Have you heard of menstrual cups? They’re a fantastic invention that makes me very glad I live in this day and age. It revolutionized my period.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a small silicone or rubber cup that replaces tampons. Instead of absorbing liquid, it sits tucked inside the vagina to catch your flow.
You can’t feel it when it’s in, it holds way more than a tampon, and lasts for at least five years.
There are a few common brands, such as the Diva Cup and Luna Cup. I’ve been using a Diva Cup for over three years and I absolutely love it!
You can get your own menstrual cup here. There are two sizes- model one is for pre-childbirth, and model two is for women over 30 or women who have had a vaginal or C-section birth.
You can also check out this quiz to find out the best menstrual cup for you, based on your age, activity level, size, and more!
Once you’ve gotten your lil’ lady cup, read on for how to use it!
I’ve also put together an FAQ and troubleshooting post for menstrual cups- you can read that here.
This website contains affiliate links- meaning that if you follow a link to something I recommend, I might receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I love! More info here.
Benefits of using a menstrual cup
There are loads of benefits to using a menstrual cup over conventional tampons and pads! Here are some of the reasons I rave about cups, but you shouldn’t take my word for it- get yourself a cup and find out for yourself how dang fantastic these bloody brilliant cups are!
One of my favorite reasons to use a menstrual cup is how it reduces the toxic load your body has to deal with.
Federal regulations don’t require tampons and pads to show the ingredients or toxins used, but cotton tampons and pads are usually bleached to make them look white and pretty. When you put those products inside or on your body, your skin absorbs those toxins and they go into your bloodstream.
You can opt for expensive, organic tampons, but they’re still wasteful (see the next point!). On the other hand, choose a cup and know you aren’t getting any unknown toxins inside you.
There’s no risk of toxic shock syndrome when you use your menstrual cup correctly. The only times there have been reports of TSS problems related to menstrual cups was when it was left in for way too long- seven days instead of 12 hours.
Reducing the toxins your body needs to handle is one of the best (and most overlooked) ways to support your health and immune system. Too many toxins over time can build up in your body until it just can’t handle any more- leading to chronic illness, symptoms, cancer, and more.
For more help on reducing the toxins in your life, you can check out my guide here!
Removing synthetic materials from your period can also change your period’s length and heaviness! I have a friend who just changed from store-bought, bleached pads to reusable pads. Her period became lighter and went from seven days to three to five days long!
You can find non-toxic, reusable pads here.
The reduction in toxins can also make your periods more consistent and predictable- you’ll know better about when to expect your period and your heaviest days!
You could even put in your cup the day before you know it’s going to start. Who doesn’t love fewer bloody surprises?
Menstrual cups create less waste
Think about the number of tampons and/or pads you use in one cycle. Now multiply that by 12. Now multiply that by 5 or 10. That’s about the amount of waste you’ll save by switching to a menstrual cup!
The plastic and cardboard from the packaging and applicators for tampons and pads rarely get recycled, and nothing can be done to recycle used products. Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years, and you rinse them out and use the same one every cycle!
Switching out any single-use items for products you can use over and over again is fantastic- for you, and for the environment!
If you want some more ideas for being less wasteful, check out my post on creative ways to use less plastic.
Related: How and why I made my period zero waste
And if you’re a momma who wants to live more sustainably? Don’t miss out on these posts about 8 reasons to use cloth diapers and tips on how to use cloth diapers!
Stick it and forget it
Gone are the days when you have to remember to bring a stockpile of pads and tampons when traveling or just to survive the day. All you need is access to a bathroom to change your cup, but other than that you can forget about it completely! Menstrual cups make your period so much easier.
And, when you’re walking through the store, it’s lovely to just be able to skip the monthly trip to the aisle full of pads and tampons. You never have to worry about forgetting to get more tampons and having to rush to the store when shark week start!
Although, I’ll admit I miss the times I’d buy a package of tampons and go pick a checkout aisle with a male cashier (on purpose) just so I could see how embarrassed he’d get having to (gasp) touch a box of tampons!
Save money using menstrual cups
Skipping that monthly trip to buy a box of tampons and/or pads doesn’t just reduce waste, it’ll save you money!
Sure, menstrual cups have a higher upfront cost (they sell for around $30) but you’ll make up the cost in no time. Your cup will last you up to 10 years, so the 30 dollar price tag is more than worth it!
No waste for backpacking
This was one of the main reasons I started using a menstrual cup in the first place (more on that later).
If you enjoy going camping or backpacking, you know that it can be a huge pain to bring supplies for your period. Especially when you’re backpacking and don’t have a bathroom handy, it’s no fun at all to have to carry used tampons with you since you’re not supposed to bury or burn them.
Even though your period won’t attract bears (thankfully that’s a myth) your load and waste will be much lighter if you choose to backpack with a menstrual cup instead of pads and tampons.
A regular tampon holds about five milliliters of liquid. A regular menstrual cup, on the other hands, hold a full ounce! That’s six times as much as a normal tampon!
During one cycle, the average woman only has a total of one or two ounces of flow. So menstrual cups are crazy efficient!
Get more in touch with your period
Although you can technically measure how much you’re bleeding during that time of the month using tampons, it’s not very accurate and you won’t be able to tell the consistency of your flow.
With a menstrual cup, though, you can see exactly how much your flow is every single day! You’ll learn how thick your flow is, and know exactly how much you’re bleeding.
This is important because an extra heavy or watery period can be a sign of other things going on, such as hormonal imbalance.
Check out this post for more on hormone balancing. There are also lab tests you can take, and you can talk to a naturopathic doctor for more info.
For odor to occur, it needs air. Since menstrual cups work through suction and don’t let blood through to open air, there’s no smell! And unless you leave your cup in for wayyy longer than it should be (it can stay in for a max of 12 hours) you won’t notice any weird smell when you take out your cup either.
If your menstrual cup smells like death, it’s probably because it was either left in too long between changes. Or it might be that you didn’t clean it right at the end of your cycle. Find out below how to easily clean your menstrual cup!
Yes really! Since there are fewer toxins, menstrual cups can help reduce period pains.
If you regularly have menstrual cramps, taking herbal supplements can also help relieve pain.
My favorite cramp relief is Earthley’s Ease the Ache extract- it helps cramping go away while easing your mood. Pure magic. You can find it here.
My experience with the Diva cup
I started using a Diva Cup in 2015. The previous fall, I went on a backpacking trip that was traumatizing… My period was super heavy. I kept sneaking off into the woods every few hours to change my tampon.
I was nervous about bears finding the scent and killing us… And, even worse, there was a guy on the trip that I had a huge crush on. I was incredibly embarrassed. What would he think of me going to the bathroom for so long every few hours? (But don’t worry, he didn’t think too much of it. We’re married now.)
I started researching about bears and periods, and found out that, thankfully, there’s no correlation between women on their periods and bear killings.
During my research, I also found out about menstrual cups. It sounded like they would have made my backpacking experience about a million times better!
I started using a Diva Cup soon after and never looked back.
I started calling my cup a goblet. (Seems more regal.)
And today, I no longer feel any sort of fear or shame when that time of the month comes around. My (heavy) period isn’t my enemy anymore. I’ve had way less leaking, and less panic and stress when it’s shark week.
I have fewer cramps than when I used tampons, even with an IUD (more on that in the FAQ), although that might partially be due to beneficial diet changes.
Discovering menstrual cups have been the best thing that’s happened to my period!
How to use a menstrual cup
Just shove it on up there. Easy as that.
Jk, I’ll help you out! I wish I had had some more detailed information when I was learning how to use a cup, so here ya go.
If you’re using a cup for the first time, choose a day when your flow is heavy. This will add lubrication and help it go in easier.
Start on a day when you won’t feel rushed. There can be a little bit of a learning curve, and if you’re stressed and not relaxed it could make things less comfortable.
Make sure your hands are washed and visit a bathroom with a sink nearby the toilet. Rinse the cup with cold water.
Get comfy, breathe, and relax!
How to fold your cup
Now, there are a couple ways to fold a menstrual cup, and you’ll just need to experiment and find what way works best for you.
You can fold it in half so it makes a c-shape. I use this method, and I’ve found that it helps the cup to unfold correctly (more on that later).
Or you can fold it so there’s a point. This might be easier if you’re just learning to insert it since there’s a smaller point to insert. When inserted, it might make your cup tilt though.
Try both ways!
Insert the cup while squatting. You might feel the cup “pop” when it expands (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt). If it hasn’t opened, run a finger around the outside of the cup to give it room to expand.
You’ll know that it’s inserted correctly if you try to pull on it a little and can tell that it’s suctioned inside. It shouldn’t pull out easily.
If you haven’t put it in right, (which can happen if you don’t put it in far enough, or if it’s sitting at an angle) take it back out. Rinse, and repeat.
No worries if it takes a couple tries the first time- it gets easier, I promise! Soon it will be second nature and you’ll be able to do it in seconds, anywhere.
If you get it in correctly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it at all when you’re moving. If you can’t get it in, there are some troubleshooting tips in the next post.
Your cup should last at least 6 hours. Wear a pad too for the first couple of cycles, until you’re sure that your cup isn’t leaking and is working right. Soon you’ll learn exactly how often you need to change it!
Removing your menstrual cup
To get it out, make sure your hands are clean, and relax squatting on the toilet again.
Sometimes a menstrual cup will travel up a little bit while you’re wearing it. It won’t get lost, (there’s a dead end) but it might be a little out of reach for two fingers.
If it is, you’ll want to bear down with your pelvic muscles a bit (as if you’re pooping) to help move the cup down to where you can reach it. Just be forewarned, you might fart on accident…
Anyway, just use your thumb and forefinger to wiggle the cup down until you can reach high enough to pinch the cup a little. Pinch it enough to break the seal that’s suctioning it in there.
Remove the cup carefully (it might spill when you’re taking it out if it’s extra full). Dump out its contents in the toilet, and rinse the cup.
You’ll notice that there are little holes in the rim of your cup. Those need to be clear for the suction to work correctly.
To clean them out, sometimes I’ll fill the cup with water, turn in over on my hand so I’m completely covering the opening with my palm, and squeeze the cup so water comes out the little holes. Repeat if necessary until there’s nothing left in the holes.
Wipe yourself before putting your cup back in, to avoid spotting.
Or, if your period is done, on to the next step!
Cleaning your menstrual cup
Almost everywhere I look, there are instructions to clean your menstrual cup by using a fragrance-free soap and boiling it in water. Confession… I’ve never even tried that.
Part of the problem was that at the time I started using a cup, I was living with 10 other women for a summer program. And we had a host family we shared a kitchen with. I didn’t want to have to explain myself when they caught me boiling my goblet.
Besides, if you boil your cup and forget about it, you could melt it. If the cup’s shape is tweaked even a little bit, it won’t work as well. And it’s time-consuming… who’s got time for that?
There’s a much easier solution!
Did you know you can clean your menstrual cup with hydrogen peroxide?
Just fill a small jar or cup (glass, not plastic) with half water and half hydrogen peroxide.
(You can get hydrogen peroxide here– one bottle will last you more than a year!)
Then dunk your cup in there (making sure water covers it) and leave it overnight! 12ish hours later, just rinse your cup and let it air dry. Some menstrual cups come with cotton bags that let air in, and it can dry in that if you’d like.
Hydrogen peroxide cleanses and whitens the cup, and won’t break it down. I’ve been using my menstrual cup for three years and it still looks brand new each time I clean it at the end of my cycle! Easy enough, eh?
I hope this helps you get started! Menstrual cups are great and I want everyone to know about them and the perks that come with using them.
Enjoy the journey, and enjoy getting in touch with your period.
My hope is that as more women learn about their bodies, they’ll learn to rest, reduce toxins, and give themselves the self-care they need while menstruating.
We’re created in an amazing way, with bodies capable of incredible things!
I think that’s worth celebrating.
Let’s give our bodies the rest and respect they deserve during this time of the month.
One way I do that is by supporting my body with herbal supplements to nourish it and soothe any monthly maladies!
My favorite lady-time remedy is Ease the Ache– you can find it here.
Instead of just covering symptoms like so many meds do, Ease the Ache actually helps you feel better by solving the underlying problems- with no side effects!
The powerful herbs in this extract help with bloating, cramps, heavy bleeding, hormone balancing, and more… And they naturally lift your mood!
Aside from my Diva Cup, (and maybe some quality dark chocolate), Ease the Ache is the only other thing I can’t live without during shark week. Try it for yourself here!
And if you have any questions about things I didn’t go over here, check out Part 2:
>>Menstrual cup FAQ and troubleshooting<<
No correlation between periods and bear killings? Well that is good news indeed! Thank you for your humor on a kinda-uncomfortable-icky topic. : )
It’s a fun (and not tooo-icky) topic full of lots of good news! =)
So much info! This is something that I haven’t delved into yet as it still every so slightly wierds me out lol so thank you for breaking down insertion & removal!
It used to weird me out so much! But the benefits outweigh the weirdness so much that now I just want to tell everyone! =)
This is so interesting! I definitely need to look into it. It sounds like something I could easily get behind!
I definitely recommend it! (If you couldn’t tell) 😉