Dolly Doctor

Deciphering the menstrual cup... everything you need to know

They're not as gross as you think.

Menstrual cups. You’ve probably heard of them, you might have a vague idea of what they are, but they still seem kinda weird to you and you can think of more than a couple of reasons of why you would rather not insert a cup into your lady parts during your period.

Before we say anything more, menstrual cups defs won’t be for every girl and that’s totally okay. But to those who aren’t really a fan of the usual pads and tampons they can be a pretty cool alternative that also have the bonus of being environmentally friendly.

So, what exactly is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a type of feminine hygiene product that’s made from medical-grade silicone. Unlike tampons which can change the pH level and absorb moisture, cups won’t interfere with your vaginal environment, leaving it in its natural state and not posing any TSS risk to your bod.

They also create less wastage than pads and tampons because they are reusable and can last up to ten years, if they’re cared for as per instructions and stored correctly.

To get some more info, DOLLY Doctor interviewed Ellen who’s a recent menstrual cup convert.

DOLLY DOCTOR: So, we’ve heard about some of the benefits of using a cup vs tampons and pads. But why did you want to start using one?

ELLEN: I went for the menstrual cup because I am sick of leakages from pads and I find tampons too dry and irritating. The other thing I’ve learned too is that tampons actually leave cotton fluff behind in your vagina, and that’s not great for it in terms of chemicals, which tampons are full of to make them pristine and white.

DOLLY DOCTOR: Okay, so we’re interested! But how do we go about picking the right menstrual cup for us? There are so many different options and sizes.

ELLEN: There are plenty of cups on the market. You may find you need to try more than one to find a fit you like. I got my cup from Pelvi, an Australian-based brand, in a size 1 which is best for young women who have never had children. The size 1 cup comfortably holds 14ml and I’ve never gone over 7ml in 12 hours. But go with what you think based on the brand size guide.

DOLLY DOCTOR: What about price? Are they cost-effective or a bit on the pricier side?**

ELLEN: Cups range from $30-$70 in most cases, but the high cost is negated by the fact that you’re saving a lot of money long term. I did the maths – I was spending about $60 a year on products vs $40 that will cover me for years.

DOLLY DOCTOR: Let’s pretend we’ve gone out and purchased a menstrual cup. What next? Can we pop it in straight away?

ELLEN: When your cup arrives, you first have to sterilise it. Some brands say boil it for two minutes, some say up to 20. Go by the instructions with it. You also have to sterilise it at the beginning of every period and after, before you put it back in its pouch for storage.

DOLLY DOCTOR: What about inserting the cup? It sounds a bit difficult and scary.

ELLEN: Inserting and removing the cup is probably the most intimidating thing at first. You see it and think, uhhh what now? For inserting the trick is to fold it in half into a C shape and insert with clean hands. I do this with one foot up on the edge of the bath or on the closed toilet seat – same as a tampon! Once its inside you will probably feel or hear it snap out into the full circle shape it should be. If you aren’t certain just pop a finger in and trace around the cup. If there’s no kinks it’s fine. If there is, try giving it a little tug or turning it. Once it’s in properly you won’t feel it.

DOLLY DOCTOR: And what about removing it?

ELLEN: Removal stressed me out at first. The first night I used it I found the cup went up and up while I was asleep so when I tried to get it out the next morning I was struggling big time and was panicking. Do not panic! I now find the best place to remove is on the toilet. Bare down with those pelvic muscles and then grab the bottom of the cup and squeeze the ridges of the bottom. This breaks the suction. As you start to pull it out, wiggle it side to side gently and gently push one finger into it to start to bend into the insertion C shape again and will come out like a charm.

DOLLY DOCTOR: I think the question most of us would be thinking is isn't it messy?!

ELLEN: The thing a cup teaches you pretty quickly is that your period blood is not really as copious or as bloody as you thought it was. Just keep the cup upright as your remove it (since the blood is all in the bottom of the cup) and it’ll be fine. Some discharge may be on the sides but it’s minimal, certainly no worse than a tampon! Overall you are only doing this every twelve hours vs the multiple times a day you have to do this with other products so it’s not as much fuss as you think.

DOLLY Doctor: They sound pretty cool. Are there any other benefits we haven’t mentioned?

ELLEN: You can swim, exercise, sleep, basically do everything but have sex with this in. As long as it’s in properly you will not have any problems even doing handstands haha.

As we previously mentioned, cups won't be for every gal and likewise with tampons and pads. The best thing is to find what works for you and your body by experimenting with the products available until you settle on the one you most like.

Words by Isha Bassi and Ellen Driscoll.