Each month during your period, you are faced with the ever-dreaded process to purchase feminine products to help get you through the next couple of days. Choosing from the variety of options – amount, size, brand and price tag – can be daunting.
What if there was an affordable “secret weapon” to keep your period under control, and your body safe? Using a menstrual cup may be the answer for you.
What is a menstrual cup?
It’s made from health care-grade non-absorbent silicone or latex and is designed to sit low in the vaginal canal away from the cervix. Its U-shaped body catches the flow during your cycle. With proper insertion and cleaning, the cup is much like using a tampon.
Menstrual cups come in two sizes, Model 1 or 2, depending on your age and whether or not you have had a baby. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the cup, because its soft, flexible material uses your body’s natural heat to mold to the correct size.
“It is really a great option,” said Ann Sommer, a Marshfield Clinic OB/GYN physician assistant, “and probably one that we don’t promote enough.”
How to use a menstrual cup
You can wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 consecutive hours, provided you empty, wash and rinse it at least twice a day.
“Women with a heavier flow may have to empty the cup more often,” Sommer said. “It holds one full ounce of liquid.”
The first thing you must always do before removing or inserting your cup is wash your hands with warm water and soap. Fold or pinch the cup to insert, then it automatically unfolds and creates a seal against the vaginal wall. To remove, pull gently on the stem of the cup until you can reach the base, pinch the base of the cup to release the seal and continue to pull down to remove it. Then, empty contents into the toilet. Before inserting and after removing, you should wash your cup with warm water and an unscented (oil-free) soap.
At the end of your period, wash the cup as mentioned above. As needed, you also can boil the cup in water for five to 10 minutes to keep it clean. A general guideline is to replace the cup once a year, but if properly cared for, it can last up to five years. If holes, tears or permanent residue appear, it is time for a new cup.
Women get to know their bodies,” said Kendra Konitzer, a Marshfield Clinic OB/GYN physician assistant. “They get to know how much their flow will be on certain days. Once that’s understood, care and usage will become more customizable.”
After reviewing case study research, Konitzer has discovered only one instance of toxic shock syndrome with the menstrual cup. In the particular case, a cup was left in for over 10 days.
“Overall, it’s very rare to get toxic shock syndrome with any feminine product,” Konitzer said. “If properly cared for, there should be no issues with the menstrual cup.”
Many options for menstrual products
A menstrual cup is a safe, alternative choice, especially if you want to be environmentally friendly, save money and worry less each month. Some women prefer non-insertion products and washing cups in a public restroom may make some uncomfortable, but the choice is really up to you, said Konitzer. She added that if you are having pelvic discomfort or pain, or have recently given birth, you should talk with your provider before using a menstrual cup.
I would recommend this product to women who currently use tampons,” Konitzer said. “The insertion process is similar and easier to learn.”
If you have any questions about feminine products, contact your provider.