Kai (kuradi8) wrote,

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

As the name implies, menstrual cups collect flow, not absorb it.

There are now over 30 (WOO HOO!!!) brands of cups, plus knock-offs and generics, and they all come with the same information and MIS-information in the instructions.

EVERY brand says that their Small is for younger users who have not had children that and their Large is for those over a certain age and/or have given birth.  And of course they are each going to say that their cup will be better for you than their competitors'.  But what they are called doesn't fall within any range of physical sizes.  Do some self-exploration and use actual cup dimensions to pick one that you think will fit and suit you best. There are guidelines and size charts at: http://sizecharts.livejournal.com/ (Come back to this later if you don't want to go there right now.) Just because you're a young virgin doesn't mean you should aim for the teeniest cup made.  Rim width is not that critical and don't be afraid of length if you think you need it.  Conversely, just because you enjoy being sexually active and/or have had kids doesn't mean you will find a long and/or wide cup comfortable.  Just like with clothing or with shoes, a cup might be the right dimensions but its shape is what makes it not fit as well as it should.  Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is by trial and error.  http://mc-sales.livejournal.com/ is a good place to buy, sell or trade "gently used" cups that didn't work out.

If you already have a cup but want another, then use what you know, like and don't about the cup that you already have.  Compare its dimensions and capacities to others using the charts.  Decide how much wider/narrower and shorter/longer you want your next cup to be.  Then look at photos of the cups that fit your criteria to see what shape you like best.  Flared rim or not?  Pointy or blunt?  Bulbous or tapered?  Etc.

Nearly all cups are made of silicone.  Most are medical-grade silicone, a few are food-grade.  (If it's safe enough for food, it's safe enough for a vagina.) Exceptions are the Keeper, which is made of latex rubber and the MeLunas, which are made of TPE (thermoplastic elastomers.)

Checking for cervix height in determining what length of cup to get can be tricky.   A "dangly" cervix is just what it sounds like -- one that dangles (hangs) into your cup and takes up room, leaving less for flow.  Many think they have a short vagina because their cervix is so low -- when in fact, their vagina is longer than they think, because their cervix is dangly.  So don't just hunt for your cervix when trying to determine what length cup to buy.  A wider, higher capacity cup is usually recommended if yours is dangly.

No, you don't have to boil it to "sterilize" it.  Boiling does not actually sterilize.  Just wash it to remove the manufacturing grime.  And if you use soap, be sure to rinse all of the residue off the cup and your hands.  My rule of thumb (that you can follow or ignore) is "as clean as cutlery."  How clean does a spoon have to be before you put it into your mouth?  Even a new one fresh out of a box?

These are two good posts with pictures of various folds: http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/1044441.html and http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/453392.html Using your favorite fold, insert your cup so that the rim is just beyond your pubic bone.  Allow it to open fully. 
Take your time.  Don't rush this step.  You might need to use your finger on the soft back side of your vagina to create an air channel so the cup can fill with air.  If it's stubborn, take the cup out and turn it around so the fold faces the other way and try again.  Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.  Once it's open, give it a boost as you kegel it up and into place. Your cervix is not at the "end" of your vagina just like your face isn't on the top of your head.  For many of us, our cervix is closer to our belly button than our tail bone.  Others are off to one side or another.  Nudge the stem/base to aim the opening of your cup accordingly.

The anti-suction holes around the rim help with popping open and breaking the seal for removal.  The ones on many brands are too small.  We often recommend enlarging them.  The holes on the cup with the largest holes are 2mm or appx 1/16 inch.  A punch of some sort (leather-working, piercing or dermal) will probably make a less ragged hole than scissors or a drill bit.

Most cups have 4 holes.  A couple of brands have 6.  And a couple of brands only have 2.  If yours only has 2, it might help to add a couple if you're having trouble getting it in or out.


ANY cup --even the ones that claim that they won't touch your cervix-- will settle (O) around your cervix. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Menstrual_cup_pos3.png The height of the base of the cup will be relative to the length of the body of the cup and the length of your vagina. Illustrations showing a cup length or more between the rim and your cervix are just plain WRONG. And every cup's instructions show that misinformation.  Throw the instructions away and forget that you ever read them.  In real life, a cup will more or less fill your vagina with the rim (O) around your cervix and the base cradled by your PC (pubococcygeus) pelvic floor muscle.  If the cup you have chosen is too long, it will press on or through the opening of your pelvic floor. It will probably shift and leak or feel like it's trying to escape.  If the cup you have chosen is too short, the base will be well above your PC and could be very hard to reach for removal.

The text is in French but the illustrations aren't:  http://wiki.easycup.fr/doku.php?id=utilisation:insertion Note the one marked "Mauvaise position" ("bad position") because it shows how it's possible to miss your cervix and why flow can run down the side instead of into a cup.

"Tight" is a function of that PC pelvic floor muscle.  Sit on the toilet, insert your finger and give it a little squeeze.  That's the muscle.  Now that you know how to contract it on command, practice relaxing it on command.  You will need to do so for insertion and especially removal.  Splay your knees comfortably, keep your jaw slack and don't forget to breathe.  :o)  Cups sit above that muscle so once you've inserted or removed, you can go back to holding that muscle as tightly as you want.  The muscles above the PC in your vaginal walls are more involuntary than voluntary. It is more likely that tightly packed organs and abdominal (etc) muscles contribute to oval and otherwise "crushed" cups.

Read "The Virgin's Guide to Cups" at the Community FAQ.  http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/1243131.html If you want to see it, sit on the floor with your knees up and splayed, part your labia and you will be able to see your hymen using a hand mirror and a flashlight.

If putting things into your vagina is "scary" then don't do it yet -- and that includes cups. It might help to start experimenting with your fingers -- then a household item that appeals to you (such as a clean hairbrush handle, etc.) Insertion for either function or pleasure probably won't feel mindblowingly fantastic -- "neutral" is fine -- but if you're afraid or don't like it, then stop. Come back to it when you are mentally/physically ready.  Lube will help.  Put a dab on YOU, not the cup.

So don't.  :o)  The instructions to some cups tell you to, but you really don't have to if you already know that it's open.  Read the "Myths" post at the Community FAQ to dispel yet more misinformation.  http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/1721669.html

There shouldn't be any and this is why: http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/2091967.html

Let's compare menstrual cups to cervical caps.  Contraceptive cervical caps are designed to fit snugly around a cervix; menstrual cups are not.  The inside diameters of a popular brand of cervical cap are 22, 26, and 30mm.  The cup with the smallest diameter is larger than the cap with the largest diameter.  So theoretically any cup, even the narrowest ones, should fit around "any" cervix.  As a menstrual cup, a narrow cup around a large cervix probably wouldn't be an effective fit but it wouldn't be an uncomfortably tight one either.  And someone who would qualify for the largest cervical cap would probably not pick such a narrow menstrual cup for themselves.

If the length of your vagina and/or height of your cervix varies greatly from day to day, then some longer cups such as the Diva can be shortened by flipping them inside out.  Doing so also changes many pointy-based cups to blunt-based.  It's perfectly OK to wear them that way if they work better for you -- whether just occasionally or throughout your period.  Inside out is also a way to keep grip rings from chafing.  But doing so can also make the cup slippery for removal.  


Many lop off some or all of their cups' stems only because they read that other people did.  If it's your first cup, then wait.  Get through at least one whole period to see how your vagina/cervix height fluctuates before you trim the stem.  See if you need it for removal on all of your days first.  Be absolutely sure before you modify your cup.  You can always trim it later but you can never put any back.  If a flat tab stem bothers you, try turning the cup so the stem faces - instead of | (or whatever feels best to you) so that it can flex the way you need it to.

== If it's full blown "nothing getting into the cup" leakage, then you have missed your cervix.  Find your cervix and point the opening toward it during insertion.
== If it's leaking like it's overflowing even though it's only partially full, then you might be having a "dangly" cervix day.  Empty your cup more often.
== The third kind is what we call "residual slobber." That's when the flow that finds its way into the nooks and crannies of your vagina on the far side of your cup works its way out.  It can be a little spotting, or it can be a lot -- depending on how much is hiding up there and how wet your vagina is.  Those who were long-time tampon users can sometimes experience a lot of secretions until their vagina figures out that it doesn't need to (ahem) "lubricate" a dry scratchy tampon any more.  There is a lot of good advice on how to combat residual slobber in the replies under the Leaking and Spotting tags.  Keep trying different techniques until you find the right combination that works for you.  On the other hand, some people (like me) never fully conquer residual slobber.  But a liner or two a day is a small price to pay for all of the other benefits of cups.

"But mine overflows after only 5."  If it's full, it's full.  Empty it.  12 hours is the maximum time that you should leave it unattended on a light or anticipation or "wearing it for other reasons" day.  It doesn't mean that a cup can hold 12 hours of heavy flow.  A cup's capacity can be reduced by a "dangly" cervix.  The more it dangles, the less room for flow remains.  It's perfectly normal.  Every cervix dangles to some degree or another. And even though these cups usually hold about 1.5x what a tampon or pad does, it shouldn't become a contest to see how full it can get.  It's not like anything is being "wasted" or "thrown away half-used" by emptying it before it's full.

Some companies say it's OK to use their cup with an IUD.  Others say no, and yet others say to ask your doctor.  I think that's their legal departments talking, not their medical advisors.  Use your own best judgement about whether you will or not.  Obviously, a little caution is prudent.  My personal opinion is that you're either prone to expulsion or not. I think the number of people for whom cup use is the final straw is very small -- and if it hadn't been the cup, it would have been something else.

Many doctors, including Gynecologists, have no clue what a menstrual cup is so bring yours with you if you have any medical questions that involve it -- such as trimming IUD strings, etc.  Also, don't expect them to be enthusiastic about cup usage.  Many doctors feel that if they didn't know about cups, if they didn't measure and fit you for one, and/or if they didn't prescribe it for you, then it must be a silly or possibly even dangerous gizmo.  "If they were a good thing, everyone would know about and have them.  We'd be prescribing them by the dozens!"  Or you might get lucky and your Gyno will think cups are awesome. (Mine does.)

If you don't already, drop your panties to your ankles so you can splay your knees comfortably.  Bear down to push the cup lower.  Pinch the base and rock it out at an angle so it's not *the whole cup* at once.  If it's stubborn, create an air channel on the soft back side to get air into/above the cup so you don't create suction.  Whether air seeps in slowly through the anti-suction holes or whooshes over the rim doesn't matter.  Stay calm, keep your jaw slack, don't forget to breathe.  If it's stuck, try squatting in the tub/shower so you don't have to worry about making a mess or dropping it.  If it's really stuck, try using a spoon to break the seal and create an air channel.  Then pull it lower and lower until you can remove it.  And most of all, TAKE YOUR TIME!  The more you rush, the longer it will take.

Remove, dump, rinse or wipe, reinsert.  It will get to the point where the procedure doesn't add more than a minute to a bathroom routine.  And it's perfectly OK to skip the rinse/wipe step.  If you're in a stall without water or think the thin paper will stick to your cup, the few drops that remain won't make any difference at all.  Also, handling it less minimizes the chance of dropping it in a place that you might think is "icky."

I am one of the many who believes that boiling, alcohol, sterilizing solutions and other chemicals are unnecessary.  Washing a cup with hot water and soap sanitizes and disinfects just as well as chemical means.  It also cleans your hands in the process so you won't impart hand germs by handling it.  Just be sure to thoroughly rinse any soap away.  This remains true even if you happen to drop the cup into a public toilet.  Cups are made of non-absorbent materials so microbes stay on the surface.  Washing thoroughly with hot water and soap will remove them from your cup and your hands.

Some cups discolor with with use and age.  An overnight soak in (US strength - straight out of the bottle) 3% hydrogen peroxide, once or twice a year, clobbers stains and dingy-ness.  Just like soda loses its fizz, hydrogen peroxide loses its strength so after a few hours, it will simply become funky-tasting water.  Latex Keepers and TPE MeLunas each have their own special instructions for cleaning -- so follow their instructions about what to use and what to avoid.

Keep your cups away from pets.  Cats love to bat them around because they're squishy and bouncy.  And both cats and dogs love to chew them.

Here's a post with lots of great replies as to their Benefits: http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/2069973.html

"Tightness" is a function of your PC (aka pelvic floor) muscle. Just like any muscle, it can get out of shape. This happens with pregnancy and/or with age.  You can tone vaginal muscles with exercise. "Kegeling."

When it comes to kegel exercises, there are many different kegel tools. Some are hands-on and require interaction -- such as wands or tethered "orgasm balls" or gizmos that look kinda like speculums. My favorite tool is just plain Ben Wa Balls. Start with ones that are about 1" and 3/4oz apiece and then graduate to those that are appx 3/4" and 1oz apiece. The idea is to insert them and keep them in while you walk around, do the dishes, etc. Start with 10 minutes a day and build from there. The longer you keep them in, they harder they'll be to keep them inside. That's what's working your PCs -- hands free, no interaction required. Do this at home. Be sure to remember to remove them (relax, cough and catch) before going out or using the toilet.

But kegel exercises are not enough. You should also add squats (for the butt muscles) and lower abdominal crunches to your exercise routine. They all work together to tone vaginal muscles.

With reasonable care, a cup can last 10 years or more.  Some companies say to replace it after a year.  Why?  So they can sell you a new one annually.

No.  This is MY answers to commonly asked questions.  The Community FAQ is found at:
http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/tag/faq and NEW: http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/tag/new%20faq There is really good general information for new users at each.
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