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Medical Content Writer
Updated: 13th March 2020

What are Menstrual Cups?


You may have read about them in magazines or seen them advertised all over social media, but what exactly are menstrual cups and what do they do?


Consider this a crash course in menstrual cups, which will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about what they do, how they work and how safe they are.


What is a menstrual cup?




They’re a bit like an 18+ video game- contains blood, intense violence (cramps) and strong language (PMT).


Add in the worry of leaks staining your clothes or leaving marks on furniture and you have the perfect ‘period drama’.


Although menstrual cups may not be able to ease cramps or brighten your irritable mood, they can help to prevent leaks and offer a reusable and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary towels.


A menstrual cup is a small, flexible, funnel-shaped cup that is made of medical-grade silicone and collects period blood.


They can be cleaned out to be used again and again.


Helping to save the planet with your period- Attenborough would be proud!



How does a menstrual cup work?


Menstrual cups are inserted directly into the vagina, in a similar way to tampons and collect period blood.


They can hold more blood than tampons and sanitary towels and, depending on your flow, you can wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours.


After they have been inserted into the vagina, they create a suction seal to prevent leaks and the stem at the base of the cup helps to remove the menstrual cup when needed.


Menstrual cups can be cleaned out every day and re-inserted, making them a more cost-effective and eco-friendlier period solution compared to traditional sanitary towels and tampons.



How to use a menstrual cup


It is recommended by some menstrual cup brands to sterilise the cup in boiling water for 3-5 minutes before using, but check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if this is necessary.


Wash your hands

Before inserting the menstrual cup, ensure that your hands are clean by washing with mild soap and water and drying thoroughly.



Get yourself into a comfortable position either standing, lying down, sitting or squatting.


Fold the cup in on itself to make it flat then in half to form a C shape.


It is important to ensure you are relaxed when inserting the menstrual cup and you may want to use water or a water-based lubricant to make insertion easier.



Insert the folded menstrual cup until the entire cup is inside of you before removing your fingers to let it pop open.


If it is inserted correctly you may hear a ‘pop’ or suction sound, this means that the cup has folded out completely and created the necessary suction seal that prevents leakage.


If you’re not sure if you have inserted the cup correctly, reach in and feel around the base of the cup.


It should feel round or oval without any noticeable folds.



If you feel any indentations or folds around the base of the menstrual cup or you’re not sure if the suction seal has been created, gently grip the base of the cup (NOT THE STEM) and rotate it to make it unfold.


Once your menstrual cup is in place, gently pull at the stem, if you feel resistance, the suction seal has been created and the cup has been inserted successfully.


Where should the menstrual cup sit?

A menstrual cup should sit lower than a tampon in the vaginal canal and the stem should be completely inside of you.


Everybody is built differently and if the stem pokes out after insertion, you can trim it.


Get on with your day

You can use a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours at a time, so once it is inserted you can wear it all day and all night!


Some flows are heavier than others, so you may have to empty the menstrual cup more than twice a day, so it is recommended that if you are a menstrual cup newbie, you should empty the cup more often, in the beginning, to get used to how the cup works and how heavy your flow is.



Are menstrual cups better for the environment?


Did you know that disposable period products and their packaging create more than 200,000 tonnes of waste every year and all of this waste contains plastic in some form which ends up in landfills, on beaches, in sewages and our oceans?


Disposable period products tend to contain harmful chemicals such as polyethene to make pads stick to your underwear and chlorine and rayon in tampons which are soaked up by the earth as they sit in landfills and then released as pollution into water and air.


It can take up to 500 years for these products to degrade- that’s half a millennium for one product, so think how long it’s going to take for 200,000 tonnes of period product waste to degrade!


We’re not ovary-acting when we say that waste caused by disposable period products is becoming a real issue.


One of the main reasons menstrual cups are becoming more and more popular is the fact that they are reusable- a single cup, if cleaned and maintained properly, can be reused for years!


To put this into perspective, the average woman could use 528 tampons or 1 menstrual cup.


1 menstrual cup can cut down the cost and waste of 528 tampons and this number will increase with every year you use a menstrual cup instead of disposable period products.



How to clean a menstrual cup


Wash the cup using a mild soap that is fragrance-free, oil-free- do NOT use washing up liquid or detergent or put your cup in the dishwasher!


Some brands advise boiling the menstrual cup between cycles to keep it sterile- check the manufacturer's instructions to ensure if this is necessary.


If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning your menstrual cup in a public bathroom, empty the contents into the toilet and wipe away any residue with some toilet paper- ensure you clean it as soon as you get home or somewhere private.


When should you clean a menstrual cup?


A menstrual cup can be worn for up to 12 consecutive hours, depending on your flow, but it should be emptied, washed and rinsed a minimum of 2-3 times during every day of use.  



Menstrual Cup FAQs


So we’ve covered most of the basics and we could leave our exploration into the menstrual cup here…but we thought we’d answer some of the most common menstrual cup questions on the internet to help you decide if the menstrual cup is the period solution for you


Can using a menstrual cup cause thrush?

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast called Candida albicans.


During a period this yeast can increase quite rapidly and using products such as sanitary pads don’t allow your vagina to breathe which promotes the growth of this yeast.


Menstrual cups allow your vagina to breathe therefore not disturbing the natural moisture balance that can lead to yeast infections, therefore they can offer a better period solution alternative for those who are prone to yeast infections.



Can using a menstrual cup cause TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome)?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a serious, but rare, disease that is caused by toxin-producing strains of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium.


When exposed to the strain TSS may affect a small number of people. It is recommended to speak to a doctor before using this product if you have any concerns regarding TSS.


It is important to use your menstrual cup to the manufacturer's instructions, ensure your hands are clean before insertion and removal and wash the menstrual cup with warm water and fragranced soap at least 2-3 times a day.



Can a menstrual cup cause a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)?

UTIs occur when bacteria travel up to your bladder through your urethra. This can happen if you wipe back to front after using the toilet or not urinating after sexual intercourse.


If the menstrual cup is not placed correctly and does not allow you to fully empty your bladder properly, it can (in rare cases) cause a UTI.


If you place the menstrual cupwith dirty hands, this can also increase the likelihood of contracting a UTI. Place the menstrual cup correctly with clean hands and you won’t have a problem with urinary tract infections.



Can you use a menstrual cup with an IUD (intrauterine contraceptive device)

Menstrual cups sit at the base of the vagina and away from the cervix, so they should not interfere with an internal birth control device. However, caution is advised when using any internal period product, as there is the possibility that an IUD can become dislodged.


Seek advice from your doctor if you have any concerns before using a menstrual cup or tampon.



Can I have sex whilst using the menstrual cup?

Penetrative vaginal sex is not possible whilst using a menstrual cup.


If you want to have penetrative sex simply remove the cup and replace after intercourse.


Try using a menstrual cup during your next period

OrganiCup Menstrual Cup - Size A
OrganiCup Menstrual Cup - Size B