A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene device that is inserted into the vagina during menstruation. Its purpose is to collect menstrual fluid (blood from uterine lining) and prevent its leaking onto clothes. Menstrual cups are usually made of flexible medical grade silicone and shaped like a bell with a stem. The stem is used for insertion and removal.
The bell-shaped cup seals against the vaginal wall just below the cervix. Every 4–12 hours (depending on the amount of flow), the cup is removed, emptied, rinsed, and reinserted. After each period, the cup should be boiled for at least 5 minutes and stored for use the next month.Most menstrual cup brands sell a smaller and a larger size. Menstrual cups are sold colorless and translucent, but several brands also offer colored cups, such as pink or purple.
Unlike tampons and pads, cups collect menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. One cup is reusable for up to five years or more. This makes their long-term cost lower than that of disposable tampons or pads, though the initial cost is higher. Menstrual cups are also promoted as more practical and eco-friendly than pads and tampons. Given that the menstrual cup is reusable, its use greatly decreases the amount of waste generated from menstrual cycles, as there is no daily waste and the amount of discarded packaging decreases as well.
The menstrual cup is first folded or pinched and then inserted into the vagina. It will normally unfold automatically and create a light seal against the vaginal walls. In some cases, the user may need to twist the cup or flex the vaginal muscles to ensure the cup is fully open. If correctly inserted, the cup shouldn’t leak or cause any discomfort. In comparison with a tampon, the menstrual cup should be placed lower in the vaginal canal. The stem should be completely inside the vagina. There are various folding techniques for insertion; common folds include the c-fold, as well as the punch-down fold.