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What is a Menstrual Cup?

A menstrual cup is a soft reusable cup, usually made from medical grade silicone or thermoplastic elastomer (TPE).

It is folded and inserted into the vaginal canal, where it *pops* open to form a leak-proof suction seal against the vaginal walls.

The cup sits below the cervix to collect, rather than absorb, the menstrual fluid.

The cervix is the opening to the uterus which opens slightly during menstruation to let the menstrual fluid pass through from the uterus and out the vaginal opening.

Diagram of the menstrual cup sitting inside the vaginal canal below the cervix where it collects the menstrual fluid.

Menstrual Cup vs Tampon

A menstrual cup is like the reusable alternative to a tampon. The similarity being they are both worn internally to manage your period.

Don’t worry though if you’re not much of a tampon user. The menstrual cup could still be a great option for you.

Prior to using a menstrual cup, I only used pads for the majority of the time. But I was still able to make the switch to the cup and love it.

On first appearances the menstrual cup looks much bigger in comparison to a tampon, however when folded, the insertion point is really a similar size.

Comparison image of menstrual cup vs tampon. And comparison of insertion point of menstrual cup once folded vs tampon.

How Long Can You Wear A Menstrual Cup?

Unlike a tampon, which should be changed every 4 hours, a menstrual cup can be worn inside for 8 – 12 hours.

This depends on the manufacturers guidelines and the capacity of the cup in relation to your flow. If you have a really heavy flow the cup may fill up and need to be changed more often.

Capacity of a Menstrual Cup

One of the reasons a menstrual cup can be left inside for longer than a tampon is because it has a far greater capacity than a tampon.

A regular tampon can hold 5ml menstrual fluid, while a super tampon can hold around 10ml.

In comparison, an average menstrual cup can hold around 20 – 30ml.

The capacity will vary from cup to cup. An XS cup might only hold 15ml while the largest cup I know of can hold 50ml! (That’s the Merula XL).

How Much Menstrual Fluid Do We Lose During Our Period?

For context when talking about absorbency or capacity of any menstrual product, it can be helpful to know what the average blood loss during a period really is.

The average person loses 30 – 50 ml of menstrual fluid over their whole period. That’s over ALL the days, not each day individually.

Here is a great visual that helps you see the menstrual fluid lost during the average period. It’s not really all that much.

Using a menstrual cup is a great way to get a good idea of how much menstrual fluid you lose over your period.

Visual comparison of light (25ml), average (50ml) and heavy (80ml) menstrual flow.
Source: instagram.com/thebetterperiod_

The Menstrual Cup is Not a New Invention

Interestingly, the menstrual cup is not a new invention. It was first invented way back in the 1930’s by an American born actress, inventor and writer, Leona Chalmers. Leona was the first to patent and market the device which was made from rubber.

It didn’t find much popularity in the 1930’s and the war then impacted upon rubber supplies which stalled production.

The menstrual cup faded away until the 1960’s when it was relaunched, but again, didn’t receive much support.

The Keeper Cup was launched in the 80’s, made from latex rubber. It had more success and is still sold today.

But menstrual cups gained real traction at the turn of the century, when medical grade silicone was integrated into the design.

With improved design, menstrual cups started popping up again and have been gaining more and more popularity until today where we have SO MANY brands on the market.

Which Menstrual Cup Should You Choose?

I have my favourite menstrual cups of course. The Hello Cup is a definite favourite of mine, not just because they are super cute and fun and call their customers fan(nie)s. Ha ha!

But I actually don’t like to recommend any particular cup brand. We all have our own unique anatomy, so what works for me, won’t necessarily work for you.

You can certainly wing it and just buy the prettiest cup you find. You’ll probably get lucky and it will just work.

But if you want to make a really informed decision about which menstrual cup to choose, then there are some considerations to take. Most importantly is measuring the height of your cervix to ensure you get the correct length cup.

If you want to dive deeper into how to choose the right cup for you then you need to read this post.

In Summary

To wrap up, I truly believe the menstrual cup has the potential to make your period experience so much better. That’s what it did for mine. So much so, I decided to start a whole blog dedicated to spreading the word about them!

If you need more convincing, here are 10 ways using a menstrual cup will make your life better!

If you have any questions about menstrual cups that remain unanswered please comment below or send me an email to hello@thebetterperiod.com. Similarly if you feel like sharing your own experiences with a menstrual cup, please do, I would love to hear from you.

Ellie The Better Period Author bio image

Ellie Heasman

The Better Period

Ellie Heasman is a period blogger and founder of The Better Period. Ellie helps people on their journey to a better period through introducing them to the world of menstrual cups and period underwear, and sharing knowledge about the menstrual cycle and fertility awareness. You can join in the better period conversations on Instagram @thebetterperiod_ or find out more about Ellie here.

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