What is a menstrual cup?

An option for managing your period

For women who are looking for a cost-effective, eco-friendly way of managing bleeding during periods, the menstrual cup is one option. It has been available since the 1930s but has not quite caught on like pads and tampons.

A recent study shows that the devices have the same amount of leakage as other products — and often less. But what exactly are they?

“A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped device made of medical-grade silicone, rubber or latex that you insert into the vagina over the cervix,” said Tamara L. Callahan, M.D., gynecologist with Norton Women’s Care. “They create a light suction that holds them in and collects blood for up to 12 hours depending on your flow.”

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Menstrual cups have a one-time cost starting around $40. Because they last up to 10 years, they’re more eco-friendly than other products.

“They’re not as popular as other products because you have to be very comfortable with touching your vagina,” Dr. Callahan said. “You also have to come in contact with blood. People who have learned to use them generally love them and the convenience that comes with them.”

They also need to be the correct size, as a woman’s body may change over time, especially after having children.

To insert the menstrual cup, it is folded according to directions and then inserted high into the vagina so it is over the cervix. It is then rotated so that it opens and seals over the cervix with light suction. Removal involves pinching it to release the suction and pulling it out to empty it into the toilet. It only needs to be washed with unscented, oil-free soap, rinsed and reinserted. At the end of the menstrual cycle, it simply needs to be washed, dried and stored in a breathable container. You also may put it in boiling water for five to 10 minutes to sterilize it before storing.

“There is a learning curve that comes with using a menstrual cup, but it can be a great option.” Dr. Callahan said.

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