When it comes to choosing the best sanitary supplies for your period, it’s most likely a range of factors– such as cost, accessibility and comfort – influence which product you decide to use. With a growing movement to boycott Always sanitary pads for their toxic ingredients and reported unsafe use, it’s also important we remain vigilant and stay clear of products that can negatively impact our health.
Luckily, we have a wider pool of options to suit our needs and today we’re here to spill the tea about menstrual cups.
The Menstrual Cup Breakdown
Menstrual cups are small, bell-shaped cups made out of silicone or rubber, that can be inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual flow. They’re also reusable, making them both an eco-friendly and economic alternative to other sanitary hygiene products.
Sure, a popular, foreign brand like DivaCup costs between 10,000 to 12,500 Naira, but after the initial purchase, you’re good to go for up to a year or more. Even better, there’s a Nigerian brand called The Ivy Cup, whose cups go for 5000 Naira ONLY.
Not convinced? Let’s do some math.
If a pack of pads costs an average of 700 Naira, assuming you use two packs per period, every month, you’re spending an average of 16,800 Naira on pads each year! Girl…
When worn properly and emptied on time, menstrual cups are one of the most secure on the market and typically last for up to 12 hours (yay! Decreased likelihood of leakages!). They also have the added benefit of not containing any bleach or perfume which can cause you some discomfort.
This is too good to be true. No cons?
Using menstrual cups can pose a few difficulties with insertion and removal in the early days. There are also possible infection risks when not cleansed properly and finding the right cup size/fit for you.
Why aren’t they popular?
We’re not going to front: using menstrual cups can be messy. Using one means more contact with your period blood which makes some women squeamish or uncomfortable.
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
Determine the cup size to purchase
It’s recommended that women under the age of 30 who haven’t given birth vaginally use smaller sizes. However, you could consider the following: the length of your cervix, the flexibility of the product, and how heavy your flow is.
Boil before first use
For first use, boil the cup in a pot of water for at least 5 minutes, but not more than 10 minutes.
Tip: Always wash your hands thoroughly when dealing with menstrual cups. Clean your nails thoroughly.
Inserting the cup
- Set your mind at ease, you’ve got this.
- Now, get into a comfortable position, perhaps squatting (in a tub, on a toilet seat) or standing with one leg placed on something like the side of a bathtub.
- Fold the cup using a:
- U-fold: press the cup’s sides between your fingers, fold in half to form a U shape
- Push down fold: place index finger on the rim of the cup and push the rim down into the centre to create a triangle.
- Gently, part your labia with your free hand while holding the cup between your thumb and forefinger.
- Aiming towards your tailbone and away from your cervix, push the curved edge into your vagina horizontally. That is, move your hands from front to back and not upwards. When the cup opens it “pops”. It’s normal if the cup opens before it’s completely inserted.
Tip: For easy insertion, wet the opening of the cup with warm water. Water-based lube is an alternative some people use, but it’s best to avoid it due to irritations.
- Make sure the stem is even with the vagina’s opening. If the stem feels uncomfortable, take the cup out and trim it no shorter than ¼ inches or 0.6cm.
- Do not push it too far up to prevent leakage and difficulty removing it later.
- To create a seal, hold the cup at its base and give it a 360° turn.
Removing the cup
- Once again, wash your hands thoroughly.
- Get into a comfortable position, most preferably squatting over a toilet seat.
- Gently, part your labia with one hand and pull on the cup’s stem with the other till you feel the base of the cup.
- Pinch the base of the cup to break the seal.
- Pull the cup out gently using a side to side shuffle.
- Once the cup is out, hold it upright to avoid spills, empty and wash thoroughly with water and mild, unscented soap before inserting it again. If you’re unable to wash with soap, rinse it and wipe with clean toilet paper. If your cup is the disposable kind, toss it and replace it with a fresh one.
Tip: If you experience difficulties removing it, don’t panic. Menstrual cups can’t get lost in your vagina because the cervix won’t let it go elsewhere. Take a break, relax and try again.
Now that you know how to use a menstrual cup, take note of the following:
Might require multiple trials
Be patient with yourself. It can take several trials to learn how to use a cup or to find the right fit for you.
When to replace cups
Reusable cups can be replaced any time from 6 months to annually or even longer unless they start giving off a foul odour or have a whitish film.
If you experience leakages
Make sure you’re wearing the cup right by sliding your fingers along the sides of your vagina and the cup, then rotate the cup again to seal.
Your flow might be heavy and you require a bigger cup.
Keeping it clean
- Never use someone else’s menstrual cup.
- Ensure that the holes in the cup’s rim are thoroughly washed. Stretch them and clean with running water.
- Don’t use menstrual cups while treating yeast and bacterial infections. If you discover that you had an infection while using one, replace it with a new cup.
- Between periods you should sterilize the cup by boiling it.
- Do not leave cups out in the open. Store properly in a cloth bag or other breathable, easy to clean containers.
Again, lots of patience. You’ll eventually get the hang of it.