Menstrual cups and discs have been around since the 1930s, but have gained popularity in recent years. The technology for menstrual cups has only improved over time, providing people with an alternative option during their time of the month. This guide will help you understand what menstrual cups/discs are, how they work, and why they might be a great option for you.
Understanding Menstrual Cups and Discs
What are Menstrual Cups?
Menstrual cups are innovative, reusable, and eco-friendly devices designed to collect menstrual fluid. Medical-grade plastic materials make up most menstrual cups, which come in various sizes and shapes. Unlike tampons and pads, which absorb your flow, menstrual cups catch it, making them a favorable option for many women.
What are Menstrual Discs?
Menstrual discs are another reusable option. Made of soft plastic or silicone, these discs are worn at the cervix and collect menstrual fluid as it makes its way down. They're shaped differently than cups, making them more suitable for those who find cups uncomfortable or difficult to use.
How Do Cups & Discs Differ from Traditional Tampons & Pads
Both cups and discs offer a revolutionary approach to period management. Cups and discs offer the advantage of being wearable for up to 12 hours, unlike tampons and pads that require changing every few hours. This means fewer trips to the bathroom, less anxiousness about leaks, and more freedom during your period.
Benefits of Using Cups and Discs
- Environmental Impact: Around 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators fill landfills in North America every year. By switching to menstrual cups or discs, you can significantly reduce your environmental footprint.
- Cost-Effectiveness: While the initial investment in a menstrual cup or disc may seem high, the long-term savings are substantial. The average person spends $50-$150 per year on tampons or pads. A reusable menstrual cup or disc costs $20-$40, and can last up to 10 years.
- Comfort and Convenience: Cups and discs are incredibly comfortable once you get the hang of them. You'll hardly notice you're wearing one, and they won't dry you out like tampons can. You don't have to change them as often as tampons, and there's no need to worry about leaking. Some even allow you to have period sex without the mess!
How to Choose the Right Menstrual Cup or Disc
To make the most out of your menstrual cup or disc experience, it's crucial to choose the right one for your body and needs.
Understanding Your Body
Consider your menstrual flow and cervix position. Are you a heavy or light bleeder? Is your cervix high or low? Have you given birth vaginally? These factors can help you select the perfect cup or disc.
Sizing and Capacity
Most brands offer sizing guides to help you determine which cup or disc will suit you best. Make sure to follow their recommendations to avoid discomfort or leaks. Some companies make soft or firm cups; softer cups are great for people with sensitive bladders, and firmer cups may be ideal for a highly active person with strong pelvic floor muscles.
Consideration of Material
If you have allergies or sensitivities, pay close attention to the materials used in the product. Some cups may have allergens like latex, silicon, or rubber. Most cups and discs are made from medical-grade plastic, which is hypoallergenic and safe for most users.
Brands and Product Options
There's a wide variety of menstrual cups and discs on the market. Here are some tried-and-true recommendations:
- User-friendly menstrual cups: Lunette Menstrual Cup or Cora’s The Easy-Does-It Cup
- Best menstrual cup for teens: Saalt Teen Cup
- Soft cup for sensitivities: Saalt Soft Cup
- Best disc for heavier flows: Flex Reusable Disc
- Best cup for wider vaginas: Lena Cup
Important note to people with an IUD: Opt for a disc rather than a cup. The cup creates a suction seal, which may affect the integrity of your IUD.
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Use Menstrual Cups
Preparing for first-time use: Before using your menstrual cup/disc for the first time, sterilize it by boiling it in water for a few minutes. Get familiar with folding techniques to make insertion easier (after it cools, and with clean hands).
Insertion: With freshly-washed hands, pinch your cup/disc and insert it gently, aiming toward your tailbone. Don't worry if it feels a bit odd at first–it takes some practice.
Wearing and maintaining: Wear your cup or disc for up to 12 hours, empty into the toilet or sink, and rinse or wash before re-insertion. While you’re getting the hang of it and until you learn how to troubleshoot potential leaks, wear a pad or pantyliner for extra peace of mind.
Removal: The first time you remove your cup or disc, try doing it in the shower. It will probably be a bit messy while you’re acclimating. Make sure to always wash your hands before removal, to prevent pH issues or infection.
Post-period care and storage: After your period, sterilize your cup and store it in a breathable container. To prevent odor, avoid storing it in an airtight space. When your next period comes around, boil your cup/disc or wash it for at least 20 seconds with a fragrance-free, sensitive soap.
Tips for a Smooth Transition
Transitioning to cups or discs may take a little time and patience. Here are some tips to help you navigate the change smoothly:
- Practice makes perfect: Don't be discouraged if it takes a few cycles to get the hang of it.
- Dealing with leaks: Leaks can happen, especially in the beginning. It's all part of the learning process. Use a pad for extra protection if you need it.
- Getting comfortable with public restrooms: With practice, you'll become more confident using cups or discs in any restroom. But at the beginning, try to time things so you’re emptying your cup/disc in the comfort of your home.
- Managing heavy flow days: Cups and discs have a higher capacity than most tampons, but you may need to empty them more frequently on your heaviest days.
Menstrual cups and discs offer a sustainable, cost-effective, and comfortable alternative to traditional period products. Ultimately, choosing the right period product is a personal decision, and it is important to consider your individual needs and preferences when making this choice. If tampons are your thing, check out our guide on choosing the best tampons. If you have any concerns about your menstrual health, reach out to a trusted gynecologist for guidance.