Many of us have a cuppa every month and if you have never heard about menstrual cups or have many questions about using them, this post is for you.
I was a passionate user of tampons since I was 14 years old and actually never thought about changing to something else till more and more friends started using menstrual cups and were completely happy. These cups are made of soft, flexible silicone and you insert them in the vagina where they collect the blood. So basically they work like a tampon but you don’t have that massive monthly waste – a win-win-situation for me as on the one hand I always was worried about the ecological side of using tampons and on the other hand I don’t like the feeling of bleeding into pads or panties.
I Bought, I Inserted, I Failed
I really wanted to try the cup (especially because tampons are ridiculously expensive in the UK) but the vast amount of brands and designs overwhelmed me. At this point I also had no clue that you just don’t buy a cup without having a check on your anatomy and so I chose the Ruby Cup because for every cup they sell they’re giving another cup to a girl in Kenya so they can attend school during their period. A total no-brainer, right?
So Katrin and me got the Sister’s Pack in size M which is designed for heavier periods. Unfortunately our pack contained size S and M but after a short chat with the customer service we got another M – because I was convinced S would never endure my heavy flows. Oh sweet, sweet summer child.
When my period came I sterilised the cup in boiling water and inserted it using the U-fold technique and everything was horrible. The M cup was too big and it felt like a massive foreign object. I immediately switched to size S and that felt so much better. But the nice feeling was overshadowed by a constant leakage. While Katrin loved her Ruby Cup from the beginning, I was annoyed for 6 months. The cup didn’t open inside of me like it is supposed to do which would have ruined several panties if I wore something else than black. Also the feeling of a cup opening about 30 minutes after you inserted it feels like something is sucking out your uterus. Ouch.
At this time I was thinking about going back to tampons but I pulled myself together. Just because a pair of shoes won’t fit I don’t decide to walk barefoot for the rest of my life. So I did a brief research and found out that my pelvic floor muscles are too strong for the soft Ruby Cup to open inside of me. Many brands offer sport versions of their cups which are firmer and basically made for stronger pelvic floor muscles. The cup I’m currently using is the MeLuna Sport in L which opens perfectly but also could be at bit smaller because my cervix isn’t that high. I’m probably going to size down to an M when I have a bit more money but at the moment I’m totally fine.
What I learned here: The Ruby Cup is awesome but unfortunately not for me. Every vagina is different and therefore everyone needs a fitted cup. During my research I discovered many tips and tricks I wanna share with you, so you can make a more knowledgeable choice than I did.
How To Find the Right Cup
There are different factors with which you can determine the perfect cup size for you. It’s not super easy but totally manageable. Trust me.
Most manufacturers work with age, child-birth and heaviness of your flow to give you a vague clue which size would fit. All oft this is not unimportant but also not good enough. Sure, the vagina muscles soften by age or postpartum but there are more factors to consider. According to that logic I (31 years old, never given birth, heavy flow) would need a large cup. But large cups don’t fit because I have a lowish cervix and therefore the cup would sit too close to the opening of my vagina and this hurt.
Here’s a short list about what to check before choosing a cup.
1. Locate your cervix
Yeah I know that sounds weird but is crucial. There are people with high cervixes, low cervixes and everything in between. Why is this important? If you have a low cervix you won’t use a long cup cause that won’t fit. And if you have a high cervix you can easily go for something bigger.
You can locate your cervix by measuring during your period – during that time your cervix sits deeper than during the other days so these are the crucial days for taking your measurements.
Put your middle finger in your vagina till you touch your cervix. This should feel like a soft marble with a tiny hole. If you can put your whole finger in before you reach it or if you can’t reach it at all you have a high cervix. If you can put more the half of the finger in you, you have a medium high cervix and if you feel your cervix before you can insert half of your finger, you have a low cervix.
There are also flat cups for very low cervixes so you don’t have to miss out.
To make it short: Low cervix = small cups, medium cervix = small and medium cups, high cervix = medium and large cups.
2. Pelvic floor muscles
Are you a sporty person? Can you feel your muscles when you insert your finger? Are you using kegels or Ben Wa Balls a lot? Then it’s very likely that you might have pelvic floor muscles of doom that need a firmer cup. Look for sports cups or firmer cups in general.
If you sometimes lose a bit of pee when you sneeze, have troubles with incontinence or a sensitive bladder in general a soft cup might be the better fit for you cause it won’t put unnecessary pressure on your urethra.
Medium soft cups are for the folks who don’t work out excessively but also don’t have troubles holding their pee – that’s supposed to be the majority of vagina owners. For you a cup like the Ruby Cup or Lunette might be a great shot because they come in different sizes and are nice and squishy.
3. How’s your flow?
Heavy with clots? Then go for a bigger cup! Or were you always using mini tampons because they just worked well for the amount of blood? Then a smaller cup will do!
Now you ask what to do with a low cervix and a heavy flow? Either you are comfortable enough to empty your cup more often or you measure the location of your cervix and approach the customer service of the brand you laid an eye on to ask which size would suit you best. Also looking for a brand like MeLuna which comes in different sizes AND lengths is a good shot because they offer more divers options for all the different shaped vaginas out there.
4. Have you given birth?
After having given birth your kegel muscles soften and a firmer cup can be uncomfortable. But also that isn’t always the case – I know mums who have strong pelvic floor muscles without haven ever visited a postnatal exercise courses. It’s always the best for you to check how your muscles feel at the time of your first period after having given birth to determine if there’s been a significant change.
4. What’s your relationship with your vagina?
That’s a big one because your relationship with your vagina can effect the use of the menstrual cup. For example: You are a virgin and are slightly scared to use a cup a shorter one with a smaller diameter might be the best thing to start. Or are you slightly grossed out to see your blood? An opaque model will conceal the mess inside and can help you to cope with the view.
5. Which material do you wanna use?
Menstrual cups come either in silicone, natural gum rubber or thermoplastic elastomer. So be aware which cup you use if you are allergic to some materials.
Answering these questions will definitely help you to determine cups and brands that will work for you. If you still have questions you always can contact the customer service of the brand you’re interested in, they are usually very helpful.
Where To Buy? Where To Touch?
The go to for buying cups is the internet, of course. Basically every cup can be purchased at the company’s website and some brands can also be found in stores.
Unfortunately it’s not that easy to have a real life look at the cup before you purchase it, especially if you chose a brand that isn’t stocked in your local shops. If you want to have a real life look at different cups before you make a final decision, you can do a quick research for sexual health, menstrual health, sex positive or sex ed charities in your area – sometimes they have a cup samples for educational purposes and may be happy to help you out. For example, Sexpression Edinburgh organises an annual sexual health fair and this year they brought a whole bunch of cups to touch. So have a look for these events in your area, it’s worth a visit!
If you wanna know more about how to insert a cup and get it out again, have a look at Part 2 of my menstrual cup series.
I’m not a doctor and I can only give you the advice I gathered from lots of different sources online so I encourage you to have look yourself. Here are a few links I found incredibly helpful on my search for the perfect cup:
Menstrual Cup Quiz by Put A Cup In It: Click yourself through a few questions and you’ll find your perfect cup at the end! It’s easy and worked very well for me!
The YouTube channel Precious Star Pads enlightened me. Bryony talks a lot about cups (and cloth pads) and also compares different cups to make you understand the differences between certain models and brands. It’s amazingly educating – give it a go!
Menstrualcup.co offers a neat comparison chart if you need the concrete measurements of different cups.
For my German-speaking readers Tassenfinder.de offers a quiz and a whole bunch of informations (thanks Sophie!).
Picture: Leo + Sag