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What is a menstrual cup? And what’s the best menstrual cup for you?
The best menstrual cup won’t leak, slip out, cause infection, or irritate in any other way. And since sustainable alternatives to period products have become more popular, companies are working all sorts of different solutions into their designs. Which means you, my friend, have a lot more options for period protection than you realize.
What is a menstrual cup?
If you’re wondering, “What is a menstrual cup?” you wouldn’t be the first to ask! A menstrual cup (or period cup) works like a tampon in that it’s inserted into the vagina and absorbs the blood before it exits the body. But unlike tampons, there’s no applicator or bleached wad of cotton to dispose of. Instead, you just insert the cup and create a “suction” to keep it in place. And then you’re done until it comes time to empty it.
Believe it or not, menstrual cups were patented in the 1860s–way before you even had your first period. The trend didn’t catch on until 1987, when its popularity plateaued for 15 years until the first successful silicone cup was released. And the next thing you know, we’re here!
How to use a menstrual cup
When it comes to inserting your period cup, the process is a little more involved than using a tampon. Your cup should come with its own set of instructions as well as recommendations on how to remove and clean it. But for some reason, if it doesn’t (or you’re just curious about how to use a menstrual cup) we’ve listed the steps below.
- Fold: Pinch the sides of the cup together to create a “U” shape and hold it firmly so the stem is facing your palm.
- Insert: Curved-side first, gently insert the period cup into your vagina so that the stem is no further than 1/2 inch inside. Think of the stem as the string to your tampon–if you insert it too high removal can be difficult, but not high enough and you’ll leak.
- Seal it: Using the base of the cup (not the stem) turn the cup 360º in either direction. If it rotates easily, that means it’s fully open and you’ve got a grip-lock seal. If not, you should probably try again.
- Removal: Gripping the stem, gently pull on the cup until you can feel the base. Then pinch the base to release the seal and pull down to fully remove, empty and rinse out the cup. When it comes time to clean it, all you need to use is a little soap and warm water.
What are the differences between menstrual cups?
Although silicone is what made the best menstrual cup get its good rep in the first place, it’s not the only material used to design the products. Cups can also be made with thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), which is a mix of polymers (usually plastic and rubber) that have been cleared for medical use. Lastly, some cups are designed with natural gum rubber, which is not suitable for those with a latex allergy.
Depending on the materials used, as well as its overall shape, the thickness of each cup will vary by design (which is a good thing). Since there’s really no one-size-fits-all approach to menstruation, there’s no one-size-fits-all menstrual cup. Depending on the length of your vaginal canal and the shape of your vagina, some cups will fit better than others. When it comes to finding the right fit, there’s definitely a bit of trial and error involved.
Menstrual cup dangers
Before I dive into the benefits and tribulations of finding the best menstrual cup for you, I just want to reiterate that menstrual cups aren’t for everybody, and neither are pads or tampons. Period products are all about personal preference, so finding the best menstrual cup for your body should be a priority!
When it comes to dangers of using menstrual cups, they’re no worse than any of the other perils associated with traditional period products. Arguably, they’re safer than using a tampon since there’s no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) when used properly. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their pitfalls, too.
- There’s a learning curve: When you first purchase a menstrual cup, getting it in and out or even just finding the right fit can be tough. But once you figure it out and get some practice in, using the best menstrual cup for you is as easy as inserting a tampon.
- The initial cost: I know you’ve heard me say that sustainable menstruation products will also help balance your budget. But the buy-in on these products is typically higher than your average box of tampons. That said, these babies pay for themselves with just a couple months of use!
- They can be messy: Especially in the beginning. So until you get the hang of inserting and removing the device, it’s recommended that you only wear the cup at home (like when you go to bed).
Benefits of using a period cup
If a little bit of blood splatter isn’t enough to scare you off, then there’s really no reason you shouldn’t make the switch to period cups. But if you still need to be swayed, just look at all these benefits!
- There’s zero waste: Most menstrual cups are reusable so there’s nothing for you to toss (besides the initial packaging).
- Long lasting protection: When worn correctly, the best menstrual cup can last up to 12 hours (on lighter days) without needing to be emptied or swapped out for a clean one. And when it does come time to freshen up, cleaning the cup is easy. Just empty it, rinse it, suds with fragrance-free soap before rinsing with hot water.
- You’ll become more familiar with your body and flow: For centuries period-sufferers have been shamed into not talking about their periods or bodies. Period cups, however, encourage users to become intimately familiar with themselves during a time where society had previously conditioned us to feel gross. They even help you to recognize your cycle, symptoms, and changes in flow better than any pad or tampon ever could.
- You can still get jiggy with it: Depending on the period cup you buy, certain menstrual cups still allow you to have GREAT sex without turning your room into a scene from Dexter.
- Why is menstruation still not a national health concern?
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Options for the best menstrual cup you can buy
To help narrow your search and guide you in the right direction, all of the period cups listed below have a 4-star or higher rating on Amazon and come recommended by reviewers.
Capable of holding up to 30ml of liquid
The silicone-based Diva Cup is probably the most well-known of the bunch, not to mention one of the top menstrual cups on the market. The Model 1 is made of silicone and recommended for vagina-owners 30 years old. While the Model 2 is ideal for those 30+ years old or those who have given birth.
Capable of holding up to 25ml or 30ml of liquid
Using medical-grade silicone, vegetable-based inks, and no chlorine, the Lena Sensitive period cup is perfect for people who are easily irritated by pads and tampons. The cup is available in two sizes: small (holds up to 25ml) and large (holds up to 30ml). This is the best menstrual cup option for you if your flow varies period to period.
Capable of holding up to 25ml 0r 30ml of liquid
The Dutchess Cup also uses medical-grade silicone to discreetly absorb moisture and odor. It’s available in two sizes: small (holds up to 25ml) and large (holds up to 30ml), as well as in pre and post-childbirth options. If you’re looking for a lower cost option that gets the job done, this is the best menstrual cup for you.
Capable of holding up to 20ml 0r 25ml of liquid
Also made using medical-grade silicone, the Blossom is one of the top menstrual cups for smaller folks. Which is one of the reasons some people love it. It’s available in two sizes: small (holds up to 20ml) and large (holds up to 25ml).
Capable of holding up to 28ml of liquid
Peachlife’s period cup design is aimed to make every beginner’s experience super simple – hence the pullout ring. Peachlife also designs every menstrual cup with medical-grade silicone, so it won’t throw off your pH. It even comes with a cotton case for you to store it in. This is the best menstrual cup for you if you’re worried about losing it inside your body.
MORE BAZAAR DEALS:
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- We tried LELO HEX condoms to see how innovative they really are
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Marisa Losciale specializes in NSFW culture, audio gear, and photography. A former editorial and photo director for Spoon University at SUNY New Paltz, her work has been featured in the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, Post-Trash, the New Paltz Oracle, and the Legislative Gazette.