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Menstrual Cups - What Are They And How Do They Work?

March 19, 2021 9 min read

Menstrual Cups - What Are They And How Do They Work?

Menstrual Cups - Everything You Need To Know

I remember the first time that I ever heard about menstrual cups. My friend told me that she had one and my instant reaction was ewww! That’s disgusting! Who would want to 'mess' with their own period blood? Yuk!

Then over the next couple of years I began to hear more and more about them and after a while, my interest had been piqued and I began to actively research them. I read blog posts, news articles, watched videos and followed a couple of menstrual cup advocates. And finally, bought one for myself.

 

Two purple menstrual cups from Lunette. A size 1 and a size 2. They're lying on a wooden flood with some white flowers.

Photo credit: Lunette 

 

We Need To Talk About Periods

Women have had years, decades, centuries, and even millennia, of society telling us that periods aren't to be talked about and that we should just deal with them quietly as though they are something disgusting. But the insane part is... we as women buy into this attitude too. Every month we quietly go through our cycles rarely even sharing with anyone that we're on our period.

Disposable period products (tampons and pads) are thrown away in stealthy ways lest we get embarrassed by someone else catching even a glimpse of them. And our young women are left to figure things out for themselves because the older women are too embarrassed to have those much needed conversations about what being a menstruating women actually involves.

But ladies, it's time things changed. For ourselves, our daughters, our granddaughters and for all the other menstruating women of this world. Periods are normal. They are not disgusting. They do not make us lesser people and we shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed by them. 

Let's embrace our womanhood and do what's best for ourselves and our bodies. Let's start using period products that will make our periods easier, healthier and more enjoyable!

There's a period product in New Zealand that fits this exact description - The Menstrual Cup!

 

A blue Lunette menstrual cup being held in a persons hand.

Photo credit: Lunette 

  

What Is A Menstrual Cup?

A menstrual cup is a soft and flexible tulip shaped cup, that is made from medical grade silicone. They are similar to tampons in that they sit inside your vaginal canal where they catch and hold your period blood.

Can you feel a menstrual cup?

No, when you're cup is in the right place you can't feel it at all! You can go for a run, a swim, to the gym, to work or spend all day on the couch and you still won't feel a thing!

Note: If you can feel it inside you, then you need to take it out and try reinserting it again. Any feeling means that your cup is not quite sitting in the right place.

How long do menstrual cups last?

10 years!!!

Yep, you can use one cup every month, month after month, year after year, for 10 years.

 

A clear menstrual cup from My Cup standing with a white image background.

Photo credit: My Cup

 

How Do Menstrual Cups Work?

Menstrual cups work by sitting inside your vaginal canal to catch all of your period blood. Think of them as similar to tampons, but instead of your blood being absorbed into a chunk of material, it falls into a cup.

Do menstrual cups leak?

No. The flexible rim of the menstrual cup rests against the inside of your vaginal walls so that all blood falls into the cup. Because the medical grade silicone is a soft material, the menstrual cup follows the curves of your vaginal walls creating a snug yet comfortable fit.

How do I know when to take my menstrual cup out? 

It is recommended that you don't leave your menstrual cup inside of your body for more than 8-12 hours at a time. So women often take it out at set times of the day. For example, when they get ready in the morning, when they get home from work and just before they go to bed.

How do I know if my menstrual cup is full?

Usually women will only fill their menstrual cups on their heaviest days. You'll be surprised how little blood you actually loose during a period. And you will quickly learn how often you need to empty it for your body.

But for those days when it does get full, you'll just feel your cup weighing down a little, not too different to how a full tampon feels. So nothing scary, just a little gentle reminder to visit the bathroom.

 

A young women holding a blue Lunette menstrual cup in her hand.

Photo credit: Lunette 

 

How Do You Clean A Menstrual Cup?

Cleaning a menstrual cup is honestly much easier than you think. After years of us disposing of our menstrual products, it is a big change to think about having to deal with our period blood, but there's nothing to it.

Before and after each period you need to sterilise your cup to make sure that it's super clean. Nothing is able to grow on the silicone itself, but any dirt sitting on the silicone can.

Don't worry this isn't as hard as it sounds. To sterilise your menstrual cup you simply boil it in water for 3 minutes. You can either use a saucepan on the hob or with a jug in the microwave. I have a little saucepan tucked away in the cupboard for this purpose.

Then during your period it's as simple as taking it out, emptying it, rinsing it clean and then popping it right back in. Other than a sink with clean running water, you don't need anything else.

There are additional products you can purchase for cleaning, but those are more personal choice than a necessity.

Do menstrual cups smell?

No, there is absolutely no smell. Your blood is clean inside your body and doesn't smell at all. It's only when it mixes with the chemicals in disposable products, or any environmental bacteria, that it starts to smell.

Is using a menstrual cup messy?

I honestly feel so much cleaner using a menstrual cup than any other period product. You don't get blood all over your hands, if that's a worry for you. The worst is a little on your fingers, but that's no worse than inserting a tampon. Other than that, everything is held inside the cup itself.

 

Menstrual Cup Cleaning Products

Some women do prefer something other than water to clean their menstrual cups, and as I said that's personal choice. If you're interested in something more then there is a cup wash that you can use when you boil your cup, and a cup wash you can use each time you take your cup out. If you are somewhere without clean running water, then you can use a cup wipe to clean your cup.

  

 

What is the best Menstrual Cup?

At Reuseful, one of the things I am most proud of is my personally curated range of products. I only stock things that I truly believe are going to work and make a real difference to your life. For menstrual cups I chose two brands that I believe are the best, Lunette and My Cup.

Lunette - After all of the research I did into menstrual cups, Lunette was where I personally spent my money. It was the best quality cup and had the most success with women globally. Quality is so important with something you're going to leave inside your body one week out of every four! Lunette has all of their quality controlled checks officially certified, which is very reassuring.  Please don't fall for those 'free cup when you pay shipping' deals. You just can't trust them to be safe.

My Cup - Although I haven't tried My Cup personally (only because I don't need to), I love that they're a New Zealand brand that manufactures their cups right here in NZ. They're also doing amazing work for women in poverty by donating reusable period products. I have confidence that the quality is of the highest standard and I would personally buy one of their cups if I needed one. They just weren't around when I was looking to buy one for myself. 

What Size Menstrual Cup Do I Need?

Lunette recommends that if you're younger than 30 and you haven't given birth then a size 1 is best for you. If you're over 30 with kids choose size 2. I'm 37 with two kids, so I have a size 2 and it works perfectly for me.

My Cup recommends that all women should choose size 1 first (My Cup's size 1 is slightly bigger than a Lunette size 1). And only try size 2 if you've tried a size 1 and it was too small. 

If you need any further help making this decision, get in touch via our contact page. I'm more than happy to help.

Why Are Menstrual Cups So Expensive?

I hear you! I thought the exact same thing when I was looking to buy one for myself. But in truth they're worth their price and more! I think the biggest feeling about the cost is the risk of it not working. What if you spend $50 and it doesn't work, right?! 

I hope that I can offer you a little reassurance in that lots of women have been successful with menstrual cups and when they are, the feeling and freedom is wonderful and certainly worth a $50 punt.

Another thing to consider is that one menstrual cup will last you 10 years. The same cost of disposables over that time is about $2000. I appreciate the initial risk seems high, but over time a menstrual cup is going to save you so much more!

 

A My Cup menstrual cup sitting on a hand in front on some green ferns.
 Photo credit: My Cup

 

One Woman's Honest Experience

Kelly, is a 37 year old mum living in Auckland, New Zealand. She's been using a menstrual cup for three years and says she would NEVER go back to using tampons. Here's her story;

"I know it sounds a bit weird, and only women with a menstrual cup will get me when I say, I LOVE my cup! It really has changed my periods for the better. I used to use tampons and panty liners before I discovered reusables and I can honestly say that I haven't purchased a single disposable product in 3 years! I get such a buzz every week when I'm doing the grocery shopping and I get to walk past the period section.

I did a lot of research into cups when I bought mine and I chose the brand Lunette as it seemed to be the one with the best safety credentials and the best success with women around the world. And it worked! It's still the one I use today.

What I love the most about my menstrual cup is that I only have to think about it twice a day. Once in the morning and once again in the evening. The rest of the time, I just carry on as though I'm not even having my period. I can't feel it, I know I'm not going to leak and I don't need to carry any spares with me. This alone gives me so much freedom.

I would like to be 100% honest though and tell you that it wasn't all smooth sailing. There does seem to be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using a menstrual cup for the first time. For me, it took me about six periods to get it right. You need to become more familiar with your body, and there are a couple of techniques you need to figure out to get it in and in the right spot. For me I really struggled to get mine to open up once it was inside me. But, don't let that put you off. I've learnt what works for me and no longer have any of those issues, it works perfectly every time now. But I've heard some women giving up after just one or two tries and I know if they stuck it out they would be successful.

My menstrual cup has also allowed me to get to know my body better and that's really empowering. I know exactly how much blood I lose on each day of my period, and I know where my cervix sits and how that position changes day to day too.

I am a total advocate for menstrual cups. They are a winner on so many levels. They save you money, they're healthier for your body and they make your periods so much better! What more could we ask for."

Kelly

A black and white photo of Kelly, a 37 year old menstrual cup user and reviewer.

 

 

Are You Ready To Try A Menstrual Cup?

I suppose there are two things that might be holding you back from trying a menstrual cup. Cost and confidence.

Cost - My Cups are $35, the cheapest quality menstrual cup I've seen. This is because they want them to be affordable and accessible to women rather than making their millions. But even a $50 Lunette makes its money back after just 6 months of use. Knowing what I know now, I'd happily pay $100 or more for a replacement cup. They are totally worth it!

Confidence - What can I say? Menstrual cups give you confidence! Once you get over that initial learning curve. Don't let confidence hold you back. The only regret I have is not buying my menstrual cup sooner. Just go for it!

 

Final Words...

I love my menstrual cup! It has honestly transformed my periods for the better. I don't dread them anymore, I just pop in my menstrual cup and carry on as if it's any other day of the month.

But don't take my word for it, if you know someone who uses one, ask them what they think.

Menstrual cups are the future of period care, not just because of their lack of waste, but quite simply because they are so amazing at letting you get on with your days. They seriously save you money, they minimise hassle and for a lot of women, some even claim that they reduce cramps.

Whatever your reasons for trying a menstrual cup for the first time, you will find yourself being pleasantly surprised by just how much of a positive change it will have on your periods and on your attitude towards your periods. 

Are you ready to transform your periods for the better?

 

 

 



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