It’s been a while… (thank you pregnancy and prolonged breastfeeding) since my last period. Things have changed! Menstrual cups are the new tampons, just better for mother nature so, obviously, I needed to give them a go. Today I’m sharing my honest review because finding one isn’t easy. It’s strange, 2019 and we still don’t feel comfortable talking about NORMAL, HEALTHY bodily functions… It’s just a period.
What is a menstrual cup?
Also called a Flow Cup. It’s basically a soft, flexible, cone-shaped cup made from silicone that sits comfortably in the vagina, creating a seal that collects your menstrual blood. It’s a reusable, safe, simple, economical and waste-free alternative to managing our periods.
The Haakaa Flow cup that I use, is also BPA-free, chlorine-free and without any other harsh chemicals usually found in conventional pads and tampons. You can also use it if you’re allergic to latex.
Why are women using them?
- It’s better for YOU – Our vaginas tend to be super absorbent and exposing yourself to the many nasty and harmful chemicals found in feminine products could lead to cancers, endometriosis and other serious complications.
- And it’s better for the ENVIRONMENT – The cups are designed to be re-used which means less tampons and pads end up in landfills worldwide.
- It’s a big money saver – No need to buy tampons and pads every month. Menstrual cups can last for years making it a much cheaper option over time.
- PLUS it’s a great solution to help combat “Period Poverty“ – Women of lower-income may not be able to afford sanitary products and the makeshift options they come up with usually aren’t a good choice.
Is a menstrual cup safe to use?
Studies are limited seeing as menstrual cups have only recently started gaining popularity. I did, however, speak to my own gynecologist and she assured me that, to date, there has been no evidence that menstrual cups prove harmful or bad for female health or reproduction. You can even use them no matter your choice of birth control – just DO NOT use it as a contraceptive. (You’ll hurt yourself.)
Actually, because menstrual cups aren’t absorbent, it will not disrupt the sensitive PH and bacterial balance of the vagina, which could lead to swelling, dryness, and odour. I remember having some of these symptoms after using certain sanitary products.
REMEMBER: Always insert your cup with clean hands, remove it carefully, and clean appropriately. CLEAN USAGE of menstrual cups are a non-negotiable! Do not wear your cup for longer than 12hours – doing so could put you at risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome.
* Discontinue use and consult your healthcare professional if you feel any major pain or discomfort while using a flow cup.
How to use a menstrual cup…
It definitely takes a bit of effort and getting used to but as soon as I understood my body and how these cups work things got easy and now I prefer using them.
It’s important to clean and sterilize your cup thoroughly before the first use.
- Submerge the cup completely in a pot of boiling for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Empty the pot and allow the cup to return to room temperature.
- Wash your hands with warm water and mild, antibacterial soap.
- Wash the cup with a mild, water-based, oil-free soap and rinse thoroughly.
- Dry the cup with a clean towel.
Now your cup is ready to be used.
- Find a position that is comfortable for you. You can stand, sit, or put a foot up on the toilet – any position works, as long as you’re relaxed.
- Place your finger on the top rim of your cup and press down into the center, forming a triangle shape. This makes the top rim much smaller to insert. But there are so many folds. I found this video by PUT A CUP IN IT extremely helpful. ( All their videos are actually great and helped me understand cup use better.)
- Hold the folded cup firmly in one hand and gently insert into the vagina on a straight angle, rim up, like you would a tampon without an applicator. It should sit a few inches below your cervix.
- Make sure the cup remains folded until it’s completely inside your vagina and the stem is even with the vaginal opening.
- Now rotate or move the cup a little. It will start to expand to create an airtight seal that stops leaks. You may also have to twist it or reposition it slightly for your comfort. (I actually do a squat or two just to make sure it’s positioned comfortably.)
You’ll know your cup is inserted correctly if you can pull on the stem and feel resistance from the vacuum seal.
Do I even want to know how to clean it?
It just blood. Your own blood. Nothing weird or gross.
Depending on your flow, you may be able to wear your cup for up to 12 hours – no longer! I only make it to the 6-hour mark. You’ll know your cup is full because it will start leaking.
Now it’s time to empty your cup.
Simply follow the instructions provided:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap.
- Slide your index finger and thumb into your vagina.
- Pinch the base of the menstrual cup and gently pull to remove it. If you pull on the stem, you could have a mess on your hands. LITERALLY!
- Once it’s out, empty the cup into the sink or toilet.
- Rinse the cup under tap water, wash it thoroughly, and reinsert.
- Wash your hands after you’re done.
A few extra guidelines to remember:
- Never use any bleach-based cleaners or tablets to clean your cup.
- I like doing a quick “cup clean” each day by submerging my menstrual cup in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Let it dry and cool before use.
- When your period is over, sterilize the cup by putting it in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn your cup upside down and let it dry completely. This will help prevent contamination during storage.
- Always store your cup in the container (most likely a cotton pouch) provided when it’s not in use. An airtight container might seem like a good idea but if potential moisture can’t evaporate bacteria and fungus could start growing.
Will it get stuck?
NO! Just stay calm and relaxed.
I find sitting down over the toilet is the best spot for removing my flow cup.
With clean, dry hands, gently pull on the stem of the cup until you reach the base of the cup. Pinch the base of the cup to break the vacuum seal and continue to pull down gently until the cup is removed. Dump everything into the toilet and rinse with water before reinserting.
How long do they last?
Up to 2 years if used and cleaned correctly but be sure to check your cup regularly. If you find any signs of damage, thinning, foul odours or discoloration, replace the cup. Using a damaged cup could lead to infection.
Can teens use them?
There are extra small menstrual cups available but I would still recommend starting off with something less daunting. Faithful to Nature stock the Natracare Organic Cotton feminine hygiene range. Made from 100% natural and organic biodegradable materials, these sanitary pads and tampons are better for your body and the planet and are all vegan approved too. I never experienced any itchiness, dryness or irritation after using these.
You can find the range HERE.
Where can I buy a menstrual cup?
Most health stores sell at least one brand but please do not be cheap. Buy the best you can afford. I found cheaper brands make use of thicker material which made the cup more difficult to insert and just plain uncomfortable. Super expensive cups weren’t anything special either (there’s only so much these cups can do right?)
Available online for R250.00 at www.heykiwi.co.za .
The Short Stem Flow Cup comes in size large (30ml) and small (25m).
REMEMBER: Choose a bigger cup size if you’re older OR if you’ve had any kids. (c-section mamas included). I had a terrible start with a small cup that almost put me off flow cups for good so, size up!
- Small: 4.2cm x 6.3cm
- Large: 4.5cm x 6.6cm (recommended for women over 30 or post-childbirth)
The 30ml worked best for me but I still needed to empty and clean the cup every 5-6 hours during the first 2 days of my period.
I also tried the Flow Cup Valve…
Available online for R375.00 at www.heykiwi.co.za .
The Flow Cup Valve comes in size large (24ml) and small (18ml).
- Small: 4.2cm x 7.1cm
- Large: 4.7cm x 7.1cm (recommended for woman over 30 or after childbirth)
What makes the Flow Cup Valve different? It doesn’t need to be removed each time you empty your cup. Simply open the cap at the base of the stem. Squeeze the stem and once the cup is empty place the cap back over the end of the stem. When you are ready to remove the cup, open the cap to empty the cup before pinching the base of the cup to release the suction seal. Gently pull down until the cup is removed. Wash and sterilize your Flow Cup and place back inside its little bag – ready to use for next time.
I did not like using the valve and found it messy. Opening up the valve was tricky and made a mess. Cleaning the valve took more effort too and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it properly.
I found the rim and shape of the cup uncomfortable too and could not insert the cup properly. It always felt like the stem was simply too long.
Both cups come with a small cotton carry bag for discreet use.
* Due to the valve mechanism, the stem of the Flow Cup Valve can NOT be cut. If you prefer a short stem (like I do) then take a look at the menstrual cup mentioned previously.
Do you use a menstrual cup or maybe you’re eager to try?
Hopefully, this review will prove helpful and even get you considering using menstrual cups in the future. Please let us know in the comments below.
PRODUCT IMAGE CREDIT | Haakaa SA / Hey Kiwi SA.
PHOTO CREDIT | Anje-Ilana van Dalen from Madison & West Lifestyle Division.
Disclosure: Haakaa SA / Hey kiwi sent me 2 menstrual cups to review. I was not paid to do so and all opinions are my own.