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If you’re a woman who’s becoming more and more aware of the environmental impact of single-use plastics, you’ve most definitely heard of menstrual cups. Touted as the eco-friendly counterpart of sanitary pads and tampons, the use of menstrual cups has grown in popularity over the past years, despite being patented since 1937 by Leona Chalmers.
If you’ve been curious about the cup, we’re giving you the lowdown on them.
Usually made with medical-grade silicone or TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), menstrual cups are designed to be inserted into the vagina to collect the menstrual blood. Yep, it collects it—it doesn’t absorb blood the way disposable sanitary pads and tampons do. It comes in different sizes, so you can choose the one that’s best for you.
Choosing the correct size is important in your menstrual cup journey. The right size allows the cup to fit in snugly and create a seal against the vaginal walls, according to Dr. Jyothi Parapurath, an ob-gyn at Caremount Medical Group in New York, in an interview with Women’s Health Magazine.
In this SELF article, women’s health expert Dr. Sherry Ross suggests that “the smaller sizes are ideal for teens, beginners, and those with strong vaginal muscles or a low-sitting cervix… The larger sizes are typically designed for anyone who has a heavy flow or has ever delivered a baby vaginally.” Still, make sure to check the sizing guide from the manufacturer where you choose to buy your cup to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
Most manufacturers and sellers say it must be sanitized after taking it out of the packaging, usually by putting it in boiling water for a few minutes. Then with clean hands, you fold the opening of the cup into a C-shape, relax your nether region, sit or hunker down then insert it into your vagina up until you can only feel the tip. While it may feel weird at first, users say if you put it in correctly, you’ll barely feel it after just a few minutes and you can just go about your day as you normally would. You can keep it in for up to 12 hours, depending on how heavy your flow is on that particular day.
You must be wondering, “What happens if I need to pee?” Well, just pee. You don’t need to remove your menstrual cup to do it.
But how about pulling it out? Here’s where some users had trouble their first few times. It’s tricky, but manufacturers and experts say you just need to sit on the toilet, reach down for the tip or stem, pinch a bit of the cup in order to release the seal from the vaginal wall, and pull it downward, dumping its contents directly into the toilet. The key is to relax your muscles down there so it would be easier to pull it out. Just wash the cup with some mild soap and water and it’s ready to be reinserted. While this might not be a problem at home, we can all agree that this might be a challenge if you have to wash your cup in a public restroom without a bidet or a working lavatory. According to this Teen Vogue article, you can use feminine wipes to clean it in a pinch.
Way back in 2015, Dindin Reyes wrote an article for Rappler about her menstrual cup experience. You can read more about how she used it for the first time and what it was like during her first few days, so you’ll have an idea before diving in.
Okay, we’re not going to lie: Using a menstrual cup may be a bit messier compared to pads, but those who swear by the cup say that the good definitely outweighs the “bad.” It’s reusable for up to five (some even up to 10!) years, so it’s the more eco-friendly option (less disposable pads/tampons means less plastic waste). This also means it’ll save you more money and energy in the long run – imagine never having to go to the store to buy pads for the next 10 years! Plus, since it’s collecting the blood inside the vagina (and not just absorbing it outside your body), it’s more sanitary. Some users also report having less foul odor when using the cup. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this could be because the cup doesn’t disrupt the ideal levels of vaginal pH and beneficial bacteria balance. Depending on your flow, using a cup could also mean changing it less often, some taking as long as 12 hours in between changes/washes. And over time, the more you use it, the easier it will be to insert and remove and clean.
The money question: Is it really safe to use a menstrual cup, seeing as it’s still a foreign object lodged into your vaginal canal? The short answer is yes. It has been proven by experts in the field that as long as you are using a cup from a trusted manufacturer, it is safe to use. In fact, it’s even safer than tampons or pads, which often have dyes or bleach (so check the packaging), which could cause vaginal dryness over time. Also, tampons are known to be possible causes of TSS or Toxic Shock Syndrome. According to WebMD, “it’s caused by the release of toxins from an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, which is found in many women’s bodies. Toxic shock syndrome affects menstruating women, especially those who use super-absorbent tampons. The body responds with a sharp drop in blood pressure that deprives organs of oxygen and can lead to death.” This risk could be diminished by regularly sanitizing your menstrual cup according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Today, there are now various stores and online shops where you can purchase a menstrual cup. Here are some locally available sellers that you can check out.
1. Sinaya Cup
Their basic cup starts at P1,199 and it comes with its own pouch. You can also buy accessories like sanitizing cups and wash solutions from their website.
2. Sati Cup
Their kit is P719 and comes with a sterilizer cup, cup case, cleaning brush, and a cloth bag.
Their cup starts at P850 and comes with a sterilizer and pouch.
4. Bulan Cup
It starts at P940 and comes with a matching sterilizer cup, breathable storage pouch, and Bulan Cup stickers.
5. Bloom by DML
Their kit starts at P500 and comes with a sterilizing cup, satin pouch, brush cleaner, and a period tracker made of recycled paper with downloadable templates.
Ultimately, only you can decide if a menstrual cup is your… cup of tea. It’s important to not knock it ’til you try it. Just do some research and you might just be surprised where your cup journey takes you.