You might have noticed that menstrual cups are having a moment. No longer just the period go-to for hippies or forward thinking girls with a beady eye on the environment, more and more women are discovering benefits of using a cup. Spoiler alert: They’re cheap and handy.
We’d go as far to say they’re actually pretty cool too.
Swedish fashion brand Monki recently announced their collaboration with cup-makers Lunette to launch a menstrual cup as part of their period-positive collection to end period stigma. They’ll also be donating 5000 of them to The Cup Foundation – a non-profit organisation on a mission to educate and empower girls living in Kenya, making sure they can handle their periods in a safe and hygienic way. This we like.
But hands-up if you don’t know much about a cup. Like, how do they *actually* work? To satisfy our own menstrual cup curiosity, we get the low-down from four women who’ve used them…
Bex, 29, used a menstrual cup for one period and can’t wait to try it again next month…
“I brought a menstrual cup with my friend as we’d both decided to give them a whirl at the same time. Mostly because buying tampons every month is a massive pain, but also because I had an incident where a tampon broke and shredded inside me – the same thing happened to my friend’s mum years ago and she’d ended up getting an infection because of it. That obviously really freaked me out and got me thinking about the alternatives.
“Menstrual cups are much more environmentally friendly too, which is really appealing. I also love how non-effort they are, especially as I'm really forgetful so I'm often caught short without tampons. And for anyone that thinks they’re gross, I’ve found washing out a menstrual cup isn’t nearly as disgusting as leaving blood-covered applicators festering and smelling in your bin.
“I’ll admit it took a few tries to get it in, but to be honest, when you’re a grow-up woman, it’s likely you’re pretty aware of your own vagina, so you just have to experiment and move it around a bit inside until it feels comfortable. I trimmed the stalk too because for me, it was a bit too long.
“I worked from home on the first day that I used the cup, so I was in a safe environment incase I leaked, but when I went and checked after four hours, it was all good. I’m really, really heavy for the first few days of my period, so if I was out all day with it in, I might be a bit more conscious, but no more than I would be wearing a tampon. When you’re heavy, you’re always on high-alert for a leak anyway so this was no different.
“What I really found interesting with a cup is that you see how much blood you actually produce and what it looks like – it’s your period after all so it’s good to know yourself. I think once you’ve used it for a while it’s probably a really good way to flag up any unusual changes in your periods that you might not see if they’re absorbed into a tampon.
"I’m definitely going to commit to the cup and use it when I come on again, I’ve accepted it might be a bit weird for a few periods – similar to how using tampons was strange at first. Like anything new, it just takes a bit of time, doesn’t it?”
Alice, 30, gave it a go but is yet to be convinced…
“So here’s the deal with them. They look like a little cup with a stem at the bottom and you fold it up, put it in your vagina and they unfold to catch the blood. The thing is, I can’t always get it to unfold – despite looking online and trying the different techniques – so I end up really prodding and poking around in there and the few times I have tried them, I just think, “surely I can’t be doing this every time I have my period,” especially when I’m on a 12 hour shift at work – spending ages in the toilet cubicle with my trousers around my ankles wouldn’t be great. It’s best to cut the little stem to whatever length you want it too. Mine chaffed me so I had to do that until I couldn’t feel it inside.
“The benefit of a cup though is you just pull it out and empty it, so you can forget all about carrying tampons around. It works out much cheaper too, you forget that the cost of buying tampons all the time adds up. I can see the appeal for ease. You empty it in the toilet, give it a rinse and you’re good to go again.
“Despite worrying about overspill, the cup is never full enough to leak but you still have to be careful that you don’t whip it out too fast because the blood can splash if you do that. That could be a disaster. I’m not totally sold on it yet, but I will give it another try.”
Rebecca, 31, is a big fan of the menstrual cup and has used one for years…
“Aside from the occasional poster on the back of a festival toilet door, menstrual cups first came on my radar at university. I was totally happy using tampons, having never known anything else, but cup pushers are notoriously insistent and I lived with two – one was a hypochondriac, who was worried about Toxic Shock Syndrome (and everything else) and the other was eco-conscious before it was even cool.
“They generally do take a little getting used to, but whereas tampons and sanitary towels are quite hands-off, as if we find our own periods disgusting, menstrual cups are the opposite. And quite rightly so.
“Ironically, I find them less disgusting than any other option – it’s just blood, you wash it out and then it’s a little plastic cup. They’re far better for the environment. They’re cheaper. They’re safer, and there’s actually less leakage than a tampon as they can hold five times as more blood. The question is, given all the obvious benefits, why aren't more people preachy menstrual cup pushers?
“You can probably tell that there’s not much I dislike about them, apart from maybe the rep. Though actually, I love brown rice and Birkenstocks, so why not be a menstrual cup user loud and proud (and bothersome) too?
“Because I started using one before they were too much of a thing, I didn’t have much to overcome. I just tried it, found it great and became a cup pusher myself. I’ve recommended them to a lot of friends and family and now they're all converts.”
Lauren, 29, loved her menstrual cup and only stopped using it when she had an IUD fitted…
“I tried a menstrual cup, mostly out of curiosity more than anything, really. I'd heard a lot about them from women who were always really evangelical about them, and I liked the idea of saving money on tampons and not contributing to global waste. I wasn't sure it'd be for me, I thought I might be too squeamish or too embarrassed about using one in public, or something, but I wanted to give it a go.
“I’ll admit my first try was pretty disastrous! I struggled to get it in far enough, couldn't quite master the fold-and-release method, I hadn't trimmed the stem enough, and then when I finally did insert it properly I really struggled to get it out. I remember squatting in my bathroom, crying with frustration and worrying I'd never get the thing out again. I abandoned it for a day or two and then gave it another go, and mercifully it was much easier.
“Once I got the knack, there was no looking back and what I loved was not worrying about having tampons on me, or remembering to take them to the loo. The beauty of the cup is that you always have everything you need right there, inside you, so no shoving pads up your sleeve or taking your bag to the loos (or walking proudly holding a tampon, obviously). I also found it so much more comfortable than tampons. You really can't feel it at all. When I went back to tampons, I was amazed how much more drying and uncomfortable they felt by comparison.
“I think the only real negative thing about a menstrual cup is the fact that you're not supposed to use them with the coil. I had to go back to tampons and was gutted. And I suppose the mess factor wasn't always too delightful – but my periods aren't super heavy and honestly I always found it more fascinating than gross, to see what my body was actually doing.
“My biggest misconception before using one was the idea that you had to rinse it out every time you used it – meaning if you were in a public loo, you'd have to go out to the sink and wash our your period blood in front of everyone. Gahh. People would say stuff like 'oh, you carry a bottle of water at all times!' which seemed ridiculously impractical. But as soon as I started using one I realised that's all crap – if you don't have a sink to hand you just empty it, give it a bit of a wipe with tissue and then pop it straight back up again. It's going straight back up your vagina anyway, remember. It doesn't need to be sparkly clean every time.
“Another surprising thing was how little blood you actually produce on a period, and so how long you can go without emptying the cup. Mine barely ever reached halfway full. But on the other hand you can also just empty it and pop it back in every time you go to the loo, if you like, because it's not like you're wasting tampons.
“My advice to anyone thinking of giving one a go, would be to persevere! Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work out the first time, but have another go. I promise you, if they were actually painful, messy, disgusting and inconvenient, nobody would use them. But all those women out there who rave about them aren't lying.”
Picture credit: Monki
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