My experience with menstrual cups

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I’ve been planning to write this post for several months now, but it’s only now that I’m getting to it because a) I wanted to overcome my learning curve, and b) I have been really busy*.

Anyway— this post is about my experience so far with menstrual cups! I’ve been using them for five months now, and am currently on the 4th/lastish day of my current cycle. I’m so thrilled because I finally had a completely pad-free and leak-free cycle. I’ll discuss about how I got to that point more, later on.

I first heard of menstrual cups around 2014-2015, when my former colleague posted about them. I was immediately intrigued / convinced that I should switch to them, but there were two barriers: a) they were only sold, at the time, in one store in Shangri-La; and b) they were pretty expensive (at the time) for a product which might not be a fit for you.

But ever since, I’ve never stopped reading / researching about cups. Every so often I would search for blogs and reviews.

Last year, I had a self-care streak (yeah that’s what I’m calling it now), when I was a newly married bride and my husband went away for work for two months. I was in transition from home-based to this aslkdjlkejihf 3-job life I have now (which, don’t get me wrong, I love, really, just hahadamingginagawaletsbreathe), and as a result, had a lot of afternoons to kill, which I did so happily through learning how to put on highlighter and researching all possible tangents of self-improvement. So my “cup fever” was reignited.

Why use a menstrual cup?

I really did not need to be convinced to use menstrual cup. It was just a matter of when!

Why Cups
A summary of a menstrual cup’s benefits. Photo from here.

Menstrual cups trump other feminine hygiene products because they are reusable. Compared to cloth pads, they’re easier to reuse and maintain (you’re only dealing with one teensy cup instead of a mountain of soiled cloths). Even if you don’t label yourself an environmentalist, it will feel good to have less (smelly) personal trash every month.

If you get a high quality cup that will last you years, you also save a lot of cash. One cup for about P1000-P2000 for 3-4 years (some say even 10 years) vs. spending about P300 on pads every month (that’s me)… it really adds up and it was a no-brainer for me.

Once you master fit and insertion, they do not leak, they are super comfortable. No exaggeration when we say that there are times we forget it’s inside!

People who are iffy about cups are conscious about a) the method (‘you put two fingers INSIDE?!’) b) comfort (some people report feeling pain when a cup is inserted), and c) safety.

Of these three, I think it’s the last one that’s most valid. It’s understandable to feel wary of the idea of having a piece of silicone inside there for up to 6 days every month. Honestly, I’m still a little bit worried about this as I currently own a mid-tier (unclear if certified as medical-grade) cup. There are no long-term studies on the effects of wearing menstrual cups yet, even though they’ve been in mainstream use since the 90s. So there’s really no definite way to say they’re safe.

But come to think about it, we’re generally OK w/ tampons despite TSS risk and they’re actually more prone to leaving behind particles etc etc. So if this is a concern, I think the solution is to invest in a high quality cup once you know which configuration works for you.

But for the first two… honestly, it sounds icky, but you’ll get over it. Re: the method, trust me. In no time it won’t feel gross. Because it’s your body. In fact, using the cup has made me appreciate more how things work down there. I understand a little bit more about what’s inside, and on some level that’s empowering. i.e. I actually know now how much I bleed because I can count it by cups (there’s actually a weird sort of satisfaction/joy in seeing all that blood collected so neatly in a cup. The idea that your body truly prepared for the egg, and is now disposing of the waste by itself). I know what my cervix’s position is during the various stages of my cycle. I appreciate how my vaginal muscles work! Hehe.

Re: comfort, it’s trial and error. And patience. My learning curve took 5 months, which is longer compared to what others claim. But I think it was worth it! Just don’t push yourself too hard, and try to relaaax (exhale, try it when you’ve just woken up etc). If it doesn’t work when you first use it, try again tomorrow or later or next month… give yourself time to get used to the idea, really. 🙂 The cup won’t disappear, it will just wait for the right time 🙂

Where to buy menstrual cups in the Philippines

Compared to several years ago, menstrual cups are now widely available via online shopping platforms like Shoppee and Lazada. There are so many brands too! The price range is also much wider—some cups are being sold for less than P100 (do NOT buy them!!!).

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A screenshot of some cups available in Shopee. Be wary of the super cheap ones!

There are still physical stores like Mama Baby Love (?) in Shangri-La, and you might encounter menstrual cups increasingly in bazaars (Sinaya has pop-ups regularly, you can check their Facebook page). Bottomline is: it’s not hard to buy a menstrual cup anymore. All the research, reviews, FAQs are out there.

After scouring through listings and reviews, I settled on ordering my first cup—an unbranded one from Lazada (I chose the one which spent time replying to posts, had good grammar, and scores of reviews). It was P600, which was 25%-35% of what a branded cup would usually cost. It was pink, and a size L (the seller does not specify what size they ship out).

I soon realized that this cup had a few issues so I ordered my 2nd and 3rd cup, both Anytime brand. I ordered this from ThriftyMama on Shoppee and my experience w/ this shop is great! And then, just last week I also bought a Sinaya cup from a bazaar. I’ll go into more detail about these cups in the next section. At this point I’ve spent over P2500 in cups already, and in hindsight I should’ve sprung for a branded cup right away, no? And so much for saving the environment if you end up not using several bits of plastic. But overall, arriving to this point is still more sustainable than not switching to cups at all.

Choosing the right menstrual cup

Here’s the thing with cups—they’re not like clothes, which you can try on for size. You can’t exactly sell a used cup (especially if you’ve already done customizations like trimmming the stem) after all. Finding the “perfect cup” is really a mix of trial and error and research. I benefited from reading about other people’s experiences, and I think that really helped in making my search / learning period much faster, so here I am contributing and paying it forward.

Generally cups are classified by the following:

Firmness – Offhand, I think this is the most important factor for beginners. Softer cups are more comfortable, but harder to get open inside (i.e. you’ll really need to insert your finger to adjust the rim etc). Harder cups have no problem popping open (which I love), but sometimes they might feel like they’re pushing against your vaginal walls, or make you feel like you have to pee, which means they’re not inserted properly. Some women experience constant discomfort with harder cups too, it just might mean they have differently-shaped vaginal canals (!) or are sensitive.

Size – Small theoretically for younger women, or those with light to moderate flow, Large theoretically for older women, those who’ve given birth, and who have heavy flow. I say theoretically because there are some scenarios when these categories don’t add up. For example, you might have a heavy flow, but large cups cause you discomfort because of your natural, beautiful biological structure down there. Or you might be young with a light flow, but small cups won’t work for you because they don’t stay put and might slip down frequently.

So which cup do you choose? There are great resources like the Put A Cup In It Quiz, and various sellers / pages offer size charts and FAQs. I think it’s best to start with a cup that is a) average to hard firmness b) average size — not to be biased but I think the Anytime Cup is a great “test” cup as it is not so low quality as other generic cups, and it’s more or less guaranteed to open up as per online reviews. It’s on the firm side. From your experience there, you can just proceed to see if you need something larger, or softer, or better quality, and so on 🙂

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My own experience and quick reviews of the cups I have:

  1. First cup was a generic cup. It was a large (up to 23 ml) and was really soft. It was great during first use, but I found that it frequently slipped down and caused discomfort (i.e. I could feel it sticking out). It hardly leaked during my first cycle use, but I felt that I couldn’t get it to open up properly if I’m reinserting it (i.e. it’s warmer because of my body temperature). I think overall my issues were because it’s low quality and too large.
  2. Second cup was an Anytime Size 1 Regular (because my general issue w/ cup 1 was size). It ended up being TOO SMALL! Overflowed a couple of times on my heavy days. But with this cup I realized that firm cups work for me as they require little to no fiddling to pop open.
  3. Current (and I think, my for good for now cup already) is the Anytime Size 2 Regular. So far I have no issues with this at all. Two cycles, leak free even overnight. 🙂 The only caveat is I cut the stem for this one too short, so I have to pinch the cup to get it out, but so far it hasn’t been a serious issue.
  4. Last week I saw the Sinaya Cup at a bazaar and I wanted to give it a chance because I wanted to support local and at least this one has a medical clearance. I tried it during my current cycle, and I found it be the same as my #1 – a bit too large, too soft 😦 I’ll give it another chance next cycle.

So far, I’m good w/ my cup #3 and the Sinaya for overnight, and I’ll probably hold off from purchasing a new cup for now. But I’m still considering upgrading just to allay my concerns re: safety and quality. As I said, there’s no long-term study on cups’ safety yet so we, as a generation, are doing a service for our future children by taking the (hopefully nonexistent) risk. I hope that doesn’t sound too paranoid hahahaha!!!

Tips for using / wearing a menstrual cup!

OK, this is the good part— the hacks and actual how-tos! Ah, this is too long, I might make an outline or unfold IG stories version for lulz.

It took me five months to get to a completely comfy and leak free cycle (I actually sorta achieved it last month but I wanted to do another month to be completely sure). It was a mix of mastering insertion techniques, understanding my body, and getting a cup w/ the perfect configuration for me. 🙂 For a more thorough breakdown you can read Sinaya’s guide for first time users here!

Inserting the cup:

  1. For my firm cup, the punch down fold works like a charm. Guaranteed to pop open as soon as it’s a little bit past the vaginal canal (yes, you’ll need to reach past the canal, and you can reach past the canal, don’t stress it!).
  2. For my soft cup (Sinaya), C-fold with the fold facing downwards (i.e. it’s a U when you insert) worked most often for getting it open. But depending on my relaxation level, day in the cycle, or just how my vagina feels (haha), it doesn’t open perfectly, so I need to do a bit of pinching and wiggling to at least get the rim to be in place. It will hurt if you’re rough, don’t rush it, be patient, take a deep breath. But that said, I’ve realized how tough vaginas are in general, you’ll be ok w/ all the fiddling I promise. 🙂
  3. Tips for getting it in place: Squatting works best for me and for most people. When you insert, direct it horizontally (almost pointing downwards), rather than up. When we’re squatting the way to the cervix is horizontal. For me, this method ensured that the cup reaches the “wider” part and opens up properly near the cervix. I try to push it in / adjust as far as I can. Then I stand up, wiggle my hips a bit. The cup finds its way to its perfect place. Some women like having it really high up, others are are more comfortable when it’s positioned lower. For me the higher it is the less it will be prone to slipping or tipping.
  4. It’s harder for me to insert the cup on the first days of my cycle as my cervix is lower, and sometimes I’m a little too dry. Wetting the cup, relaxing both help.
  5. RUN THE CUP IN COLD WATER. Cups pop open faster when they’ve been placed under cold running water.

How about that long, dangling stem? Generally, cups have long stems to make pulling out easier. For me, it was just better to snip away the stems of my cups. It made a world of difference and w/o the stems (or just bit of it), the cups are virtually undetectable.

How do you know when it’s time to take it out? Some women claim to just feel it when it’s time. For me, I’ve had times when I’ve leaked because the cup was too full! Experienced this w/ my smaller Anytime cup. Walking, sitting down could cause it to tip when it’s full. I’ve also experienced leaks on some ultra-heavy nights, but this isn’t constant. For the most part, the cups have survived overnight. I’ve avoided leaks by taking it out every four-five hours.

Cleaning and Maintaining a Menstrual Cup

Cups are easy to take care of! The most important things to remember: sanitize (boil in water) out of the box, sanitize before and after cycles, use a wash that doesn’t contain synthetic oils or fragrances (Human Nature feminine wash is the most accessible option). Currently I use the Sinaya’s wash.

Always clean your hands properly before handling the cup, taking it out, etc.

On stains and smells: I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how little the smell is while using the menstrual cup. There is actually no smell while it’s inside. When I take it out to empty it, there is some smell, but it’s not nasty – it just smells like my body. Sometimes the blood / my fluids smell a bit like what I just ate. Hahahaha is that weird? So far my cups haven’t stained. But there are methods to get rid of it!

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I boil my cups in a pan I bought specifically for them. I boil them for no longer than 2 minutes.

On boiling: some sources claim that too much boiling might be bad for the cups and cause them to wear out faster. In most cases, rinsing it properly would be good enough as silicone does not harbour bacteria when dried and stored properly. I also read in one article that letting them air dry with a good amount of sunlight helps get rid of stains. Offhand, I boiled all my cups out of the box. I’ll probably boil again at the start of next cycle, but probably not all the time. There are other sanitation methods if you don’t want to boil your cup (i.e. vinegar, soak, etc).

How to you clean it throughout the day: if you’re in a bind (i.e. public restroom), just make sure to have wipes. Take it out carefully (you don’t want a bloodbath hehe), tip into the toilet, wipe. Yes, you’ll have bloody fingers, just wash thoroughly. If you’re at a sink, rinse it with cold water. Clean properly as soon as you’re home.

Always rinse it with cold water first before soaping or doing a thorough rinse w/ warm water. Proven for me: cold water helps get rid of the stain and smell more effectively than warm water! Personally, I just use cold water throughout my cycle for washing, then I boil after the cycle before storing.

So there you have it—I hope this long-winded post could help you in your research about menstrual cups in some way. Overall, I love it and I wish I started using cups much sooner! I’ve just hit my 30s, and lately my periods have been out of whack and much lighter than they used to be. I could only imagine how helpful the cups would’ve been in my mid-20s, during day hikes (this might not be ideal for overnight hikes bec. they’ll be hard to sanitize), swimming, etc. But better late then never!

If you have questions about using cups, just leave a message in the comments!

UPDATE: I also did a couple of vlogs! (Actually one super long session that I split into two). You can watch this is you wanna listen to me talk and be weird instead! Hehe. 

*I realize now that I’ve been using this adjective flippantly all my life, I think this is the first point in my adult life where I seriously understand what others say when they don’t know what to do first. Hahahahaha. But I’m working on it, and appreciating all the opportunities that are happening right now. I’m excited!

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