Turns out there's a lot more on the table than just tampons and pads – menstrual cups are here to stay.
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: we all know that nobody likes talking about menstruation. And yet, when half of the population experiences it, it's something we really should discuss. So take a deep breath and leave any squeamishness behind because this may just be the change you need.
From pills and injections to tampons and pads, there are a lot of methods to manage your period, and lately one method has been gaining a lot of traction. The menstrual cup is the new kid on the block, just in time for your time of the month. Would you use one? Here's everything you need to know to make an informed, safe (and most importantly, leak-free) decision.
What is a menstrual cup?
Menstrual cups are reusable, insertable devices, shaped like a narrow dome (or cup). One of the main concerns about tampons and pads is that leakage can occur, but with menstrual cups, you can stop worrying.
Usually made from silicon or rubber, these cups are crafty little contraptions that prevent any leakage by catching the flow instead of absorbing the bulk of it. That’s right – you can go about your daily life knowing that you’ve got a spy on the inside to keep you secure.
Menstrual cups can hold up to 20–30ml and can be worn for up to 12 hours before being emptied, cleaned and reinserted. Best part? All of it can be done in your shower!
Yes, we know that sounds like it could get messy. But you’re in the shower to get clean anyway, so you might as well!
How do menstrual cups work?
Menstrual cups function by capturing the menstrual flow in a cup-like device. To insert, simply compress the cup into a narrow shape, insert it within the vagina and release – it will automatically pop back into shape and sit comfortably inside.
The cup will then sit at the opening to the uterus and collect "Aunt Flo" over the course of an 8–12 hour period (no pun intended).
When it comes time to empty, the stem of the cup allows you to fish it out easily, and with most cups featuring small air holes in the design, it should come out with minimal suction. Once washed and sanitised, you can reinsert it for the next 8–12 hours of use.
Top 5 menstrual cups
1. Diva Cup
The Diva Cup is one of the most well known and established menstrual cups on the market. With a guarantee of 12-hour leak-free protection, it’s a choice that a lot of women feel comfortable making.
Created by Diva International (the first menstrual cup manufacturer to be ISO certified), the Diva Cup is made of medical grade silicone and is thus free of latex, plastic, PVC, acrylic, colours, dyes and chemicals. It’s also pthalate-free and eco-friendly, so you can feel even better about using it. The Diva Cup also features extra grip ridges along the rim of the cup to make it even easier to remove.
2. Juju Cup
Australian made and owned, the Juju Cup is convenient, reusable and eco-friendly. Worn for up to eight hours at a time, the Juju cup can give you years and years of leak-free protection if taken care of. That’s dozens upon dozens of periods! With three sizes, you're bound to find the right fit.
Odour-free and hypoallergenic, the Juju Cup is ideal for women with sensitive skin or dermatitis. It’s also free from chemicals, fragrances and absorption agents, which helps make you feel safe and comfortable using it daily. On top of that, it’s vegan and cruelty-free, plus the packaging itself is made with recyclable paper and plant-based dyes.
3. Lunette Cup
This little blue baby is an easy-to-use, stress-free menstrual cup that you can wear for up to 12 hours at a time. All Lunette cups are made of soft medical grade silicone with no nasty chemicals, so you can breathe easy. They are suitable for vegans and place great importance on the environment from design to delivery.
Lunette cups come in two sizes: Lunette Model 1 (a softer silicone cup suitable for those who experience light to normal flow), and Lunette Model 2 (a slightly firmer silicone cup suitable for a normal to heavy flow). Lunette Model 2 is also recommended for women who have given birth as it will afford a greater degree of protection.
4. Ruby Cup
The Ruby Cup is a great choice for anyone who wants to revitalise their menstrual routine and contribute to a good cause at the same time. With the "Buy One, Give One" program, for every purchased Ruby Cup, the company donates one cup to someone without access to menstrual care products in developing countries.
They are sustainable, cost-effective, eco-friendly alternatives to pads and tampons, and are made of medical-grade silicone for your safety, hygiene and comfort. According to the website, the Ruby Cup has up to three times the capacity of a super tampon, so for those 12 hours of wear, you know you’re in safe hands.
5. Tulip Cup
The Tulip Cup is quickly becoming one of the most popular menstrual cups on the market, especially thanks to its reliability, convenience and comfort – not to mention that it ships internationally. For up to 12 hours of care (including overnight), the Tulip Cup works to ensure you remain leak-free and comfortable, even during sports and swimming.
Made of medical-grade silicone, the Tulip Cup is designed to last up to 10 years if cared for correctly and claims to be capable of holding up to three times more fluid than a tampon. With starter kits and sterilisers available on the website, you'll have access to everything you'll need to start using a menstrual cup for the first time.
How to choose the right menstrual cup for you
A lot of factors go into choosing the right menstrual cup. Material, size and firmness are the main three. Menstrual cups are predominantly made from medical-grade silicone but they can also be made of rubber and latex. For people with latex allergies, this can definitely be a critical decision.
Size is relevant as most menstrual cups have two standard sizes: one for ladies with light to normal flow and one for those with normal to heavy flow.
And firmness can be a sticking point for many people, as some of the larger cups are made of a more durable, firmer material to prevent leakage. If you're sensitive internally (perhaps due to a sensitive bladder, medical condition, prior surgery or from giving birth), softer materials are advised – plus they're easier to bend for insertion.
Are menstrual cups safe and clean?
One of the biggest concerns that people have when it comes to their periods (second only to the fear of leakage) is that of toxic shock syndrome. Thought to be more common in tampon users, toxic shock syndrome occurs when poor sanitation and cleanliness leads to bacteria growing inside the body and getting absorbed into the bloodstream.
Though toxic shock syndrome is definitely something to be cautious of, there is little correlation between the use of a menstrual cup and the presence of the TSS bacteria. In actuality, toxic shock syndrome is far more likely to be due to poor hygiene than any insertable.
If you wear your cup for no longer than the recommended 12 hours, clean it regularly and thoroughly, and make sure to follow the instructions, your risk for toxic shock syndrome decreases significantly. Most of all, it’s important to know that you shouldn’t be scared away from using menstruation products like cups and tampons.
As for cleanliness, due to the fact that air doesn't come into contact with the menstrual blood, it doesn't get a chance to form odour. This is unlike pads, for example, which operate by catching the flow on the outside of the body.
How do you wash your menstrual cup?
Washing your menstrual cup is probably the most daunting part of the process. Why? People are still squeamish about the idea of a reusable menstrual product, but it’s time to put on your (white, stain-free) adult pants, because it’s time to face it head-on.
Twice a day in the shower, use an unscented soap with warm water or a menstrual cup cleanser to gently wash away any residue. If you’re out and about when it's time to clean, never fear. Wash your hands thoroughly, remove the cup, pour away the contents and use a clean, dry piece of toilet paper to do an interim clean. Then clean it properly at home afterwards.
At the end of your cycle, use a pot of boiling water to deep clean your menstrual cup. Keep an eye on it though, as it should only be boiled for between 5 and 10 minutes; any longer and your cup could be ruined.