clear – when you look closely at a cup you’ll notice tiny holes around the top just below the rim. These small holes are what creates the seal we mentioned before, so they must be kept clean and clear of any blood, so the cup doesn’t leak.
Release some pressure first – The seal the cup creates needs to be watertight – or ‘period tight’ – so it will feel fairly secure when you come to remove it. When you come to take your cup out, it helps to release the seal first, as just pulling on the cup could be a little uncomfortable. To do this, slide your finger up the side of your cup, this will release the seal from the wall of your vagina. Then grab the bottom of the cup with your fingers, squeeze it sightly and remove.
As with all period products you should always read the instructions to make sure you’re getting the most out of them and using them correctly.
With so many makes and types of menstrual cup out there, it’s worth spending some time doing some research to make sure you get the right one – you could also take a look at different reviews on YouTube or speak to your friends about them. However, you must find one that suits your flow and body. One of the key things to remember when trying different period products is to be patient. It’s all a case of getting used to new things and finding what works for you and your flow.
If you want to find out about some other period products, click the links below.