The use of menstrual cups is a regular thing now – but should those with underlying medical conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and other conditions be using them? Can a healthy woman develop medical issues from it? Why do women love the cup so much? I spoke to my endometriosis specialist doctor about this and did some of my own research of people’s experiences to understand things better.
Here’s what I found…
Before I start, it’s important to add a disclaimer here – I am not a medical professional – I have never used a menstrual cup because I am medically not allowed to do so, which I will share more about in this post. If you have any questions or concerns then please always speak to your doctor about using a menstrual cup or any menstrual hygiene product.
If you prefer to watch a video version of this post then you can here, or just scroll through to continue reading 🙂
What is a Menstrual Cup?
Usually made of medical grade silicone (some are even made of latex or rubber), the menstrual cup is a hygiene device mostly shaped like a bell with a stem.
A menstrual cup is inserted in the vagina in order to catch the shedding lining of the uterus – the period blood.
It’s supposed to be taken out and washed every few hours – you should not leave it in longer than 12 hours as you may become prone to infections, foul smell and in some rare cases even toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
After washing the menstrual cup you just inserted it back in and you’re good to go.
It’s supposed to replace the use of tampons and pads.
Why do Women Love Menstrual Cups?
After reading many posts, watching some YouTube videos, seeing people I know advocate menstrual cups on social media and then the ads that pop up – here are the main points that keep coming up about menstrual cups and why women love them so much.
The menstrual cup has a long life.
It’s supposed to last anywhere from 3 to 5 to even 10 years and costs around $20 to $40 – although it is recommended that you buy two cups so that you can alternate between them during the day.
I read some stories about how some women accidentally flushed their menstrual cup down the toilet and in that case, having a second cup seems like a sensible idea.
Can be Worn for Long Hours
A menstrual cup can be worn for upto 12 hours and many find this very convenient as they can place the cup in their vagina and forget about it as they go about their day.
Feels Like it’s Not There
Many women are so comfortable in it that they don’t feel like it’s even there – it gives them confidence and the freedom to wear what they wish to.
Good for the Environment
Many advertisers and environmentally conscious people love this point.
Tampons and pads are known to end up in landfills rotting away, but the menstrual cup makes sure that doesn’t happen, instead you’re using one cup for many years without contributing negatively to the environment.
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Now let’s move on to the other side…
Why do Women NOT Love Menstrual Cups?
Before I jump into the health aspect of it, here are some of the issues users of the menstrual cup have faced.
On heavy flow days, the blood can leak out from the menstrual cup, which has lead to women wearing a sanitary pad along with their menstrual cups which then kind-of defeats the purpose of using just a menstrual cup.
Therefore some choose to wear sanitary pads for their heaviest days and then change over to a menstrual cup on non-heavy days.
When taking out the menstrual cup you’re supposed to gently pinch at the bottom of it and pull out slowly – when pinched too high up, (which is possible if you’re in a rush) the blood tends to spill out and go everywhere on toilets and clothes.
This isn’t great if it happens in a public toilet or someone else’s home!
There are many women who have had to go to accident and emergency to get their menstrual cup out because the cup has moved too high up to get a grip of it.
Washing the Menstrual Cup in Public Toilets
Some women dislike the idea of washing their menstrual cups in public toilets, where they need to step out of the cubicle and wash the cup in front of others – which also means that you will need to have a spare cup handy.
Are There Any Dangers to Using a Menstrual Cup?
As someone battling chronic invisible illnesses (endometriosis, adenomyosis, PCOS, MCAS, painful bladder syndrome, EDS etc) and disabilities, it is always important to inform myself of my menstrual hygiene options – whether it will make my life easier or hinder my health.
I’ve found very scattered information online about the challenges of those with chronic conditions, for example Healthline suggest that those with the following medical conditions should consult their doctor before using a menstrual cup:
- “vaginismus, which can make vaginal insertion or penetration painful
- uterine fibroids, which can cause heavy periods and pelvic pain
- endometriosis, which can result in painful menstruation and penetration
- variations in uterine position, which can affect cup placement”
But this list seems very limited.
From whatever information I find online, it’s all quite confusing and incomplete so I spoke to my gynaecologist about this while making a health plan after my endometriosis excision surgery that took place in September 2019.
I was keen on trying the menstrual cup despite reading conflicting information that it may or may not increase pains in those who have endometriosis, adenomyosis and other conditions, so I wanted clarity on that.
My doctor explained that in general, using a menstrual cup is safe if you boil it at the end of each cycle, wash it after every use and change it after every 4 to 5 hours – but that’s in general for healthy women.
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But those who use the menstrual cup that have endometriosis, adenomyosis, bladder issues, bowel issues and even regular UTIs amongst other conditions should speak to their doctor specifically for their conditions.
For example, women who have endometriosis on their bowel or bladder region may find having a cup inside presses on both these areas (the bowel and bladder) which could add to their already excruciating pains. In fact some women with no underlying medical conditions have found it tougher to urinate and excrete with a menstrual cup, so imagine someone who does have a medical condition.
Those who experience painful sex, also known as dyspareunia may also find their periods to be more painful with the use of a menstrual cup.
She went on to tell me that anyone sensitive to medical grade silicone, latex or rubber (depending on what the cups is made of) will need to be careful too.
It’s essential that anyone who has a known chronic condition should speak to their doctor before adding a foreign device into their vagina, which is what I did and was advised that with my medical conditions and the areas where endometriosis was found during surgery, I should avoid using a menstrual cup.
If you don’t have a medical condition and do see a change in cramping during your periods then it’s always best to speak to a doctor and clear any doubts.
I also wish to draw your attention to how crazy and extreme it can get if you don’t take care of your hygiene when using a menstrual cup because we don’t really know how our body will react to something foreign.
So this is what happened, according to a Daily Mail report, a woman aged 36 had to have both her feet amputated after a menstrual cup infection spread to her kidneys, lungs and liver.
She suffered TSS – toxic shock syndrome, which is rare but it can happen and it’s important that we’re aware of it. If you would like to read more about her case then you can here.
Someone on Instagram shared their story of having no pre-existing medical conditions but ended up in hospital with PID – Pelvic Inflammatory Disease from using a menstrual cup.
If you would like to read further on studies conducted on menstrual cups then this is a good article to start you off: Live Science – Menstrual Cups Are Safe, But Questions Remain About ‘Toxic Shock’ Risk, Review finds
I believe that no matter what forms of menstrual hygiene products we use, it’s important for us to be aware of our body and the signs it gives us.
Choosing what menstrual products to use should be a matter of choice only based on your health and your ability to maintain the level of hygiene required for that product rather than you looking to save the environment. There are so many things we can do in our everyday lives to lead a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly existence.
- Use reusable products rather than plastic cups, spoons and bags.
- Segregate your waste into compostable waste, recyclable waste and toxic waste.
- Turn of the tap when you brush your teeth and even have shorter showers – or maybe use a bucket and mug for your baths.
There are tonnes of ways out there to be kinder to the environment and for it to be lighter on the pocket.
But if you’re wondering what other environmentally friendly menstrual hygiene options are out there, then check out my next article where I list the current options available.
Read here for:
I’ll end this post here leaving you with this thought – use products that work for you and your body. It’s just what they say about fashion – “wear what you’re comfortable in”, just the same way, choose products that keep you as safe and as comfortable as possible.
If you would like to share your experiences or your take on this post of mine then I would love to hear from you – the comments section is all yours. Thank you so much for your time.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am a patient and have created this platform to share my experiences. This is all purely informative and in no way am I providing medical advice. Please consult a medical professional.