A menstrual cup may be the answer, so here’s everything you need to know

Menstrual cups you say? Aren’t they messy/unhygienic/*definitely* going to leak at the most inopportune time? No, no and no – and yet, they still might not be for everyone.

If however, you’ve been curious about an alternative to pads or tampons – whether it’s for your own health and comfort, for the good of the planet, or to stop spending a silly amount of money every month on a *very* necessary product – we’ve got you covered. From what exactly a menstrual cup is, how to use one, and the very best menstrual cups out there, read on for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this reusable period product.

Periods – half the population will have them for quite a significant portion of their lives and yet, it’s still often a subject that girls and women of all ages are made to feel they shouldn’t talk about.

Fortunately, small but steady changes are on the horizon – Scotland has just become the first country to make period products free, and just recently an empowering ad showing the string of a tampon finally got approved after being told it was ‘racy’.

Plus, the conversation around unconventional period products is growing – from period pants to menstrual cups, we’re finally being given more options when it comes to our periods.

What is a menstrual cup?

Unlike pads and tampons, menstrual cups are a reusable period product. A small funnel shaped cup with a stem, it’s made from rubber or silicone meaning it’s flexible enough to insert into your vagina. Due to the unique design it is able to hold more menstrual blood than other products but instead of trying to absorb the fluid, it catches the blood.

How do I use a menstrual cup?

At first glance, menstrual cups might look intimidating to use, but they’re actually very simple. As it’s made from a flexible material, the cup is made to be folded and inserted to your vagina – much like inserting a regular tampon without the applicator. Although this is most often the part that puts most off, don’t worry – it shouldn’t feel uncomfortable and is much like inserting a diaphragm. You can however apply a water based lubricant to the rim of the cup for easier insertion. Once the cup is in, you may need to rotate it until it feels comfortable and it will then spring open to catch any blood.

To remove simply place your (freshly washed) thumb and index finger into your vagina and tug gently on the stem of the cup until you reach the base. By pinching the base you’ll release the seal created by the cup and you can dispose of the blood.

How long do I leave a menstrual cup in for?

This is all dependant on your flow – but they can be left in for up to 12 hours, making menstrual cups especially handy at night time.

Do menstrual cups leak?

Another worry that can be off-putting for women when it comes to using menstrual cups, is the concern that they’ll leak. If this is what’s stopping you from trying one, rest assured – studies have shown they’re just as reliable (if not more reliable) than tampons. The cup forms a seal once it’s in place so it can catch all the blood without any unfortunate leaking occurring.

What are the advantages of a menstrual cup?

Where do we start? As one of the few reusable period products on the market, menstrual cups are much more budget-friendly and of course more sustainable. As they can hold blood up to 12 hours it means you’ll have to change it less, and most importantly? Menstrual cups are a safer alternative than tampons as there’s no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which although rare, is associated with tampon use.

Is there a reason I can’t use menstrual cups?

Broadly speaking, no. Menstrual cups are safe to use from your first period and as a virgin, although it may feel a little uncomfortable at first. Plus, it can be worn swimming (and for any other forms of exercise), without fear of leaking. Women with a heavier menstrual flow also benefit from the use of a menstrual cup as they can hold much more blood than tampons or pads – just make sure you get the right size. And as always, if you’re not sure whether you can use one, consult your doctor.

How do I clean my menstrual cup?

Yes, this may be the messiest and least enjoyable part of using a menstrual cup, but it’s quick and easy – and essential if you chose to use one. After disposing of the blood rinse out your cup with hot soapy water a special spray like this one. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse any residue off to prevent irritation.

How often do I need to replace my menstrual cup?

Take good care of your menstrual cup and it could last you years – that’s a whole lot of saving when you think about the amount of tampons or pads you’d buy in that time. If your cup starts to look discoloured, has a strange smell or feels sticky, it’s time for a new one.

Which are the best menstrual cups?

The market for menstrual cups is growing – so with more options than ever we’ve rounded up the best menstrual cups on the market right now. For first time users – especially those nervous of leaks, The SAALT Cup has multiple seal points to prevent any leaking. If you’re planning any travel in the near future, or are concerned you won’t be somewhere you can clean your cup, this TOSOTO design comes with it’s own disinfectant cup; there is also this set from Cult Beauty that comes with its own cleanser. And even for those with specific concerns – like those with a high cervix or those with a heavy monthly flow, we’ve found the best menstrual cups on the market.

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