Use the cup. Period

Go with the flow Embrace the menstrual cup as it is easy to use, and is eco-friendly too, Dr Prathima Reddy suggests

health

The movie Period. End of sentence, an Oscar-winning documentary, spoke about the taboo that surrounds menstruation in India (and the world over) and the devastating impact that it has had on women and their social standing. It is a story of discontinued education, public shaming and limited or no access to basic sanitary protection during this time of the month. Traditionally, Indian women have used and continue to use pieces of cloth, sanitary napkins and tampons during their periods.

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a flexible cup designed for use inside the vagina during periods. It actually collects blood unlike cloth, sanitary pads and tampons which absorb blood. Some cups are long-lasting and reusable, while others are disposable. Most cups are made of silicone or rubber. Here are answers to some common questions that women ask about menstrual cups:

Is it true that menstrual cups are kinder on the environment?

Yes. They do not contribute to the waste that clogs the landfills, fewer trees are cut down, and the cost is lower as they can be reused.

How does a menstrual cup stay in place? Will I feel it after wearing it?

It stays in place with a slight suction mechanism. You will not feel it as long as it is applied correctly, and it is sitting properly in the vagina.

I’ve used sanitary napkins before this. Is it advisable to make the shift to a menstrual cup or should I try out tampons first?

The menstrual cup can be used even if only sanitary napkins have been used in the past. And there is no need to try out tampons first. It need not be tried before a period and can be used straightaway during a period.

It looks big! Does it hurt going in or out?

Remember, the menstrual cup is made of silicone. So, it is very pliable and flexible. It has to be folded to be inserted and is no more uncomfortable than using a tampon.

How do I clean the cup?

Wash it with plain water and wipe it with a tissue. At the end of each cycle it must be sterilised and stored ready for the next month. Sterilisation is easily done by boiling the cup in a pot of water for three minutes.

In order to store it, use a cotton bag that is breathable. Avoid storing it in an air tight container.

What cup sizes are available, and which one should I choose?

Usually the cup sizes available are small and medium. This is because not all vaginae are the same. The factors to be considered when choosing a cup size are: the flow — heavy or light, age of the user and the position of the cervix. If the flow is heavy, a medium cup is the preferred one while a small cup can be used for light days. If the cervix is low, a small cup is suitable as the stem of the cup is shorter and therefore sits better. In younger women, a smaller cup would be a better fit as it would be easier to insert.

Can a virgin use the cup?

Yes, certainly. However, since the hymen is intact in a virgin and the entrance to the vagina is smaller, it may need a bit of practice.

What are the disadvantages of the cup?

One of the main disadvantages that women face is emptying the cup as this can be messy. Cleaning in a public toilet may cause embarrassment. Some women may have difficulty in inserting and removing the cup till they get used to it.

So, should I use the menstrual cup?

This is a matter of personal choice. The only way to know if a menstrual cup is the right device for you is to buy one and give it a try! They come in various sizes so sometimes, if the first one doesn’t suit you, the next one will do the trick. You can find them at drug stores or buy them online.

(The author is director, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Bengaluru)

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