How To Handle Menstrual Cups In Public

Menstrual Cups in PublicIf you’re new to menstrual cups, I highly recommend reading this post first:  Menstrual Cups:  A Newbie’s Perspective.

I’ve used menstrual cups for about a year and I would NEVER go back to tampons.  They are far more comfortable and convenient to use than their disposable counterparts.  I don’t have to worry about buying menstrual supplies each month and I don’t deal with pain from inserting a dry, scratchy tampon.  Menstrual cups have made my periods much more manageable and less of an interruption to daily life.

When I broach the subject of menstrual cups with other women, the question that seems to always come up after how do you insert them, is how do you deal with them while out and about?  It’s a valid question, and an easy one to answer.

First of all, you can wear a menstrual cup for up to twelve hours before it needs to be emptied, cleaned, and reinserted.  TWELVE HOURS guys!  That means you may only need to insert your cup in the morning, empty it in the evening, and reinsert and forget about it until the next morning.  Compared to tampons which need to be changed every 4-6 hours, that’s a big change!  Twelve hours typically works for me.  If my flow is unusually heavy, I’ll go ahead and empty around the six-hour mark, but the Lunette I use has never been full at that point.  Since I typically only have to empty the cup once a day, I am almost always able to do so at home.  This is highly convenient since I have the privacy of my bathroom to empty, clean, and reinsert.  I do recommend doing several trial runs of emptying and reinserting the cup at home before you venture into public  restroom changes of the cup just to get yourself familiar with how it all works.

If you do have to be out and about when your cup needs to be emptied, it’s manageable and easy!  You used to carry a  bag with tampons or pads right?  Well, technically you can use that same bag for these disinfecting wipes.  However, the wipes are so tiny you could easily slip one in your pocket and no one would ever know.  To empty your menstrual cup in a public restroom:

  • Wash your hands (just as you should before changing a tampon!).
  • Remove the cup and empty the contents into the toilet.
  •  Wipe the inside and outside of the cup off with toilet tissue.
  • Once wiped well, use the cup wipe to finish cleaning and disinfecting your cup.
  • The wipes can be discarded in the trash or flushed if no trash can is readily available.
  • Let the cup air dry (it only takes a few seconds, you won’t be left sitting there for several minutes waiting).
  • Reinsert your cup.
  • Wash your hands.

See, no more complicated than changing a tampon.  If you’re worried about getting blood on your hands, you could easily put an extra wipe or an individually wrapped regular wipe in your bag or pocket to clean your hands before leaving the stall and washing them.  Once you’ve practiced emptying the cup at home several times,  you generally won’t have to worry about blood on your hands anymore than you would with tampons.

Have you made the switch to reusable menstrual care products yet?

*This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase from one of the affiliate links, I will receive a small portion of the sale.  You don’t have to make a purchase using the links, but I appreciate when you do as it helps support my blogging efforts.  You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Ten Reasons I Love Mama Cloth

10 Reason I Love Mama ClothSome of the most popular posts on our blog are our free mama cloth patterns.  Why?  Mama cloth is awesome.  As are menstrual cups.  They make periods easier and more comfortable.  If you haven’t already tried mama cloth and menstrual cups, here are ten more reasons why you should.

  1. They save you money.  Who doesn’t need some extra cash?  Depending on prices where you live and how savvy of a shopper you are most women will spend about $10 a month on their periods.  Obviously, some women may spend less.  If you have heavy, or long periods, you will likely spend more.  That’s $120 a year for oh, let’s say 35 or so years.  Maybe more, maybe less depending on your body, how many children you have, etc.  Based on those figures you’ll spend $4200 on pads, tampons, and panty liners in a lifetime.  If cared for properly a menstrual cup can last up to ten years and they average about $30-40 each.  Cloth pad prices can vary greatly.  You can make several pads out of a yard of flannel and a bit of fleece for backing making them very inexpensive.  You can buy them for $3-$9+ a piece.  Keep in mind, cloth pads can also last for years if properly cared for.  The life expectancy of a cloth pad or panty liner varies from three to four years on up to eight or nine years.  If you need a new cup every ten years, let’s say you need three in a lifetime at $40 each.  That’s $120 for a lifetime supply of menstrual cups.  Let’s say you need ten pads per month and you replace them five times in a lifetime.  If you make them yourself, you could likely make more than ten for less than $20.  So you would spend $100 making a lifetime supply of pads and liners.  That’s $220 for a lifetime supply of menstrual cups and pads.  If you buy the pads  at $9 each that would be $450 for a lifetime supply of pads.  So $570 for a lifetime supply of pads and menstrual cups.  Even if you buy more, you’re saving money.
  2. Cloth pads don’t cause chaffing.  So, let’s be honest and enter the TMI zone for a minute.  Many disposable menstrual pads cause rash, irritation, and/or chaffing.  At the end of your period you have a genital area that feels sore and is often chafed and rashy.  It can be from the dry tampons or it can be from the plastic backed pads.  That doesn’t happen with MOST menstrual cups, and unless you’re allergic to the fabric the cloth pad is made of (highly unlikely) it isn’t going to happen at all with pads.  If you menstrual cup is making you sore, it is likely the wrong size for you or you haven’t inserted it properly.  Not because it is drying your vaginal walls out as tampons do.
  3. Cloth pads don’t bunch.  You know that awful, bunched up feeling disposable pads get when wet?  Or if you’re exercising and all of a sudden you have what feels like half the pad wadded up your tush giving you a wedgie? Yeah…that doesn’t really happen with cloth pads or menstrual cups.  Disposable pads typically have a gel to catch your flow and that gel can bunch when wet.  Cloth pads snap around the underwear and typically don’t bunch.  There are cloth pads in many shapes so you have lots of options in finding the right fit for your body.
  4. Less cramps.  You read that right.  I didn’t believe it when cloth pad connoisseurs told me that cloth pads can help elevate menstrual cramps.  I tried them, just to see if they were lying.  Turns out, they weren’t.  The chemicals in disposable pads and tampons can irritate your body leading to heavier periods and stronger cramping.  Your cramps likely won’t disappear altogether, but mine did lessen significantly. Reusable Menstrual Care Rocks
  5. You don’t have to worry about having them on hand or rushing out to buy some.  Getting your period unexpectedly and realizing you don’t have a single pad, liner, or tampon in the house or your purse sucks.  You have to find something to catch your flow while you run to the store and the whole time you worry about leaks or if everyone can tell that you have a washcloth wadded in your panties.  No worries like that if you use cloth pads or menstrual cups because you always have them readily available.  You could even keep a couple of cloth pads in your purse ‘just in case’.
  6. TSS is highly unlikely with menstrual cups.  We’ve all heard about TSS and it’s relation to tampon use.  Sadly, there are women who die every year from TSS and it just doesn’t have to happen.  According to Lunette, there are no known instances of TSS with use of a menstrual cup because it catches your flow instead of absorbing vaginal fluids and menstrual flow.  It is NOT absorbent.  If TSS is a concern, please contact your physician to make sure you are making the best decision for your health and menstrual care.
  7. You change them less.  You can safely wear a menstrual cup for up to twelve hours instead of a maximum of six to eight like tampons.  A menstrual cup also doesn’t need to be emptied when you urinate and can safely be worn overnight.  How often you change a cloth pad will vary based on your flow.
  8. You waste less.  If you’re environmentally conscious, this one’s important.  You are putting less trash into landfills when you choose reusable menstrual products.
  9. You know what’s going into your body.  Cloth pads are made of fabric and most are made of natural fabrics.  This means no chemicals like disposable pads.  Most menstrual cups are made of medical grade silicone.  Tampons are often bleached and I don’t want bleached products inside my vagina.
  10. They’re cute.  Okay, this is a totally immature reason.  But I like that I can get cloth pads in fun prints and colors.  No, they don’t give me a ‘happy’ period, but they sometimes make me smile when I pull out a pad with a cute little monster on it.  Or a ‘ninja fighter’ period pad.  And you can even get the Lunette in fun colors.

Menstrual Cups: A Newbie’s Perspective

MenstrualCupsThis post contains graphic language in regards to menstruation and the female anatomy.  If honest, open discussion of these topics offends you, please stop reading.

Menstrual cups…I have to say I waited a while to try them compared to mama cloth.  There was a two-year gap in my discovery and use of mama cloth and my use of menstrual cups.  I wanted to do a post now as a brand new menstrual cup user to give a newbie’s perspective on them.  I plan to go back in a few months and to offer more advice on getting used to them and ease of use.

A little background…  Before I had children, I was a tampons and liners only type person.  I never wore disposable menstrual pads except for at night.  After having kids, tampons were extremely uncomfortable.  I tried different brands and just couldn’t comfortably wear them.  I discovered mama cloth during my second pregnancy and that’s what I continued to use until this cycle.  I’d say my cycles are pretty average, the second day is heavy, third a little less heavy, and then it’s pretty light to spotting for another couple of days.  I don’t really have any flow at night other than slight spotting occasionally.

I have a tilted cervix, but this has not made it difficult for me to use the cup.  I do not have an IUD.  If you do, you should discuss using a menstrual cup with your doctor.

I would say I am probably more comfortable with my female anatomy than most.  I say this because I learned a lot about my body and had to get comfortable doing things like checking my cervix while we spent several years trying to conceive and going through infertility.  You have to be comfortable in touching your vagina to use a menstrual cup because there is no applicator.  The applicator is your fingers.  I promise it’s not gross or scary.  Just wash your hands before you start and RELAX!!  Being tense will make it harder to insert a menstrual cup just like it would a tampon.

Menstrual Cup Q&A

  • What is a menstrual cup?
    A menstrual cup is a reusable cup used to catch menstrual flow.  It is typically made of medical grade silicone.  Instead of throwing it away after use, you wash the cup and reuse it.
  • Is inserting the cup difficult or painful?
    Yes, and no.  The hardest part for me so far is getting the cup to stay folded before I get it all the way in.  I’m getting better at it, but it does take practice.  So, for me, it’s only painful if the cup pops open before I get it all the way inside.
  • How do you insert it?
    My cup came with insertion instructions and details on insertion and different folds for insertion are also available on the manufacturer’s website.  I will also direct you to Dirty Diaper Laundry’s video because it is great and offers tips that really help you get it right.  The tip to bear down while inserting was key for me.  And remember that you aren’t aiming the cup ‘up’, it’s almost going in horizontal towards your lower back.
  • Can you feel it?
    I could tell the cup was in at first, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.  Once I’d inserted it a few times and gotten more comfortable with it, I really couldn’t tell it was in it all.  I purchased the Lunette size 2.  The Lunette cup has a small stem at the bottom to help you grip and guide it.  I had to trim most of the stem off because it was too long for my anatomy.  Once I did that, it was super comfortable and I really didn’t notice I was having my period at all.
  • Will I get it right the first time?
    Honestly, probably not.  I didn’t.  I got the cup too high the first time and it was giving me cramps.  I just adjusted it, pulled it down just a tad, and it was a night and day difference.  I feel like I’ve gotten better at getting it right each time I do it.  It is definitely a learning curve because you’re learning your body’s own anatomy and what placement is just right for you.  Once you get it though, it’s very comfortable.
  • How often do you empty the cup?
    You can wear the cup for up to 12 hours.  On a heavy day, I wore mine about six hours before I changed it.  It is safe to wear a cup at night, but I don’t because I really don’t have a flow at night.  Unlike tampons, TSS cases have not been reported with the cup.  One BIG reason to use them.
  • How do you clean it?
    The first several times you use your cup, I would recommend emptying it and reinserting it at home if possible.  Mainly because you don’t want to be tense when you remove it and it might be messy until you get the hang of it.  DDL’s video above will also give you tips to remove the cup.  Bear down, pinch the bottom of the cup to release the seal, and slowly pull it out.  I just empty the cup into the bowl, wash it with mild soap at the sink, and reinsert it.  Lunette makes a cleanser designed for use with the cup.  If you need to change while on the go, they also make cleansing cloths.
  • The cup is expensive.  I could buy several boxes of tampons for the cost of one cup.
    It is and you’re right.  But, the tampons are going to be thrown away.  The cup can be used for years if you care for it properly and that is going to save you lots of money.  On the low end, a box of tampons is going to cost about $4.  If you need one box every month, the Lunette has paid for itself in ten months….
  • Will I need a back-up?  
    Until you get comfortable using the cup, you may have some leakage.  Once you get the seal right, you likely won’t need a back-up liner or pad unless you have a heavy flow.  And again, I don’t wear the cup at night because I have practically no flow at night, but you can wear it overnight.
  • Can I wear the cup on light days?
    Yes!  You can wear the cup on light or heavy days and you don’t need a ‘light flow’ or ‘heavy flow’ cup.  One cup will do it all.
  • Is it true that the cup helps alleviate cramps?
    For me, yes.  Chemicals in disposable tampons and pads can greatly contribute to menstrual cramps and a heavier flow.  I have almost no cramping since switching to cloth pads and the cup.  The only time I had cramping with the cup was when I had it inserted too high.  Once I adjusted it, the cramps were instantly gone.
  • How do I find the right cup for me?
    There are a few different cups on the market and they typically come in two different sizes.  Lunette and Diva Cup being the two brands I hear about most.  Every woman’s anatomy is different so I would recommend checking out the manufacturer’s websites and comparing the different brands.  After my research, Lunette was my choice and it has been a good fit for me.

Where To Buy

If you want more information on cloth pads, please stop by our article on Mama Cloth.

I hope this has provided you with some useful information on menstrual cups.  I have to say that I am very glad I finally decided to try one.  I love mama cloth, but the cup is a whole new freedom.  Only having to empty it once or twice a day is fantastic and lets me forget that I have my period.

If you have other questions, feel free to email me or comment below.

*This post contains some affiliate links.  

Mama Cloth – What Is It?

MamaClothMama cloth…  Menstrual cups…  I had been menstruating 13 years before I heard about reusable menstrual products.  When you get ‘the talk’ you’re told about pads and tampons. That’s it.  No one mentions an entire line of reusable products that are more comfortable, eco-friendly, and economical.

The first time someone told me about mama cloth, they didn’t do it in a very positive way.  And I was instantly turned off.  No way was I going to reuse a pad, even if you did wash it.  Actually, no way did I want to wash something with blood all over it.  That was gross right?   WRONG!

My curiosity about cloth pads got the better of me and I decided to do more research.  Turns out there were a lot of options out there.  Users of mama cloth swore that they were comfortable.  Users of reusable cups said they barely noticed their periods at all.  I was intrigued.

My foray into mama cloth happened while I was pregnant with my second child.  Pregnant women know the insane amount of liners you can go through.  I sewed up a few pads with adjustable absorbency and I loved them!  They were far more comfortable than their plastic backed disposable counterparts.  And they were much more breathable.  I have continued to use mama cloth since, almost two years ago.

The Basics

  • Cloth pads come in a variety of shapes/lengths/widths just like disposable pads.  If you sew your own, or find a WAHM willing to do a completely custom pad, your options are truly endless.
  • Cloth pads come in a variety of absorbencies just like disposable pads.  Liners, light flow, medium flow, heavy flow, postpartum, overnight, etc.  It’s all out there ready to purchase.  There are also pads with adjustable absorbency which is something you won’t get with disposable products.  These pads have a body (or shell) that you slip your absorbent core into.  So you can add more layers as needed.
  • If you are prone to rashes or chaffing with disposable pads, that will likely go away with cloth pads.  Cloth pads don’t contain chemicals like their disposable counterparts and they are breathable.  Pads backed with fleece or wool and containing no PUL are especially breathable.  Any type of heat rash and chafing I had with disposable pads completely disappeared with cloth.  I don’t get that sore feeling after wearing them that I did with disposable pads.
  • Since cloth pads have no chemicals, they can also reduce your flow and cramping.  I’m no doctor, but I have talked to many women who use cloth pads and/or menstrual cups.  And most of them say that they’re flow, cramps, or both decreased after switching to reusable menstrual products.  The simple explanation is that there are no chemicals in the reusable products while there are in the disposable counterparts.  The chemicals can be an irritant to many women and your body needs to flush these chemicals out of your body – thus a heavier flow and more cramping.
  • When you’re out, you can store dirty pads in a waterproof makeup bag.  Most cloth pad retailers also sell small wet/dry bags designed to hold dirty pads and clean pads in separate pockets.
  • Cloth pads are pretty easy to care for.  And if you do it properly, they will last YEARS, saving you a lot of money.
  • So how do you care for them?  If you cloth diaper, you can rinse your pads in cold water and throw them in your dirty diaper pail.  Rinsing them actually isn’t even necessary, but it does help prevent staining.  If you don’t have cloth diapers to wash, you can get a small wet bag, or one of those tiny trash cans that you often see at ice cream parlors for sample spoons.  These trash cans are sold at the Dollar Tree and many other retailers.  Again, rinse in cold water to help prevent staining, and throw them in the pail.  Store your dirty pads here until the end of your cycle or whenever you are ready to wash.  I wash mama cloth every other day with my dirty diapers.  Before you wash, rinse them again in cold water (Some prefer an overnight soak with a bit of vinegar and cold water.  Just note that vinegar CAN break down PUL if you use a pad backed with PUL).  Throw them in the washer on their own OR with regular laundry.  Just don’t use fabric softener when washing mama cloth as it can cause repelling and greatly diminish the pad’s absorbency.  Hang dry, or throw them in the dryer.
  • What about staining?  Some materials are more prone to staining than others.  Pads topped with microfleece, suedecloth, and minky are actually rather hard to stain.  Natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and bamboo stain more easily.  Rinsing with cold water before placing in your pail or wet bag helps reduce staining.  If your pads do stain, soaking in oxi-clean or sunning them with lemon juice can help remove the stains.  And remember, a stain DOES NOT mean that something is dirty.
  • An added bonus?  Cloth pads come in lots of pretty colors and prints.

MamaCloth2So, are you curious?  Below you’ll find a list of places to purchase reusable menstrual products.  I have also created free patterns to make your own menstrual pads and liners which are linked at the bottom of the post.  Try your hand at sewing your own cloth pads!  It’s a fairly easy project and you might just like the results 😉

Cloth Menstrual Care Retailers
(This is just a small list.  You can do a google search for reviews and retailers to suit your own menstrual care needs.  Not all bodies are shaped the same, not all cycles are the same.  But there is something out there for everyone.  Check your local area for retailers as well. Cloth diaper stores and natural health care stores are great places to look.)

Pads

Cups

Wet Bags

Cloth Pad Patterns

Wet Bag Patterns

*Disclosure:  Please note that some of the links provided are affiliate links

Small Ways to Make a Big Difference – Waste Not

There are many, many opportunities every day to choose reusable products instead of disposable products. It is very easy to do and I don’t think most people realize how many reusable options are available.  Try them all or a few, and feel good about wasting less.10Reusable

 

There are also way to clean effectively without harsh chemicals.Cleaning
  • Vinegar and water clean very effectively without harsh chemicals.  Mix equal parts water and vinegar to clean counters, tables, cabinets, toilets, sinks, and even floors.  Use 2 parts vinegar and one part water for particularly messy jobs.
  • White vinegar can replace fabric softener effectively in most water types.  Your clothes won’t smell like vinegar either.
  • Soap nuts can effectively clean most laundry.  They are also great to wash floors with.  Place your soap nuts bag in a buck with a 1/2-1 cup vinegar and fill with hot water.
  • An equal parts solution of plain rubbing alcohol and water cleans glass very well. You can also keep a bottle handy in the bathroom to wipe down toilets, sink hardware, and potties.
  • A magic eraser (or even the Dollar Tree equivalent) with a little squirt of dish soap takes away soap scum very easily.  You can use without the dish soap and just put in a little more elbow grease.
  • Magic erasers also take scuffs, crayon, and marker off walls, doors, tables, and floors.