What is a menstrual cup?
It is a transparent or colored reception device, bearing the shape of a bell, made of medical silicon or "TPE", ended by a stem (or a ball), which goal is to retain menstrual flow.
Why should I use a menstrual cup?
All the menstrual cups you can find, whatever they're made of, have the common goal to bring a very comfortable hygienic protection to women during their menstruation. They are an alternative to more commonly used products:
As opposed to pads, one menstrual cup is inserted into the vagina, is invisible and does not absorb blood as tampons can do (which can damage internal genital parts). There is no string attached, opposed to the tampons, and no external fluid can enter the body (such as urine or swimming-pool water - that can later enter the body): the menstrual cup is water-proof.
Being placed inside the vagina, a menstrual cup retains blood directly out of the cervix. The flow then falls inside the cup and cannot go away, but it remains liquid. All menstrual cups are water-proof, as long as they are in the right position, thus the menstrual cup user cannot be stained with blood. The stem remains inside the body, therefore is invisible, but is still at finger reach at the entrance of the vagina.
You'll find below the different parts of a menstrual cup:
Zooming on the rim of the cup:
It can be thick or thin, divided into one or two levels, it must always be handy. They are here to make a suction effect with the vagina walls. The rim pops open by itself after the cup is inserted. The rim can be pretty stiff (LilaCup, MoonCup, MeLuna Classic, Yuuki...) or softer (LadyCup, Si-bell, CupLee, ClariCup...).
- The stiffer cups are: Yuuki Classic, MeLuna classic, Keeper, Tulip, MonthlyCup
- Those cup are soft enough: Lunette, LadyCup, Natu, RubyCup, Eco-cup, MamiCup
- The softer cups so far are CupLee, Si-bell, ClariCup, LilyCup
Zoom on the holes:
The holes guaranty the suction effect! Big or small or oblicly shaped (LadyCup…), they mark the difference between real content and total content.
LadyCup size 1 can be used by women with a light flow. The holes are low, thus it reduces the real content.
Zoom on the body:
The content can vary a lot following models, it holds the flow during menstrual and can be graduated. The bigger ones so far are FemmyCycle or LuvUrBody. The smallest one so far is the size 1 MeLuna (here in its basic and transparent version).
To conclude with, menstrual cups can be used with light spotting or a few hours before menstruation starts. Moreover, you won't be needing anymore period clothes (special knickers or pajamas) especially if you enjoy a 15 day long bleeding. You can always wear a thong.
In the case of very heavy bleeding (caused by a fibroma or hemorrhagic uterus), some large menstrual cups (Yuuki, LuvUrBody, FemmyCycle...) have a high content, thus you won't need to change your protection as often as with traditional tampons (but it still has to be emptied after 12 hours). Some cups can contain more than 30ml of blood.
Zooming on the bottom of the cup:
It is the link between the stem and the cup. It can be hard to clean. If you reduce the stem, be careful not to damage it! Some cups have a thick bottom (MoonCup UK) and some have it thin (LilaCup, LadyCup). The thickness can make the cup easier or harder to remove.
Zooming on the stem:
All the stems aren't identical.
Manufacturers have chosen between a hollow stem and a flat stem.
Some others have created new stems (MeLuna with the ring and the bowl or no stem at all, Femmycycle with a large ring, Luneale with a moonpad to make the removal easier)
Women who feel ready to remove the cup only by pinching the bottom can trim or cut the stem or the ball, or get a stem-free menstrual cup (MeLuna, Luneale).
The cups listed bellow have a flat stem design: Lunette, FleurCup, MiaCup, Tulip, MamiCup. The cups listed below have a hollow tube: LadyCup, Yuuki, MoonCup, DivaCup, CupLee, RubyCup...
The cups listed below have a bowl : Naturcup, MeLuna, MonthlyCup
the cups listed below have another kind of stem: FemmyCycle, Juju, LilyCup, AmyCup
How often do I need to wash the cup, and then get a new one?
A cup absolutely must be removed and cleaned every 12 hours!
Regarding the heaviness of the flow and how many days the bleeding lasts, each woman will learn how often the cup has to be emptied. There is no minimum amount of time (it doesn't bring any extra comfort to empty the cup every second hour), the only maximal bound to respect is the maximal duration of 12 hours.
It is not easy to estimate after how much time the cup must be replaced, but most of the manufacturers insure a well-treated cup can be used for a great amount of time. The material has a long time-span if treated with good care (respect of hygiene, not sterilizing the cup too often...)
Sometimes women need a larger size (after having a copper IUD delivered or having given natural birth) but in unlikely cases, the silicon can be damaged and get older (causing flowing, slipping cup that vaginal muscles cannot hold properly, messy holes), thus a new purchase may be necessary to replace the old cup.
It is more than probable that after a few months of utilization (or only a few days, depending on the brads), the cup takes a yellowish or brownish color. The cup is not damaged and can be used again for all the time it is said on the notice (hot water can fix the blood in the silicon such as on this US Moon Cup). It is thus useless to buy a new cup just because of a coloration problem.
Uterine issues (birth control, endometriosis) and cups
Even though there is no definite result about it, some physicians say that keeping the blood in contact with the cervix can raise the probability to contract endometriosis (presence of uterus cells out of the uterus). However, there is a large number of women who have endometriosis without having ever worn a menstrual cup. Endometriosis can be either an important condition, either a benign disease.
Menstrual cups can be used by women who have a fibroma or a polype. It is however not recommended to use a menstrual after a vaginal surgery (hysteroscopy) and using after a birth (big infection risk) is absolutely forbidden.