Everything You Need to Know about Menstrual Cups

All about reusable moon cups and the best menstrual cup choices for most first-timers.

As our world (slowly) shifts to becoming more eco-conscious, menstrual cups, reusable pads, period underwear, etc. have been women’s preferred choices as alternatives to single-use pads and tampons.

According to Biome;

More than 660 million disposable feminine products end up in landfill every year in Australia alone.

In one year you will spend an average of AU$90, or AU$3,300 in a lifetime, on these disposable products. With proper care, one menstrual cup will last many years and save you hundreds of dollars.

Most tampons are made of bleached, non-organic cotton and toxic plastics. They contain chemicals such as dioxin, chlorine and rayon, and include a thin layer of plastic in the absorbent part.

Cotton is a very water-intensive plant, in fact, it’s one of the world’s thirstiest crops,” requiring 6 pints of water to grow just one little bud! Non-organic cotton is also saturated in pesticides and insecticides, with more than 10% of the world’s pesticides and nearly 25% of the world’s insecticides is used solely on cotton.

Today I thought I’d share a little about my experience with a menstrual cup, and what I’ve found works and doesn’t work.

My Story

As a teenager, I used pads pretty much throughout my early-to-mid teen years, until I reached my late teens. If I’m honest, it was daunting to think about shoving something up my vagina (like what happened if it got stuck?). So, for most of my teen life, I stuck with pads. It wasn’t something I particularly liked, as they felt like a nappy and were bulky, too; I was always super paranoid that people might be able to see that I was wearing one whenever I wore tight clothes, plus they felt smelly, too, seeing as they were strapped to your knickers holding blood to your body

It just wasn’t an overly pleasant experience for me.

To make matters worse, they needed to be changed constantly, which wasn’t ideal if you were at school or in public placesthe dreaded sound of peeling the pad off your undies only to be replaced by the sound of opening a new one – cringe. No matter how quiet you tried to be, it still rocketed off the bathroom walls for the world to hear! Plus, the continuing cost of buying new pads all the time, really adds up in expenses.

Later down the track I bit the bullet and started using tampons. My GOSH weren’t they a lot better. I no longer felt so self-conscious, I could swim when I liked, I no longer felt smelly or gross… I could take on the world!

They, of course, needed to be changed more regularly, but at least the process was much quicker and quieter than with pads. I also liked how I could move more freely and exercise more comfortably without the feeling of cotton-covered plastic taped to my underwear.

But, tampons do have their downside:

  • They’re not environmentally-friendly
  • They’re associated with causes of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which is rare, but can happen
  • Using tampons opens you up to coming into contact with bleach, pesticides, chemical fragrances and dioxins (vaginally – which is highly absorbent).

“The average woman uses roughly 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. The time it takes for a tampon or pad to degrade in a landfill is centuries longer than the lifespan of the woman who used it, particularly when wrapped in a plastic wrapper or bag. In addition, the process of manufacturing these products – turning wood pulp into soft, cotton-like fibres – is both resource- and chemical-intensive.”

The Guardian

Switching to a Menstrual Cup

About one year ago, I purchased my first ever menstrual cup after hearing lots of reviews about them on social media. I purchased mine from OrganiCup, and it cost – from memory – around $45 AUD, and looking at it as a long-term investment, this product is worth the price.

When starting out using this cup, I was pretty hesitant. It looked WAY bigger than a tampon and seeing as I was to put it up my vagina, all the fears came flooding back to me from my teen years, and it became daunting all over again. The first week using the cup was REALLY uncomfortable. It took me a while to get the suction to hold right, so it leaked a few times, and I could feel it sitting inside my vagina; so when it came to exercising, sitting down, or even walking, I could feel it sticking into me. Also, removing it was really painful the first few times (I wasn’t doing it correctly), so when it came to the next month, when my period came round again, I almost wanted to give up on it.

I persisted (mainly because the “eco girl” in me refused to go back to using single-use plastics) and the second time wasn’t as uncomfortable. From there, it got easier and easier.

How to Use:

  1. Sterilise the cup. Before the first use, sterilise the cup in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Next, fold the cup in half to form a C‘ shape, and pinch it together between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Insert into the vagina, pushing in at an angled direction toward your tailbone, rather than straight up.
  4. Keep pushing until the cup is fully inserted – I find doing this in a squat position is way easier. The stem shouldn’t be visible from the outside and should sit comfortably in the vagina. Be careful not to push it so far up that it sticks to your cervix.
  5. Once secure, use your index finger to feel around the cup and make sure it’s suctioned on by opening up. If inserted correctly it’ll unfold itself and pop open, so it should feel rounded (not pushed in or folded anywhere); just like it looks outside your vagina, in its original form. If this is not the case, try tugging or twisting it gently or walk around a bit to see if that helps pop it open. If not, you may have to re-insert it again. Make sure to wash your hands to prevent any contamination.
  6. If inserted correctly, you shouldn’t be able to feel the cup inside of you.
menstrual cup 2
How to use a menstrual cup. (Source)

I recommend wearing period underwear or a panty liner during your first few times using it, or on the more heavier days of your period, as it provides added protection.

For the most part, I don’t need to double-up – on the heavier days of my cycle I just empty the cup more regularly, which helps to stop leakage.

Removing & Emptying the Cup

Menstrual cups can be left in for up to 8-12 hours, which is something I absolutely love, as I can go about my daily tasks without needing to change it until the evening! Of course, variables do come into play given how heavy your period is (you may need to empty it more frequently), but it’s great when it comes to those lighter days! This is particularly helpful when you’re out and about or travelling.

To remove, gently tug and pull on the stem of the cup while using your abdominal muscles to push it downwards until you can reach the base. This may feel weird the first, especially if you haven’t used a tampon before. Give the base of the cup a pinch (or insert your index finger alongside it) to release the suction and ease it out. Avoid removing your menstrual cup by pulling the stem, as this might cause discomfort. Seeing the blood in the cup may be a little queasy for some, so be careful.

To empty, just pour the blood into the toilet or down the sink. I prefer to both insert and remove/empty the cup in the shower, as it’s so much cleaner this way and makes the process a lot simpler.

Emptying it at a sink (for bathrooms that allow that) or shower gives you the option to wash the cup before re-inserting it! But if you can’t rinse it and need to re-insert it, that’s okay. Just make sure to always insert and remove the cup with clean hands!

Consult a GP or medical professional before using a menstrual cup if you:

  • Have any health, medical or gynaecological concerns
  • Are using an Intrauterine Device (IUD) or Mirena
  • Have experienced Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Cleaning the Cup

Before you insert the cup, it’s a recommended that sterilise the cup first. Simply place the cup in some boiling water for 3-5 minutes. It’s also good to do this once you’ve finished your period, as it can help kill germs and eliminate any smells, but rinse it in cold water first/when cleaning the cup during your cycle, to prevent stains.

Where to Buy & Which Brands

Some of the best brands for menstrual cups include:

OrganiCup

OrganiCup holds three times more fluid than tampons and pads, and can be worn for up to 12 hours. It’s made from 100% soft medical-grade silicone.

This is the brand I got mine from. Their cups just come in the one colour; a clear whitish, and are available in three different sizes:

A few of the benefits of choosing OrganiCup are:

  • Contains no toxins or artificial colouring
  • No animal testing used on products
  • Holds up to 2-3 tampons worth of fluids
  • Chemical-free, which can help prevent any dryness or infections
  • No BPA, latex or dyes used
  • Lasts years
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Perfect for exercise or swimming
  • Simply empty and rinse between uses
  • Comes with an organic cotton carry pouch
  • Instructions are included
My OrganiCup; size A.

Lunette Cup

These come in six different colours, and are priced around $39.90-$55.00 AUD online. There are two different sizings available:

  • Model 1: Designed for women with light to moderate flow, or who are younger, or have not experienced intercourse. Model 1 is made of softer silicone than Model 2.
  • Model 2: Designed for women who have a normal or heavier flow, or for those who have given birth vaginally or experienced intercourse.
lunette cups
The full range of colours from Lunette. (Source)

JuJu Cup

JuJu is an Australian made and owned company. They are only available in clear, but you can pick the colour pouch you’d like. As they’re made in Australia, shipping is free for Australian residents when you spend over $50 (and the cups are $49.95 AUD). These cups are available in four different sizes:

  • Model 1: Recommend if you are under 30 and have not given birth. 16ml capacity.
  • Model 2: Recommend if you are over 30 or have given birth. 25ml capacity.
  • Model 3: Recommend if you have a high cervix or long vaginal canal. 22ml capacity.
  • Model 4: Recommend if you have a low cervix or short vaginal canal. 23ml capacity.

A few of the benefits of choosing JuJu are:

  • Can be worn 2-3 times longer than a pad or tampon.
  • No harmful substances such as chlorine, fragrances or BPA used.
  • Perfect for sports such as running, swimming and yoga.
  • Hypoallergenic and suitable for people with sensitive skin, dermatitis and latex allergies.
  • Doesn’t contain any absorption agents, so does not cause vaginal dryness.
  • Can be worn overnight.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Comes with a satin carry pouch.
  • Made from medicalgrade silicone.
The full range of sizes & colours available from JuJu. (Source)

Hevea Loop Cup

A natural rubber menstrual cup that is non-toxic, plant-based and plastic-free. Hevea cups are made from super soft rubber, making them easy to fold and insert, and very comfortable to wear. Hevea is designed by women and directly developed based on multiple user’s experiences and recommendations, creating the ideal menstrual cup. These come in three different sizes:

  • Size 1: Designed for those just beginning their menstrual cycle journey, teens and those with a light flow. 18ml capacity.
  • Size 2: Designed for those who haven’t given birth vaginally/have given birth by caesarean or have a medium flow. 25ml capacity.
  • Size 3: Designed for those who have given birth vaginally or have a heavy flow. 30ml capacity.

A few of the benefits of choosing Hevea are:

  • Contains no toxins, chemicals or artificial colouring
  • Made from natural rubber sap, tapped from Hevea rubber trees
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Can be worn for up to 12 hours
  • Lasts years
  • Loop stem making it easier to remove
  • Very soft and flexible
  • Anti-suction; safe for those with an IUD.
  • Comes with a handmade storage pouch
  • Biodegradable

Sterilise in boiling water before first use and between periods. Rinse well between use during period. When not in use, it should be kept in a clean and dry place.

The full range of sizes & colours available from Hevea. (Source)

All of these brands have their own websites where you can find plenty of information about the cups, how to use and care for them, as well as a whole heap of FAQ’s.

Overall, my experience with a menstrual cup has been a positive one; an experience which has really opened me up to talking about my period, which I never was before (it was always a taboo topic for me). It’s made my periods less of an inconvenience, as using a cup gives me the freedom to wear whatever underpants and clothes I want, and exercise comfortably while on my period.

It definitely takes some time getting used to, and inserting it takes practice. Once you become familiar with what it should feel like when done correctly, it becomes a lot easier.

Menstruation continues to be a taboo topic in society, with some feeling that they can’t freely discuss it due to judgement. This is particularly the case for those who do not have access to sanitary products, which can cost up to $25/month.

It’s important we break the silence and have the conversation.

Update: I’ve since started using AWWA the Label‘s period underwear as well, particularly on heavy flow days, where I’ll pair my moon cup with this underwear just for added protection – sometimes I’ll leave my moon cup in a little too long and it leaks; this helps prevent that.

AWWA the Label is Māori (the Indigenous culture of New Zealand) and female owned. Founders, Michele and Kylie, started AWWA when she found out that her Māori ancestors celebrated the arrival of their period, which to them, signified a divine river linking generations of women back to their creation stories. They wanted to remove the stigma around periods experienced by many women.

AWWA comes from the Māori word awa,’ meaning river or flow. They believe we all came from the earth, so often Māori return their “ikura,” or period, back to the earth by rinsing their AWWA undies out in the shower then pouring it over the garden (which is actually really good for soil).

AWWA the Label is a climate positive company dedicated to eliminating period poverty. The company donates 5% of all the underwear they sell to charities, and recently lobbied the government and were responsible for the new policy of making period products free in all schools!

Unfortunately, they are still lobbying for this policy to include reusables – at the moment it’s just pads and tampons.

This underwear can be worn all day AND all night, no moon cup needed.

This is not an ad, I’m just a fan.

They also package their underwear in a home compostable bag!

The Eco Benefits of a Menstrual Cup

According to Ethically Kate;

Menstrual cups can save us up to $240 a year, and divert 240+ tampons and pads from landfill. That means one cup (assuming it lasts the expected 10 years) will divert 2,400 tampons/pads from landfill, and save us $2,400!! Well, minus the $45 it cost to buy, so make that $2,355.

Once you have a cup… you’ll likely never go back.

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction.

Have you tried a menstrual cup before? Or maybe reusable pads or underwear? What was your experience? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Sources:

Disposable tampons aren’t sustainable, but do women want to talk about it?. (April 27, 2015). The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/apr/27/disposable-tampons-arent-sustainable-but-do-women-want-to-talk-about-it

Female Founders. AWWA. Retrieved from https://awwaperiodcare.com/pages/kylie-michele

Hall, Kate. (May 23, 2018). MyCup NZ: Menstrual Cups With A Purpose. https://www.ethicallykate.com/blog/2018/5/23/menstrual-cup-my-cup-nz

Loop Cup. Hevea. Retrieved from https://heveaplanet.com/pages/loop-cup

OrganiCup Menstrual Cup – Size A. Biome. Retrieved from https://www.biome.com.au/period-care/20888-organicup-menstrual-cup-size-a-5711782000489.html

Hevea Loop Cup Natural Rubber Menstrual Cup – Size 1. Biome. Retrieved from https://www.biome.com.au/period-care/32777-hevea-loop-cup-natural-rubber-size-1-5710087426017.html

JuJu Menstrual Cup Model 1 – Clear. Biome. Retrieved from https://www.biome.com.au/period-care/18593-juju-menstrual-cup-model-1-9369999073732.html

Lunette menstrual cup Clear – size 1. Biome. Retrieved from https://www.biome.com.au/menstrual-cup/2471-lunette-menstrual-cup-6430024460124.html

How Does it Work?. Lunette. Retrieved from https://store.lunette.com/

JuJu Menstrual Cups. JuJu. Retrieved from https://www.juju.com.au/

OrganiCup Menstrual Cup. OrganiCup. Retrieved from https://www.allmatters.com/