The Eco Shop's Review & Guide: Using Menstrual Cups
You’ve probably heard about reusable menstrual cups and their environmental and health benefits - but what are they exactly and are they right for you? We’ve put together a quick and easy guide on the what, why and how of menstrual cups. We have tried and tested them ourselves, and our overall review is that they are easy to use and look after, and we couldn't imagine using anything else now. We love and stock Lunette for their period positive approach (this is your period, literally and figuratively!) and for their health and eco-friendly based focus, so we have used Lunette as the example for this guide. However, it can be applied broadly to most menstrual cups (remember to always read your products specific instructions).
What are menstrual cups?
Menstrual cups are usually made from medical grade silicone and are a reusable alternative to single-use tampons and sanitary pads. They are a gumnut-shaped cup and work by being placed inside the vaginal cavity where they collect menstrual fluids for up to 12 hours. The contents are then tipped out fuss-free into the toilet and the cup is cleaned and re-inserted. They are zero waste as they can be used repeatedly for 2 to 5 years and are suitable for almost all women. The cups generally come in two sizes (as we’re all a little different) and to accommodate for flow rate, age range, and childbirth.
Why use menstrual cups?
Menstrual cups are better for you
You’re taught that it's important to eat healthily - but what about other things that we put in or on our bodies? Sanitary pads are made from almost 90% plastic and most tampons are made from cotton or synthetic rayon that contains chemicals, resins, and binders. Shockingly, in Australia, it's not a legal requirement for companies to disclose what their sanitary products are made from as they are classified as medical devices. As fibers can be left behind (which can also cause irritation) this can is very worrying.
Lunette menstrual cups has been specifically designed to leave nothing behind and to give you a comfortable, safe and odourless period. Lunette cups are made from soft medical-grade silicone (the same type that’s used in breast implants), are toxin-free and chemical-free and do not contain any phthalates, bisphenol A, or heavy metals. They have gone through strict quality control and TGA (Australia) and FDA 510K (USA) review.
How sanitary products work is also very important. Tampons absorb all fluids, 35% of which are your vagina’s natural lubrication, which can cause irritation and dryness. Menstrual cups collect fluids, instead of absorbing them, so your vagina stays lubricated and healthy.
Menstrual cups are better for your lifestyle
Aside from health benefits, menstrual cups are also more cost-effective and convenient. They can be used safely for up to 12 hours compared to 8 hours for a tampon (perfect for overnight use), there are no pesky strings to worry about when swimming and there’s no risk of running out as they are completely reusable. Lunette’s initial cost is re-cooped in approximately three months and they then last for two to three years – let’s be honest, we all have better things to spend our money on then tampons.
Better for the environment
On average a woman will have 450 periods equalling approximately 11,000 pads and/or tampons in a lifetime. In Australia alone, 18,000 metric tonnes of sanitary waste ends up in landfill yearly as sanitary items cannot be recycled as they capture human waste. That’s pretty terrifying - especially when you factor in that a pack of sanitary items usually contains as much plastic as four bags, take 500 to 800 years to degrade, and Sydney Water has to spend millions of dollars removing hundreds of tonnes of flushed sanitary waste products every year.
One menstrual cup versus all that waste – it’s pretty easy to see the eco-friendly and zero waste benefits of swapping. Lunette is all about saving the planet ethically so also power their Finnish HQ with renewable energy, package Lunette in recycled materials, use a packing company called Titry that employees people who have difficulties getting a job and work with heaps of different charities across the globe to spread the positive period message.
How to use menstrual cups
Using a menstrual cup for the first time can be intimidating but becomes quick and easy with a little practice. Lunette has been designed with you in mind for an "I forgot it was even there" feeling.
- Set-up: Yay, your menstrual cup has arrived! Before using your new menstrual cup it will need to be sterilised. Check that your Lunette’s cup air holes around the top are fully open, then carefully boil the cup in a large pot to sterilise (boiling time depends on the cup brand).
- Wash: Wash your hands thoroughly with water and mild soap (avoid scented soap and anything with chemicals – it’s sensitive down there!). Wash your cup with warm water and/or organic and vegan Lunette Feelbetter Cup Cleanser and rinse.
- Fold and hold: Fold your menstrual cup using your preferred method. There are heaps of different ways you can fold your cup but most women find the C fold (or heart fold) the easiest. Check out Lunette’s video below on folding holds and give yourself time to practice what works best for you. If using the C fold, fold the cup in on itself to make it flat and then in half to form a C shape. Hold firmly between your thumb and forefinger.
- Insertion: Relax and get comfortable in whatever position you find works best for you – the cup can be inserted sitting, standing or squatting. Guide the folded cup rim first into the vagina. Once in, rotate the cup 360 degrees to fully open it and check with a clean finger that the cup bottom feels round.
- Position: The menstrual cup should be snug and secure in the lower vaginal area (significantly lower than the cervix) but beyond the pubic bone. When inserted properly you should have the "I forgot it was even there" feeling and nothing should be protruding. If the stem of the cup is protruding you can always trim the stem to better suit you (always do this before inserting the cup and check your brands' instructions).
- Removal: Wash your hands thoroughly with water and mild unscented soap. Relax your body and grasp the bottom of the cup (Lunette’s menstrual cup has ridges on the bottom for ease of grip), squeezing to break the seal. Rock the cup gently from side to side to pull it out, making sure not to pull it out by the stem alone. Tip the contents into the toilet, sink or shower – simple as that!
- Re-insertion: Clean the cup by washing it under cold then hot water. You can wash and rinse it with organic and vegan Lunette Feelbetter Cup Cleanser for an extra squeaky clean. If you are in a situation where you do not have access to water (think music festival, camping, public bathroom) Lunette has got you covered with easy to carry, germ eliminating, biodegradable and compostable Lunette Cupwipes. Re-insert as per step 3 and 4.
Flow rate: After a little practice you will learn how often you need to empty your menstrual cup – Lunette’s cup’s measuring lines make it easy to monitor your flow. Menstrual cups generally need to be emptied 2 to 4 times a day and can be used for up to 12 hours.
After your cycle: Period over! Clean and rinse as above, then disinfect your cup by boiling it for 20 minutes or using biodegradable and compostable Lunette Cupwipes. Once disinfected store your Lunette menstrual cup in your included matching pouch ready to go for the next time.
Using a menstrual Cup - tips for first timers
- Relax and take your time – if you’re uncomfortable, insertion may be as well due to tightened muscles. A warm bath or shower is an excellent way to wind down and prepare.
- Get to know you – knowing where your cervix is helps you get the cup’s position right.
- Practice – practice during your period is an excellent idea as the vagina is more flexible and the menstrual fluids act as a lubricant. If this isn’t your thing you can always do a practice test before your period by using water as a lubricant (the shower is a great place for this).
- Aim – if you’re having trouble inserting the menstrual cup remember that the direction of insertion should be towards the small of your back rather than straight up.
- Try different folds – Just because the C fold is the most popular doesn’t mean it works best for you. Try different fold techniques to work out what you find the easiest.
Menstrual cup size - which size is right for me?
Lunette menstrual cups come in two sizes as we’re all a little different. This is echoed in most menstrual cup brands.
Model 1 – for light to moderate flow. This cup is softer than model 2. This cup is potentially best for women with a lighter flow, teens, women under 30, women with a low cervix, women with a sensitive bladder and women with very strong pelvic floor muscles.
Model 2 – for moderate to heavy flow. This cup is firmer than model 1. This cup is potentially best for women with a heavier flow, women who are over 30 and women who have given vaginal birth (although the length of the cervix should be taken into consideration as it may have lowered).
We like out periods with no strings attached and we think you will too!
Please note: Like with any period care product, you cannot have zero risk of TSS. Please always ensure you are being clean and safe and that you are using a trusted high-quality brand like Lunette. When choosing a brand remember to do your research and always read the products full instructions.