Once firmly in the realm of hippyish alternatives to the usual forms of period protection, menstrual cups have hit the mainstream in recent years.
Women are increasingly seeking more eco-friendly options, outside of traditional pads and tampons and these little devices are becoming a go-to alternative. Yet there is still something slightly mysterious about menstrual cups - how do they work? Does it not spill everywhere? Can they REALLY offer decent protection?
How they work
Menstrual cups are made out of a flexible silicone. They're inserted into the vagina when menstruating and are used in place of a tampon or pad. Unlike other products, they don’t absorb the blood, instead, they collect it and you dispose of it every few hours. They are eco-friendly, cheaper in the long run (on average each cup costs about thirty euro) and hold one ounce of liquid which is almost double the amount tampons hold, a triple threat! Fans are devoted to them so we asked some first-timers for their verdicts.
Why use a menstrual cup?
Sive: I wanted to try it because it’s better for the environment.
Orlagh: I read about the toxic ingredients in tampons and looked around to find an alternative, I found menstrual cups and really liked the idea so I got one to try it out.
Aoife: I just got really sick of buying pads and tampons, when I first got one I was a broke college student and just found the expense every single month was too much.
Annalena: Part of me did it to rebel: women are shamed into being embarrassed by periods and their bodies, so I figured I would go out of my way to buy that “disgusting” thing that might make periods that little bit easier.
What was your experience of using it the first time like?
Sive: I found it uncomfortable the first time but after a day or two I got a hang on how to put it in right and it was as comfortable as a tampon, except it didn’t dry out my vagina like a tampon does as it just collects the blood instead of taking in everything.
Orlagh: Horrible, I was a little bit terrified but once I got used to it it’s really easy.
Susie: Uncomfortable but manageable.
Aoife: It did take me a while to get used to at the start, similar to tampons I could sometimes feel it when I was sitting down but practice makes perfect and I found ways of inserting it that was most comfortable for me!
Lizzy: My first time putting it in was a bit tricky because I had to find the right way to fold it, but once it was in it was fine. The first time I tried it take it out it took me ages, I was basically squatting on the bathroom floor trying to find the right angle to get it out.
What are the pros and cons?
Sive: The pros would be that I don’t have to carry around tampons or pads; it’s better for the environment; it’s more comfortable than pads and it lasts for years so less cost. The cons would be that taking it out is hard to get used to and it hurts to put in after sex.
Orlagh: Pros is that it’s cheaper and lasts up to three years; you can leave it in for 12 hours, and it's better for the environment. Cons: it can be hard to get used to it; it’s a little bit intimidating at first, and can be messy sometimes taking it out.
Susie: I was diagnosed as anemic two years ago so a big pro was being able to track my blood flow which is helpful with increasing doses of iron on heavy days etc. A con would be that some people find the cup can put pressure on the urethra and can make peeing more challenging but I’ve not personally experienced that.
Aoife: I prefer the feeling of it compared to pads or tampons. Pads always felt a bit like a nappy and I hate the dried up feeling after taking a tampon out. A menstrual cup doesn't soak up any of your natural discharge so it keeps your pH balance normal.
Aoife: I can't think of any cons. It only cost me the initial purchase of €30 and it's comfortable, eco-friendly and discreet.
How easy is it to clean?
Susie: You only need to empty it in the morning and the night so you could essentially only ever do it at home but of course not everyone’s life works like that, personally I haven’t found any issues with cleaning it.
Aoife: I think they're great for on the go - in terms of cleaning if you're in a bathroom where the sink and toilet are together just run it under the tap before putting it back in. If you're in a public toilet just wipe with a tissue and rinse it the next time you can.
Where did you buy it?
Sive: From Organicup, I think it was about €25. They included a guide with all the info on how to use it as well as the benefits of it. They had two sizes as well, one for women that have had children and one for those who haven't.
Aoife: They have two different sizes available in Boots.
Would you recommend it?
Orlagh: Absolutely, it’s made my life so much easier and you don’t have to worry about Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Susie: I think it’s great for so many reasons and I think we need to be less freaked out by our own bodies and I’ve found this to be so helpful for that.
Aoife: I would recommend it to anyone interested in cutting down on waste, or anyone with a heavier period as it doesn't need to be changed as often and holds a LOT of blood.
Lizzy: I found it's completely changed my life and I love that I'm no longer paying 'tampon tax'. If I take proper care of it my cup could last me for years.
Annalena: I would definitely recommend it! I find it to be more comfortable than tampons because it molds to your inside.