'Does it hurt?' We asked the experts everything you need to know about menstrual cups
Pads or tampons?
It's a question we asked you, our readers, a few weeks back before we kicked off our #OnTheRag series.
The results came in at 50/50 on the dot, with exactly half of the Her audience saying that they opted for either product when they were on their period.
Responses to our poll about menstrual cups were a little different, with just four percent of Irish women saying that they had tried one.
Contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe, menstrual cups are not a new invention. In fact, they've been around for decades. It's only over the past few years that there's been increased interest - or a movement, if you will - around the cup.
Kim and Amanda are the founders of one such movement called Put A Cup In It.
With a combined reusable menstrual product experience of over 14 years, the women decided to create an online menstrual cup resource that includes everything from a size chart to a menstrual cup quiz to a selection of money-off coupons for ordering a cup online.
And while the menstrual cup movement has clearly started to take off in the States, so few of us here in Ireland have ever tried using one.
We've all heard of the cups, we're all aware of their environmental benefits, and we all know that they're a whole lot cheaper than forking out for disposable menstrual products every month.
But what about some of the more intimate details of the product? What about some of the questions you might have been afraid to ask?
Are they messy? Do they hurt? Can you feel them inside of you? And what happens if you can't seem to get one out?
We asked Kim and Amanda (the experts in this field) to find out more.
If a menstrual cup gets too full, will it overflow? Can you feel that a cup is too full, similar to a tampon?
Some people can feel a sort of heaviness when their cup is full, but most don't.
Cups hold as much as 3- 5 regular tampons, depending on the size of the cup. Unless you have very heavy periods, you'll likely get the full 12 hours of wear and leaking won't be an issue.
That said, yes, if you don't change your cup before it's full it could leak. We recommend checking the cup around six hours at first so that you can begin to get a good idea of how often you'll need to empty your cup.
For some, they need to change a few times on the first day, but only twice a day for the rest of their period. After a few cycles you'll have the routine down.
What should you do if the cup gets stuck?
It may sound easier said than done, but relax. If you are worried it's stuck (which it really can't be) don't go at it to the point of being sore, stressed, and frustrated. Stressing out and panicking will only cause your muscles to tense up, and that won't help matters.
If you can reach your cup but it's not coming down or feels suctioned, be sure to pinch the base of the cup as much as you can and try to pull it out *while* keeping that base pinched. You can also take a finger up alongside the cup and fully press in on it if needed.
If you are having a hard time reaching your cup, try squatting and/or using your abdominal and vaginal muscles to push down sort of like you're taking a poo. While pushing, grasp the stem or base of the cup and try the steps above.
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Can the cup twist or move inside of your body?
Generally speaking, no.
A properly fitting cup should fit snuggly and be sort of hugged in place by the vaginal walls. There are rare fluke instances of a cup turning or tilting but that's not the norm.
Is it possible to be allergic to a menstrual cup?
Yes. Cups are typically made from silicone or TPE, which are both considered hypoallergenic, but it does happen.
A couple of brands also offer latex rubber, which is a more common allergen. If you have a known allergy be sure to choose a cup of a different material.
Many cups available in Ireland only come in 'hasn't given birth' and 'has given birth' sizes - is there a wider variety available elsewhere?
Yes. We really dislike this methodology of choosing a cup, which is why we created our menstrual cup quiz.
Having given birth or not is just a consideration. Having given birth or being over 30 doesn't automatically mean you need a larger size, and vice versa.
While possibly not sold in many Irish shops, there are a lot of brands and (online) shops who ship worldwide. We also have coupons for several which can help offset the cost of international shipping.
What are the logistics of using a menstrual cup in a public toilet? Should you wash it in a shared sink and return to the cubicle to reinsert?
Thankfully they can be worn for so long that this is rarely an issue. However, if you find that you need to change your cup while out, you can simply pour it out, reinsert, and wash it when you get home or to a more private location.
You can also carry cup wipes, water wipes, a small water bottle to rinse it, or wipe the rim with a piece of toilet paper.
If you're really lucky, and the bathroom has a private sink, you can definitely use that.
If you leave a cup in for a long time (over 24 hours), will anything happen?
We've definitely forgotten ours before and had no issues, BUT our experiences aren't enough to prove or even hint at safety over the tested time limit.
No brand recommends wearing a cup for more than 12 hours, and we strongly suggest changing at least twice a day even if the cup isn't full.
Will using a cup hurt if you've never had vaginal sex before?
A cup shouldn't hurt but if you experience discomfort, a silicone safe lubricant can be used.
Just be careful to use it only around the rim — you don't want the bottom of the cup to be slippery so that you can keep it folded easily for inserting.
For the month of February, Her will be #OnTheRag.
We'll be chatting all things periods, products, and pain as we delve deep inside the uterus to figure out why we bleed and - more importantly - how we cope.
We'll also be talking to the experts about some of the period related conditions you have heard of - and all of the ones that you haven't.
Want to get in touch? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.