I just LOVE talking about the concept of a period cup (and undies), but I get mixed reactions. Those who love them, love them, those who have had 2-3 exposures tend to listen with interest, and those who haven’t heard of them get squirmy (but every exposure gets them one step closer – it took me about four!).
Here’s something to think about: on average, a person of menstruating age will get 12x periods a year – that’s over 400 in their lifetime. And, if roughly 25 tampons/pads are used in one cycle, that equates to 300 in a year; 10,000 in a lifetime. All of that heading off to landfill. ALL OF IT. So the waste issue here is massive.
Did you know menstrual cups have actually been around since the early 1900s?
I have tried, LOVE and use JuJu cups, made in Australia, but there are other brands out there too. They all work in practically the same way: they catch your menstrual flow. That’s right, they catch it all, and only require emptying and cleaning 2-3x a day. And once it’s in, you shouldn’t feel it at all.
Juju cups are TGA approved, and made from medical grade silicone with no BPA, fragrance, latex, dyes or colours. You can expect one to last for around 10 years. At less than $50 (yes, the price has gone down now that menstrual items are no longer subject to GST in AU, yay!), that equates to less than 45 cents per cycle over those 10 years, for the average person. AND NO LANDFILL.
When making the switch to a menstrual cup, it helps to know your anatomy. And it’s totally ok if you don’t! I used to teach high school health classes, so I have heard it all!
If you’re unsure of what your cervix feels like, prior to first using your menstrual cup, use your finger to locate it. It feels like the tip of your nose with a teeny hole on the end (glamorous, hey?!). If you feel around your cervix, you’ll notice muscle wall. The cup can’t go too far up.
Selecting the right model*
Model 1 – Recommended if you are under 30 and have not given birth, or if you have exceptionally well-behaved pelvic floor muscles. This model holds max. 22ml.
Model 2 – Recommend if you are over 30 or have given birth, vaginally or via C-section. This model holds max. 33ml.
Model 3 – Recommend if you have a high cervix or long vaginal canal. Usually a high cervix is hard to feel during a self-examination. This model holds max. 28ml.
Model 4 – Recommend if you have a low cervix or short vaginal canal. A low cervix sits quite close to the opening of your vagina. This model holds max. 32ml.
*this info is specific to the Juju brand.
If you’re leaking but your cup isn’t full it may be that you don’t have the right size cup for your anatomy. Bear in mind that you may have had a baby but may find model 2 isn’t quite right for you, or vice versa. I hope you find the right fit first time, but if after 4-5 cycles, you’re still seriously struggling, it may be that you have the wrong size.
Squeeze and fold the cup and insert it into the vaginal canal, just like a tampon. For more folding techniques, check this link.
It helps to use your index finger and thumb (make sure your hands and nails are clean) and as it slips in and opens, keep your thumb in there to make sure it opens fully and creates a seal around your cervix – I swipe around the entire rim to be sure. If you can feel the tip of your cervix, take it out and start again, or adjust it.
You may prefer inserting your cup while sitting on the toilet, or squatting, or with one leg on the toilet seat. Just make sure you are relaxed.
Once inserted, it opens and creates a suction seal and collects menstrual flow. Until recently, the guidelines from JuJu were to remove and empty 2x times a day, so every 12 hours. Now it is advised to empty every 8 hours but to be honest, mine gets emptied at around 6.30am and 6.30pm, in the shower because I find that the easiest way to empty, wash and reinsert.
When starting out, you will be surprised as to how much flow you’re actually creating. Even those with heavy cycles are shocked at how little there is, compared to what they see on a pad or tampon. But of course, in the early days, go 3-4 hours and see what’s happening in there; get educated on your own cycle.
Emptying and replacing
When it is time to empty, simply sit on the toilet or squat in the shower (preferably in peace or the kids will be calling 000), RELAX and squeeze the cup until you feel the suction release. You may need to bear down slightly (like when doing a poo) if you have a high cervix and can’t reach the cup to squeeze it.
Remove and empty, wash in hot, soapy (natural soap, of course) water and reinsert. Make sure you’re cleaning the little holes around the rim too. Use a toothpick carefully if they don’t unblock with running water, or fill with water and create a seal with your palm, then squeeze water through when washing.
Always do the following:
At the end of each cycle, sterilise by boiling your (rinsed and washed) cup for a max. of 3-5 min. Then allow to dry fully before storing it in a little breathable pouch. Never store in plastic or an airtight container. This advice comes from Juju regarding their brand of cups, check the cleaning info on the brand you have.
Replacing your cup
The average cup should last 10 years, however, that depends on how it is used, stored and cared for. Replace your cup if it has an odour, any cracks or tears, is VERY discoloured (some discolouration is normal), has a sticky film or is causing you irritation.
Tips and other info
〉A cup holds 2-3x the volume of a tampon or pad – cool hey?! It can be worn overnight, during exercise, swimming etc.
〉Cut the silicone knobby tip off if you feel like it is stabbing you – that was my final tweak before true JuJu-love. Other brands may differ here.
〉So many people say that their periods are lighter, shorter and less painful. True story.
〉When you buy a JuJu cup specifically, there is an instruction leaflet inside.
〉Some people worry about the cup popping out when they go to the toilet. Peeing is typically fine, but for some, depending on many factors, pooping may dislodge it. If you find this happens, perhaps remove your cup for that business, or use toilet paper and apply pressure to that area. If your fingers are clean, you may just need to push it back up there.
〉If you have an IUD, you might like to talk to your doctor. JuJu advise you wait 2 full cycles after insertion of your IUD, and to be careful you don’t accidentally pull the strings of the IUD when removing your cup.
〉Never use a cup during postpartum bleeding or following a miscarriage (due to the risk of infection).
〉The thing I love the most is the convenience of feeling protected when I THINK my period is due. Unlike tampons (which shouldn’t be worn unless you’re actually menstruating), a cup is your ‘safety net’.
〉Let’s look at your average tampon. It may contain cotton, viscose rayon, or synthetic textile polymers. I have tried to search a few popular companies that sell pads and tampons and it’s hard to see what they’re using. Brands like Toms are made from 100% organic cotton and nothing else; Cottons are made from 100% chemical-free cotton – excellent. Bear in mind that some tampons and pads may be made using cotton that has been treated heavily with pesticides and other chemicals during manufacture. Alternatively, look at investing in some reusable menstrual pads.
〉Toxic Shock Syndrome is usually associated with tampon use and is serious. If you have suffered with this condition in the past, check with your practitioner before using internal sanitary products.
〉Adolescents can use menstrual cups but it could take a little longer to get used to. If you have a good relationship with your teenage daughter, it may be useful to them if you help them. Lots of tips here. I’m opting for period undies for my daughter when her time comes.
〉Check out this live video I recorded a while back in my Facebook chat group all about menstrual cups – it may help you! Note: if you’re not already a member you will have to wait to be added, but I try and do this several times a day.
How do you feel about it now? A little more likely to try? I hope so!
I wish I could sit down with every menstruating person on the planet and really get this message through to them. I feel, if everyone would only just give it a go, that most people will fall in love with a menstrual cup. And for those of you that really, simply, can’t go there, check out period undies! I personally love these Modibodi undies, but Thinx, Tom Organic and even Bonds have them now. This tends to be what I wear on the day leading up to, and at the tail end of my period, usually at night as I love the simplicity of the cup for daytimes.