This post was originally created by Undiplomatic Wife on October 1, 2019
When I checked when I bought my first ever Menstrual Cup it was all the way in mid-February 2016! I ordered it on Amazon, had it shipped via Air Shipping and then it arrived 2 weeks after in March 2016. So I’ve been using it for 3.5 years – that’s an amazing 42 months without relying on single-use plastic sanitary pads, or tampons! Whoa!
I’ve learned a lot along the way and I wanted to share with you my tips for using it successfully and comfortably. I want to manage your expectations and say this: Just like sanitary pads and tampons, there is always the risk of leaking.
Below are my favorite brands, why I love to use them and how they make it possible for me to avoid single-use sanitary pads and tampons, which I realized are quite stinky to use because blood is exposed to air.
1. Use a Brand That’s Easy To Understand
When I first did my research, the brand I was hearing most about was The Diva Cup, but I personally found it confusing because there are different sizes according to age and if you have given birth vaginally, and once you choose a size that’s it for light and heavy days. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I have one day that is insanely heavy. And if I used the same size cup, I wouldn’t be able to sleep through the night (A no-no for people with bipolar disorder).
This is why I was drawn to the Lena Cup which is still my preferred brand and one that I can highly recommend. It doesn’t matter what age or if you have given birth, just get the set of 2! One is for regular or light flow and the other is for heavy flows. Easy peasy!
It made so much sense to me because the large cup doesn’t really make sense in the very beginning of my period when it’s super light. While a small cup alone is a hassle during heavy days. Take it from me, a small and a large cup is essential for comfort and ease of use!
I also found the Diva Cup more expensive at about $30 for one cup, while the Lena Cup is about $40 for a set of 2 different sizes. Nowadays there are so many more brands and copycats, but I personally will only use something that is FDA approved. There are so many local brands popping up and some claiming FDA approval for the material. This should not be the case. The end-product or the cup brand itself should be FDA approved, not the silicone. More about it here:
2. Practice the folding method
Don’t expect to get it right on your first or even second cycle. There are 3 different folding methods:
The 7 fold works best for me. I would say I got the hang of it on the 3rd cycle I was using my Lena Cup. Practice makes perfect and of course, be sure to RELAX when you are inserting the cup.
And never forget to make sure it pops open and then shimmy and twist to test airtightness or you will have spillage!
3. Have a Back-up Just In Case It leaks
If you would like to wear a pad or liner just to be sure, then I can recommend 2 options which are single-use-plastic-free. I usually wear a backup pad only during my medium to heavy days – which are crazy heavy. They aren’t really necessary on light days where for sure my cup doesn’t leak.
- NATRACARE plastic-free pads and tampons – I discovered these in Berlin when I was looking for pads that used real organic cotton (not bleached paper) and didn’t use plastic. Here in Manila, you can easily get these organic cotton cover pads which are also chlorine and perfume-free them from Healthy Options, or you can order them on Amazon here:
- CHARLIE BANANA Reusable Pads & Liners – Charlie Banana is the only brand of reusable diapers that were leak proof and did not irritate my baby’s super sensitive skin, so when it came to reusable pads I knew they would be amazing – and I wasn’t disappointed! I personally did not have a good experience with the local Philippine distributor and they only had very colorful kiddy looking designs, so I opted to order the Minimaluxe all-white designs on Amazon below. Both have 3 pads each and a waterproof mini tote bag and I personally got 2 sets of each to last in excess of my 7day period:
I always bring my cute chevron waterproof bag with extra underwear and 2 extra Charlie Banana pads whenever I go out. This is a good habit which I learned the hard way, when I didn’t bring anything on a trip to the super south, because it was my first day and I assumed that my flow would be really weak. Boy was I in for a surprise – it turned out to be my my heaviest day! Tsunami! OMGI literally had to buy underwear! Now, when I’m on my period – no matter what day – I don’t leave home without this little back-up bag!
Why is it important to use single-use-plastic-free products?
I remember when I used to surf, sometimes used sanitary pads would just float by. It was really gross. Now I know why!
UPDATE: Someone asked me about washing these reusable pads. I usually have a small basin with a little water in my bathroom. When I’m done with a pad, I spray the stained surface with diluted TinyBuds Laundry soap (1 part Tiny Buds to 2 parts water in an Amber Spray bottle) and place it in the basin with water so the blood doesn’t dry out and become harder to clean. I collect the pads there until I can do a load of wash with them to save on water. I noticed when I hand-washed the pads, I wasted a lot of more water so handwashing for me is not economical or great for saving water. This is also why I only use the pads as back up on heavy and medium flow days because the more blood on the pads the more water needed to wash. Cups really take in more volume and so much easier to wash.
4. Learning the Art of When to Empty Your Cup
One of the benefits of using a Menstrual cups is becoming more in tune with my cycle. After a while you will feel when it’s time to empty. Before I started using Charlie Banana Pads as back up, I would just wake up in fright in the middle of the night and jump out of bed, knowing the cup was full and about to leak. You can imagine this is quite hard with my bipolar medication that makes me really groggy. That’s when I decided I need a back up!
At the beginning and end of my period when it’s really light, I have to remind myself to empty every 10 to 12 hours. It’s easy to forget because if you put it on correctly you can’t feel anything at all.
On my heaviest day, during my 7-day period, there will be a time that I need to empty my large cup every 30mins-1hr. This will happen 2-4 times! Then after that, I go back to emptying every 3 to 4 hrs. It really depends on the period I’m having. Just don’t forget to empty the cup more often during heavier days and never go beyond 12hrs without emptying or else your cup will smell. The only way I know how to remove this smell is with my DIY Theives Sanitizer – which I will post soon!
It’s important to get to the rhythm of emptying BEFORE the cup is full. The only times I’ve ever leaked is:
- When the cup is too full
- When I am in bed or I’m moving around too much and my specific position dislodges the airtight seal
- If I forget to test for airtightness after inserting the cup
So these are things to watch out for.
5. How to Clean Your Cup
I give the cup a deep cleaning at the beginning of my period, before I start using it, and at the end, before I store it. During my period I just lightly wash and rinse the cup. Only use the mildest products so as not to degrade the silicone. When I’m out and about, I just use water and wipe with toilet paper, then when I change at home, I wash it with a mild soap. Mild soaps that have worked best in my experience are the ff:
- Nature to Nurture Dishwashing Liquid/Bottle Wash - It cuts through blood easily using an all-natural plant-based formula, fragrance-free, rinses easily, doesn’t leave any residue. I have a diluted pump bottle of Nature to Nurture Dishwashing Liquid in each sink in my home because, not only do we use it for baby’s stuff, but also for all our glasses and plates, my Invisalign-style retainers and my Lena Cups! Afterall, everyone in the family deserves nasty-free products – not just our kids!
- Dr. Bronners Pure Castile Soap – FRAGRANCE-FREE - This super amazing moisturizing all-natural vegan soap is made with only the purest certified organic oils, without any preservatives, detergents, foaming or chelating agents, dyes, whiteners, or synthetic fragrances is super effective yet mild. It can be used not just for the face, body, and hair, but also great for menstrual cups. It’s so environmentally friendly that aside from being fully biodegradable, it is also packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled wrappers – LOVE!
I don’t like to recommend very specific products that will just add clutter to your home, so instead, I’ve given you 2 options that you won’t feel bad spending your money on, because they are genuinely amazing multi-purpose products that will declutter your sink surfaces and are healthier for your home and the entire family!
An extra cleaning step if you would like to do it is using UV Light to clean the item. I have this UV Care Germ Terminator and I know many moms who have the UV Care Pocket Sterilizer. This is an extra OC step but in my experience not really necessary. I do it once every few months, but only when I remember.
6. How to clean empty your cup in a public toilet
When I started with menstrual cups, I would literally not leave my flat on my heaviest day. Then I learned to use Charlie Banana pads so at least if I couldn’t find a toilet with its own sink, I could just change the pad with a new one, and wait till I get home to empty my cup.
But recently I discovered the amazing Kurin Water! It’s an effective sanitizer that doesn’t use nasty chemicals. This is a multipurpose product that has truly change my life. One product – just ionized water! – that has soooooo many uses, and I want to add menstrual cup cleaner in that long list! I do not leave my house without a small spray bottle of Kurin.
First I tested it at home. I sprayed the cup after emptying it, and it really softened the sticky blood and made it so easy to wash off. And I realized:
“This is BRILLIANT! If I want to quickly wipe off my Lena Cup with toilet paper when I’m in a public toilet, Kurin can help! And I can easily insert it back in because it’s just water!”
You cannot do this with a normal hand sanitizer which usually has alcohol that is poisonous when ingested. I wouldn’t recommend using toxic alcohol on something we insert into our body. Nor would I recommend natural sanitizers that usually contain essential oil, baking soda, or other ingredients that will irritate our most sensitive parts.
TMI ALERT! THE FOLLOWING IS NOT FOR THE FAINTHEARTED…
Kurin really saved me during that accident when I had to buy new underwear. So There I was in a public toilet and you can imagine that it was pretty bloody when I emptied the cup and blood is really thick and viscous. I tried to remain calm and before even sitting down, I made sure that I had 1) toilet paper and2) my small Kurin spray on hand then…
- Prepare the toilet seat by spraying it with Kurin, waiting a few seconds and wiping it with toilet paper.
- Place Sanicare toilet seat cover (You can get this online) before sitting down.
- Empty the Lena Cup into the toilet.
- Carefully avoiding getting blood on my clothes, I sprayed the cup and my hands with Kurin.
- Wait a few seconds before wiping it with toilet paper.
- Re-insert the cup.
- Sprayed my hand again and wiped with toilet paper.
- Use my other hand to put my clothes back in place and exit the cubicle and straight to the sink to wash my hands!
It’s easier to do all this when you are wearing a midi or mini dress or skirt, so I make sure to wear this when I have my period going out.
Some people also like to use menstrual cup wipes, but for me, I’m happy that Kurin is free from single-use plastics, so I avoid using wipes.
UPDATE: Someone told me about the Tulip Cup with a VALVE so you can empty your cup without removing it when you are out and about. I’ve read some positive and negative reviews about it, but if it works as advertised that would be so convenient! So I’m trying it out. Will update you when it arrives and I try it!
7. Using a Squatty Potty Really Helps
Obviously using a menstrual cup is not for the faint-hearted. But there are so many things that can help. It is recommended that you sit or squat, use the pelvic floor muscles to push the cup down, then reach to grab the stem and pinch the base to break the seal, as you pull it out.
We have a squatty potty in each toilet because it’s a game-changer and makes sitting on the throne a much better experience for everyone including the toddler – it also functions as a built-in step-stool for DiploBaby to pee or poo, so we do not need those ugly, unsafe toddler stairs for the toilet. It reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and, for short people like me, varicose veins too!
So imagine my surprise when I realized that it made inserting and removing the Lena Cup much easier too!
Benefits of Using a Menstrual Cup
Whatever brand you choose, moving to a menstrual cup is healthier for our vaginas and the environment. They also hold more blood than tampons and super pads – roughly twice the amount!
- Odorless periods because our periods start to smell when it gets into contact with air. Menstrual cups are air tight so you will be surprised that it doesn’t smell like how pads and tampons do.
- Sensation-free – sometimes I forget that it’s there! If I can help it, I will never go back to using stinky pads and drying tampons.
- You can dance, run, swim, surf and so much more! I remember when I used to surf and I would get my period – I usually couldn’t find tampons in the sari-sari stores so I would remove my pad in the toilet and run to the water and I had to make sure I stayed submerged. It was pretty difficult! Now you can do activities for up to 12hrs!
- The cup I use is made in the USA and FDA-REGISTERED. Lena Cup is the most affordable USA-made and FDA-registered feminine hygiene cup on the market using US medical-grade silicone and dyes to ensure complete safety so I can trust that my body is getting the best.
- Menstual cups definitely result to healthier periods because abnormal pap smears, rashes and yeast infections have been linked to the use of pads and tampons.
- I’m really happy about the reduced environmental impact of my period now that I’ve switched to a reusable cup. With proper care, the same Lena Cup can be reused for many years and their 100% recycled packaging is chlorine-free and printed using vegetable-based inks.
Whatever brand you use, just make sure to choose a brand that is FDA approved (whether it’s in the USA or Philippines) because it’s still considered a medical device. We insert it into our body, so we want to be sure we are using something that is safe. READ MORE ABOUT FDA APPROVAL FOR MENSTRUAL CUPS.
Have you made the shift to Menstrual Cups yet? What brand are you using and how is your experience so far? Do you have any other tips for using it comfortably? I would love to hear it in the comments below!
I wrote this post to help a friend who is just getting into using menstrual cups. I was not paid to do this post by any company and I paid for all the products with my own money. I am an Amazon Affiliate, but all opinions are my own. I only write about brands that I’ve personally used and/or are well reviewed or rated, according to my research.