When it comes to menstruation and female hygiene products, we in Egypt have been unfortunately restricted to one type of such products: pads. This is quite unfair, as there are other options for us to explore. One of said options is the menstrual cup. This product is not exactly recent; it was first invented in the 1930s. However, it is becoming increasingly popular as of late. That being the case, I made the switch to the menstrual cup two months ago. And here I will attempt to answer all the questions I can think of about this product, including the questions I only learned to ask when I started trying to use it.
What is a menstrual cup?
The menstrual cup is a bell-shaped cup made out of silicone with a stem at the bottom. The cup is inserted into the vagina, where it collects the menstrual fluid. It is then removed, emptied, washed and re-inserted. There are many brands to choose from with different sizes, shapes and colors. They are almost always made of medical-grade silicone and can last anywhere from one to ten years.
Why would I use the menstrual cup?
There are many advantages to switching to menstrual cups. They are extremely economic, as you only need one or two cups which will last anywhere from one to ten years. They also eliminate risks such as the irritation that occurs from prolonged use of pads, and the possibility of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) which might happen due to the use of tampons. They are also quite comfortable when used correctly and can be used for up to 12 hours before having to empty them out. And finally, they are good for the environment. The amount of waste created by tampons and pads is staggering, so switching to menstrual cups is not only better for you, but for Mother Earth as well.
What would prevent me from using menstrual cups?
A menstrual cup might stretch or break the hymen; so, if that is a concern for you, then menstrual cups might not be your best option. Another thing to keep in mind is silicone allergy. If you know you are allergic to silicone, you should not attempt to use menstrual cups.
Where can I purchase menstrual cups?
There is a Facebook Page offering different brands of menstrual cups as well as reusable cloth pads. There is also the option of ordering them online from abroad.
How do I care for my menstrual cup?
You want to keep it clean and disinfected. Before your first use, and between your cycles, make sure to boil your menstrual cup in water for at least four minutes. Keep your cup in its case as long as you are not using it and wash your hands thoroughly every time before inserting the cup or taking it out. When rinsing out your cup, rinse it with cold water first, so that the fluid does not stain the cup, and then use hot water.
How do I know which cup size to get?
Most menstrual cups have two sizes, and clear guidelines for which size is most suitable for you depending on your age and whether or not you have given birth before.
How does one insert the menstrual cup?
Something which will significantly help you in the insertion process is lubricating your cup first. Use a water-based lubricant as anything oil-based can damage the silicone cup. Then, fold your cup. There are many different folds for you to choose from, and with trial and error, you will find the one most suitable for you. After you fold the cup, gently insert it into the vagina as you would a tampon, directing the rim of the cup towards your tailbone. Once fully inserted, make sure the cup has popped open and suctioned itself to the vaginal walls to form a seal. Grab the stem or base of the cup and rotate it slightly so that it seals itself inside.
How do I know the cup is opened and sealed?
Once the cup is inserted correctly, you will not feel it. You might feel the stem if it is too long or bulky – some people cut the stem off their menstrual cups for that reason. However, there are other ways for you to make sure the cup is open and sealed. The first method is by inserting your finger into the vagina and running it around the edges of the cup. If the cup is still folded, you will feel the folds. The second method is by bearing down and pushing, if the cup easily slides out, then it did not seal to the vaginal walls and is probably still folded.
What is the best fold to use?
This depends on you; each woman is different. In my opinion, the fold which makes it easiest for the cup to pop open is the punch down method. You place your finger on the rim of the cup and bring it down. Then you insert the cup as instructed above.
How do I take it out?
This is another thing that you learn with trial and error. Start out with a squatting or sitting down position, whichever is most comfortable for you. Then, bear down and push, inserting your index finger and thumb so you can grab the stem of the cup. If you can only feel the stem, grab it and try to rotate the cup slightly. Do not pull down on the stem, it will be uncomfortable and will not help release the cup’s suction. What you should do is reach the base of the cup with your thumb and index finger and squeeze it, releasing the suction. Then, gently tug at it, moving it from side to side as you slide it downwards and out of your vagina. If you cannot take your menstrual cup out, stop trying, take a break and then try again in a few minutes. Panicking will only tense you up and make it more difficult for you to take out your cup.
How often should I empty out my cup?
This depends on your flow. On your heavy flow days, it would be best to empty it out every four hours or so, and on your lighter days, you can empty it out every 10-12 hours.
Will it leak?
As with any product of this kind, there is a very small chance of it leaking. The best thing to do is to use a pantyliner of some sort whether it be the disposable kind, or the cloth kind, just in case of emergencies.
Finally, use what is most comfortable for you. Carefully read the reviews of each menstrual cup brand and choose what you think will work best. And if you find it difficult to use at first, do not despair. It takes almost everyone some time to learn how to use it correctly. We should all take extra care of ourselves while menstruating, so consider this option, as you are not only restricted to pads and tampons.