What No One is Telling You About Menstrual Cups

Let’s start with the obvious, I’m going to be talking about periods and ways to deal with them. If this bothers you, stop reading now. However, if you have to deal with having a period, I highly suggest you read this, because it could make a major positive impact on your life.

Also, you might want to grab a snack, this is going to be long. As ever with my ultra-long posts, I’m going to help you jump to the info you’re interested in. Keep in mind, the links only work when you’re actually on the article page.

I should probably also mention, just for clarity, that this post is not sponsored in any way. It’s all my honest thoughts and opinions, no external influences.

Content Links

Some Background

I’ve known about menstrual cups for a while. And, to be honest, the idea grossed me out. I’m well aware that periods are normal bodily functions and nothing to be bothered by, but that doesn’t keep me from being grossed out at bleeding for a week and feeling dirty because of it.

Why I Ordered One

My cycle has always been irregular. Like 1-3 times a year irregular. Yes, I’ve been to doctors for it. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with me. Honestly, I’ve been grateful because it’s one less thing to worry about—one part of the female tax I can avoid.

But, earlier this year, for some odd reason my body decided it wanted to function normally. My cycle was almost perfectly regular for three months, and has settled into a fairly regular occurrence. When my period started on the third month in a row, I knew I wasn’t happy with how things were going. I was going through so many tampons, and I kept having leakage issues because of a heavy flow. So, I decided to try something different—I ordered a menstrual cup.

To be honest, I ordered a set. Some research pointed to my “correct size” being a large cup because I’m over 30. But, I haven’t had kids, and I haven’t noticed a change in my vagina, so it seemed odd to me that the larger size would be recommended.

What I Purchased

After eyeing this one from Dutchess Cup because it was the cheapest (at the time) with decent ratings, I noticed this one from PixieCup came in a set, one small, one large. It seemed like a good idea, just in case I actually needed a larger cup. And—bonus!—PixieCup donates a cup to a woman in need for each one purchased. And let me just say, I didn’t need the larger cup. It would not have fit comfortably.

Side Note: Don’t buy a menstrual cup from the grocery store. The markup is ridiculous. The Diva Cup at my local Giant was $43 compared to ~$25 on Amazon.

A Helpful Tip

Anyway, I placed my order and have been using the cup every since (about 4 months). I won’t lie, there are a few cons, but, for the most part, this thing is amazing! There was also a bit of a learning curve. However, I HIGHLY suggest you watch this video from Sarah Tran because it made all the difference. After watching it, I’ve learned exactly how a “correctly seated” cup feels, and haven’t experienced a single leak.

So, let me tell you about my pros and cons of using a menstrual cup. Keep in mind, I use tampons, not pads, so many of my pros will be in comparison to using tampons.

The Cons

If you’ve read any of my reviews, then you know that I like to get the negative stuff out of the way first. There aren’t many cons in my eyes, though.

Cleaning

The cleaning is my biggest con. If you’re out and about when you need to empty your cup, it could be difficult. Most public restrooms aren’t “single user” and I know I wouldn’t want to carry a bloody cup out of the stall to clean it in front of others. And, if you only have one cup, you would have to take it back into the stall to insert it (hopefully there isn’t a line). It’s just not a great situation

However, you get 12 hours with a cup (and, honestly, I haven’t found any information about how they came up with a 12-hour limit, so you could probably go a bit longer without any major problem) so it’s not too hard to time it in such a way as to work around your day.

Also, if you have two cups, you can take one out, insert the other, and just give the dirty one a quick wipe with toilet paper or paper towels and clean it properly when you get home. They even sell collapsible cup carriers, I’m guessing for precisely this situation. So, ultimately, not a deal breaker, just a wee bit inconvenient.

You also have to sterilize your cup. Boiling it for 5 minutes will do the trick, which isn’t a big deal, just a bit of a hassle. You have to keep an eye on the cup while it boils, because you run the risk of burning it if it touches the side or bottom of the pot for too long. I’ll admit that for convenience, I’m considering getting one of these cup steamers so I don’t have to watch over the boiling cup.

Learning Curve

As I mentioned earlier, there is a learning curve. You need to learn how to insert the cup, and how to tell if the cup is seated properly.

However, I’m convinced that by watching [this video] before using your cup for the first time, you can practically eliminate your learning curve. Sarah Tran does a great job of explaining how she learned to insert her cup, and the comments under her video lead me to believe it’s a nearly universal method.

I’ve been using her method for 2.5 periods now, and I’ve gotten to where I barely even need to think about the insertion. It’s as easy as putting in a tampon. Easier, really, but more on that later.

As to learning how a properly seated cup feels, that’s an easy one. If you give your cup a little tug and it obviously moves, it’s not seated properly. If the vacuum has been established, your cup won’t really move and you’ll feel a tiny tug up inside you as well.

Choosing Your Cup

I didn’t have a problem choosing my cup. The first one I got fit me well and formed a perfect seal. However, from what I understand, some women have a hard time finding a cup that fits them well, either because of shape or size. And I bet that’s frustrating! But, on Amazon, many cups list that you can get a refund if you’re not 100% satisfied.

I don’t know how common this problem is, so I can’t say how big of a con it is, but it’s worth mentioning.

Staining

Your cup is going to stain. There’s no real way around that. I wish I’d known that before I got my cup, because it freaked me out. I thought there was something wrong with it, and immediately hopped on Google to find out what it was.

Nothing was wrong, it’s normal. The amount and type of staining will depend on the natural pH of your vagina.

If the staining really bothers you, there are ways to clean your cup with hydrogen peroxide solutions, but it’s likely to decrease the age of your cup, so I wouldn’t recommend them.

That’s It!

Yup, just four potential cons in my eyes. And most of them have a fairly easy remedy. So let’s jump into the good stuff, shall we?

The Pros

There are A LOT of pros. I’m going to go in depth about the main ones, then group the “lesser” ones together to save some space.

The “Ick” Factor

This is the big one. As I said at the beginning, when I first heard about the menstrual cup, the idea grossed me out. I thought I’d be sticking my fingers into my bloody vagina. Just ew! I’m guessing many women probably have the same thought.

Turns out, that’s not what happens. Because the blood is being collected directly from your cervix, your vagina doesn’t get bloody at all. I see less blood with my cup than I ever saw with a tampon.

Even cleaning up between insertions is faster and easier. Wipe once or twice to clear the blood that gets left behind as you removed your cup, and you’re good to go.

This means I don’t feel “dirty” during my period anymore. No extra smells, no feeling like I need to scrub myself any time I change out the cup, nothing. I don’t feel any different while on my period than while off.

Pre- and Post-Period

It’s fairly well publicized that you shouldn’t use a tampon before your period starts, or after your period officially ends (when there’s no more red blood). Although there isn’t much information about this from respected medical sites, so make of that what you will.

However, menstrual cups don’t have this restriction. So, you can put it in on the day you think your period is going to start. If you’re wrong, no biggie, just take it out and clean it, and insert it when you need it. The major benefit to this is that you don’t have to worry about staining your clothes or making a mess.

You can also continue using your cup until all of the “residue” blood (the brown blood) is done. So no needing to wear pads or liners for several days after your period is over. Also, no worrying about freshness during those days either.

You Can Poo!

Alright, this isn’t something I’ve ever heard anyone mention, but I’m going to say it. Taking a poo when you use tampons is risky, especially if you don’t have another tampon handy. There’s a 50/50 chance you’re going to have to replace it.

With a menstrual cup, unless you are seriously constipated and have to push like you’re giving birth, you don’t have to worry about re-inserting your cup, it will stay in place. And that’s probably enough said about that.

No Leaks

I used tampons for nearly 20 years. I still experienced cases of inserting it wrong and having leakage issues because of it. And, on heavy flow days, I never knew precisely how long a tampon would last.

With the cup, as long as it’s inserted correctly—refer to the Learning Curve section—and you have the right size—if you’re using one that’s too small, you have to adjust the amount of time you wear it—it won’t leak. That’s pretty awesome. I don’t have to worry about it, I don’t need to check on it every half hour or hour, I can just live. It’s pretty freeing.

You Don’t Feel It—Really!

I know you “technically” don’t feel tampons either. But if that stupid little string gets caught, you can feel it moving.

There isn’t anything outside of your body with the cup—at least with my model, I’m assuming other models are the same—so you don’t feel a thing. This also means that don’t have to worry about it when wearing skimpy clothing, like bathing suits or leotards. Nothing will be visible, and nothing can become visible, so you can relax.

It’s Cheaper!

A single PixieCup currently costs $15.95 on Amazon (in Maryland), and it’s not the cheapest cup. According to the Amazon listing, the PixieCup is good for 10 years—120 periods for the average woman. That’s approximately 13 cents per period.

When using tampons, I’d go through an entire box—sometimes more if I had a particularly heavy flow—each period, plus about 2/3 a package of liners. To make the math easy, we’ll say that I used one package of each.

Using Amazon pricing (as it’s probably fairly universal), and not counting tax, a box of the tampons I used cost $6.97 and liners (the closest they have to what I typically buy) cost $4.42.

That’s $11.39 per period, so by my second period using a menstrual cup, I’m saving money. I’m saving $120.73 my first year, and $136.68 for the next 9 years—$1,350.85 in total, assuming a steady price (and you know that the prices will go up) for 10 years. The numbers speak for themselves.

Other Pros

There are other pros to using a menstrual cup, too. I know I’ve already mentioned it, but you can wear it for up to 12 hours! So you only have to deal with cleaning/changing it twice a day.

There’s vastly less waste. I know not everyone really things about trash, but the amount of trash a single period can generate is insane. All the pads or tampons and their packaging and applicators. With the cup, you just have the box it came in.

A cup is also less “traumatic” for your vagina because it doesn’t absorb anything. It just sits there and collects the blood. I’ll note that while many sites mention “micro tears” and vaginal irritation with tampons, none of them are

And, for many women, a cup leads to less cramping. It certainly has for me, and I’m very thankful for it. I don’t even have to take medicine for my cramps anymore. There’s a tiny bit of discomfort, and that’s it.

There are probably other pros as well, but those are the ones that come to mind right now. Let me know in the comments if you have any pros that I missed.

Let’s Wrap This Up

As I’m sure you’ve realized, I’m a convert. Using a menstrual cup has, quite literally, changed my life for the better. I highly recommend that every woman gives it a try. And make sure to give it a real chance. It could do for you what it’s done for me. It could make your life less expensive and less complicated.

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3 thoughts

  1. Okay: I’ve been using cups for years- 5 + or so, and that’s because I have off the charts heavy periods. Seriously, I went with OBs when I was a tampon user because I’d need to haul luggage with boxes of tampons to get me through a single period. At my worst, I bleed 85+ ml over 18 hours (a cup holds 12-15 ml), and my periods last 7 days. That said, I am accustomed to my cup running over. A light pad or liner when you’re figuring out your flow with a cup is a wise thing to have. It is still drastically better for me than tampons.

    Sizing: experiment with form and size. If you’ve never had a pregnancy to term, you probably don’t need the larger size, but we’re really all shaped a little differently and I have found some brands work for me better than others. I’m almost 40 and have had one pregnancy that I chose to not carry to term. I’m a small cup and a larger one, though it holds more volume, doesn’t open up the way it should to form a proper seal.

    Different brands fit differently and have different length removal nubs (finger holds? Thingys?). When I first started using a cup, it took me way too long to realize that the removal nub was rubbing part of me the wrong way and I could shorten it just with a snip to improve wearability for me. As long as you can remove the cup for dumping, you can alter that bit for comfort and different brands have different shaped removal nubs. The Diva Cup needed to have that bit shortened for my comfort, but the Duchess Cup has been fine for me as is. Again. You’re getting a device for long term ownership (silicone cups can last years), so make sure you are comfortable with it!

    Dumping the cup: I look like a trauma nurse after staunching arterial bleeding after I’ve dumped my cup. I tear off toilet paper and have it ready just to do a quick clean of my hands after dumping, so I don’t get blood on the rest of the toilet paper, my clothing, or the bathroom / stall door.

    Staining: yes, boil your cup in vinegar and water after every period. Wash it regularly during use, no need to wash it every time you dump it. Feminine hygiene wipes REMOVE STAINS!! Yes. That’s right. Every few months, a wipe down with a flushable wipe will remove iron build up and make your cup look like new. I found this trick out last period and used it on a cup with really old stains. Came right off.

    So yeah. That’s been my experience with menstrual cups, and I am going to continue using them and figuring out how to make them work best for me.

    1. Thanks for the tip about wipes. I had no idea. I’ll definitely have to give that a try tonight. 🙂 I’m surprised you have to deal with a mess when you dump your cup. I just remove it while I’m sitting on the toilet. I give it a pull and, because I’m holding the bottom of it (the removal nub), it dumps right into the toilet, no mess.

      I definitely agree with wearing at least a line when first figuring out the cup. I still wear one on day one, just in case of overflowing. But they are definitely a godsend to me. 🙂

  2. Get a whisk, squeeze your cup in it and put that into the pot with boiling water. You don’t need to worry about the cup melting and you can get it out easily.

    Also: Baby wipes. If you’re in public restrooms, take baby wipes with you to clean your cup on the go if need be.

    Put A Cup In It offers a quiz where you can look which cup might fit you best. (I did it just for the fun of it and was recommended my cup.) I know, it’s not relevant for you anymore, but it might be interesting for others.

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