Removal and Cleaning of the Menstrual Cup
Lifelong tampon users, take note: If the fear of removing the cup in a public restroom and literally spilling it all over the place, coming out of the stall looking like you're in the middle of a crime scene is keeping you from trying out a menstrual cup, read on. and then having to wash it out in the sink while your coworker is washing their hands (we understand), all of that is about to change. Also, if you're reading this from the restroom, we have answers to all of your questions.
What, after all, is the purpose of a menstrual cup? "A menstrual cup is a small, flexible, reusable cup that is inserted into the vagina to catch and collect period fluid," explains Natasha Ramsey, MD, MPH, an adolescent medicine physician who specializes in period management and a member of the Orchyd advisory board. But, if you haven't already, know that a menstrual cup isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. You can customize your cup based on its size, flexibility, amount of blood it can hold, your age (there are plenty of teen and beginner cups available), flow, and previous birth history. and even the position of your cervix (cups for a low or high cervix are available), according to Dr. Ramsey
Of course, because you'll be removing and reusing a menstrual cup each month, you'll want it to be in perfect condition before reinserting it to protect your own health. Yes, cleaning them sounds like a chore, but once you get the hang of it, it'll be completely doable if you want to try menstrual cups. For one thing, they last up to 12 hours, which is a huge plus, and they work well as a standalone product or in conjunction with a pair of reusable period underwear. —as a back-up They can also be used for many years (for example, 10 years, which is approximately 120 periods and 120 less times you have to rush to the pharmacy at 11 p.m.). m ) and are far superior to disposable period products in terms of environmental impact.
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Did we persuade you yet? Let's go over each scenario in which you'll need to clean your cup, from the first time you use it to the end of your period. Here's how to clean a menstrual cup effortlessly and keep the cycle going month after month. You're going to be an expert by the end of this.
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So, while this may appear to be a lot more work than simply inserting a tampon, trust me when I say that the cleaning process isn't too strenuous. "Once you've chosen the appropriate size cup, the first thing you should do is sanitize it," says Dr. Ramsey Simply boil some water in a pot (some people prefer keeping a separate pot in a random closet for their menstrual cup each month) and immerse the cup in the water for 5 to 10 minutes.
Now, if you put your silicone or rubber-based cup in the pot and walk away, it may get scorched at the bottom of the pot. This is where the whisk trick comes into play. Kim Rosas, founder of PeriodNirvana and reusable period product consultant and designer, suggests placing your cup inside a whisk inside a pot of boiling water to keep it from burning and forcing you to buy a new one. As a result, the goal of this whole sustainable period product thing would be defeated.
Okay, now that that's done, let the cup cool and dry. Then you're ready to insert it. (Note that you may want to use some water or even water-based lube to help it glide in more easily, especially if you're a first-time menstrual cup user, suggests Dr. Ramsey ) You'll repeat this process before each cycle so that your cup is ready whenever your period begins each month and you're not scrambling to clean it as soon as you feel the first cramp.
And now we need to talk about doing it in public.
This is the big moment, and it's likely that people are the most nervous about it. If that's you, start out with a menstrual cup that has a pull tab you can more easily grip (like one from the brand Flex), rather than just a little stem you have to pinch, advises Chelsea VonChaz, founder of Happy Period, which hosts menstrual health education programs for young adults
Grab one of those toilet seat covers and place it on the seat to be extra safe in a public restroom, recommends VonChaz. She also suggests that you squat or rest your foot on the toilet seat to remove your cup more easily. Ideally, the next step is to hold the cup steady, empty the contents into the toilet, wipe the cup (and your hands) clean with toilet paper, and rinse it in the sink with water, as Dr. Ramsey claims that can assist with reinserting it.
However, if you're thinking, "I can't get out of this stall right now," you have options. Option one: If you'd rather not deal with rinsing your cup at home, you can simply dump it and reinsert it right away (just make sure your hands are clean beforehand to avoid introducing more bacteria into the situation, advises Dr. Ramsey) The second option is to carry a travel size menstrual cup wipe or a bottle of menstrual cup wash or spray to quickly rinse your cup before reinserting it. "Have a period care kit with you, no matter your age," VonChaz advises (and no, this isn't just for middle schoolers waiting for their first period). You can keep a menstrual cup or disc, an extra pad or tampon, and wipes in there if you prefer.
Remember that this entire process will most likely occur only a couple of times per day during your period, as cups can stay in for quite some time. "Cups can be worn safely for eight to twelve hours, so the most important thing is to remove and wash them twice a day," Rosas says.
Back up What can you use to clean the cup during your period?
If you want to clean your cup while you're on your period, keep a cup wash in your bag or in your bathroom at home. So you know it's safe for your vulva tissue—water-based products like these (or just plain water) are best for avoiding irritation or messing with your vaginal pH, according to Dr. According to Ramsey
There are some things you should never use on your cup. "Because most menstrual cups are made of rubber or silicone, oil-based products are NOT recommended, as they can cause the cup's material to break down." "These include cooking oils like olive oil and coconut oil, as well as butters like shea butter and coconut butter," explains Dr. Ramsey Cleaning your menstrual cup with acidic or basic chemicals such as vinegar, boric acid, alcohol, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide is also not a good idea, according to Dr. Ramsey Antibacterial soap, scented soap, and dish soap can also irritate your skin.
When your period is over, it's time to sanitize once more.
Of course, you don't have to boil the cup every time you reinsert it during your period (that would be wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy "Sanitizing after your period is over is essential to prevent bacteria growth," Dr. Ramsey claims That will imply boiling it for a few minutes, watching it boil, and then allowing it to cool and dry.
Then, in between periods, store it somewhere clean so that sanitizing the cup isn't pointless. Rosas recommends storing your cup in a breathable drawstring pouch, which comes with most menstrual cup purchases. Some menstrual cups even come with a small silicone storage case, which is useful when you need to use it in public and can't just throw it in your purse. VonChaz adds, "or when you want to keep a very compact clean cup in your period product emergency kit."
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There is a risk of infection if you do not change your menstrual cup on a regular basis, as with almost any menstrual product. But just because you sleep for more than 12 hours (I'm not sure, jet lag?) ) does not guarantee that you will become infected.
"Many people are unaware that, like tampons, menstrual cups can cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS)." Ramsey "TSS can occur when the menstrual cup is left in for an extended period of time (we recommend changing it every 6-12 hours), and bacteria overgrow and produce a toxin that can make you sick." According to medical literature, these cases of TSS associated with menstrual cups are extremely rare.
Other infections, such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (BV), can occur when too much bacteria enters the vagina, but they aren't commonly linked to menstrual cups. "You should be fine without tons of bacteria if you change your cup with clean hands," Dr. Ramsey claims You'll also be sanitizing it once a month, which will help reduce bacteria. But if you notice any signs of an infection, such as unusual discharge, burning or pain while peeing or having sex, don't panic: call your gyno's office and let them know what's up. and they can advise you on the best way to treat it
The bottom line
It may appear to be a production at first, but if you want to try, you can totally make a menstrual cup work for you. Just remember to empty and rinse it every 12 hours and to give it a good boil in between cycles. You've got this.
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Mara is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in culture, politics, wellness, and the intersection of these topics. Her print and digital work has appeared in Marie Claire, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Airbnb Mag, Prevention, and other publications. She's a Fordham University graduate with a degree in Italian Studies, so she's always daydreaming about focaccia.
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