A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product, used during your period. It is a small, flexible funnel-shaped device made of rubber or silicone that you insert into your vagina to collect and hold menstrual blood. The "disc" is a variation of the cup (kind of like a diaphragm with a pouch attached).
Cups (and discs) can hold more blood than other methods, leading many women to use them as an eco-friendly alternative to tampons. And depending on your flow, you might be able to wear a cup for up to 12 hours (4-12 hours is typical). This can help you sleep through the night on a heavy flow day.
Most cups are washable and reusable, making them ideal for any type of trip where taking and/or carrying pads or tampons might not be practical such as a camping trip. By reducing the use of disposable feminine products, using cups saves money and is good for the environment. Some cups (and discs) are promoted as being so soft as to allow for worry-free and comfortable sex during your period.
Cups vary in shape, size and texture. Some are softer and some are more firm. They come in different colors too. Choosing the correct size is important. When the flow is heavy and the cup becomes full, blood can leak out. Too small a cup allows for more leakage either from around it or from the cup filling up quickly. Too large a cup might be difficult to insert or uncomfortable to wear. Smaller menstrual cups are usually recommended for women younger than 30 years old who have not ever given birth vaginally. Larger sizes are preferable for women who are over 30 years old, have given birth vaginally, or have a heavier period.
An unusual use of a menstrual cup is to assist in becoming pregnant. The male is instructed to ejaculate into a clean cup and then the woman carefully inserts the cup with the fluid collection facing towards the cervix. This would have to be done at the correct time of the cycle for best results.
Menstrual cups have been around for almost 100 years. For a long time, there have been fears of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from using cups. A publication in The Lancet, is helping to put these fears to rest. The researchers reviewed 43 studies on menstrual cup use globally, with data from 3,319 women and girls. The report found that menstrual cups are safe to use and are just as effective as other sanitary products in preventing leaks. A few cases of TSS were found in one group and the number was too small to draw any conclusions, but this should be kept in mind if you are considering using a menstrual cup. TSS is rare and can occur with tampon use also. Some discs claim not cause TSS but I am skeptical due to their similarity to cups.
Cups can be safely used if an IUD is in place and are safe (some say ideal) to use when swimming. Other concerns include learning how to insert and remove them, how to properly wash and store them after use, remote risk of injury during insertion or removal, remote risk of other vaginal infections, vaginal odor (minimal), or interference with urination or bowel movements (uncommon) . Switching to a cup (or disc) is a choice that should be researched carefully and may not be ideal for all women, but it certainly is growing in popularity with our changing times.
- Review Article: 29 different menstrual cups are reviewed
- Diva: The Diva Cup
- Instead Soft Cup: This was discontinued in 2016, but was acquired by Flex and rebranded as the SoftDisc (see below).
- Intima: The Ziggy Cup, The Lily Cup, Lily Cup One, Lily Cup Compact
- June: The June cup is currently having a promotion, offering a substantial savings reduction.
- Keeper: The Keeper Cup, The Moon Cup
- MeLuna: many sizes, top-rated by NY Times (above)
- OrganiCup: YouTube instructional video. | Click here for website.
- Saalt: The Saalt cup