Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
I remember holding the menstrual cup and carefully analyzing it in awe at a cosmetic store. I have had prior exposure to it in books and journals while studying about menstrual barriers as a pharmacy student. but I had not seen or touched one before. The first question that came to mind when I finally got to hold it in hand was how it would possibly and comfortably fit in the vaginal canal?
We can all agree that feminine hygiene and female reproductive health is a topic we cannot ignore as women. It forms part of our lives and should be talked about as much as possible. Not only to inform, recommend, or educate. But also to normalize it to a point where it reaches a level of acknowledged normalcy.
The emergence of menstrual cups, in a rubber form, surfaced somewhere between the 1930s and 1960s. I must admit that finding out that they have been around for several decades shocked me. Not only because they are not as popular but also because I had never personally seen or heard about them until I got the privilege to study them at University.
What is a menstrual cup?
It is a small bell-shaped flexible cup made of silicone or rubber which is used during menstrual periods to collect (not absorb as opposed to sanitary pads and tampons) blood.
How to use a menstrual cup?
The menstrual cup is more convenient when your periods come on the same day every month. Or when your body alerts you before they come. This is because it allows you to put in the cup before you start bleeding and thus helps to avoid any mess.
- Start by finding a comfortable position. It could be putting one leg on the toilet, sitting on the toilet, squatting or just standing up with your legs apart.
- After preparing yourself. Fold the menstrual cup and insert it into the vaginal canal until the entire cup is inside.
- Once inserted, the menstrual cup will pop open and form a seal/suction against the vaginal walls in a way that there is no possibility of leaking.
- The menstrual cup can be left in for a maximum of 12 hours. After which you can then remove it safely and carefully by pulling it out and emptying it and rinsing it before reusing it.
- They are cost-effective. Compared to other menstrual barriers, menstrual cups are less expensive because you do not need to buy them every month. They are reusable and can last you for years.
- When used during periods, they can last for up to 12 hours as compared to pads and tampons that last for 4-8 hours.
- There is no chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
- They also do not contain potentially harmful chemicals such as dioxins.
- They are environmentally friendly.
- When used properly, there is no leaking involved.
- Less or no menstrual-related odor.
- It also helps in retaining normal vaginal pH and sustaining the beneficial bacteria
- The most notable and common undesirable effect of menstrual cups is that they can be messy when inserting and emptying. This is mostly the case when using public bathrooms. However, this is unlikely since the cup can last you 12 hours – which means the need to change it while you are out and about is minimal.
- It needs maintenance. After emptying, the cup needs to be cleaned and kept sterile. To sterilize/sanitize the menstrual cup, rinse it and boil it for at least a few minutes. If you rather not boil, you can steam it using a steaming bag which you can purchase in various cosmetic stores.
- It is also a disadvantage for people with fibroids or dropped uterus. In which case, you need to speak to your doctor about possible alternatives suitable for you.
- Like tampons, choosing the right size of the cup and inserting the menstrual cup can be challenging at first and it needs patience and practice.