The best thing about being pregnant for me was the fact that I got to enjoy 9 period-free months. I enjoyed it for 6-months more after I gave birth and exclusively breastfed my daughter. Aside from the biological reasons, I used to think that this was nature’s way of giving new moms a free pass. Because the last thing any new mom needs is coping with painful dysmenorrhea and dealing with napkins and tampons while also wrangling her newborn baby.
I might have enjoyed it too much as by the time Aunt Flo visited once more, I tried to look for better alternatives to napkins and tampons – something that would be more manageable and one that I wouldn’t have to worry about while also dealing with my child. And just like any new mom, I trawled Mommy groups to search for other viable options. Proving that Mommy groups hold the answer to everything, they did introduce me to one option – menstrual cups.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is basically a feminine hygiene product that is inserted into the vagina during menstruation. If used correctly, it creates a vacuum and seals the vagina, thereby catching all fluid or menstrual blood. At the same time, if the cup is correctly inserted, it shouldn’t leak nor cause any discomfort.
What are the differences between menstrual cups, tampons, and napkins?
Napkins are the popular choice for dealing with menstrual flow these days. And while it has different kinds, usage and capacity are the same – stick it in your underwear and it absorbs all fluids.
Tampons, on the other hand, are described as a mass made of an absorbent material that’s inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual flow. Most kinds come with applicators that you basically use to “inject” the absorbent “penetrator” into your vagina. Before I discovered cups, I used tampons when a formal event or a swimming trip coincides with my period.
One primary difference of menstrual cups from the aforementioned products is that the it is reusable, as it is made of medical-grade silicone. You can just empty the cup, wash, and reuse or reinsert it as necessary. At the same time, whereas napkins and tampons have to be changed every couple of hours throughout the day (especially tampons to prevent infections), menstrual cups can be safely used straight for 4 to 24 hours – also depending on your flow.
How do I use a menstrual cup?
Here’s a simple step-by-step to give you an idea how to use a menstrual cup:
1. Keep it clean. Always start with a clean cup and clean hands. Wash your cup thoroughly with a feminine wash or its dedicated cleanser, and wash your hands before insertion.
2. Fold and hold. Fold your cup using a fold that works best for you – Put a Cup in It details different folds and how to do them. If one fold doesn’t work for you, try another one. Every woman is unique, so a fold that might be ok for one might not be as comfortable for you.
3. Insert and pop. Holding the cup in its fold, squat a bit and gently insert the folded cup into your vagina. The cup should sit comfortably inside and should pop open, creating a light suction or vacuum. To ensure that it is fully open, you can insert your finger to check. You can also twist and rotate the cup a bit if needed.
4. Use it up to 12 hours. Although it is marketed to be safe to use for up to 24 hours, emptying it every 12 hours or less is also recommended just to be on the safe side. How often you need to do so will also depend on your cycle and flow. But 6 to 12 hours of use is definitely way better than napkins’ or tampons’ 2 to 4 hours.
5. Remove and empty. Starting again with clean hands, you can empty the cup by gently pulling the stem downwards until you reach its base/bottom. Then, pinch the base until the seal/vacuum is broken so you can then gently take it out. Empty the cup’s contents into the toilet and reinsert it again as needed. You can wash it out or use a wet tissue to clean before reinsertion.
If you can’t feel the stem, don’t panic. You can squat and “push” it a bit using your pelvic muscles to help you reach the stem or base with your fingers.
What are the perks of using menstrual cups?
There are a number of pros in using menstrual cups, let me count the ways:
- You can use it for a number of hours. Unlike napkins and tampons, menstrual cups are safe to use for up to 12 hours. So they’re good for overnight protection and other activities wherein you don’t need to worry about the state of your panties, such as motherhood.
- It’s eco- and wallet-friendly. You can reuse menstrual cups for more than 5 years, with proper cleaning and sterilization. This makes it more environment-friendly and cheaper in the long run. It minimizes your carbon footprint by decreasing the number (or even eliminate it completely) of napkins and tampons you throw out and provides you savings because you don’t have to buy a lot of feminine hygiene products every month.
- It holds more. A typical menstrual cup holds an ounce of liquid, which is twice more than the super absorbent napkin or tampon.
- It ensures mess-free activities. Using a cup allows you to freely enjoy activities such as swimming even when it’s that time of the month.
- It’s safe and promises an odor-less period. Menstrual blood can start to smell when exposed to air – this is not applicable when using a menstrual cup since it forms an airtight seal. At the same time, menstrual cups have lower risks for toxic shock syndrome or bacterial infection compared to tampons and poses no chance of chafing or rashes compared to napkins.
- It’s one less thing to worry about when your child is being extra clingy. Using menstrual cups mean that changing your napkin or tampon is not a concern when your child is being extra clingy. It means that you wouldn’t have to deal with messy underwear or sheets just because your child doesn’t allow you to leave him for one minute to tend to your napkin.