Are You Ready for the Menstrual Cup?
We’re not sure if this tampon alternative is efficient—or just strange.
Although you may not realize it, tampons and pads aren’t your only option when it comes to controlling your period. Menstrual cups, such as the Instead Softcup, are small, round devices shaped like a tiny basin that are placed beneath the cervix so they can collect blood flow rather than absorbing it. Here’s the scoop:
Advantages: Unlike tampons that can be worn for no more than 8 hours, menstrual cups can stay in for up to 12 hours, according to Miriam Greene, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in Manhattan. And the cup doesn’t leave behind fibers, as tampons do, which can scratch the vagina and cause dryness. (Bet you didn’t know tampons leave behind fibers!) What’s more, the one-time-use cups are latex-free, which is good news for people with latex allergies, and they’re one size fits all (unlike tampons in which you often need to buy light, regular, and super sizes). “You don’t have to take out the menstrual cup to have sex during your period,” says Dr. Greene, “but keep in mind it’s not a contraceptive.” And like other menstrual products, it won’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases. As with tampons and diaphragms, when it’s inserted properly, you won’t feel the menstrual cup inside of you.
Disadvantages: Inserting the cup properly isn’t that simple. It involves compressing the plastic “rim” of the basin-shaped device with your fingers and placing it in your vagina under the cervix. The cup then springs back to its regular size and your flow can be collected. The process can take some practice, unless you’re already a diaphragm user, and experts recommend that you first try it when you’re having a light flow. “It might be messy during the learning curve when you’re having a heavy flow,” notes Dr. Greene. If it’s not properly placed, you can have spotting. Have toilet tissue handy when you replace the cup – or if you’ve left the cup in for too long – since there can also be some leakage. Menstrual cups are not recommended for women who use IUDs since there’s a risk of removing or dislodging the device.
Tell us: Would you use the menstrual cup?
Rachel Grumman is a freelance health and beauty writer based in the New York City area.