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How to use a Menstrual Cup

Purple menstrual cup

Ever heard of a menstrual cup? I hadn't heard of them until about a year or two ago and finally decided to take the plunge and buy one towards the end of last year. I have been using my cup for a few months now and cannot imagine myself going back to any other kind of period product. If you have been considering buying a menstrual cup for a while now but haven't yet taken the plunge, or are just interested in finding out more about them, I am going to be covering everything there is to know about them in this post, in the hope of persuading you that this is the way forward.

Let's start off with why purchasing a menstrual cup is a good idea. Menstrual cups are incredibly environmentally friendly and unlike sanitary pads or tampons, they actually last for more than one use. You can use your menstrual cup up to ten years after purchasing it. This is so much better for the environment than sanitary pads or tampons (although I am aware you can now buy reusable sanitary pads). This means they are also much better for your bank balance too. The menstrual cup you see in the image above is my own and it cost me £17 from Boots (although it's currently on sale for just £8.50). A pack of 18 tampons costs £2.50 and assuming you were to use the full pack in one period, the cost of the menstrual cup equates to just over six periods worth of tampons. Knowing you can use your menstrual cup for ten years, means that one menstrual cup can save you around £300 in that time (although my maths isn't great, so if anyone would like to check that for me, that would be amazing). I'm aware that not everyone will be able to afford this, or the price of any other sanitary/hygiene products, but if any of you would be willing to follow this link, you can make a donation to The Hygiene Bank, which provides hygiene products to those who need them most (not an AD, I came across them whilst doing some research for this post and thought they would be worth the mention).

Now, let's talk about which menstrual cup to use. There is such a huge variety of menstrual cups on the market (which is amazing) and they all come in a variety of different sizes, which scared me at first as with sanitary pads and tampons I always knew where I stood, but I didn't have a clue where to start with menstrual cups. I chose the Boots menstrual cup as it only came in two sizes, pre-birth and post-birth, making it very easy to decide which one to go for. I have seen some cups that come in size A or size B, and I have seen others that vary in size depending on how heavy your flow is. I don't really have any experience in those, so if anyone has a blog post on those particular types of cups that explains those sizes, please feel free to leave a link to that in the comments below. I have found that the Boots pre-birth menstrual cup fits me perfectly and I have absolutely no complaints with it. But how exactly do you go about putting it in?

Before you use your menstrual cup for the first time, you MUST sanitize it in a bowl of boiling water. The instructions that came with my cup said to do this for seven minutes, which is to get rid of any bacteria that may be on the cup (because we don't want any nasty infections going on down there). Next comes the part which is quite tricky at first, and it is recommended that if you are using the cup for the first time to start off by using it on your lightest days, as it can be quite tricky to do at first (I'll explain about that more in a minute). In the images below are demonstrations of a couple of ways in which you can insert your menstrual cup:

a menstrual cup folded in the shape of a 'c'
a menstrual cup folded in the shape of a 'c'
a menstrual cup in the shape of a triangle
a menstrual cup in the shape of a triangle

The first two images are of the 'c' fold. This is one of the more commonly known folds in order to put the menstrual cup in, however, I struggled with this and have never been able to get the cup into my vagina in this way (but that's not to say that you can't do it this way). The other way, and is the way that I have been using over the last few months, is the way that is shown in the bottom two images. This is essentially where you fold the cup over so the top right corner meets the bottom left corner, leaving a little gap in the top left corner. Whichever method you decide to use (and if neither of these work for you, there are other methods you can use if you Google it), you should squat down and put the cup in at an angle, like you would with a tampon. Don't panic if it doesn't go in the first time. It actually took me five or six months from purchasing this cup to get it in (I had spent all of that time using the 'c' fold method and only managed to get it in by using the second method I mentioned). It does take a while to get used to, but after my first use, I realised this was the period product for me and that I would never go back to sanitary pads/tampons.

The difficult thing at first is getting it in, but I (and I know I'm not alone in this) found getting the cup out was a lot harder. Unlike a tampon where you can just pull the string and it instantly comes out, the menstrual cup is a little harder to remove, but once you know how, you can remove it like a pro. I like to use the squat, push, tug, press, and pull method. It may sound a little complicated, but I have been using this method since I first had to take my menstrual cup out and it has never failed me.

Before I go any further, I feel like I should point out that whenever removing your menstrual cup, you should always stand in the bath/shower so that if there are any spillages, they are a lot easier to clean up. I am beginning to get a lot better at not getting any blood anywhere, however, I'm still not perfect and haven't fully mastered that yet, so if anyone has any tips for that, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Anyway, back to my method of removing the menstrual cup. First of all, start by standing in your bath/shower and getting into a squat. Next, start using your stomach muscles to push, as if you were giving birth (or having a poo). This helps to lower the cup slightly and makes it easier to reach, which you may need to do if, like me, you have a high cervix (although you may not need to, only you know your own body). Then comes the tugging. I know in some cases, people will recommend trimming the stem of your menstrual cup so it's not poking out of your vagina, and when I first heard this I thought the cup came with a very long stem that would have to be really cut down. I have never had to cut the stem and as you can see from the images I have included in this post, the stem isn't that long and doesn't poke out of my vagina at all (but that may be because I have a high cervix and due to the make of menstrual cup I bought, so please feel free to let me know if you had to trim the stem of your menstrual cup in the comments below). I use the stem to tug slightly as this helps loosen the cup a little and makes it easier to pull out. I no longer have to use the tugging part of this method, but I definitely found it handy when I first started using my cup and was getting to grips with removing it. Then you have to press the cup. To do this, you have to insert a finger into your vagina and press one side of the cup against your vaginal wall. This should help to release the suction of the cup. You may be able to remove the cup straight away after this point, or you may have to keep on tugging and pressing the cup until you feel that the suction has released. Then comes the pull, where you use two fingers (usually your thumb and forefinger) to pull the cup from out of your vagina, but remember not to do this step until you are certain that the cup has released its suction. I know this isn't the only method when it comes to removing your menstrual cup, but this is the only method that I have ever used, so if you have used another method, then please feel free to leave instructions to that method in the comments below.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to removing your menstrual cup is not to panic. The first time I came to remove my menstrual cup, I stood in my shower and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I hadn't read up on any methods on how to remove my cup, so if you have already found this post pre-menstrual cup removal, then you are already doing a lot better than me. Unlike tampons, your menstrual cup is less likely to cause leakage and you are less likely to develop TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) than you would with a tampon, as menstrual cups collect blood, whereas tampons absorb blood. I would say if you are trying to remove your cup, try for no longer than five minutes, and if you haven't got it out within this time, go and do something to relax, try not to think about it, and then go and try removing it again in a little while. I know a lot of people's first thought is that you are going to have to go to A&E, but the cup will come out eventually; after all, you managed to get it in, so it has to come out at some point. If you are really struggling, try and ask someone else if they can help you as I am sure they will not mind. It is important you are relaxed when trying to take your cup out as the tenser you are, the harder it will be to remove it. It can be really daunting the first time you try and remove it as you have never done this before and you have no idea what to expect but trust me, it is going to be okay.

In terms of looking after your cup, I have already mentioned that you need to sanitize your cup in a bowl of boiling water for around seven minutes. You also need to do this between periods, so once your period ends, you need to put it in boiling water so as to properly clean it. Whilst you are on your period, when you take your cup out you should tip the contents away down the toilet and then rinse it out in the sink and re-insert it into your vagina. For full disclosure, I have not yet used my menstrual cup when I have been out all day so have always been at home when needing to change it. I have seen many articles suggest that if you are in this situation, take a bottle of water with you into the toilet cubicle so you can rinse it without having to take it out to where everyone washes their hands. As I have already mentioned that it can be quite difficult to remove the cup without anything spilling, I have no idea what advice to give you on this. During your medium/light days, you should be alright regarding spillages, but if you are worried, I guess you could try and stand over the toilet so that if there are any spillages, they go into the toilet and not on the floor (although I have no idea if this is possible). Just remember, you can leave the cup in for a minimum of four hours and a maximum of eight hours (although I'm pretty sure I've seen some cups can hold for a bit longer) and you are a lot less likely to leak with a menstrual cup than you are with a tampon, so unless you're at work all day or have gone on a day out, you should be alright. Just try and change your cup as close as you can to the time you're leaving your house so that it decreases the likelihood of you having to change it whilst out in public. In this case, you could always buy another form of reusable period wear, such as period pants or reusable sanitary pads, but I have never used either of these products so have no idea how reliable they are (but if you have and have any recommendations, or have written a blog post on either of these products, please feel free to leave this in the comments below).

I asked you on Instagram and Twitter if you had any questions regarding menstrual cups or anything you wish you had known before your bought yours. I have already covered a lot of the questions asked in this post, but one question I did get asked was if they are suitable for heavy periods. My period tends to be at its heaviest during the second and third days and I have never had any problems with leakage. During these days, I tend to remove it every four hours and will leave it in overnight for 8+ hours and have never had any issues, unlike I used to with tampons and sanitary pads. It does take a while for the cup to fill up and even on my heaviest days, the cup isn't even completely full.

If you have any other questions if you feel I have missed anything out (although I'm pretty sure I've covered everything in this post), then please feel free to ask me a question in the comments below. You can also DM me on Twitter and Instagram, or send me an email. All of my information is in the contacts tab at the top of the page, or by clicking on the Twitter and Instagram icons at the top of the page.

Love Beth xx

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