Ever wanted to just sit down with an OB/GYN and pick their brain? Because bodies do WEIRD things sometimes - or at least it seems that way. Discharge, periods, sex… what exactly is ‘normal’ and what isn’t?
For every month from now until September, we’re quizzing Dr. Sherry on all things vaginas and sexual health. She’s an award-winning OB/GYN, entrepreneur, women’s health expert, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health.
In other words, she’s fierce and fabulous.
This month, we gave Dr. Sherry our most-asked questions on menstrual cups. Like, how do they not fall out? And do they stretch the vagina? Here’s what the queen of sexual health had to say…
What is a menstrual cup?
“A menstrual cup can be used to collect period blood when inserted inside the vagina and can work its magic for up to 12 hours. It was first introduced in the 1930s and has been growing in popularity and curiosity over the years - and for good reason!
Menstrual cups are reusable, convenient, and environmentally-friendly. They’re also hypo-allergenic and quickly cost-efficient (when compared to tampons and pads over just a few months).
Since they harbor less bacteria (when cleaned properly) and can be more gentle to the inside of the vagina, they are also a healthier alternative to tampons and pads.”
How is a menstrual cup different than tampons?
“Tampons are designed for “one-time use” and can be left inside the vagina for up to eight hours at a time. Normal blood flow requires three to six tampons per day.
A menstrual cup is much more convenient - it can be changed two times a day if you have a light to normal flow.
Not to mention, tampons can become pricey over time compared to a menstrual cup, as menstrual cups are reusable and only need to be replaced once every couple of years.”
Why choose a menstrual cup?
“It’s no exaggeration to say menstrual cups can be life-changing.
Here are the biggest reasons why you’ll LOVE your menstrual cup:
- A natural and environmentally friendly way to collect period blood
- Helps you to save heaps on those costly tampons and pads
- A healthier alternative for your body
- Convenient and reusable (no need to stockpile tampons and pads in your backpack when you’re off adventuring).
- Menstrual cups are more comfortable than tampons and pads. When inserted properly, you should have zero discomfort, even when jogging or dancing!
- With a wear time of up to 12 hours, you can keep your menstrual cup in overnight without the worry of being greeted by bloody sheets in the morning.
- You only have to buy one menstrual cup every couple of years, with an average cost of $40.”
How do you clean a period cup?
“Before you remove your cup for cleaning, make sure you clean your hands. Then wash the cup with warm water and unscented soap, Lunette Feelbetter Cup Cleanser, or by using a vinegar solution (one part vinegar to nine parts water).
If you’re using a cup for the first time, boil it in a pot of water for 20 minutes before you insert it - but make sure the cup isn’t touching the bottom of the pot or it can burn. You can also place your cup in a sieve to prevent contact with the bottom of the pot.”
How do you insert a menstrual cup? Will it hurt?
“Insertion of a menstrual cup can definitely have a learning curve, but once you’ve mastered the technique, it’s easy as pie.
After washing your hands, you can insert a period cup while sitting, standing or squatting. With your legs spread, you need to fold the cup in half like a flat taco and guide it rim-first into the vagina.
Once inserted, the cup is designed to open up inside the vagina. It should sit below your cervix and above the pubic bone. Your cervix is a narrow neck-like passage that lies below the uterus and above the vagina. You can feel your cervix if you gently insert a finger deep into your vagina - you may even notice it can feel pretty squishy just after ovulation.
When the cup is inserted correctly inside the vagina, it suctions comfortably to the vaginal walls, keeping it in place. Wearing the cup should not be painful or uncomfortable.
Even though you can safely leave your cup inside your vagina for up to 12 hours, you may need to empty it every few hours if you’re experiencing a heavy flow. This is why getting cozy with your period is super-useful – tracking your cycle using an app like Flo is a great way to understand which days you bleed the most.”
How does a menstrual cup fit inside my vagina? Will it get stuck or lost?
“Menstrual cups are made from a soft silicone and they come in many sizes. The smaller sizes are usually made of softer silicone and are ideal for teens, beginners, fitness fanatics, and those with strong vaginal muscles or a low-sitting cervix.
The larger sizes are typically designed for anyone who has a heavy flow or has ever delivered a baby. You’ll know if you have the right size for your body because it will feel snug, painless, and comfy when inserted.
Don’t worry, your cup won’t get lost inside your vagina. If you’re having problems removing it, it’s probably because you’re tensing your muscles from worrying! So take a deep breath, let your body relax and try again. When you’re still having trouble, bear down as if you were pooping and it’ll ease out, no problem.”
Will a menstrual cup stretch out my vagina?
“Nope, not even a little bit!
Your vagina's muscle tissue is ultra-elastic, like a stress ball. When you choose the correct cup size for your body, it will feel comfortable and definitely not increase the size of your vagina. A baby’s head is really the only thing that can stretch a vagina.
Wearing the cup can actually even strengthen your vaginal muscles, which can also lead to stronger orgasms!”
How do you remove a menstrual cup?
“This is the part a lot of people dread but there’s really nothing to fear. When it’s time to remove the menstrual cup, wash your hands and get into a comfortable position where you can separate your legs easily. It’s best to do this by a toilet and sink for a quick and easy clean-up.
Next, insert two fingers inside the vagina to locate and hold the bottom of the cup. To release the suction, gently squeeze the bottom of the cup and pull it outside of the vagina. Make sure you don’t remove it by holding the stem alone as this can make the blood spill outside the cup.”
Will it look like a scene out of a horror movie when I remove my cup?
“If you remove your cup properly, the blood should remain inside its base.
Practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to removal, so don’t beat yourself up if you do get spillage the first couple of times you remove your cup - it happens to the best of us! This is why the bathroom is best for removal, just in case things do get a bit messy.
Just make sure you always remove the cup by pinching the bottom of it. This will release the suction while allowing you to have a strong grip on the cup.”
Is my menstrual cycle normal?
“What’s ‘normal’ is different for everybody when it comes to their period. But there are some averages you can use as a reference, like these:
- Age of onset: 11 to 12 years old, ranging from 8 to 14 years old
- Average frequency: 32 days, but 21 to 45 days is considered normal
- Average length: 2 to 7 days
- Average use of tampons or pads per day: 3 to 6 tampons or pads per day
- Average amount of blood: 4 to 12 teaspoons each cycle
If you notice your periods are coming a bit more frequently - less than 21 days or lasting longer than 7 days for more than 3 months - this would be considered abnormal.
On the flip side, heavy bleeding with big blood clots (like the size of grapes) might be a cause for concern too. Same goes if you’re changing your pad or tampon every thirty to sixty minutes for three to four hours a day.
In terms of irregular bleeding, it’s perfectly normal to have a few spots of reddish brown blood at unexpected times of your cycle. Some people can have spotting that lasts a couple of days, then stops and restarts again during the middle of the month. Brown spotting can also happen mid-cycle or during ovulation.
If brown spotting continues for more than two to three months, you should visit your doctor to discuss the reasons why this might be happening.”
Wow. Don’t You Feel Like You Learned A Lot?!
And this is just the beginning!
Stay tuned for our next interview with your favorite OB/GYN, Dr. Sherry.
Next month we’ll be chatting about vaginas, vaginas and MORE VAGINAS! If that’s not something to look forward to, then we don’t know what is…