The menstrual cup is a small, bell-shaped cup usually made of medical-grade silicone that is inserted and worn inside the vagina during the menstrual cycle to catch and collect menstrual blood.
Depending upon her flow, the woman removes the cup every 6-12 hours, empties the blood into the toilet, washes the cup and reinserts it into her vagina. One cup is all a woman needs and it can last her upto 10 years.
Answers to the frequently asked questions about menstrual cups.
1. Is it really safe to insert the cup?
Menstrual cups are generally a very safe option for period care. The majority of menstrual cups sold on the market are made of medical-grade silicone, hypoallergenic. The risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is lower than that of tampons and there is no rash and chaffing (burning sensation you get after wearing a pad too long) that one faces with sanitary pads.
2. How often do I need to empty the cup?
This is variable and depends on your flow. You can keep a menstrual cup in on normal-to-light days for as much as 10-12 hours at a stretch with no leakage and no danger to your body (like Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) with disposable tampons). But one has to learn to do a self-calibration based on one’s flow.
So, during the first time use, it is good to check every 4 to 6 hours and learn how much the flow is and accordingly get to know how often should the cup be emptied. One norm that has come from those who have switched from pads to cups, is that, if you had to change your napkin four times a day, you will have to empty the cup twice a day.
3. Does it leak when you sleep on your tummy?
Absolutely not. You can even do Shirshasana with it. Most women sportspersons use it. Swimmers use it. However, in cases where it has not been placed properly, it could leak. Women with the higher flow may need cups of higher capacity to prevent spillages.
4. Sometimes, I have a heavy, sudden ‘surge’, will the cup be able to retain that or will it get full?
It should be able to retain that, but if the cup was already full, it will start to leak. Be careful when you remove the cup as it will spill. Firmer cups are suggested for heavy flow.
Actually, the cup sits inside with an airtight fit in the vagina. So in case, the cup gets filled up, it will hold and not come out. But when you remove it, since it is already full, the extra fluid will spill down as you remove the cup. But certainly, from my experience, it does not leak.
5. I pass a lot of ‘clots’ – will the cup be able to hold that?
Cups are great for clots, can hold them very well. Ideally, you should go for firmer cups with great capacity.
6. I am small built, can I use it?
Yes, you can go for the smaller cup. Vaginal walls are very elastic and can easily accommodate the cup.
7. I have a very high cervix, will I be able to ‘find’ the cup? *
Even if you have a high cervix, the cup can only go a few inches deeper. The cervix has a very small hole that will never let the cup go any further. To bring the cup lower, you can squat and push it with your muscles.
8. I am a virgin, can I use it?
Yes, but using the cup will stretch your hymen. It is up to an individual whether or not they should take this risk.Your hymen may have already been stretched by other physical activities like cycling, horse riding, yoga etc. There are young teenagers who have used the cup all over the world.
9. Does it come in different sizes?
Yes, go through this.
10. Is there a specific ‘way’ to insert it?
There are several ways of folding and inserting it. The most common is “C” fold. You fold the cup and fold it once again to make a C or U and insert it into the vagina and then it pops open. You can sit on a toilet seat, or squat or stand and rest one leg on the toilet seat and insert.
Another easy way is to do a punch-down fold. WIth the punch down fold you are able to lessen the point of insertion to a very small size and hence it becomes easy to insert.
11. What if I am not able to remove it?
Yes, this anxiety is always there the first or second time. Then it vanishes. First squat freely and put the index finger alone and feel the tip of the cup. You will be reassured that it is still there. Then take a few deep breathes and relax. The muscles will also relax. The cup should descent a little. Then with 2 fingers gently ease out to remove the cup. While in the squat position, you can also try to bear down as you would do to pass the motion.
This act of bearing down helps to slide the cup down so it can be removed easily. Once you have got the grip of the cup, pinch it at the bottom to release the seal created at the time of insertion. Never mistake to pull it out without releasing the seal as it may lead to some discomfort and maybe injuries as well.
12. The blood continues to remain inside me until I empty it. Is this hygienic?
Absolutely more hygienic than the blood that has gone soaked in a pad for the same duration of time and you sitting on it for so many hours.
13. What about the smell?
No smell at all as the blood has not come in contact with air and bacteria. It is blood in its pure form.This is one major advantage of a cup. You feel very fresh even on heavy flow days.
14. Can I swim with it?
Yes, swimming & beach activities, water sports are all possible when a cup is worn correctly
15. I have an ‘IUD’, can I use the cup? *
Yes, you can use the cup while having an IUD, however, ensure the thread (if any) is shortened so it doesn’t get dislodged. We recommend that you consult your gynaecologist.
16. I am diabetic, can I use the cup?
If diabetic people can use pads, they can definitely use the cup. In fact, it is better to use the cup and prevent rashes caused by pads. But please consult your gynaecologist or diabetologist.
17. What are the activities that I cannot do with the cup? *
You can do everything but just don’t forget that the cup is inside and don’t forget to clear the cup
It feels so comfortable and you just don’t realize it is period time that people have forgotten that they have a cup inside.
18. Do I have to sterilize it after each use? Or once at the end of the cycle is enough?*
If you maintain proper hygiene, sterilization is not needed. However, for your satisfaction, you can sterilize it once before you start to use the cup at the onset of periods. During periods, you can use clean water to wash the cup.
There is no need to even use soap as it may have harmful chemicals and any residue post use may lead to infection. If you want to use a soap, ensure it is a chemical free and mild soap or hygiene wash.
Avoid using anti-bacterial soaps as they have harsh chemicals. Please ensure you dry your cup well after you wash it and store it store it away at the end of your period cycle.
19. How do I wash it after I empty it? Should I wash with hot water?
Wash with cold water initially. Washing with hot water and soap instantly will leave the cup a little stained reddish/yellow as the blood protein precipitates in hot water & soap. First clean thoroughly with cold or regular temp water and then go for hot water for washing or for a complete sterilization.
20. What if I am in a place where the water is not clean, how do I clean the cup?
Water needs to be clean. Please carry a bottle of water. Don’t try to wash it with dirty water and insert it. This could lead to infections.
21. Can I sterilize it in a pan that I use for other stuff?
Do you really want to do that? There is no ‘hygiene’ related reason for keeping a separate pan or mug if you ensure that you wash the vessel really well after each use. However, most women choose to keep a separate pan or mug to sterilize it. It is up to each individual.
22. Can I sterilize it in a microwave?
Yes. A menstrual cup can be sterilised in a microwave oven. Dip it in a large cupful water and microwave it for 4-5 minutes.
23. Does it lose its elasticity and shape after multiple uses?
Not at all. Women have used a cup for more than 3 years old and it as good as new. Same size and shape still and it will remain that way.
24. When would I need to replace the cup?
Theoretically, there is no expiry date. Manufacturers have different recommendations for when to replace the cups, but in general, they can be reused for five to 10 years or so.
25. If it is such a good product and if has been around for a such a long time, then how come so few know about it? Why has my doctor not told me about it?
Women are scared of inserting and removing. Even doctors are not aware of it because it has not gone in the medical textbooks yet. If lady doctors and nurses use it, they will be in a position to recommend it. Some doctors are worried that it may lead to infections. However, if proper care is taken infections will not happen.
Another reason could be that it might be difficult for the companies to make much profit from this product as one single menstrual cup can last a girl or woman five years or longer.
26. If menstrual pads are bad for my body, why are they being promoted by doctors?
Because of convenience, economics, industry behind it. Many doctors in India are not aware of other sustainable menstrual options.
27. How will the menstrual cup be disposed of off when it is no longer usable?
It is non-biodegradable. However, since you can use it for years the relative amount of waste generated is much lesser in comparison to disposable sanitary pads.
Silicone is recyclable but does not biodegrade or decompose (certainly not in our lifetimes).
It is recyclable, only where such facility exists and it applies to all products made from silicone, like baby bottle nipples and toys. To dispose of your cup, thoroughly wash the cup, cut it up into smaller pieces, and dispose of in the trash.
28. Can I use it in place of ‘maternity pads?
You should never use a menstrual cup to deal with postpartum bleeding. Post delivery the vagina may be swollen and bruised. Inserting a cup at this time may be very discomforting.
Secondly, the mouth of the cervix is still open and takes few weeks to return to normal shape. Infection is still a concern for weeks after you give birth. It is also unlikely that your muscles will be strong enough to keep it in place just yet. Doing pelvic floor exercises – Kegel exercises can help to increase the strength of your pelvic floor muscles to provide more support to your vagina and other pelvic organs. This can improve your ability to successfully use a cup after childbirth.
29. Can I use it in pre-menopausal years when the flow is high and irregular?
Certainly! In fact, it is very useful when the periods are unpredictable and heavy. It is much better than using large pads for several days in a row.
Compiled by the ‘Cupsperts’- women who have switched over to the menstrual cup and who would like every woman to experience a safe, comfortable, affordable period.
Source: Green The Red