A menstrual cup: essentially a medical-grade silicone cup placed into the vagina to collect menstrual flow
Menstrual cups are much more hygienic compared to tampons. They aren’t porous, don’t leave fibres behind, are hypoallergenic, and aren’t made with harmful chemicals such as dyes, perfumes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins. They’re also much comfier because the silicone means that it molds to your body and doesn’t dry you out, whereas tampons absorb 35% of vaginal moisture. Moreover it’s less hassle as you can leave them in for longer – say goodbye to fretting about finding a bathroom while you’re out and about!
Importantly, menstrual cups are less wasteful and more cost-effective. One cup lasts for five-ten years depending on the make and costs about $20. The average woman will use about 240 tampons a year, costing about $50 (that soon adds when you consider we have about 480 periods in a lifetime). In India, 432 million disposable menstrual products are generated annually. To help you visualize that, it spreads over 24 hectares, equivalent to 4 rugby fields. This is damaging because the plastic content of sanitary products can be up to 90%, resulting in each box of pads being composed of the equivalent of four plastic bags. This means that these products take over 500 years to decompose. Products such as tampons cause things like fatbergs that clog sewers and pollute the waters. This releases chemicals that contribute to groundwater pollution and decreased soil fertility as disposable menstrual products have to be treated with heavy chemicals due to their porous nature.
Now – how do we use it?
Firstly, make sure you have the right size, as there is normally a pre-birth and after-birth size. Before and after each period sanitize the cup but putting it in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, and just wash it out with water each time you empty it. However, if you’re in a public bathroom and can’t wash it out, just dump out the contents into the toilet, wipe it with loo roll and properly clean it out when you’re at home. As the cup isn’t porous (like tampons and pads), it doesn’t harbour bacteria so you don’t need to worry about leaving it in for longer that you would a tampon, as the risk of getting TSS or other infections is lower.
As for inserting, just fold it in one of the recommended folds and put it in like a tampon. Don’t worry that you’re going to lose it because, simply put, you won’t. I find that having the stick tip just at the entrance of your vagina is best (so not sticking out, but you’re not digging around for it). And then for removing it, bear down slightly, pull on stick tip until you can comfortably pinch the cup to release the vacuum seal (what I found easiest).
As its easier to watch a video to understand how to fold it, here’s a useful link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwnK8J8fQxk
Crucially – make sure the vacuum seal is made! I found that after inserting it, running a finger around the base of the cup and creating space for the cup to fold out worked best and very quickly I got to grips with it. The base of the cup (where it attaches to the stick tip) should be fully rounded and have no folds in it when the seal is made, and there should be a bit of resistance to when you pull the stick tip gently. Also, try out different folds when inserting, as vaginas are not all shaped the same. It was a little frustrating at first, when I didn’t make the seal and had to try again, but try, try, try again and I promise it’s worth it and only gets easier.
Some things to note – if using the cup with an IUD, the strings may need be to shortened. Talk to your gyno / GP about this.
The key here is to not give up! Experiment with different folds, different positions and different cups. You know your own body best.
Here are some reviews from our lovely Trevelyan girls who experimented with the OrganiCup.
Mooncup, Usage for almost a year
“At first it was a real challenge to put the cup in and take it out again and clean it properly. I still struggle sometimes if I am on a public toilet or not near a sink with the right kind of soap. However, I am incredibly happy that I do not have to wear tampons anymore which are much more smelly, bad for the environment and might even have negative health influences as well! A mooncup can also take much more blood than your average tampon so helps with a heavy flow. I really feel empowered and more in control of the management of my menstrual cycle because I can see quite literally what my flow is. Also, I am very happy that I am saving money on not buying all those tampons. Definitely worth the investment!”
“1. Don’t forget to boil your cup regularly otherwise it gets all smelly and gross…
- For me personally a menstrual cup is not enough. A few cycles ago I bought some reusable sanitary pads that I use as a backup for leakages. They feel much nicer on the skin and are easy to use and wash. I haven’t spent any money the last two cycles two buy sanitary products nor have I produced any waste! That’s an incredible, empowering feeling all women should experience”
Organicup, Usage for almost a year
“I LOVE IT – so so so convenient (empty very infrequently, don’t rely on sanitary bins, can’t feel it when it’s in, easy to insert, easy to wash, cheaper) as well as being better for the planet. Only con is public toilets when you’re really heavy, but this is rarely that bad. I also occasionally find it can make period cramps worse, but I think this is a mixture of factors.”
“Take time to get used to it – just like with a tampon, it takes time to learn the best way to use it! Use a sanitary towel at the same time to start with just to make sure you don’t leak. Pee BEFORE removing it to empty – makes it so much easy to pull out!”
Organicup, Usage for 1 Year
“It’s perfect. It saves an incredible amount of waste, money, time and stress. It helps the environment and allows me to feel like I can have a much more natural period that I am more in tune with. And it’s so easy.”
“Perservere. It takes a couple of months to get use to, but once you start loving it, periods will be easier, safer, and less wasteful for the rest of your life. Also, the ‘oh but it’s so weird’ excuse is a terrible one. Firstly, using your hands and getting familiar with your body down there is a good thing, it’s you, there’s nothing weird or gross about it. Secondly, a little initial nervousness is a small price to pay for the benefits cups bring. And thirdly, if you’re happy for a penis to go up there, I think you can manage a small rubber cup which moulds perfectly to your shape.”
Mooncup then Organicup, Usage on and off for 2.5 years
“First was Moon Cup but it wasn’t the right size and also not as malleable. Once I had the right size insertion became much easier but it still took a while to get used to. When in use I can’t feel it and I don’t have to worry about it all day”
“Just try it, spend some time In the shower practicing putting it in and seeing what works for you. The first few times back it up with a pad just in case”
Organicup, 2 months
“At first it was quite challenging to get used to as it is much bigger than a tampon and difficult for a newbie to find the non-leaking, comfortable position. However, after a few times of use I found the perfect position and I’m never going back to tampons.”
“Go for it, it’s healthier and lasts longer!”
From everyone surveyed, the majority of people said the environment was their biggest motivation, followed by health reasons and comfort. All said that they would continue to use their cups. So, what are you waiting for?! Try one for the sake of your planet and your health!