“This is the first time I succeeded in my sales pitch on cups.” This is what my friend said, after she had actively recommended menstrual cups to me.
I was the first and the last friend to be convinced by her recommendation. “I recommend it to everyone, but no one tries it.” I now understand what she means. The menstrual cup is really nice. It’s really great. But I can’t strongly recommend it to everyone since I understand why people wouldn’t use it. Let me introduce you to the menstrual cup, a polarizing icon of the menstrual product industry with clear pros and cons.
Characteristics : You may be scared
A menstrual cup is a small cup made of elastic materials such as silicone, thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), and rubber. The menstrual cup’s mechanism is quite simple. It is inserted into the vagina where it then catches and collects your menstrual flow. The cup can be taken out once it’s full, emptied, rinsed, and inserted back into the vagina. It seems simple but I was hesitant about using the menstrual cup due to two concerns.
I was concerned about using a menstrual cup that had to be inserted into the vagina and seeing the blood collected by the cup and getting blood on my hands. Thinking back, I’m unsure why I had such concerns when I was able to replace pads and tampons with blood on them. Now that I have actually used the cup, it has a lot of advantages over other products. I could barely feel it just like when using a tampon and it had a larger capacity than a tampon which reduced the time I had to be conscious of being on my period. Emptying the blood also wasn't bothersome since it took less time than washing cloth menstrual pads by hand.
The second concern was my insertion skill. The shape of the menstrual cup is difficult to insert into the vagina. It must be folded or rolled to make it smaller to be inserted into the vagina and once inside, it unfolds into its shape. This was the problem. I’ve never been skilful in basic origami, cat’s cradle, even tying my shoelaces. Would I really be able to fold the cup into the “labia,” “7-fold,” or “punch down,” insert it into the vagina, and get it to unfold?
This concern did become a reality. I've tried using a menstrual cup by going through all kinds of images, YouTube videos, and gifs but I failed at any method that was even slightly complicated. But among various folds, there was one that even I could do and I succeeded in inserting the cup after trial and error.
- Hold the cup in one hand and using the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand, pinch together a small bit of the corner of the cup.
- Push down the small corner towards the opposite hand.
- With the hand holding the cup, squeeze the sides together to hold the folded corner in place.
Convenience : Can't believe how comfortable it is
I was able to experience the benefits of menstrual cups after I chose the cup that’s right for me and became experienced with it. It’s very comfortable, you can save money and time in the long run, and it’s also a good way to check on your health.
❤️ Comfort and being active
You don't feel any dampness or blood clots since it catches and collects the blood flow inside the vagina. As long as it unfolds properly, you can exercise as usual since blood does not leak until the cup is full.
❤️ Relatively long wear time
The capacity is about 20 ml to 30 ml which is relatively larger than tampons. People who menstruate generally lose about 80 ml of blood per period and you rarely have to urgently empty the cup due to its capacity, other than on days of heavy menstrual flow.
❤️ Save money, time, and effort
There’s nothing you need to worry about once you find the cup that’s perfect for you. You don’t need to stock up or wash it in time to avoid running out. You can boil and cleanse the cup when you menstruate, and you only need to buy a new one if it becomes damaged or discolored.
❤️ Check your menstrual patterns
You can easily check the amount, color, and condition of your menstrual blood in the cup. It’s helpful in seeing your menstrual patterns and visiting the hospital if there are any abnormalities.
Discomfort : Lubricant, an obstacle
There is a reason why there are fewer people using menstrual cups. There are definite cons that make beginners hesitate, even while the users praise the positives.
💔 Hits and misses for “the golden cup”
Menstrual cups vary greatly for individuals. The right fit in size, firmness, the shape of the cup and the stem can vary for individuals. Finding the cup that’s perfect for you is known as “finding the golden cup,” but the time, effort, and cost to find your golden cup depends on your luck since you won't know which is right for you unless you try it yourself. Some people settle with their first menstrual cup and there are some people who give up on the cup entirely due to the pressure on the bladder no matter how soft the cup is.
The price of a menstrual cup is usually between ₩30,000-50,000 (KRW), or $20-40 (USD). Recently, many Korean companies have starting making menstrual cups and there are officially imported products, but many products still need to be ordered online from overseas as they are not distributed in Korea. You can’t resell the cup for not being the right one for you and trying different ones can be demanding in time and initial cost.
💔 Slightly inconvenient sanitation
You need to sanitize thoroughly to avoid infectious diseases such as vaginitis, since it is a reusable product that’s inserted into the body. Although it’s rare, there are cases ofif the cup is not properly sanitized or there is a wound in the vagina. You should sanitize the cup before and after use by boiling it in water, rinsing it clean with warm water and soap when emptying the cup, washing your hands thoroughly, and storing it in a well-ventilated and dry area when not in use.
💔 Nail care
It may seem trivial but it's very bad news for those who enjoy nail art. Your nails need to be cut short and filed to not be sharp, since you need to use your fingers to insert the menstrual cup inside the vagina. You also can't have stones on your nails. Long nails or nails with stones glued on can wound the vagina which can lead to infection or TSS in severe cases.
Every cloud has a silver lining
There are challenges to face if you’re new to menstrual cups. But time will help you solve these.
The burden of inserting the cup into your vagina. And the false rumor(!) that it damages your “” is also one of the challenges you need to overcome.
You also need to practice. Even if you're not bothered with the insertion, the steps to use the cup are a lot more complicated than tampons since you need to fold the cup, insert it into the vagina, and unfold it to create a suction to avoid leaks (aka “sealing”). I was able to get used to tampons with just two to three attempts, but it took about three periods for me to be able to use the menstrual cup properly with zero leaks.
The first time is always the hardest. So, let’s start where things are easiest. Places like the public bathroom where the sink is far can be a little inconvenient to empty and clean. It’s best to try at places where using the sink is convenient, such as your bathroom, when first using the cup, since you could get blood on the floor or your clothes when removing the cup when you’re still inexperienced.
When you don’t give up and become more experienced, you’ll find yourself also spreading the word about the menstrual cup. The menstrual cup is great. It’s really, honestly great. Though I understand why people hesitate to use them.