Updated: Apr 14
What is it?
Basically a flexible cup like object, with a stem (grip) part, that is folded and inserted into the vagina. In the vagina it opens up and loges into position cupping the Cervix in order to collect shed blood (menstrual) from the Uterus lining.
A Brief history.
When I decided to give Period cups a try 2.5 years ago, I was shocked to find out that Period cups aren't new. I don't mean they aren't new in the sense of like the last 5-10 years.
In earlier stages of developing insertable period support, the 1895 Dautrich Catamenial (older word for Menses) sack was submitted for pattern. While this contraption looks scary, the inventor claimed that the belt like contraption was to support lowered uterus which was believed to be the reason for back pains during mensuration.
It was not until 1935 that the first insertable cup like invention was submitted for a patent under the description of "Catamenial Appliance". Ofcourse this time around, a woman,Leona Chalmers, was behind this more plausible invention.
It took a while to hit the floor running, but by 1950s, a girls best friend was being manufactured and marketed. The initial cup from the 1930s was redesigned and was renamed the "Tassette". In oder to compete with a grown interest in disposables, the company even invented the "Tassaway", a disposable version of the Tasset. Unfortunately the tampon seem to resonate with women better, and it was only till the 1980s that rubber period cups like THE KEEPER (which is still available today) started to gain traction. In recent years, they have found their place and voice among the movement to living more sustainably and all the eco-friendly oriented products popping up on the market. In total is has been a 85 year journey of reinvention and 60 plus years of social acceptance to get us here.
This is a biggie for me. Obviously regarding potential future waste production and the health side of things. Now typically, you will find most companies produce period cups with medical grade Silicone (Grade A) or even Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE). If you are wondering what TPE is, think of the rubbery ends of your kitchen spatular, this is commonly made of TPE. As its name suggests TPE withstands heat ranges that most plastics do not, however unlike silicone is can get lightly deformed at certain heat points. However it is a plastic, which means it does contain man made compounds that can potentially leach into the body and are potentially toxic. As well as this, it isn't biodegradabel. On the other hand, Silicone is not supposed to be toxic. I am however a sceptic regarding silicone in terms of both health and waste. Silicone is defiantly more natural than most plastics and used in the medical field for an assortment of nuance and life altering or saving surgeries where they are even implanted into the body. I understand the gravity of having such a material at your hands in such situations. However I still prefer to avoid its use where I can. Just as other plastic is isn't biodegradable but rather photodegradable and simply breakdown into micro versions of itself, never really going back into nature and becoming an organic part of the environment. So with this in mind I try finding natural rubber alternatives when I need to purchase materials that have similar properties to plastics. This is no different for what I have found with period cups. Earlier on in my zero waste journey, this option wasn't clear to me as available or even better, so I went ahead and purchased silicone and I am not planning on disposing any of my silicone cups. I simply use them less than I did before, which I already think lowers my exposure to them and avoids me throwing them away.
If you are wondering natural rubber in its raw form is called liquid latex. Its tapped from a rubber tree (which is native to South Pacific Asia) and is then diluted with distilled water and Formic Acid (naturally found in Ants) to coagulate the liquid latex to into rubber sheets. In the final stages it is manually rolled (several times) through a mangle machine and then hang to dry until it turns brown. I have also found that my natural rubber period cup inserts better, is easier to pull out, opens up and lodges to cup my cervix without much effort (which means no leaks) and I don't feel it. All things I would rather prefer to be like.
Typically cup sizes will come in two size, A or B, or M or L. Ofcourse this varies in the naming, but for the most part it basically stands for "before birth or pregnancy" and "after". For me this meant that even though I had been pregnant, and not given birth viarginally, because I still went through 12 hours of labor and dilated to 10 cm, I was now at a larger cup size. I only figured this out though AFTER trying both size. If you have a smaller cup than you need chances are you will leave. And if you have a bigger one, you will experience discomfort when inserted or it will not even be possible to insert. Apart from that there is high to consider. Yes, we don't all have the same vagina length and some of us have higher or lower cervix positions than others. So I recommend, YOU MEASURE YOUR CERVIX WHEN YOU ARE ON YOUR PERIOD. Specially on your period because this is different from when you are not. You can learn this skill.
It will be important to do so, before you go off and purchase a cup, if you don't want to or can't afford to purchase over and over to find your size. A simple finger insertion into your vagina until you feel you feel your Cervix, can help you to figure this out.
You can typically identify how low or high your Cervix using the Cervix Knuckle Measurement:
Here are two helpful links, from one of my favourite sources, Put a Cup in it. The first explains what you are looking to do when measuring your Cervix Length:
And If that went over your head, and you don't even know how to find your Cervix, check out this second video:
Design and Function:
This is the second important thing to consider after size. Unfortunately unlike size, there is no pre method to decided what sort of design of cup to purchase. It is purely based on your needs but ultimately most people don't know before they have tried it out. Every company now a days tries to design their cups different not only to stand out in a fashion/style statement sense, but as well to try and become recognise for providing a unique function as well.
I myself have three different cups by three different companies:
My favourite Period cup
- This cup confirms that simple is everything. Although this cup doesn't seem out of the ordinary in design or function, I feel that because it is not over thought in design, and its made with such a great material, it works wonders. As well as this, for what I have read up on, the material is being sourced in a sustainable manner and the company as a whole, is centred around supporting fair trade with local farmers.
- Fairsquared is also one of those companies that all round work towards making products in fair collaboration with developing countries like Ghana. The cup is made from FSC® 100% certified Fair Trade natural latex from Sri Lanka.
- It isn't an option for people with Latex allergies though.
- The cup comes in two sizing: M and L. Size M holds 12 ml and is suitable for women who have not given birth and are under 30 of age.
Size L holds 13 ml and is suitable for women who have given birth or are older than 30 years of age.
- The cup comes with a cotton carry bag
- Price: € (€14,95)
- Packaging is carton and there is a plastic window. Not plastic free, but it is reduced and there aren't any surprise plastics inside.
I am obsessed with the next cup, and have always wanted to try it out ever since I started to research period cups. Unfortunately, it isn't available for purchase in Switzerland, but I am constantly on the look out for it.
- The KEEPER stands out not only because its made of natural gum rubber but also in historical context.
- It dates to production as early as 1987.
- This cup comes in a A and B size. A for after childbirth and B for before or birth by Cesarean.
- If you do have latex allergies, this cup is. no go, but you can find its sister "the moon cup", which is exactly the same design but made of Silicone.
- Pricing: € - € ($35)
- Up to 10 years reuseable
- Me Luna cup sizing may appear to be quite complicated after first glance. However, they are specific to vaginal birthing status and age even down to your preferences, sensitivity and physical activeness, which is great if you are looking for a more customized cup due to specific needs and wants. There are 4 types (classic, sport, soft and shorty); 8 sizes and 4 style variations.
- Sport cups are 25% firmer than classics. This keeps the cup in and in position during sport and workout where there is straining or downward pressure that could otherwise push the cup or or make it change postions.
- Classic is for women that are used to wearing tampons without feeling pressure or pain on the rectum or the bladder and have an unaffected pelvic floor or a well trained one.
- Soft women with weaker or untrained pelvic floor (ex. after pregnancy or vaginal childbirth), you experience discomfort using tampons, or you generally experience vaginal or bladder sensitivity and pain, especially from Urethritis. Softer cup means you are more likely to not feel the cup during wear.
- Shorty is specifically designed for women with shorter Vaginas and thus have a lower positioned Cervix. This is common during puberty, and Cervical reduction.
- Grips also come varied, ringed, bulbed, with groves and even some with none.
- Pricing: € (CHF 22-30)
- Made of TPE
- There are "Glittery" Me Luna cups available, however from a sustainability aspect, I would avoid this. AS much as they look pretty and "girly", glitter is simply smaller and shiny plastic bits. If your cup starts to wear down from prolonged use, I fear you might end up with glitter in unwanted places unnoticed.
Some Popular but typical in design and material are the:
- The diva cup name, almost became as synonymous with period cups, as Kleenex is with tissue paper.
- Made in Canada
- Models range from 3 different models which can be described as similar to sizes, each different in that they are specific to the user`s age, flow and Vaginal length (holding capacity from 17ml-32ml).
- Model 0 is for teens 18years old and younger. Shortest cup size as well. Great for light flows.
- Model 1 is for women between 19-30 years old or have a medium to heavier flows. This is the tallest cup, which means it works great for a women with a deeper vagina (higher cervix).
- Model 2, you are over 30 and or have a heavier flow. This cup is the widest one, and has the broadest shape. It also has the largest capacity of the models.
- Pricing: €€ (CHF 30-40)
- Diva cup is in partnership and support many organisations working to normalise via education regarding sustainable mensural care and providing access with women and girls in a varied number of places.
- Very hard to find information regarding this cup, however I have seen it offered for sale on many both Swiss and foreign websites. from what I can tell though the cup in made in Italy.
- Slimmer shape than more cups.
- Made from medical grade, hypoallergenic, platinum silicone
- No dyes or bleachers
- Lasts up to 10 years
- 2 sizes: 1 for under 30 and no birth, 2 is for over 30 or have given birth Vaginally.
- Pricing: € (CHF 23/€16.90)
- Medical grade silicone
- No dyes or bleaches
- Produced in China.
- I have seen reviews that say that the Is-Bell is almost identical to this cup, except its produced in France.
- Can be used for up to 12h
- Pricing: € (CHF 21- 31.80)
- Produced in Finland
- Made with medical grade milky silicon
- Packaging is made of recycled carton and there are small plastic windows. Not plastic free, but it is reduced and there aren't any surprise plastics inside. However packaging imagery and lettering is printed with plant base ink.
- Comes in 2 sizes: 1(small) and 2 (big). 1 is for light to medium flow, for when that are under 30, virgins or haven't given birth. Size 2 is for middle to heavy flow, for women over 30 and or who have given birth.
- The company is both trust worthy and ethical. They fight for social change and they are giving back. They hold partnerships with local organisations in developing countries like Kenya (the cup project), Burkina Faso, and Tanzania. Apart from this they are involved with many many empowering events and associations; Content (2017), Pride (2018), Planned Parenthood, Skid Row Carnival of Love (2017, 2018 & 2019) etc.
Pricing: €€ (CHF 31-38)
- Typical period cup shape. The only unique differences I noticed in design is the dotted grip, which is supposed to improve on hold and the Bell shaped bodying rim that is supposed to help prevent spills and leaks.
- Medical grade Silicone
- up to 10 years use
- The company seems to be centred around an applaudable cause, vested in helping women not only that purchase their cup but those that cannot afford to in other part of the world. They have a "buy one, give one" approach, so when you buy a cup, they automatically donate one to girls in Kenya and organisations in East Africa. In addition to this donation, their work helps to educate girls on use and general sex education.
- The cup comes in two sizes: S & M. Is is recommended for light- medium flows and M for medium to heavy.
- Money back guarantee within 4 calendar months from date of order.
- Comes with an organic cotton carry bag.
- Pricing: € (€27.57)
Apart from this, here are some cups known for their unique design and claim to specific or improved function because of it:
LILY CUP ONE & LILY CUP COMPACT
Intimina is claim to fame company with design smart and efficient cups.
- Both One and Compact are collapsible. Which makes it more compact for storage and on the go transport.
- Both come with a small plastic case for hygienic transport.
- One has a ringed grip as to allow for a better grip and guided pull.
- Both made from medical grade Silicone
- Can both be worn for up to 12 hour use
- Price: €-€ (CHF 29-35)
INTIMINA`S LILY CUP
- The cup claims it is the only one to roll up as thin as a tampon and instantly open up upon arrival into the Vagina.
- As typically the Cervix sits at a slanted angle.
The slanted rim is designed to better sit in the Vagina and thus provide upmost comfort while also preventing both leakage and upon removal, spill overs.
- Price: €€ CHF 30-35
- Up to 12 hour use
- For a higher cervix and heavier flow
- A and B sizing is typical of before and after vaginal childbirth
- Comes with a fabric carry bag
- Pricing:€€€ CHF 44.90
- Silicone carry-case to hygienically store the cup
- The all famous (conventionally named) Ziggy Cups are advertised as a god sent for anyone looking to stay sexually busy during their period. More specifically "Mess-free period Sex.
- Although shaped like a period disk, Intimina claims the name of a Period cup.
- This "cup" is revolutionary, simply for the fact that before Intimina released this product, women only had the option of Period disks, Flex Mensural disk, instead cup or soft cup or SoftDisc, which are all disposable. Apart from this key difference, disposable disks are all made of rigid rims and made of super thin (cheap looking) plastic. Disposable disks are also very well known to be messy upon removal, because of this thin, easy wrinkled material and shallow shape.
- Medical grade silicone.
- It is recommend to use the Ziggy cup if you have light flow or during spotting, as the "cup" is shallow. Otherwise if you do have a heavier flow, you might want to remove and dump more often than the max of every 12 hours.
- Generally speaking, unless you have a very low Cervix, you will need to be willing to reach much further into the Vagina than with a conventional period cup. This requires some experience with insertion and thus it is recommend to go ahead and give this try only once you are somewhat familiarised with other Period cups. This also doesn't make sense without a private bathroom, simply because of the "mess" filled stories I have heard with normal to heavy period experiences.
- up to12 hour use
- Intimina is typically sized in a A and B category, A being for women that haven't given birth or have had a cesarian, and B is Intimina cups also seem to be described as longer in body, so if you have a higher Cervix, their cups are for you.
FLEX MENSTURAL CUP
- Patented RealseRing design. Familiar in function and use as a tampon string. When pulled downward, it will fold the top of the cup in order to break suction and make it easier for the cup to be removed.
- I have read and heard great reviews as to how easy it is to insert the flexcup and almost always get the cup to pop open once inside.
- Two sizes: slim fit and full fit. Slim fit carried 22ml and is recommended for first time cup users. Full fit had a 30ml capacity, recommended for heavy to average flow.
- Pricing:€€€ ($39.99)
NIXIT MENSTURAL CUP
- One size fits all
- Shaped like a Period disk however referred to as a Mensural cup
- 12 hours use (holds as much as 4 super tampons)
- Packaged in beautiful colourful carton box that can be reused
- No suction, cup simply lodges and collects
- Removal can be tricky and "messy", so not ideal without a private bathroom
- Removal involves creeping a finger in the dented carve that sits in-between the two rims, and sort of tipping it enough to then hook the corner of the cup and slide it out
- Soft Medical grade BPA Free Silicon
- Comes with a small drawstring carry bag
- Pricing:€€€ ($49,£37,€43)
The miracle spill proof cup
- Patented spill proof design.
- Company claims this cup is for active women.
- Removal ring
- Up to 12 hours use
- 3 designs and sizing: Low Cervix; but not for any Cervix that is x 2 inches from vaginal opening, Petite; teens or women with smaller bodies, or lighter flow, and Regular; Medium to high Cervix and medium to heavy flow.
- Pricing:€€ ($ 31.95)
- Sizing: Small and Regular
- Pricing:€ - € ($27)
- Comes in Beautiful and reusable carton box packaging
- Up to 12 hours protection
- Holds the capacity of 2-3 tampons
- Made of medical grade silicone
- Saalt is one of those companies that give back. 2% of their revenue is used towards donations to funds that provide education and providing people with Saalt cups (in Kenya, The USA, Sudan) . Their cup pilot programs have been stated in 10 countries. In addition they have funded 1800 day schools in rural Nepal for girls.
- Lena Cup is intentionally shaped as a tulip, as not only is the imagery that the brand promotes the cup with but its unique shape gives full coverage once inserted which means less chance of leakage and as well upon removal to reduce the chances of spillage.
- Smooth and milky, medical grade silicon.
- Soft to middle hard.
- Made in the California, USA
- The cup is available in two sizes: S and L. S:Normal Flow, lower Cervix and first time cup users.
L: Heavy flow, higher cervix, has a higher capacity and thus also provides a longer lasting protecting up to 12 hours.
- The Lena Cup do their part via donation programs that promote partnerships with organisation in US, Canada, UK, Cameroon, Tanzania and Bolivia. Some of these organisations include the "Jane Goodall`s Roots and Shoots foundation in Tanzania" who reach out to one of the world's largest slums just outside of Kenya`s Capital. They donate cups across the world at universities in places like South Korea, Florida and Venezuela.
Finally they help with an NGO in Cameroon that is providing school girls with cups, and education.
- Comes with a silk fabric carry bag
- Packaging is 100% carton and thus biodegradable, even with plant based print
- Pricing:€€ (CHF 38)
- Medical grade Silicone
- Produced in Germany
- It is uniquely identified by its Rounded, and stout body. In addition to this unique design is its 3-rung stem/drip, which can also be shortened.
- The cups unique body design, creates a lighter suction than conventionally shaped period cups, which means it works well with any pelvic floor conditions.
- One size fits all. However now available is a XL capacity and size for a higher cervix and heavier flow.
- Up to 12 hour use
- 38ml capacity
- Pricing:€€ (CHF 35-36)
- You can employee the same folding techniques as any period cup
- The cup comes with different colours and names, and a fabric carry bag that matches the name and theme of each cup.
FUN FACTORY CUP
- Produced in Germany.
- The company also produces Sex toys.
- Company promote the cup as foreplay friendly.
- Very uniquely cone like shape. The company claims the design is made to respect the anatomy of the Vagina for a more comfortable wear and easier insertion.
- Doesn't have a typical stem. However there is a bit of a pointy part that can be gripped on to.
- Medical grade Silicone
- Up to 12 hour coverage
- Similarly shaped carry go bag with magnetic closure and handle.
- Packaging is 100% carton (biodegradable and plastic free)
- Can be best inserted using the punch down or the C fold.
- The brand offers two sizes in one and calls with the explore kit. Otherwise its always sold in a pack of 2 sizes
- Size: A and B. A is smaller and is made with firmer silicone, which makes it easier to place and keep positioned. B is larger and made with softer silicone for heavier flow and sensitive wear.
- Pricing:€ (€ 34.90) per 2 cups
DOT MENSTRUAL CUP
- Made in the USA
- Holds 28ml
- Packaging is in Carton packaging, which is biodegradable.
- Beautiful, reasonably sized and colourful canvas cary bag with zipper
- One size
- Only comes in black, so you don't see discolouration
- Similar to the Diva cup in diameters and length
- Softer than the diva cup
- Tulip shaped rim
- Medically grade Silicone
- The company donates a cup every time you purchase one through their distribution partner, World vision. World Vision also works towards making water accessible.
How to use it:
It is recommended to employ folding techniques and learning which angle of insertion works for you. Folding makes the cup smaller which in tern makes it easier and comfortable to insert. I have tried 5 different folding techniques. However I stick to two folding techniques depending on my flow and what cup I am using. I have heard of up to 9 different ways though. In terms of angles, slightly inserting in a slanted manner helps to insert and remove smoothly. However both folding technique and insertion and removing angle depends of the shape of your vagina, position and type of cup material and cup. You will defiantly need to work at figuring what works for you.
Once you have inserted the cup, it is often said that you need to wait to hear a pop or feel one inside of you when the cup open up. I recommend rotating the cup around inside of you via the grip until that pop happens. Take a finger and feel around the end of the cup body for dents or folds as well to avoid leaking. You can test suction by pulling on the stem (grip) a bit. It might take several tries before mastering insertion though, so keep at it, even if that means removing and reinserting a couple of times. You can also trim your Grip/Stem based on your needs and comfort. There are some women that use the cup without a stem all together, however just note that this part of the cup is made to specifically help you locate your cup and aid in removing the cup.
Here are the 5 I am familiar with and have used:
By far my favorite and go to is the punch down.
Also when you remove the cup, sometimes this you will need to "search for the cup". Once you have located the cup or grip, try to break the suction seal by pinching together the lower part of your cup or reaching a finger in and along the cup to dent it slowly in till you feel the suction is broken. This part is just after the grip part and usually have groves to make it easier to keep a grip when squeezing. Also bearing down can help in both looking for the cup and as well removing the cup. If you don't know what it means to bear down, its is similar to the effect you get when you are pushing when going number 2 or pushing during labor. Except it is the side effect or direct intentional result of this pushing that takes place in your vagina. It pushes down your Cervix, and makes the length of your vagina smaller, which means everything inside of your vagina will move downwards.
Maintenance, Cleaning, Storage and afterlife:
Period cups come across as low maintenance, but it takes some getting used to.
For one, in-between changes, you need to wash out your cup. For some cups this doesn't only mean to get ride of the blood, but as well to clear suction holes, so as to effectively recreate suction upon reinsertion. You do not need to wash with soap each time, but I try to do at least once a day to do so or place my cup in a boiling water and vinegar soak (for 3-5 mins), especially before night wears. When I do not access to water at some point in the day, I try to carry along reusable wipes (sometime already wet in an operate cloth bag or jar), a bottle of water and a wet bag, so I can give my cup a refreshing wipe and avoid the mess. I usually have in addition some I carry reusable "disinfectant" wipes for my kids, and I go ahead and use this on my hands before and or after insertion or removal. Otherwise it is also advised to wipe with toilet paper and as soon as possible wash the cup. I do recommend getting two cups or even alternating this with another alternative solution like reusable pads. This way you can really take turns leaving time to properly cleaning out your cup between changes.
Period cups usually come packaged with a little storage bag or container. If you don't have one of these, you can always up-cycle a smaller container for this purpose. I recommend using this as a permanent place for keeping your cup until the next cycle. Not only does this keep your cup clean, but you can also keep your cup separate when you toss it in a bag when you are travelling or suspect your cycle is about to start while you are on the go.
At the end of each cycle (or even if you want, in between a change), you can wash your cup with a neutral soap, and a 5 minute boil of the cup in water and a table spoon of vinegar or baking soda to disinfect.
If your cup starts to break down, or shows signs of wear and wear, it might be time to replace your cup. If you have a natural rubber cup, its pretty straight forward, you can trash your cup. With silicone cups it might get more complicated. Some companies offer to take back the cup and recycle, but of course your cup needs to be from their company. Otherwise you will need to look into where or how you can responsibly deal with discarding your cup, like plastic recycling centres or talk to general recycling centres that can help advice you.
1. They are empowering.
2. Keep Swimming.
3. Less Mess, sticking and wetness
4. No more wet feeling.
5. Less chance of leakage (if properly inserted).
6. Life long savings.
7. Avoid the luxury tax.
9. You can't run out of them.
10. Can be used up to 12 years.
11. The Natural rubber ones are biodegradable and some companies will even recycle them for you.
13. VERY VERY VERY low risk of TSS.
14. Longer wear than more conventional ones. Can be worn between 8-12 hours.
15. Your sex life doesn't need to be put on a halt.
16. Less chance of toxic leaching or material being left behind inside of you: ex. Bleach
17. Can be worn effectively at night.
18. Health PH
19. Avoid dryness.
20. Less to no odor
21. Easy to clean.
22. Holds a greater capacity in one wear; 2-3 times the capacity of a tampon or pad.
23. Helping to support normalisation of talk around feminine hygiene, empower and aid women close and far through the purchase of your own cup with companies that are trying to make an impact and be activists.
1. Bit of a learning curve.
2. Requires a desire to get it right and patience.
3. High initial purchasing cost.
4. You can forget they are there.
5. There are too many brands and options out there.
6. Can add to the discomfort of mensural discomfort or cramping.
7. Allergies: Latex
8. IDU complication
My Experience / Opinion:
The Period cup was my first introduction into alternative menses management. And even though I had researched the "ish" out the product and use, reality in finding what I needed in one go, was not simple. Learning to fold the cup correctly, will account for 80% of this product working for you. Then size matters. Typically you are looking at picking one of two given cup sizes, depending on your child birth history and even preachily biological makeup.I would recommend using the punch down technique if you have a softer cup like the ones make of natural rubber and otherwise the C Fold (U shape) works very well. You are more likely to get the cup to properly open up when inside if you can determine the angle at which to insert, and this will only come to light by trying more than once. So for me, I aced insertion almost right off the bat, but then the next couple of periods in, something changed. Due to hormonal changes after breastfeeding, my Cervix length and angle seem to change, and I needed to relearn how to properly insert again. I use the Period cup in combination with reusable pads. Ive done this for the most part depending on how sensitive I am feeling at (mostly) the beginning part of my cycle. As well, I cramp quite a bit, so firmer cups seem to aggravate that discomfort.