In this great year of 2021, there are many ways to manage your period. From pads, to tampons, to the period sponge, to period-proof underwear, you are bound to find an option that makes managing your period fit with your lifestyle and preferences. Menstrual cups have been gaining a lot of popularity in the last few years, and there’s so much to explore with this environmentally friendly invention.
When were menstrual cups invented?
Although menstrual cups have only become extremely popular recently, they were first invented in 1884! They didn’t hit the market until much later, but the first design was invented then. This first model, known as the Improved Menstrual Receptacle, was invented by Hiram Farr, and was designed to hold several cups of blood at a time. This first design never actually hit the market, but big thanks to Hiram Farr for designing this revolutionary device.
In 1937 American actress Leona Chalmers patented another menstrual cup design, and actually followed through on trying to get it to hit the market. This menstrual cup was similar to the menstrual cups we have today, but it was made from latex rubber. After a few redesigns, this menstrual cup was sold by the company Tassette until the 60s, then they went out of business. Menstrual cups made a comeback in the 1980s with the brand The Keeper and starting in 2003 with the Diva Cup, menstrual cups have become more and more popular.
How do menstrual cups work?
Menstrual cups have clearly been around for a long time, proving they must in fact be an excellent idea. I first heard of menstrual cups a few years ago when I first learned about the Diva Cup. Unlike the early menstrual cup designs, Diva Cup and other modern brands are made of silicone. Not only is the allergy risk of silicone much lower than latex, but it is also super soft and easy to clean. There are many menstrual cup brands available—Diva Cup, Keeper Cup (that same brand from the 80s!), Moon Cup, Lunette Cup, Lena Cup, Lily Cup, plus some disposable cups or discs. Although there are many brands to choose from, they essentially all work the same.
Menstrual cups are made of flexible silicone material and are shaped like a small bell or cup with a little stem on the end. You place them inside of your vagina right below your cervix and they catch your menstrual blood. You use the short stem on the end to pull them out to empty and clean. Menstrual cups can be left in anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, and need to be rinsed and washed when emptied. When emptying your menstrual cup throughout the day, dump out the blood and wash it with unscented antibacterial soap and water before putting it back in. Some menstrual cup brands also sell cleaning wipes so you can clean your menstrual cup if you’re using a public restroom and can’t wash it thoroughly in a shared sink. Wipe that baby down in the privacy of your stall, pop it back in, and you’re good to go.
How do I use a menstrual cup?
There are different sizes of menstrual cups based on if you just got your period or have had any children. Some menstrual cup brands have more detailed size finders on their websites, and that can be a useful tool to find one that works for you.
To insert your menstrual cup, wash your hands and sit or stand. Similar to putting a tampon in for the first time, this might take a few tries, so you should give yourself plenty of time to get it properly inserted. If your vagina isn’t already slick with a lot of period blood, it might be helpful to use some lubricant to help slide it into place. Be sure to use water-based lube if you do so because other lubes are not silicone compatible and could eat away at the cup over time.
Relax your muscles and body as much as you can, pinch the top of the cup (most brands come with their own set of instructions on the box and recommend pinching it so the top is a “C” shape), then gently guide the cup into your vagina. You will have to get really comfy with yourself here because you need to put your fingers into your vagina to get the cup in place. Once it’s far up in there, slightly rotate the cup and let go of the top of it and it should suction into place. If the cup is inserted properly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. As I mentioned, this may take a few tries, so be patient with yourself. The first time you wear it, you may even want to wear a liner or pad just to make sure you don’t leak and see if it was inserted properly.
What about emptying and cleaning?
When it’s time to empty your cup, you’ll have to bear down a bit and activate those pelvic floor muscles. Reach your hand into your vagina and gently pull on the little stem at the bottom of the cup and it should slide out. You’ll have to pinch the cup slightly to loosen the suction at the top of the cup that keeps it in place. If you don’t break the suction it could be very painful to pull out.
In between periods, you can disinfect your menstrual cup by washing it with soap and water, and some people even boil their cup in hot water between cycles. Since your menstrual cup sits below the cervix, it won’t get lost inside your body, and even if it feels like it’s stuck, you can get it out! If you really have trouble getting it out, go visit your doctor and they can easily help you and give you some tips on how to get it out easier next time.
Menstrual cups are a great option for people to manage their periods. You can reuse them for several years, so they are a fairly cheap option because you get a lot of bang for your buck. They are also good for the environment because they’re less wasteful than tampons or pads. If you’re interested in using a menstrual cup, check out some of the brands’ websites and find a size that works for you.