Menstrual Cups A User Guide!
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
This month’s sustainable period blog is centred around advice to help you feel confident using your menstrual cup or to give you some more tips and tricks to give the confidence to try one. Recently I asked through my Instagram what different kinds of reusable menstrual products people use. The most surprising response was that many people want to take the step to use a menstrual cup but are either too nervous to try it or want to know what will suit them best before they go and get one. It can seem like ambiguous territory especially if you are new to starting your period or haven’t needed or wanted to change up your routine until now. So I have asked for some advice from Maria at Sea & Flo to help us all get to know menstrual cups and the benefits a little bit better.
First I would like to introduce Sea & Flo, they are a Cornish Menstrual cycle wellness brand who seek to provide products which are both good for you and for the planet. The reason I love Sea & Flo is that they promote so much positivity and a sense of empowerment through understanding your body and it’s cycles. Body positivity is inherently part of what they do and they make having a period feel liberating rather than a burden, or even something to be ashamed of. I am on a mission to end the taboo of talking about periods and to empower women to love their bodies and understand them. Through their brand ethos to the design of their packaging Sea & Flo have a mission to do the same. Sea & Flo make their cups black because we don’t need stained cups making us feel ashamed of our periods and feeling like we can’t talk about them! This is why we have collaborated on this blog and together I hope we can empower you on your next or even current period!
For a while, most menstrual cups looked the same to me and actually rather large, and as a 21-year-old who hasn’t had any children, I didn’t understand how they would stay in (If I am being quite frankly honest). The female anatomy it’s pretty stretchy and flexible and many cups which are a standard size will work just fine. But there might be some things you want to take into consideration if you feel your cup isn’t right or if you haven’t used one before. The height of your cervix, the flow of your period and the firmness of the cup. For example, I have heard that some people prefer to use a more flexible cup when exercising.
What to consider when choosing a menstrual cup:
How to find and measure the height of your cervix:
Your cervix is the lowest part of your uterus and is a small passageway that connects your vagina and uterus. “In the vagina, the cervix looks like a smooth fleshy O, about an inch or 2.5cm in diameter, with a hole in the middle — similar to puckered lips.” . This is where your period blood drips out of and where the menstrual cup catches it from. Your cervix position changes depending on your cycle so here is some advice by Clue on how to find the position of your cervix.
Here’s a step-by-step feel-guide to finding your cervix from Clue:
1) Start at a time when your cervix is likely to be low and more easily reached (before or after menstruation is great).
2) Wash your hands very thoroughly, including underneath your fingernails.
3) Squat on the ground, or lift one leg up onto the toilet seat or side of the tub.
4) With your palm facing up, guide your longest finger carefully into your vagina (lube can come in handy here).
5) Feel for a round, raised circle with a dimple in the middle — it’s most likely to be at the top of the front vaginal wall.
Deciding on the firmness of the cup:
Firm cups are sometimes used by people doing a lot of active exercises as they rim of the cup tends to be thicker keeping it in place. But also because the seal is more likely to pop open easier forming a good seal. However, it can press on your bladder a bit more.
Softer cups are easier to insert and suit people who are quite sensitive in these areas quite well.
If you have quite a heavy flow then like having larger absorbent capacity tampons, you can get cups that have a larger holding capacity. Some brands suggest that if you are under 30 years old and haven’t had a child then you should be using smaller cups. Sea & Flo also have mini cups which are designed for if you are under 18! So there are many options to go for depending on your flow and how recent you are in starting your period.
What are the benefits of using a menstrual cup:
Using a menstrual cup can aid in protecting you from vaginal infections as it doesn’t cause vaginal dryness and disturb natural bacteria like a tampon. They aren’t associated with toxic shock syndrome and are free of the chemicals which are often used in tampons and pads to bleach or fragrance them. When inserted correctly most women don’t even feel the presence of a cup, which means you avoid that feeling of a tampon string between your legs. Not only will they save you money (because they can last up to ten years) but they also save the environment!
Advice from Sea & Flo:
Sea & Flo answers some FAQ's:
How far does a menstrual cup need to go in?
This all depends on your cervix height, generally, it sits lower than a tampon because it has to sit under your cervix. It sits completely inside the vagina and you should not be able to feel it. You might even forget you’re on your period, it’s that comfortable.
Can a menstrual cup get stuck?
The most important thing to remember is your cup cannot get lost! When removing your cup relax and take your time. The more relaxed you are the easier it will be to remove. How high your cup sits depends on how high your cervix is, if you have a high cervix your cup may be slightly trickier to remove but go into a deep squat pose, this will encourage your cup to move down by lengthening your pelvic floor, bearing down can contribute to weakening of your pelvic floor, if you need to bear down do so gently as if passing wind.
How do you use a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is made from silicone and can be folded and inserted into the vagina it unfolds and sits snugly inside collecting the blood, you simply remove and empty as many times as you need to for the flow you have.
Can I have sex with my menstrual cup in?
Our cup should not be worn during penetrative sexual intercourse and cannot be used as a method of contraception.
How do I clean my menstrual cup?
This can be done by placing in a pan of boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, ensuring the cup doesn't touch the bottom of the pan as this will damage the cup.
Extra tips and tricks:
When making the switch to a menstrual cup is really common for people to feel nervous. The best piece of advice I can offer is to take your time and practise before your period starts.
Our menstrual cups are soft but have a firm rim, this allows them to open up easily once inserted. Take some time before your period starts to practise inserting and removing it. Put aside some time to yourself when you’re not under pressure. This way you can relax, this will help, the more stressed and tense you are the harder you will find this process.
Once you fold and insert your cup, insert your index finger up and run it around the edge of your cup making sure it feels smooth and circular if there is a fold in your cup still give it a gentle twist. If your unable to get your cup to open up don’t panic just simply remove and try again. A special track to get a good seal and prevent your cup leaking is once its fully open give the stem a gentle tug if you feel some resistance your good to go!
A menstrual cup is an incredible product that allows you to care for your period in such a successful way you can forget you’re on it. You can do all sports activities and lots of people have found that strangely they have reduced period cramps and pains after using a cup. They hold more blood than a tampon and contain none of the harsh and toxin chemicals. Using a cup is something you do need to learn how to do but can be done easily and at Sea and Flo we support every single one of our customers that need our help and guidance. In a world that needs us to make positive changes in our environment but also for ourselves and a time when we need to question the lessons, we have been taught by society. Investing in a product that creates positivity and empowerment and absolutely zero waste feels like an important step forward for menstruating people.
Here are some useful diagrams of sizes of cups offered by Sea & Flo.
I hope that this blog has been informative and makes you feel like you can get to grips with your cup if you have been struggling, or gives you the confidence to give it a go. In my other blogs, I have discussed how poor my sex education has been throughout school and that I have had to figure out a lot of things about the female body on google. Sometimes you just don’t know who to ask or what to ask. My aim is to provide as much support and information through this blog series so if you are like me and feeling at a loss about your period, your hormones and what products might suit you, you can find it all here. Feel free to drop Maria a message if you need more advice about menstrual cups! She has helped me even when I thought I had it all figured out. Let me know in the comments if you use a menstrual cup or if you will now that you have read this blog!
Blog Co-written by Georgia (Practical Green Life) and Maria (Sea &Flo).
Sea & Flo: