Menstrual cups have grown in popularity in recent years as a reusable and more eco-friendly alternative. You insert it into your vagina, let it collect the blood, clean it out as needed, and repeat. However, there are concerns about potential menstrual cup risks and that they may not be as safe as tampons. So, are menstrual cups dangerous and what should we know before choosing these products over traditional methods?
Are Menstrual Cups Dangerous?
Let's get the big question out of the way first. No. Menstrual cups are not dangerous because there are so few risks involved and those that do experience complications are in a tiny minority. Menstrual cup side effects are a possibility, such as irritation, discomfort, and infection, but these are generally the result of improper use and poor hygiene. With the right approach, you should find that you can use a menstrual cup without any problems month after month.
What Are the Menstrual Cup Health Risks?
Below, you can learn more about the possible risks and read answers to some common questions about using these cups. Before we look at those in more detail, let's go over some of the fast facts for an overview of what we're dealing with. If you decide to use a menstrual cup, you need to be aware of the potential for the following:
- Pain and discomfort during insertion and removal.
- Leaks from improper use.
- Irritation and allergies from the material or poor insertion techniques.
- Infections due to a bacteria build or a UTI.
- Toxic Shock Syndrome in incredibly rare cases.
- The dislodgement of IUDs in rare cases due to improper removal.
While this may sound like a lot laid out in a list like this, don't panic. Risks are generally minimal and easily avoidable. So, with that in mind, let's look at the risk of pain and discomfort and how to avoid this.
Are Menstrual Cups Painful to Use?
One of the main concerns when considering menstrual cup dangers is that they will be uncomfortable or even painful to use. We can't pretend that every user is 100% comfortable all the time. A study of UK users found that those that gave up using cups generally did so due to discomfort. This was often down to difficulties removing the cup or getting the right fit.
With that said, with practice and the right methods, you can reduce the risks of pain and other complications. Remember that when a cup is inserted and removed correctly, there should be no discomfort. So, let's look at some tips to avoid menstrual cup pain and discomfort across the process.
Pain When Inserting Menstrual Cups
Getting the cup up there the first time isn't always fun. You might get tense or be a little too dry. It helps to use a water-based lubricant and relax the muscles. You also need to pinch the cup to fold it for easier insertion. Then open it out to create the seal and secure fit below the cervix.
Pain When the Cup Is in Place
The design of the best silicone menstrual cups means that you can move around with ease and not feel them. If you can feel it and it is uncomfortable, it is not inserted correctly. Practice makes perfect.
Pain Removing the Menstrual Cup
The biggest risk here comes when trying to remove the cup without breaking that seal. This can make it very uncomfortable. You need to pinch the cup to break it and then pull it out by the stem. Do this gently so as not to irritate the vaginal walls or brush against the urethra.
Are There Any Menstrual Cup Side Effects or Risks?
Aside from concerns about pain and discomfort, you may be worried about potential menstrual cup health risks of infection, irritation, or other complaints. So, here are some important facts you need to be aware of.
The Risk of Leakage
Leakage from cups is possible if you have a cup that is too small for a heavy flow, if you don't change it often enough, or if you don't create that seal when inserting it. Still, proper use and positioning of the cup should keep you clean and dry longer than tampons or pads.
The Risk of Irritation or an Allergy
Irritation can occur if there is a bacterial build-up due to improper cleaning or if you try and use it without lubrication. Both are easily avoided. As for allergies, it depends on what type of material your cup is made from.
A lot of menstrual cups are silicone. While these have a low risk of allergic reactions, a small minority may experience this. Latex cups also exist but are rare because so many people develop an allergy to latex. If you know you can't use latex condoms, you are better off avoiding latex cups. An alternative is a TPE cup (thermoplastic elastomers). Studies into TPE allergy risks can show fewer cases compared to silicone, as well as a reduced likelihood of TSS.
The Risk of Infections
As with the risk of irritation, the is the risk that excessive bacteria and issues of improper hygiene could lead to infections over time. This is why it is so important to clean your cup after each use and let it dry out properly. You should also remember to wash your hands and never reuse a disposable cup.
The Risk of Urinary Tract Issues
Urinary tract problems are possible when on a period if bacteria or blood ends up in the tract. So, again, good hygiene is a must. Another factor to consider here is that improper insertion can lead to pressure on the tract or the bladder, making it more uncomfortable to pee.
The Risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
There have been studies into links between cups and TSS. There was one rare case of TSS in a young patient attributed to the use of a cup, but it is very unlikely this will happen often. TSS occurs when there is a build-up of toxins in the vagina due to the use of products like tampons and cups. However, most in the medical profession are still happy to recommend these products over tampons due to the low risk and other benefits.
The Risk of Internal Damage
Internal damage is unlikely unless you repeatedly irritate the skin or forcefully remove the cup to the point of abrasion and scarring. This is why you need to seek guidance on the best way to use a menstrual cup before it gets anywhere near this point. As for the risk of dislodgement of IUDs, this is a rare possibility but not something that will cause internal damage.
The Risk of Losing a Menstrual Cup Inside Your Vagina
This is a big fear among first-time users. What if you get it up there and can't seem to find it again? Well, it can't get lost because it can't go any further than the cervix. The best thing to do is to relax and then push down with your vaginal muscles. If they can push out a baby, they can relocate a cup. If this happens too often, consider getting a longer cup with a longer stem.
What Can You Do While Using a Menstrual Cup?
Now that we have a better idea of the menstrual cup health risks and other issues, let's talk more about what to expect from the general experience. It is OK if you are a little unsure about using one of these products yourself and what it will be like. Even if you have used tampons in the past, the idea of inserting a silicone cup up there is a little different. So, let's go over some of the common concerns about menstrual cup use.
Can You Use the Restroom With a Menstrual Cup In?
Yes! This is one of the biggest misconceptions, especially among teenagers that aren't so familiar with their bodies. The placement of the cup does not restrict the flow of urine from the bladder. So, you can easily pee throughout the day and not worry about anything.
What If I Want to Poo When I've Got the Cup Inside Me?
Again, the placement of the cup shouldn't impede the ability to poop. However, some people find it a little uncomfortable because of the pressure imposed on you from the bowel movement. You may also want to be careful if you are dealing with constipation or straining too much.
Is It Dangerous to Have Sex With a Menstrual Cup Inserted?
It isn't dangerous, but it may not be advisable. It depends on your plans. If you want to do anything that includes vaginal penetration then it is a good idea to remove the cup so it isn't in the way and you aren't distracted worrying about it. If you have other things in mind, you should be fine to keep it in. However, there is the potential that anal penetration may shift it out of place. Do what feels right for you.
Do I Have to Avoid Swimming?
No! Menstrual cups are a great option for swimming while on a period. They can stay in place inside the vagina and stop leaks while you enjoy the water.
Is It Dangerous to Sleep With My Menstrual Cup In?
No. This is also safe, but it is also down to personal preference. As they are safe for use for up to 12 hours, a well-fitted cup should be fine overnight and not cause any problems or discomfort.
Is It OK to Use a Menstrual Cup With an IUD? Is There a Risk of IUD Dislodgement?
There are concerns that the removal of the cup can lead to an IUD dislodging. This is because of the placement of the strings in the cervix and the seal created by the cup. But, this is rare. Research shows a case series of seven women who reported dislodgement between 1 week and 13 months of IUD insertion. It is possible but unlikely.
Is It Bad to Wear a Menstrual Cup Every Day?
This one is more open to debate. Those in the medical profession might say that this is a bad idea and you should only use it while menstruating to avoid the risk of dryness and irritation. Yet, there are those using them to deal with discharge, such as around the time of ovulation. It may also help to put it in before you know you are due to help avoid accidents from the first day of bleeding.
You Can Do a Lot With a Menstrual Cup!
So, as you can see, you shouldn't find that your day-to-day activities are negatively affected too much. With some of these, there is the factor of personal preference and, with the IUD, you will want to seek medical advice. With that said, let's look at the potential for medical restrictions and gynecological recommendations.
Are Menstrual Cups Gynaecologist-Recommended?
Yes. Most gynecologists will recommend these cups for menstruation because of their safety record, lack of leaks, and ease of use. Many find they are a preferable alternative to pads and tampons and will advise patients on the best option for their body and flow.
Is There Anyone Who Shouldn't Use a Menstrual Cup?
One of the selling points of these eco-friendly tools is that they are easy enough for anyone to use. However, some people shouldn't use them due to certain medical issues. For example, anyone that has been advised not to use a tampon due to a tilted uterus or other issues should refrain from using these cups. So, while the majority of gynecologists have no problem with these products, you still need to talk to a medical professional if you have possible restrictions to deal with.
One factor that could lead to restrictions is if you have recently had a medical intervention. It is not recommended to use a cup inside the vagina following childbirth, surgery, or an abortion. You want to give yourself time to heal naturally. Your medical team will offer the best guidance on what to do here.
It is also important to point out here that there are no restrictions against virgins using them. Some people feel that they can't start using one of these because they haven't had vaginal sex before. But, as long as you are menstruating, you have every right to use a cup as a preferred form of protection. This is the case regardless of age, experience, or gender. The only possible downside for virgins comes if the hymen is still intact. This could lead to some discomfort and bleeding the first time.
Keeping Menstrual Cups Clean and Hygienic
Finally, we need to talk about cleaning these cups out after use. It is the unpleasant part of the job, but worth it for the benefits gained. You need to make sure that you wash out the cups after use to prevent any build-up of bacteria. Also, be aware that staining and odor can naturally occur. This is why it is also a good idea to sterilize the cups in boiling water between periods, but don't use bleach or harsh cleaning products as the residue could irritate the vagina.
Menstrual Cup Dangers Are Minimal and Nothing to Panic About
To summarize, menstrual cup dangers aren't worth worrying about as long as you are careful using these products. There are rare cases of TSS and other menstrual cup health risks from misuse, but the vast majority of wearers can use these for protection without any risks or side effects. As long as you are careful to follow correct practices, insert and remove it properly, and clean it out each time, your menstrual cup should prove to be a great tool for this annoying time of the month.
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