to ask for practical advice/info on menstrual cups?(57 Posts)
Hi everyone, I'm considering switching to using a menstrual cup instead of other sanitary products. I'm well aware of the environmental and economic value of them and am very tempted but am unsure how I would manage on a practical level.
I've looked a few things up and know that TSS is still a risk with menstrual cups (in fact recent research suggest it is a higher risk with menstrual cups than with tampons), and so you still have to change it every 8 hours minimum. Which would mean I would have to empty it during the work day. I'm not sure I would feel entirely comfortable doing this. Can anyone who uses one and works tell me how they go about emptying and cleaning in the workplace?
The other question i have is how the brands compare, what are the real differences between them and why did people choose the brand that they did? and also any advice about the sizing? I'm not sure where to stat on that.
Any advice, practical information and experiences/recommendations welcome. I've read the FAQs on some of the manufacturer websites but they are very clinical and don't really seem to answer the practicalities. Apologies if anyone thinks it IS unreasonable to ask for personal accounts, but I'm not sure how else to get the information I need.
I must preface this with a disclaimer that other people found my experience unusual so this is probably a worst case scenario. I think I must have been particuarly inept but I could never empty it without looking like (sorry TMI) I'd stepped out of an abatoir. I had to change it every two-three hours or it overflowed, which also seems to be unusual. I work in an office with bathroom cubicles but communal hand basins. It was simply not practical. I gave up.
I have used one (a mooncup) for 9 years. I think it is fabulous, it did leak a bit the first few times I used it (so I needed a pad too). I was also a bit "ugh" about emptying it in public loos but have gotten over that now. Usually I try to find a loo with wash hand basin in the cubicle so you can wash your hands immediately. I didn't know that about tss though and have been encouraging my teenage daughter to try to get the hang of the one I bought her (she can barely cope with tampons though which makes me think that 3 pregnancies plus fertility treatment and the subsequent traffic up and down my hoo-ha may be a factor in the ease of using it).
I have a moon cup as it as the only one I could find when I bought it, my dd has a Lily cup as she researched a lot of brands and felt that this would be the one for her (but I think she was won over by the pretty colours myself).
There are you tube videos about them I think.
I started out with a mooncup but I found it leaked like billy-oh. Sought advice on here and settled on a diva cup - really not sure why, as there’s not much to choose between, them but I find it much easier to position so no leaks.
I have to empty it roughly every 3 hours on days 1 & 2 and less on subsequent days. The emptying takes a bit of getting used to but once you have the hang of it and keep the cup upright then there’s no problem. If you have cubicles at work where the sink is also in there then its easy-peasy - just tip the contents out down the loo (put paper down first as then the blood doesn’t ‘pool’ at the bottom and stay put) then quick rinse and back in. If no cubicle, take a bottle of water with you into the loo and use that to sluice. You may get a bit of blood on your hands but a wipe with some loo roll will be enough to get you out of the cubicle and across to the basin.
Give it a whirl - many people have found them life changing from a pain/flow/convenience point of view nad you cant put a price on the good feelings you get from being kinder to the environment!
No cubicle god can you imagine! I meant no basin in the cubicle!
I wrote out some extensive advice on this for one of my friends about a year ago - copied and pasted here. Sorry it's so long, but I think it's good to have as much information as possible and I think that they are fabulous and everyone should be using one, so I get a little excited when people show an interest
I just got the basic "right size" Mooncup while I was at uni (their sizing was by age and whether you'd given birth), which served me well for ages and I was very, very pleased with it. But then I didn't have periods for ages because of the pill, and when I started again I had some niggles with my old Mooncup and when I looked online there seemed to be a massive range available that weren't 10 years ago. I'm now using a MeLuna.
So I then discovered that there are all sorts of things to take into account when choosing! But before you get overwhelmed, remember that I started with just whatever was available in Boots at the time and was very pleased with it, so I imagine that the differences that they all make are fairly minor and you can't go horrendously wrong.
A brief breakdown:
*Length - this depends on where your cervix sits. There are instructions on how to determine this on the second website that I've linked below. I'm not entirely sure that I got mine right!
*Capacity - this depends on how heavy your flow is
*Base type - the cups usually have something sticking out of the end which helps to keep them upright and also gives you something to grip when taking them out. The Mooncup has a stem which you cut to the correct length, and this was what I was looking to avoid the second time around. Others have a ball (which I went for) or a hoop, and some don't have anything at all.
*Material type - practically all of them are medical grade silicone or something similar, and unlikely to be made of something that could cause problems, but probably best to check just in case
*Stiffness - some of the cups are harder and some are softer. Harder ones are easier to insert correctly because they "pop out" more readily. (You have to fold them to insert and then the top ring should pop out to expand the whole thing ready to seal and collect blood). Softer ones are more likely to remain folded once you've inserted, which can be a pain because then you have to keep trying and it can be incredibly frustrating. The Mooncup is fairly hard, and I never had a problem with inserting it at all. I didn't even realise that it could be an issue! But the MeLuna, which I deliberately chose to be softer because I was trying to reduce the irritation that the Mooncup had been causing, does cause problems and I find that I'm taking longer to insert it correctly even with loads of practice. My advice would be to go for as hard as you feel you can cope with.
I cannot stress enough how much better it is than tampons. When for whatever reason I end up having to use a tampon I can hardly bear how it feels anymore. It just feels healthier, more natural and better for the environment. Plus cheaper! And more convenient because you don't have to carry around extra tampons and guess how many you'll need for a trip etc. However, don't believe all the hype:
*You will probably still need to use pantyliners. I don't remember this happening so much with the Mooncup, so maybe it's because the MeLuna is softer, but I do still get some slight leakage and having panyliners as a backup is definitely worth it. But it's not like tampons where the leaking is an indication that it's full - the leaking just seems to happen regardless, and it's not enough that you have to change the pantyliners very often. It really is very, very slight (more like staining than leaking) and I've never had it "overflow" and need to dash to the loo or anything like that.
(A follow on to that, is that I've also switched to reusable pantyliners. That's a separate discussion!)
*I am not able to go without emptying it all day early on. This depends on your flow, but quite a few people out there will say that you never need to change it at work because it lasts all day. This is unlikely to be true for the first day or so of your period, so you will need to work out how to use it at work. I usually need to empty it once at work on day one and day two.
*Emptying it in public: At home it's simple, because you presumably have a sink near your loo and you can rinse it out easily before putting it back in. In public loos or at work it's harder because there don't tend to be sinks in the stall. Some people take in water bottles, and I happen to have a very small two stall loo on my floor where I can risk darting out to the sink and back again quickly, but if necessary you really can just wipe it clean with loo roll. It's not ideal and a bit gross, but it's fine to do it occasionally and you probably won't need to more than once or twice per period.
*Cleaning it: you need to be conscientious about cleaning it after and before each period. I used to buy Milton's chlorine sterilizer, but more recently I've discovered that you can boil it in the microwave which is much quicker. Don't over boil it, as it could go floppy!
*A logistical issue: The blood, which you empty straight into the toilet, doesn't always flush away the first time and you can end up with some sitting at the bottom which you then need to have a quick scrub at with a loo brush, or try flushing again. What I do is put a bit of loo roll down first, then empty onto the loo roll, then flush straight away while rinsing the cup out in the sink. That way the blood doesn't have time to settle.
First time you use it, don't get discouraged! Give it at least three periods to settle in. If you still don't like it after that, then I'd say give up. But it's awkward and weird and gross at first, and probably difficult to insert easily and will seem like more effort than it's worth. But it's totally worth it! It definitely gets easier with practice. I'd also recommend starting it on a weekend so that you've got lots of time to get it in and get used to it, and to figure out how often you need to change it.
This doesn't feel like a hugely great sell on my part. I'm assuming that you'll get all the positives if you do a bit of googling, and it's better to be honest about the downsides. But even if I haven't gone into them in depth, I really do think that the positives far outweigh the negatives
I think that this is one of the blogs I used when I was trying to find a less "stiff" brand, because she has a (very unscientific) list of her impressions of stiffness at the bottom of this entry, and most comparison charts don't seem to include that info:
This website seems to be incredibly extensive, and probably has everything that you need if you want to explore a bit. I've linked to their comparison chart which should be useful for deciding which brand to try:
Otherwise, there's tons and tons of stuff out there on Google. The main brand in America is DivaCup, so you'll read a lot about that one, and people comparing other brands to that one.
I've been using a Mooncup for about 5 years and love it. Would not go back to tampons.
I empty it once a day at home, generally, though if I'm in a rush I'll go to a toilet with a basin in the cubicle at work and clean it there. At home I empty it down the loo, wipe with loo paper then dunk it in warm water to relubricate it. At the end of my period I soak it in Milton.
I don't find it leaks, but I wear a washable pad as there seems to be some mess after I clean it, plus it's there as a just in case measure.
I love mine! I bought it from femininewear.com and its a luna cup, they come in rainbow colours and all sorts.
There are lots of folding techniques on youtube and I think you get instructions that come with it too. I only really empty mine when I know I can be in a cubicle with a sink in it as well, but I have fairly light periods so it never gets too full.
I have used a mooncup for many years and emptied in a wide variety of toilets. Ideally I try and use a toilet with a hand basin nearby but have also taken bottles of water into the loo to wash everything, used babywipes and also loads of kitchen towel!
My periods used to be very heavy - going through 2 x superplus tampons in an hour on my heaviest days. Periods definitely got lighter after using mooncup although the first 72 hours were still heavy (emptying every hour on day 2) but I never really had a problem once I was used to it. Did use pad as well but that was often extra peace of mind for me rather than an actual need
Yes it can be 'icky' and sticky and yes menstrual blood can be smelly but I would never go back to tampons! Wish my daughter would use one but her periods are very light (ie doesn't use a tampon at night even on a heavy day - not envious at all .)
To be honest, I think Marmit's review pretty much covers everything.
I will add a couple of points:
I used to get thrush once-twice a year when using tampons. I've not had a single bout of thrush since starting to use cups about 4 years ago.
If they are placed properly and emptied before any physical activity, you can continue to do any sport of your choosing. I have used them whilst doing HIIT, spin, running - well pretty much every medium-high impact sport.
If you can, find a cubicle with a sink at work to change. You are likely to only need to change it once as it has a much higher capacity than tampons. I have had to use it in shared toilets before, so I keep a small pack of wipes in my bag.
Make sure you do cut the stem to size when you buy a cup (I just cut it off completely as I find it easier to pull out by the cup anyway). The stem is usually the bit that can make it uncomfortable if as it can rub awkwardly.
They are worth it. It took me two periods to get used to, but once I did I've looked back and just find it so much more comfortable and easy to use. I have two cups that I will alternate (one softer, one harder as explained by Marmite) and it still works out much cheaper than tampons.
janinlondon this is rather what I was worried about, and how to manage that in shared toilets at work! Thanks for your input.
Thanks scrufette and cora very useful feedback.
Marmite Thanks! LOTS of useful information there although it concerns me that both yourself and Time talk about not emptying it during the working day at all. I must admit I had initially assumed this was the main attraction for Menstrual cups (aside from environment/economic) but all the brands advise emptying every 4-8 hours and I've since found that this is because as I've mentioned Menstrual cups are even more likely to cause TSS than tampons and so MUST be emptied/cleaned every 8 hours as a minimum.
If it was a 'wear it all day' sort of thing then I'd definitely give it a go and emptying/changing at home doesn't bother me in the slightest. but we have only communal handwash basins (Cora you made me lol at the idea of no cubicles and a sort of Roman style communal loo ) I could probably use the ground floor disabled toilet though.
Can anyone give me any further feedback on the stem/loop/ball/none aspect of their cups? This is a bit which interests me. I currently use tampons, but am very sensative to when they are just a bit too low down and find it VERY uncomfortable so the idea of being able to 'feel' anything inside me is quite offputting. I assume that the cups themselves settle in the same region as the tampon would so wouldn't be noticeable but the stems cause me to hesitate.
Also Marmite I had assumed that with the right size and fit there would be no leakage. I find pads and pantyliners quite uncomfortable and don't use any at the moment, I would find having to use these all the time very offputting. is regular leakage common?
I am still getting used to mine so sometimes there is small leakage, but mostly its fine. No mess, no fuss, lasts all day. I have had one or two times where i've ended up with lots of blood on my hands, but you just wipe it off as best you can with tissue and no one notices when you wash your hands.
If I can't use a private sink, I'll just empty and reinsert and take it out to rinse later on when I get a chance.
There's lots of instructions on how to buy the right size which can be a bit overwhelming (who knows the size of their own cervix??), but I got a set of two for free in a promotion and they are fine!
Def can't feel the stem at all when its in btw, no more that a tampon string
THANK YOU everyone, you're all so helpful.
Any more personal experiences especially about the stems etc will still help me make my choice. I'm definitely going to give it a go as I don't see how I can work out if I'll manage (with emptying at work/leaks vs no leaks) unless I try but extra 'user-based feedback' for different brands would certainly help.
liminality what brand do you use?
I never got on with mine, had enough leaks for no obvious reason that it put me off - nothing major but lost trust in it hehe. Found I sometimes just couldn't get it positioned right no matter how much fiddling, so still had to buy tampons as a back up option etc.
The final straw was once dropping it on removal... Luckily at home so could wash the blood off the walls without suspicion!
Hi Soup. I'm not sure if the guidance has changed recently - when I was doing research into it people were definitely saying that risk of TSS was lower than tampons, because of what the cup is made of. I'll have to look into that - but at the moment what I do on light days is change it right before going into work and right when I get home. Over 8 hours but not by a huge amount. One of the benefits over tampons on light days is that it doesn't dry you out if you take it out before it's full (you know that horrible scraping feeling when you've put in a tampon and you have to take it out early?) - honestly it's so much more comfortable, and you can put it in if you know that you're due in anticipation without drying out (it's not necessarily as easy to get in then, but it is possible and once it's in it's just as comfy).
As Wonder said, you can take some wipes in with you at work if you can't get to a sink. That will get it clean enough to change, and then you can rinse it more thoroughly when you get home.
The leakage I mentioned is honestly very, very slight - like a bit of spotting. And I suspect it just happens when the cup is settling in - it doesn't increase as I keep wearing it IYSWIM. And I don't remember it being an issue with the Mooncup so it could be that if I switched to another brand it would stop. Lots of people report leaks not being a problem at all. But I also find pads and pantyliners uncomfortable and kind of unhygienic, which is why I got some reusable ones. The ones I got are literally just cotton pads, no plastic at all involved, and they feel just like I'm only wearing my knickers (if a bit more bulky!). I haven't had any problems with breathability etc since switching to them. If you have period knickers that you don't mind getting stained, I reckon you could do without them.
Regarding the stem etc: It's there to keep the cup upright, and to provide something to grab onto if it rides a bit high and you're struggling to reach it to take out. It is useful to have something on those occasions! I found that the stem on the Mooncup was irritating me, but I wasn't aware of it in the sense of when a tampon is sitting too low. More that I worried that it was poking at me and causing irritation to delicate areas! But I switched to the MeLuna because the ball is less "spikey" and I honestly don't feel it when it's in there unless it's incorrectly placed. I think that if the cup is the right size, the stem/ball/hoop won't be an issue. You're honestly no more "aware" of it than a tampon.
I use a Mooncup and never have problems with leakage. At work I either find a toilet with a basin in the cubicle, or simply empty it and give it a wipe with some toilet paper and reinsert. I wouldn't recommend that until you're used to it though because it can be a bit messy until you've got the hang of it!
Re flow and TSS. I frequently leave mine in longer than 8 hours . Mainly overnight, but also at the tail end when flow is light. Mind you, I've also left a fair few tampons in more than 8 hours over the years. I've survived!
Dammit. Wrote a massive reply which vanished.
Short version - have been using 16yrs. Started with mooncup and switched to meluna after babies as slightly softer.
Meluna have massive choice of size, stem, softness and colour.
I prefer no stem at all but this is generally not the case for new usera as they panic they won't be able to fish it out.
I use baby wipes to clean if I have to empty in public loo with no basin in cubicle.
soup you could just use it at home until you get used to how often you need to empty and feel confident enough to do it at work.
Check out website putacupinit for more detailed info about cups
I had a lunette, but you're supposed to change them every 5 years or so and I bought a ruby cup as my second one. The main reason I chose it is it had the biggest capacity on the market and since I had children I need the help! It also came with a microwave steriliser, and they donated a cup to a girl in need. I HATED the stems on mine, so I chopped them off, but YMMV. When I change in public, I just dump and reinsert--you only need to chance once every 12 hours, so it's no big not to wash every time.
I’ve used a Mooncup for twelve years now and find it so easy to manage. I either use a disabled toilet in the workplace (at a discreet time, when it wouldn’t inconvenience anyone) making use of the sink available, or empty it whilst in a standard toilet cubicle, wiping it with wipes and then washing it properly at the first opportunity.
I struggled massively with towels and tampons due to my eczema and sensitive skin but have never had an issue with the Mooncup. I clean it with Milton at the beginning and end of each period.
I always keep wipes, a small bottle of water and tissues handy so that I can deal with it when out and about.
Like a previous poster, I use Mooncup simply because it was the only brand available when I started using it and I have no need to try anything else.
It also helped me record how much blood loss I was suffering when experiencing extremely erratic, but heavy periods which led to a gynae referral.
I wrote a post about this on another thread. Not sure if it's still around but if you try searching MN there have been quite a few threads about menstrual cups over the past year.
Anyway, what I found was I got on fine with the Mooncup except the tail dig into me and made me sore. So I cut it down a bit as instructed. This stopped the rubbing but made it extremely difficult to remove, so much so that the last time I used it I was seriously thinking about giving up and getting a nurse to do it! That was the final straw for me so I chose the appropriate MeLuna cup instead, one with a ring pull. It's ideal insofar as it doesn't rub me and it's easy to grab the ring to remove it. Downside it it's not as rigid as the Mooncup so doesn't "pop" open after insertion, which can cause leakage. It just takes some practice.
I've looked a few things up and know that TSS is still a risk with menstrual cups (in fact recent research suggest it is a higher risk with menstrual cups than with tampons)
Do you remember who did the research though? Could it have been a company that wants to paint menstrual cups in a bad light?
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