Period Cup 101

A little over a year ago I started using a period cup instead of tampons and it has changed my life (well, my life during my menstrual cycle at least).

Years ago I remember seeing period cups for the first time and thinking they were so weird. The concept was so foreign to me, I didn't understand how they worked, I imagined they were messy and I thought they were for women who were super "granola".

I then started seeing ads for them and people post about them on social media and I became intrigued, but I still had so many questions. How do you use it? How do you empty it? Is it messy? Does it hurt? And so on. Then one day, someone I followed on Instagram talked about her period cup on her instagram stories and I found it so helpful to hear about her experience and answer some of her frequently asked questions. I then decided to give it a shot and I haven't looked back since.

A little while ago I asked you to submit your period cup questions to me on Instagram so I could help answer them. Please note that this post is based on my own personal experience and I am obviously not a period cup pro or medical professional.

So here are some answers to your questions, tips and some of my own experiences/opinions...

1. Periods Are Normal, Not Gross

Right away let's put this out there: periods are normal, not gross. For the most part we all have one once a month. It's an incredibly healthy and important part of being a woman and it's not gross, dirty, taboo or anything to be ashamed of. Many of us have been conditioned to be hush-hush about our periods, and while I won't go around shouting it from the rooftops (although shouting it on Instagram is another story LOL), I think we need to continue to normalize it by talking about it as a perfectly normal and healthy aspect of being a woman.

2. What is a Period Cup and How Does it Work?

A period cup is a soft, flexible, medical-grade silicone cup that you insert kind of like a tampon. Instead of being absorbent like a tampon, it is a cup that catches and holds the menstrual blood. It works by forming a seal inside the vagina to prevent leakage and catch the blood.

It comes in different sizes and styles and you can usually go up to 12 hours without emptying it. It can be safely worn overnight. It shouldn't hurt, so if it does you may not have inserted it correctly or have the wrong size. It can last up to 10 years, making it an incredibly eco-friendly alternative to disposable tampons and pads.

3. How Do I Choose One?

Start by doing your research and seeing what is available out there. A Diva Cup is an easy place to start because they are carried at most grocery stores and drug stores. They come in 3 sizes depending on your age, body type and flow type.

I started with a Diva Cup. I bought the large size (recommended for women who have given birth), but ended up switching to the small size. I also found that the stem bothered me, so I cut it off. Recently I switched to the Dot Cup and I love it. I find it fits better, is super comfortable and stays put. (Not sponsored, I bought it on my own and genuinely love it).

You may have to start with one size and depending on how it works, or how heavy your flow is, switch to the other size or style.

Other popular brands are Moon Cup and Saalt.

4. How Do I Use It?

Remember to always wash your hands before inserting or removing your cup (pretty self explanatory).

To insert it, fold it into a "U" shape and hold it with two fingers, inserting it like a tampon. Period Cups come with instructions, so there should be an image of how to do this or you can google it. Once you let go, the cup will open. You can grip the cup by the base and give a little turn to make sure it's fully open. You may need to give it a gentle little pull or push to get it to position properly. You may hear a little "suction" noise, which is a good sign because it means it has formed a seal.

Here is a tip if you have trouble inserting it or aren't sure if it's in the correct position: Since the vagina points slightly towards the tailbone, using a J-motion to insert it may help to ensure that it's positioned correctly (insert towards your tailbone and then up). To get the hang of it, it may be easier to lie on your back and insert it this way, which also helps to relax the muscles and position it easier, or stand with one leg up on the side of a tub, etc. until you get the feel of where it should be positioned.

To remove it, you'll want to grip the base of the cup to pull it out and not the stem. The stem can be used to gently pull it down if need be but it's important that you grip the base in order to break the seal and remove it.

So to remove, simply grip the base with two fingers and press into the side of the cup to break the seal. You can then gently pull it out to remove it. If it's uncomfortable the first time, you can remove it at a slight angle or press into the cup more with your fingers to reduce the size. You can empty it into the toilet, sink or shower, rinse it and reinsert.

It may feel strange to insert it and remove it the first few times until you get the hang of it. It shouldn't hurt once it is inserted and you really shouldn't feel it once it's in. If you do, you may need to remove and reinsert it or use a different size or style.

Most period cups have a little "stem" to help you remove it. If this is too long or bothers you, you can cut it back a little bit. I cut mine off completely and simply grip the base of the cup. When removing, remember to "break the seal" by pressing into the side of the period cup before trying to remove it; otherwise it may be difficult because after all, it has created a suction seal - which is what we want to prevent leakage.

After each cycle you can boil it in hot water to ensure it remains clean and disinfected prior to your next use.

It may take a couple of period cycles to really get the hang of it, but once you do it's so worth it for so many reasons. If you are someone who really wants to make the switch to a period cup, then I encourage you to stick it out until you get the hang of it or find the right fit for you. Just a reminder that it should never hurt, so if it does, do some research before trying again.

5. Let's Talk About Emptying It

The great thing about a period cup is you can usually go up to 12 hours before emptying it. This will depend on the heaviness of your flow. Mine has never been more than half-full when emptying it, so I've never worried about leakage or spilling during removal.

This timeframe also means that you typically don't need to worry about emptying it while you're out and about, at work, etc. You can empty it when you wake up and before you leave for the day and then once again when you get home before bed.

If you do however need to empty it while you're out and you don't have access to a bathroom with a sink, you can simply empty it into the toilet, reinsert it and then wash your hands at the communal sink as usual.

6. What Are The Benefits?

  • Save money (not buying disposable period products).
  • Eco-friendly (not disposing of these products).
  • Don't have to worry about having a tampon available.
  • Go up to 12 hours without emptying it.
  • Chemical-free versus bleached cotton.
  • Decreased risk of toxic shock syndrome.
  • Can be worn overnight.
  • No string, which can cause irritation, slip out of bathing suit, etc.
  • Said to decrease menstrual cramps.
  • Become more in-tuned with your cycle and body.

7. Get To Know Your Flow

A major benefit of using a period cup is that it allows us to become much more in tune with our cycle and our body. You can tell a lot about your health from your cycle; the heaviness of the flow, the colour and texture of the blood, etc. In fact, the period is said to be the 5th vital sign for women - fascinating right?!

Flo Living has a quiz you can take about this.

Ps: In addition to being able to observe your cycle more closely, it is also helpful to track your cycle using an app. I love the MyFlo App because in addition to tracking your cycle, it also tells you what to expect energy-wise during each phase of your cycle, which foods support your hormones during each phase, etc. It's an incredible way to become more in-tuned with your body. For example, you may think you're getting "random breakouts", but when you start tracking your cycle and your symptoms, you see that your breakouts are occurring during your ovulation phase, which may be a sign of increased progesterone. It can empower us to observe and heal our bodies on a holistic level.

Again, I'm obviously not a medical professional, just speaking from experience and what I have found to be incredibly helpful and empowering for my own health and wellbeing.

8. Are Period Cups the Only Option?

Definitely not.

I wanted to share about period cups because I have found them to be a great option for myself, but they may not be for everyone. If you're looking for a more eco and wallet friendly alternative to disposable tampons and pads there are a couple of other options:

  • Period-proof underwear such as THINX. These can also be helpful to wear as you navigate starting to use a period cup to give peace of mind against leakage. They're also a great option for the start of end of your cycle when your flow may not be as heavy.
  • Reusable pads.

That's all I've got for now! After switching to a period cup I will never go back to traditional pads or tampons.

There are so many resources available online nowadays, so if I didn't answer your question feel free to google some more or send me a message!

I hope that you found this helpful and are inspired to try a period cup (or try it again if you already did and it didn't quite work out the first time). Once you get the hang of it it's SO worth it for so many reasons.

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