What is a menstrual cup and why YOU should be using it!

***Please note that I have included links in this post to the mooncup that I use (and love) and if you buy from these links, I get a very small commission at no expense to yourself!

Half the world’s population bleed once a month, so it should be of everyone’s interest that over 100 billion period products are thrown away each year. I made a change over two years ago to ditch tampons for something more sustainable.

‘Did you know that a person who has a period for the average 40 years uses approximately 11,000 tampons in their lifetime, each of which takes 500 years to decompose?’

What is a Menstrual cup?

You may know them better as Mooncups, Diva cups or period cups, but essentially they are small silicone ‘cups’ that once inserted into the vagina stay in place to catch blood before it leaves the body. They can be left in for up to 12 hours, after which you can pinch the base of the cup to release the seal, remove it and empty its contents in the toilet. You can then wash it out and reinsert it. They are reusable and can last you a lifetime if properly cared for. To sterilise them in between uses, just place them in boiling water for 5-7 minutes.

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Why I made a change from tampons?

I bought my Mooncup 2 years ago after hearing about it online for several reasons. Firstly, to reduce how much money I was spending on tampons and pads, and to reduce how much waste I was producing.

“It’s estimated that approximately 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are being sent to North American landfills annually. On an individual level, each of the approximately 73 million menstruating people in North America will throw away 16,800 disposable pads or tampons in their lifetime. These products require hundreds of years to biodegrade, particularly if wrapped in the plastic bag commonly provided for this purpose as part of their packaging. In fact, every piece of plastic ever made, still exists to this day.*

In terms of convenience, you can leave a menstrual in for much longer than a tampon or pad, which means fewer trips to the toilet and when travelling you don’t need to carry extra sanitary products with you.

There is also a reduced risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) which is commonly associated with tampon use and unlike many tampons, there are no toxic chemicals that can be absorbed into your bloodstream in menstrual cups.

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How do you use it?

The first time I used it was admittedly quite stressful. And it took many cycles to get the hang of inserting and removing it. Nowadays I can put it in and take it out quickly and with ease. I’ll explain how I got to the stage where I am totally unfazed by the cup or my blood below:

Insertion:

Inserting a cup is like using a tampon (if you are already familiar with this). It can be done while sitting on the toilet, squatting or with a foot on the bathtub/toilet seat. The only difference is that a cup needs to be folded first.

My preferred method of folding is pushing one side of the rim into the middle of the cup and squeezing the other two sizes together (punchdown fold), but there are several ways of folding it.

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When inserted, you want to make sure it unfolds properly so the rim is against the walls of your cervix.

Removal:

To remove it, use clean fingers to locate the base, pinch it to release the seal and bring it down gently, taking care not to spill the cup. I recommend doing this while sitting on the toilet or in the shower if you are nervous initially.

Note that when you first receive the cup, it usually has a stem at the base to help with locating and removing it, which can be trimmed. I ended up cutting the whole stem off mine as it felt quite irritating and I didn’t need it, but this is down to personal preference.

What about the blood?

You will see blood but you don’t have to touch it. Many people (myself included) have found that seeing it can help you feel more in touch with your body which can lead to ‘a greater sense of acceptance and well-being’

In reality, the average person loses only 2-4 tablespoons of blood during their period, but if you really don’t like the idea of disposing of your blood in a liquid form as oppose to soaked in another material, there are other sustainable options such as thinx underwear and reusable cloths to consider (let me know if you’d like to hear more about this!).

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Does it hurt?

Once inserted properly you shouldn’t be able to feel it at all. If it hurts it is probably because you have inserted it incorrectly, which is common when starting out. My only advice is to relax, because if you are stressed, your muscles may contract which can make it much harder to insert. To be honest, I often forget I’m on my period when using it!

Will it get stuck? 

This was my number 1 fear when I started to use my mooncup. And I can assure you, it will not get stuck. If you are nervous about removing your cup initially, try doing it in the shower so if you do spill the cup as it comes out, it is easy to clean up.

How do I clean it in a public restroom? 

If you don’t have private access to a sink, bring a water bottle into the toilet with you and use that to rinse your cup before reinserting it.

Aren’t tampons are cheaper?

My period is 5 days long on average, so I used to use ~20 tampons per cycle plus pads at night which comes to ~£2.60 per cycle. The cup I bought was just under £18 which means it started saving me money after just 7 months of using it and I’ve now saved almost £50 by not having to buy tampons every month.

Why did I choose Mooncup over other brands?

I looked at several brands but ended up choosing mooncup because it wasn’t coloured, it had overwhelmingly postitive reviews and it was available on amazon prime. It also came with a small bag to store it in which is very handy as I can leave it in my bag when I’m expecting my period to start soon. There were two sizes to choose from: one for women who are over 30 or have given birth vaginally and one for those who are under 30 and haven’t. I chose the latter.

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What now?

We all have the power to make small changes in our lives to reduce our negative impact on the world as consumers. By choosing to ditch disposable period products today you will not only prevent tens of thousands of tampons and pads going to landfill sites but you will save yourself hundreds of pounds in the long run.

If you’d like to read more on sustainable living, subscribe to my blog and you’ll be the first to receive notification when I post, to read about sustainable fashion and whether I think it is an affordable option for most of us, click here and to buy the mooncup that I use, click here!

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I’d love to hear about your experiences using sustainable period products and if there are any aspects to sustainable living you’d like to hear more about!

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