Science

What Is a Menstrual Cup and How Does It Work?

A menstrual cup looks like a little cup with a ball, stem, or ring at the bottom. It is made of silicone or thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) and comes in a variety of colors and sizes. It is inserted into the vagina where it collects menstrual blood. A menstrual cup is reusable and can last for several years. All of this information is readily available by googling the term menstrual cup, but what does it really do, and what does it look like in detail? That’s what we’re here to find out!

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Although they’re all designed to catch menstrual blood, menstrual cups can take a variety of forms.

Some may resemble roses with a bit of the stem intact.

Others look more like upside-down church bells, while yet others are more rounded or triangular.

Personally, I think they look a bit like egg-cups.

Rose, church bell, cone

Source: Google.

Egg-cup

Source: Google.

Menstrual cup

Source: Google.

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Menstrual cups are usually equipped with a stem, ball, or ring, grip rings along the sides towards the bottom, as well as small air holes, all of which designed to make it easier to insert and remove.

They are typically made of medical-grade silicone, thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), or latex.

Medical-grade silicone is a type of silicone that has been developed for safe use in contact with living tissue, a property known as bio-compatibility.

The majority of menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone.

Most people should be familiar with silicone in some form or another.

TPE is a sort of rubber-like material.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say thermoplastic elastomers is a lesser-known material than silicone.

Latex is a liquid material extracted from a tree, but the word latex also refers to the natural rubber produced from this extract.

We’ll be diving deeper into this subject in a future article, but all you need to know for now is that these are the three most common materials used in the manufacturing of menstrual cups.

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Colors

Menstrual cups come in many different colors.

The color doesn’t serve any direct function and is mostly an aesthetic choice.

Menstrual cup colors

Source: Google.

Your menstrual cup may become discolored after a period of use depending on how you treat it, so the choice of color can be something to think about.

For example, a darker color will make this discoloration less noticeable than on a clear cup.

But on the other hand, if you’re like me and prefer things to be fresh and clean, you may decide to pick a color that lets you know when it’s time to buy a new one.

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There are also some tips out there on how to get your menstrual cup looking shiny and new again.

For example, some menstrual cup brands have developed specially designed wipes just for menstrual cups.

Or, you can leave your cup to soak in 3% hydrogen peroxide or vinegar.

Lemon juice works too.

If you choose a colored cup, make sure the dye is FDA-cleared.

You should be able to check this on the manufacturer’s website if it’s not already specified on the packaging.

FDA

Food and Drug Administration.

Shape, Size, and Firmness

Menstrual cups come in many shapes and sizes.

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When buying a menstrual cup, you’re going to want to ask yourself the following questions:

Am I just getting my period for the first time?

Am I a first-time user?

Am I 29 or younger, or 30 and older?

Am I used to light or moderate flow, or do I have a heavy flow?

Have I had children?

Do I have toned pelvic floor muscles?

Do I have problems with incontinence?

How active am I?

The list of factors goes on of course, but these are usually the most common ones when choosing a cup.

Find my perfect menstrual cup match

As previously mentioned, there are menstrual cups out there with a more rounded or v-shape.

Though the triangular ones aren’t found as easily, you can buy them online if you’d like to try them out.

However, make sure you’re buying from a serious vendor, and always remember to double-check that it's a high-quality product that you're about to buy.

Another important factor is firmness, i.e. how firm or soft the material is.

Softer cups may have a harder time unfolding if you have toned pelvic floor muscles.

Firmer cups, on the other hand, can be uncomfortable.

Shape, size, and comfort are mostly a matter of personal preference and comfort, and finding the perfect cup may be a process of trial and error.

Find my perfect menstrual cup match

Stem, Ring, Ball, and Grip-Patterns

The stem of the cup also comes in different shapes and sizes.

It can be long or short, in the form of a ring or ball, and there are even cups with no stem at all.

The purpose of the stem is to give you something to guide you to the base of your cup when taking it out.

The grip rings are also to help with grip.

Stem

Source: Google.

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Air Holes

Menstrual cups have tiny air holes along the top.

These are to allow air to pass through when putting the cup in or taking it out.

As the cup unfolds after insertion, it forms a kind of vacuum between the cup and your cervix.

Conversely, when taking out the menstrual cup, squeezing the lower part of the cup allows air to pass through the air holes, breaking the seal.

Air hole

Source: Google.

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Measuring Marks and Capacity

The average menstrual cup usually holds between 20 and 30 milliliters.

A more compact cup holds 10-20 ml, while the larger models hold 30 ml and upwards.

For those with very heavy flow, the larger cups can be a good alternative.

The absolute largest can hold upwards of 40 ml.

Teenagers and very small individuals should consider the smallest cups available.

There are sometimes small measuring marks on the side of the cup, much like a measuring cup, indicating how much the cup can hold.

This feature can be useful for those who for whatever reason need to measure their menstrual flow.

You can search and compare menstrual cups in our database to see the variety of dimensions and capacities available.

Measuring marks

Source: Google.

Measuring cup

Source: Google.

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Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cup
https://www.lunette.com/pages/how-to-clean
https://medium.com/@boondhmenstrualcup/a-chemical-scientists-perspective-on-the-design-of-menstrual-cups-63790ddd0c81
https://reusablemenstrualcup.com/menstrual-cup-comparison/menstrual-cup-capacity-chart

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