Period Cups: Debunked & Explained
Updated: Apr 14
You've probably heard a million and one things about period cups, or perhaps the whole concept is new.
In this post I address some of the questions and concerns you might have while also trying to debunk both common und uncommon misconceptions regarding Period cups.
"They are uncomfortable"....unless you have the wrong cup size, shape or its been inserted wrong, it perfectly common and normal to not even "feel" your cup is there.
Given that period cups are made of a soft material, and when folded they become the size of a tampon, insertion and wear shouldn't be uncomfortable. However something to consider is that you might possible have a latex or Silicon allergy which can make the experience uncomfortable, Another this to think about is general heightened sensitivity down there from hormonal changes (like after pregnancy or during the first hours to days of as cycle). If you suspect you do have allergies, always consult a doctor to confirm. Otherwise try using the cup on cycle days when you feel less sensitive.
I have experienced and heard of women that say the cup applies pressure on their bladder which makes them want to pee. This is not only annoying but can be uncomfortable. It is also typically a sign that your cup is too big for your vagina.
Because your cup is keeping everything internally with suction, the blood doesn't come into contact with oxygen, which means it doesn't smell. In actuality it's a better option for an odourless menses cycle, compared to pads or even tampons.
"It is disgusting."
Part of this journey to exploring and finding a stainable alternative (including Period cups) is learning to disassociate disgust with your period blood, your vagina and coming into contact with either. For many of us, we grow up feeling ashamed or revolted by this very new and natural thing when it first happens. This is partly due to social norms and the lack of body positive education or exposure. So you might feel disgust when you first try it out or even at the thought of it all, but it is something you need to be willing to work to resolve within you and then to physically overcome. Given, this is not for the faint hearted.
"It is messy."
It is not messy, but it can get messy. Thats sounds redundant, but here's what I mean. So typically even with someone like myself, who has a heavy flow, I generally still find it very clean and straight forward. Blood doesn't have the consistency of water, like Kim from Put a cup in it says, think more "chunky soup consistency". There is an expectation that when you remove your cup, the blood will fly everywhere, but because most cups are shaped like their name sake, and blood is thick and even clotted, chances are that won't happen. I have only once had a mess to clean and it was because I forgot to break the seal before I violently pulled out my cup. And even then it went straight into the toilet. If you take your time, you should be fine though. Also consider that you might get blood on your fingers when removing the cup or reinserting.
"How can I identify the Cervix and what is it?"
Think of your Uterus as a head and the Cervix as the neck. It sits at the end of your uterus and basically safe guards anything from entering while allowing Fluids and Babies to leave. Sounds strange put like that, but that's basically what it is. You can go to feel your cervix as well (depending on how high up it is). The Cervix feels like the tip of your nose, but with a small dent.
During your cycle your Vagina either shortness, doesn't change or gets longer, which changes the position of your Cervix. So while you might have a medium height positioned Cervix normally, during your cycle it can become higher positioned or shortened. This is why its advised to measure your Cervix height during your menses (preferably in the shower), in order to get a correct cup size. Also consider that it does change with age, pregnancy and birthing experiences.
"Where does the period cup sit and can't it get lost?"
Your cup sits in your Vagina, ideally creating a vacuum between your Cervix and the Vagina opening. While your cup can migrate, it won't go anywhere else but stay in your vagina. The more you panic when trying to find it or remove it, the more your muscle will tense and the harder it will be to find and pull out. So relax (I know easier said than done). Its better to leave it alone for a while, walk around and then come back and try again. You will find, if you have a medium to high Cervix , especially right after you wake up from a nights wear, it can become a bit of a search party to find your cup.
"Alternatives, like Period cups don't work for me, I have a unique Cycle/ Vagina."
You might feel like you have unique Lady parts and a very specific type of Menses: say you have a high, low or medium Cervix height, a heavy flow or only spot here and there and your cramps might feel unbearable or maybe you never understood the hype around period cramping and you aren't familiar with pain killers like Ibuprofen. None the less, there is someone out there that identifies with you in all the right combinations of "uniqueness" or bits and bobs of your experiences. Because of this, there are many brands out there designing for general and also niche specifications. It's all just a matter of doing your research and looking for a solution. Either way if you have given it a good try and cups aren't for you or you simply don't feel comfortable enough to try, that's fine too. Don't give us though on other sustainable alternatives like reusable pads, sponges, period panties etc. It not a one size fit all sort of experience and journey.
"I don't like the sounds."
It can be noisy. So removing, inserting or simply handing your cup might make surprising or even alarming noises. This is normal. Any surface, wet or dry tends to make a sound when it comes into contact with another surface. It just a matter of normalising this sensorial part of the experience.
"Can I have sex with my period cup?"
Short and simple (but also not nuance) answer: Yes you can have sex on your period with a period cup in. In the very least, foreplay or oral is doable. There are some people that say, they use their conventionally shaped period cups during period sex. However, I would avoid doing so with typically shaped period cups. Menstural cups like the "Ziggy cup" from Intimina or the Nixit cup are specifically designed for such use. Although controversial because of its similar shape to period disks, Intimina and Nixit do refer to their menstural solutions as a "cup", so technically you can have sex with a period cup.
"Should I wait for a "pop" sound after inserting?"
Many people talk about a pop that supposed to happen when the cup opens up inside of you, however the reality is you probably won't hear anything but you will feel it. This can feel odd the first few times, but it takes getting used to and at least you know it's ready to do its job.
"My used cup seems to have lost its colour, and still looks `dirty`"
Discolouration happens. Your blood is red, and if you haven't noticed by now, if it gets on fabric or even a toilet seat, it will try to leave its mark. Literally. Same goes for Period cups. It doesn't mean your cup is dirty, it just means it has been used. This is normal and nothing to be alarmed at. It's simply aesthetics.
" I can't feel my cup and often forget its even there, is this normal?"
Yes, at the height of meeting your perfect match, you can forget that you are even on your period or that you have your cup in. Make it a must to remember to take it out to empty it and clean it every 4-8-12 hours. It need be set an alarm. Other than that, Its nothing to be alarmed about, so enjoy, your lucky woman!
Can I go number 2 with it in?
YES! It all just depends on how comfortable you feel and what you prefer. If you do have a problem emptying your bowls, it is usually a sign that the cup size is too big or not shaped right for you. Otherwise it can also be down to inserting the cup wrong. Remember to wipe towards your tail bone and not your vagina (duh... I sound like every persons mother teaching them how to wipe). I personally enjoy the mess free experience of going number two while on my period.
"They are inconvenient or high maintenance."
Just like everything new, you need to give yourself a chance to catch that learning curve. While pads seem straight forward, even they aren't. It takes some form of explanation, direction and getting used to. Even more for tampons. As for high maintenance, I dare to even say, I found them to be the least of any solution. Both conventional and alternative. Plus I never run out of them.
If you can remember or learn to make these 3 rules to use a habit, you will be good to go.
1. Insertion = Angle and Folding Technique
2. Dont Panick during the search party
3. Removal = Breaking the seal, baring down and tilting the cup during pull out
4. Cleanliness= Hot Water, Neutral Soap and or Vinegar
"They are expensive."
So the highest priced cup I've come across costs CHF/$ 50, 45 Euros / £ 40.
While the initial cost is high, it is wise to see this as an investment instead. Disposables are not cheap either. In Switzerland a box of disposable tampons (including soft tampons) will range between CHF/ $ 6-45. Pads on the other hand are cheaper, but you are still looking at CHF/$ 3-15. Then you are looking at monthly accumulative costs, that easily rack you up more cost over the time of having your period till menopause hits. Then you need to consider in a lot of countries, you'll have an additional cost of luxury taxing, aka "period tax" that spikes up the RRP.
So while you might have to save up for the initial cost, its economically worth the investment in the long run.
"They aren't as ecologically friendly as you think."
This is something I hear more often than none. What happens when they fall apart and trashed, or after the 5/ 10 year mark? Doesn't it become trash, adding to the single use trash issue? The way I see it, no. 5-10-12 years saves you a ton of trash creation that you would otherwise produce if you used disposables. For me this means anywhere between 20000- 40000 pads, pending on when menopause will come knocking. That is enormous in comparison to at most 5 cups in my lifetime. As well as this, there are companies that produce natural rubber cups, which ARE BIODEGRADABLE and can be composted. Some companies even offer to take back your silicone cup and recycle it into new products. That includes sex companies, like "come as you are", which is based in Canada. They even give you a 15% discount on your next purchase...
In countries like Switzerland, we burn our plastic waste, if it cannot be recycled. Switzerland is very unique in in that it has and uses specific incinerating technology to safely and effectively clean byproduct fume and turn heat into energy. On the other hand, we consume 3 times more plastic than other Europeans and recycle only 30% less. Plus we are notorious for sending our plastic trash to China (which china refuses to accept now) and other places in the world, where it is plausibly not dealt with environmental impact in mind.
We use plastic recycling bags in Zurich from a recycling centre called Mülliland. I have spoken to the people that work there, and the bags get sent off to a professional "kunststoff" (plastic) recycling centre. Silicone included. So if you live in ZH that's an option to consider.
If you are looking to give it a shot and find a recycling centre in Switzerland, I suggest looking at using the website below to find a centre, just call in advance to find out what they do with it:
Ive also seen suggestions of trying to bring period cups to hospitals to sort of piggy bank on their recycling solution. So you could always give them a ring and see it its plausible.
And finally you can epicycle your cup at home, I've seen planting projects with Period cups.
"More prone to getting infections."
Simple biology, moisture and warmth, is any bacteria's best friend. Cups are made from a non absorbent material. Bacteria can lay on the cup, but it cannot survive or grow on it. There is more of a likely hood of this happening with tampons.
"You can loose your Virginity (break your hymen) to the cup."
This was a popular misconception and an especially religious concern for most part of the cup`s history. However Period cups don't go all the way into your vagina and they are open at the top, leaving a space for your "Virginity" to sit untouched. You are more likely to break your hymen via strenuous sport like horse back riding. Plus this isn't the1800s, chances are not one care or is even looking to examine your hymen in order to clear your name...
"They are for women living in first world."
To some extent, if you don't have access to a private bathroom, things can seem very inconvenient. However, I have seen many stories and read many articles about companies, or people trying to promote or claim period cups as a great solution in the "third world". So I could be wrong with my initial statement. The reality is, in many parts of the world, girls and women cannot either afford to purchase mensural sanitary pads or tampons. It simply costs too much or they don't have access to repurchasing it in rural areas. Many girls miss out on school, and other social happenings, and need to stay in door for up to a week as free bleeding is their only option. Cups seem to pose a solution to this problem. Apart from the misconceptions regarding loss of virginity due to using them, it was a taboo for many people in these parts of the world. There are period cup brands that use a fraction of the purchasing price to provide women and girls in "third world" countries, with cups and education. The Ruby Cup company is an example of such companies, with a "buy-one, give-one" mentality:
Or even the "Freedom Cup"
On the other hand, if you do live in a place that doesn't have clean water or even access to water. then chances are the cup isn't a solution. So then by that standard the cup can be discriminatory and a question of privilege vs. basic human rights.
"They are dirty."
This one is down to you. Unless you have very unhealthy cleaning habits and are likely to leave your used cup sitting on a bathroom sink for hours on end. I don't know how else to tell you this, they aren't dirty, unless you are. Make sure to rinse out with water, wash with neutral soap or even boil them with a table spoon of white vinegar between changes and periods.
"Period blood can flow back into the Cervix. Especially while you sleep."
VERY unlikely. Your Cervix has such a small opening. Like I said before, if you go to feel it, it actually feels like a "dent". In combination with this very small opening, your Uterus has muscles that aid to contract downwards to push out and through the Cervix. Thus cramps. So the chances of the Cervix allowing any blood back in, it quite unlikely. AS well, most of us bleed out less during sleep, simple because we don't have our good old friend, Gravity, giving us a helping hand. So in most cases, you will notice, that when you go to empty your cup and even before, change a pad, you will have a lighter flow or even spotting.
"They will suck out your IUD."
If you are pinching your cup when you go to pull it out, you break the seal of suction. So chances that your IDU will be pulled out, it's near darn impossible. However, it has been advised, to forgo using a Period Cup if you do have an IUD and you aren't comfortable with the idea of using the two in combination. You can always consult your OBGYN just to feel assured.
"They can be used as a contraceptive."
This I do not recommend. While its possible to have sex safely with some cups, I would not recommend them as a contraceptive. Sperm are micro and they swim. Now unless you KNOW those bad boys can't, don't experiment. Period cups, just as their name sake suggests, are for Periods. Period.