Finding out which products to use to manage a period can sometimes be frustrating and overwhelming. Menstruation products are abundant. Pads, tampons, period underwear, and menstrual cups. Many women love menstrual cups because they are reusable and can hold a substantial volume of blood during the day.
Menstrual cups are reusable devices inserted into the vagina to collect blood.
They’re reusable, making them an environmentally friendly choice for managing a period.
The downsides to using menstrual cups are the difficulties in using them for the first time, the potential for TSS, and the challenges of changing them in public.
However, do gynecologists recommend that women use them to manage their periods? Let’s dive into what menstrual cups are and whether or not they’re helpful for menstruation.
What are menstrual cups?
Menstrual cups are sometimes known as diva or moon cups. Flexible and typically made of silicone, latex, rubber, or thermoplastic, they are placed into the vaginal canal to hold menstruation blood. “A menstrual cup is a suction cup-like device that is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood during a woman’s period,” said Faina Gelman-Nisanov, MD, FACOG, a board-certified OBGYN. “It is reusable, and it can be sterilized.”
Over the last few years, menstrual cups have become more popular, with more women opting for reusable over single-use, disposable products like tampons and pads. In fact, according to Cleveland Clinic, the global market for menstrual cups is expected to make $1.89 billion by 2026.
A menstrual cup can be worn for up to 12 hours a day. This is significantly longer than pads and tampons, which can only last between 4 to 6 hours before needing to be changed. After the 12 hours have surpassed, the user can wash the menstrual cup and re-insert it.
It’s important to note that menstrual cups come in a variety of sizes to accommodate women with different anatomy and the amount of period blood they release during menstruation. Sizing is helpful as some women may require larger cups if they have given birth or have a heavier period. On the other hand, other women may need a small cup if they’re pre-teen, teenagers or have not had a child.
Other essential factors to consider when choosing a menstrual cup include the following:
- Bladder sensitivity.
- Postpartum bleeding.
- Lifestyle (i.e. stronger pelvic floor muscles).
Some popular menstrual cup brands are:
- Lena Menstrual Cup.
- Lunette Menstrual Cup.
- Dutchess Menstrual Cups.
How to use a menstrual cup
While using a menstrual cup isn’t too challenging, inserting the device into the vagina correctly is essential to prevent leakage.
If you want to use a menstrual cup, follow these steps:
- Wash your hands.
- Before touching the device or your vagina, please wash your hands to avoid spreading bacteria to your intimate areas.
- Apply lube to the rim of the menstrual cup (optional).
- Find a comfortable position either squatting or standing upright with your legs spread apart to insert the menstrual cup.
- Fold the menstrual cup in half and insert the device into the vagina with the rimmed edge going first.
- If you’re worried about potential leakage during the first use of a menstrual cup, you can wear a panty liner or pad.
To remove the menstrual cup, use the following steps:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Use your index finger and thumb to pull the menstrual cup’s stem. Continue pulling the stem until you reach the base.
- Pinch the base to remove the seal.
- Pull the cup to release it from the vagina and empty it into the toilet or sink.
- Wash before using it again.
What are the benefits of menstrual cups?
Many benefits are associated with using a menstrual cup to manage periods, such as:
- Comfort and convenience for all ages.
- A 2021 study revealed that participants aged 13-19 did not experience any discomfort while using a menstrual cup and found them to be more convenient than other feminine products.
- They’re eco-friendly.
- Menstrual cups are more environmentally friendly than disposable menstruation products. In the United States, 49.8 billion tampons and sanitary pads end up in sewer systems and landfills yearly. With this in mind, menstrual cups can aid in reducing feminine product waste across the globe.
- Less irritation and dryness.
- Using a menstrual cup can help eliminate vaginal irritation and dryness. The cotton materials in tampons and pads can often dry vaginal tissue, causing dryness in the vagina.
What are the downsides to using menstrual cups?
As with any menstruation product, there are some potential cons to using menstrual cups.
Here are some common complaints consumers have about menstrual cups:
- They can be challenging to use at first.
- Menstrual cups can be difficult for first-timers to use appropriately. If the menstrual cup isn’t inserted correctly, it could cause discomfort and leakage.
- May cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
- While many may assume that menstrual cups are a preventive method against TSS, a rare disease that can occur with tampon use, there are some instances in which these reusable devices have caused TSS.
- May pose issues when changing in public.
- You may feel uncomfortable washing your menstrual cup in public if you’ve hit the 12-hour mark or filled the cup. With this in mind, you may want a backup if you change your menstrual cup in a public bathroom.
Do gynecologists recommend them?
Here’s what gynecologists are saying about menstrual cups:
“Menstrual cups are an excellent option gaining in popularity over the years,” said Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, an author and practicing gynecologist in New York. “Environmental sustainability, cost-effectiveness over time, ability to better quantify flow are big draws, and personal preference sways many.”
“Unlike menstrual underwear and tampons/pads, a cup does not absorb menstrual blood but collects it,” Sam Rahman, a board-certified OB/GYN and clinical assistant professor of OB/GYN at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. "It’s also cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Finding the correct size and placing it correctly is important for comfort and to prevent leakage.”
Menstrual cups are an excellent alternative to disposable menstruation products like tampons and pads. These devices are reusable, come in various sizes, and are eco-friendly. The downsides are that they may be challenging to first-time users, can cause TSS, and may cause issues when removing and cleaning them in public restrooms.
Our gynecology experts favor menstrual cups as they’re cost-effective and eco-friendly.
If you have any concerns if whether a menstrual cup is right for you, please speak with your OBGYN.