A Beginner’s Guide to Menstrual Cups
A Beginner’s Guide to Menstrual Cups
I began my menstrual cup journey in 2013. After becoming fed up with tampons that were messy and quite honestly a pain in the butt. The first cup I tried was the Diva Cup; one of the most popular and widely available cups on the market.
Although the Diva Cup and I were not a match made in heaven (it routinely leaked.) I still enjoyed it more than the alternative options. Little did I know it just wasn’t the right fit for me. After a year of using the Diva Cup I decided to switch to the Organicup. It’s shorter but also holds a large volume. Needless to say, the Organicup and I are a perfect match.
Every body is different. You may not find the right fit on the first try, but trust me there’s going to be one out there that works perfectly.
Why You Should Switch to a Menstrual Cup
Honestly, I’d be able to write an essay about how awesome menstrual cups are. They make your time of month relatively fuss-free and much more affordable－most cups are made from surgical-grade silicon. When cleaned properly you don’t have to worry about infections either.
But washing it sounds like a hassle?
The most labour intensive part of using a cup is definitely cleaning it. I will admit, the first few months I used it I would spend about twenty minutes in the bathroom just rinsing and washing to ensure it was clean. After a few years of using it though, I am down to about five minutes. Oftentimes I change it in the morning during my shower. Easy peasy!
How many hours can you leave it in for?
Providing the cup is large enough to hold your monthly flow, you will be able to wear it for up to 12 hours at a time. Therefore you’re really only changing it morning and night.
If you are getting leaks and the cup is not full it could mean one of two things. Either your cup is the wrong fit for you or it didn’t seal properly during insertion.
How long does a menstrual cup last?
As long as you’re properly cleaning it between each cycle (which we will get to later on!) Your cup should last you about 5-7 years. Yes, you read that right!
Let’s Get into Finding the Right Fit
If you’re used to using pads and tampons it is likely you don’t know much about your vagina, other than how heavy your flow is. Unfortunately, when you’re looking for a menstrual cup one size does not fit all. So you have to have a little knowledge about your body.
If you have given birth or are over 30, have a low cervix or are very active it will make a difference for which cup is right for you.
If you have given birth or over 30
Most cups have a larger option for women who are older or have given birth. As you age and through the birthing process your vagina tends to get a little wider. Therefore it’s important to make sure you’re choosing the right size based on the brand.
For example: Divacup has model 1 for women who haven’t given birth and model 2 for women who have.
If you have a low cervix
An easy way to find this out is by asking your OB/GYN －or you could even venture in there yourself and see if you can reach it. In most cases you have a normal/medium cervix if you are able to reach up to your second knuckle, if you have a low cervix you may only be able to reach up to your first knuckle.*
This article on Cervical Position from JuJu may also help.
Although Diva Cup is common, it’s also one of the largest cups on the market and if you have a medium-low cervix it will not fit properly.
*Please note I am not a doctor. Consult your physician to be entirely sure.
If you are active
If you regularly work out you will most likely need a firmer fit. This will help allow the cup to stay nice and snug during your run －or whatever form of workout you prefer.
Diva Cup is one of the firmer cups on the market, therefore it could be a good fit for someone who is quite active.
Okay, so you’ve found a cup that you think is the right fit for you! Perfect. Now how do you go about putting it in?
There are a few methods you can use to insert the cup －we call them folds. It’s very similar to putting in a tampon without the applicator. It may take a little while to get used to inserting the cup and you may not be fully comfortable with it until your third period. Experiment with different folds and see which works best for you!
Most Popular Folds
Simply push the rims together and fold in half.
You’ll most likely find the c-fold instructions in the package when you open up your menstrual cup. It’s a very simple technique but may be more difficult to insert due to the width.
Punchdown (Shell Fold)
Push the rim to the base of the cup and pinch in half.
This is my personal favourite fold. It allows for easier insertion as it is smaller.
Triangle Fold (7-Fold)
Push the rims together, take one side and fold diagonally to the middle. Or alternatively, all the way to the bottom (to form a triangle.)
This one is good for younger users as it also has a small point of insertion. It is important to double check that it is fully opened after putting the cup inside.
Tulip (Double 7 Fold)
Push the rims together, fold one corner diagonally down to the bottom, flip, fold the other corner down to the bottom.
This fold is a bit more involved but if all else fails it might just be what works!
There are many other folds, but these ones seem to be the most popular (and easiest.)
Ensure it opens
No matter what fold you decide to use, make sure that the cup has fully opened. If it doesn’t open or get a good seal you will have a leak. A good way to check if it has opened is to either twirl the cup or insert your finger and feel around the edges (whichever you are most comfortable with.)
Before you first use the cup it is a good idea to clean it in boiling water for 5 minutes in order to ensure that it is sterilized. I also like to do this after my period is finished to have it ready for the next time I use it.
In between cleanings (about every 12 hours) you should remove the cup, dump right into the toilet and then rinse and wash. You can either use regular unscented soap or a dedicated cup cleaner (I use the Diva Wash!)
Make sure that the holes around the rim of your cup are completely clear. If they are plugged you won’t get the suction needed to keep the cup from leaking and to stay in place.
If you’re traveling…
It’s a good idea to carry a little jug of clean water and rinse it before popping it back in. Give it a proper clean the next time you are able to.
Switching to a cup and finding the right fit can be a bit daunting, but once you become accustomed to a menstrual cup it is quite easy! Have you used a menstrual cup? Or are there any questions that I didn’t cover?
UPDATED: As of August 1, 2019 this article was updated to remove a statement about menstrual cups and Toxic Shock Syndrome. As of this update, there has been one documented case of Toxic Shock Syndrome related to using a menstrual cup. Though it is rare, it is still possible.