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12 things to know about period cups

Everything you need to know before you buy a period cup

Have you been toying with switching to a period cup?

They're a great zero waste swap if you're trying to be more eco friendly when it comes to your health and wellbeing products. But, if you've never used one before the prospect may be a bit daunting. To help make the transition easier for you we've rounded up some of the questions our customers often ask us when they're considering buying a period cup or starting to use one for the first time. 

Before we get started, let's get back to basics...  

What is a menstrual cup and how do they work? 

Menstrual, or period cups are used instead of pads and tampons to help you manage your period. They're small, almost egg-cup shaped pieces of rubber, plastic or silicone that you insert into your vagina during your period. Unlike tampons and pads which absorb your flow, period cups catch your menstrual blood. They're also reusable so you can have an eco-friendlier and cheaper period each cycle. 

Now that's covered, let's cover some tips on inserting, removing and cleaning your period cup.

 

3 different sized period cups

 

How do I insert a menstrual cup? 

This is one of the most frequent questions we get asked when our customers make the switch to their very first period cup.

Just like the first time you tried tampons, it can take a while to get used to the feeling and positioning and what works for your friends might not work for you, it's all about how it feels for you personally. All women's bodies are different so there are a few techniques out there that you can try until you find the right fit for you. You can watch a short video of a couple of the techniques in our blog "How to insert your period cup"

However you fold your period cup to insert it, the most important things is where it sits and that you've created a seal inside your vagina to prevent leaks. Your cup should sit below your cervix and your vagina walls should provide a snug fit for your cup to keep it in place.

How do I remove a menstrual cup?

Just like inserting your cup, there's a knack to taking out your period cup and it's a case of trial and error to find the perfect technique for you. The most important part of removing your period cup is to break the suction effect that keeps the cup secure in your vagina whilst it's collecting blood.

There are two ways you can do this. The first is to squeeze the bottom of the cup to release the suction effect through the three tiny holes at the top and the second is to put your finger right into your vagina and realise the suction at the rim of the cup, right at the top. Once the suction is released between the period cup and the walls of the vagina it will be easy to remove. Gently hold the base of the cup and, keeping the cup horizontal to avoid any spillage, remove from your vagina.

There is a small risk that your menstrual cup might feel like it's stuck either during insertion or removal but don't worry, it won't get lost inside your body. The important thing is not to panic as this may cause you to tense up. Instead, try to focus on relaxing your pelvic floor muscles and gently bearing down on the cup to get it to pass further down the vagina so you can hold the end to remove it. If you've not managed to remove it after a few hours, we'd recommend seeking medical advice. 

How do I clean a menstrual cup?

Going waste free with a period cup contributes to a cleaner planet but keeping yours clean is important for your own health and wellbeing too. First and foremost always wash your hands before and after inserting, extracting or adjusting your period cup. 

For daily use, you should aim to rinse your cup thoroughly at least once a day, although for your own comfort you may wish to rinse it each time you empty your cup. If you're out in public, we'd recommend wiping your cup with some toilet tissue or at a hand basin feel comfortable doing so but avoid wet wipes or sanitiser as this can compromise the condition of your cup over time. 

Next, sterilising your period cup at the end of your period is super important. Using good old fashioned boiling water is a great way to sterilise your cup by placing it in a pan for 5 minutes, alternatively you can use sterilisation tablets.

It's important to avoid soap based, scented products or harsh chemicals which can tamper with your vagina's natural pH and affect the longevity of your cup.

How do I remove stains from my period cup?

Your cup may also become a little stained after a number of uses. This is simply a result of the hormones and the chemical balance of each woman’s vaginal fluids. Don’t worry if your cup becomes a little discoloured, its effectiveness will not be compromised.  Once a quarter you can soak your cup in a diluted vinegar solution to remove the stains but make sure your cup is fully sterilised after doing so. 

How should I store my menstrual cup between periods?

After disinfecting you cup at the end of your cycle, dry and store your period cup in a breathable cotton bag. With the &sisters period cup you'll get a storage bag included and the hypoallergenic and breathable material ensures an optimum environment for the cup, allowing any moisture to evaporate. Never store your cup in an airtight container as it needs ventilation.

Now we've covered the ins and outs of your period cup, let's dive in to some practical tips for during your period. 

3 period cups resting on woman lying on her front in white pants

Do period cups leak? 

Studies have shown that whilst period cups can leak, it's the same chance of your tampon or pad leaking and there are a couple of things you can do to minimise the chances of leaking.

It's really important to make sure you make a seal when inserting your cup as this stops it from leaking. You can do this easily by using your finger to make sure the cup is fully open once inside your vagina. 

Changing your cup regularly when you have a heavy flow can also prevent leaks. 

Can you swim and do exercise with a menstrual cup?

Absolutely, you can swim, run, hike and be as active as you like whilst wearing your cup. It's discreet, and, unlike tampons there's no string. Studies have shown that gentle exercise during your period can help ease cramps and boost mood so don't feel you have to hold back just because you're on. 

A period cup is also really handy for travelling too. A life saver on long journeys, at festivals or on the beach because you can wear it for up to 12 hours meaning fewer changes throughout the day and night. 

Can you wear menstrual cups overnight?

It depends on how long your period cup can be worn between changes. We stock the &sisters period cup which can be worn for up to 12 hours so you can use it during the night. If you've got a particularly heavy flow you may want to wear a pad or liner just in case. 

How often should you change your menstrual cup? 

This depends on the capacity of the cup and your own personal flow. Things like your schedule or travel plans can also impact when you want to empty your cup. With the &sisters menstrual cup you can choose from 3 different sizes each with a slightly different capacity. 

The absorption capacity of a tampon is measured in grams (g), while the capacity of the period cup is measured in millilitres (ml). One g is equal to one ml.

Depending upon the size you choose (S-L), the nüdie has a capacity of 18–32 ml. That’s up to three times more than the tampon, which can absorb 6-18 g of menstrual blood.

 

woman in grey linen dress with blonde hair holding &sisters nudie period cup

 

How often should you replace a menstrual cup? 

The whole point of a period cup is that it's reusable so you'll get plenty of use out of it. However, it's advisable to invest in a new cup every 10 years. You might also need to change cup size if you're moving from your teens to your twenties, your twenties to your thirties, you've given birth or if you're bothered by the appearance of the cup if it's got some slight discolouration or staining.  

Are all menstrual cups the same?

The answer is no, not all period cups are created equal. Back in the day when advertising period cups was limited to the back of the loo door or there wasn't much choice. Shops only carried one type of cup and nine times out of ten it would be made with scary looking hard, unforgiving plastic and a long tapered end which you had to cut to the right length making the thought of using a period cup with a sharp plastic end rather unappealing.

Luckily things have changed and there are a wide range of less fearsome menstrual cups on the market now. We think the best menstrual cup is the &Sisters nüdie Period cup because it's made from soft, medical grade silicone so it's nice and malleable to fit, remove and feels comfortable while you wear it. They've also patented a unique 'pebble pull' on the tapered end so the cup is easy to grab and extract when it's time to change. And, if you're in your teens or preparing for your first period &sisters are unique because they're one of only a few brands to offer a period cup that's suitable for teenagers.