Chronic Illnesses & Menstrual Cups


Chronic Illnesses & Menstrual Cups

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?

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.

Cost Effective

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.

Relevant Reading:

Now let’s move on to the other side…

Why do Women NOT Love Menstrual Cups?

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.

Leakage

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.

Spillage

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!

Gets Stuck

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?

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.

Relevant Reading:

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.

For example…

  • 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.

If you’re a social media person, then you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

~~~~~~~~~~~

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. 

12 thoughts on “Chronic Illnesses & Menstrual Cups

  1. Thanks for this post Shruti – I use a cup on and off and mostly find it very helpful. There is the trickiness of using it when out and about though, as you mention.

  2. My daughter and I were recently discussing her trying one. I had a hysterectomy a long time ago and have no need, but we both thought this might be an interesting option for her. Our biggest concern would be having to clean it in public or at the home of friends and family.

    1. Hi Cynthia, I think when we try something new like this, best to first try it at home and get comfortable with it and as we gain confidence we can step out using those products. Or there are these other eco-friendly options too: https://allthingsendometriosis.com/eco-friendly-menstrual-products/

  3. Great information! There is always so much to learn about different products and I like hearing the pros and cons! Thank you!

    1. Thank you Holly. I believe that so – we should be aware of the pros and cons of products especially if it’s something that is so intimate.

  4. It’s really nice to see this topic being addressed. I found out the hard way. I felt a bit of pressure to switch in my women’s group, but was afraid to say it’s not comfortable!

    Is it supposed to feel this way? Why are women raving about this?

    Another woman spoke up saying she had a really hard time with it as well. That’s when I realized it’s not an option for everyone. The way it is marketed makes it seem like it is, but I honestly would not recommend it after my experience. (Yes, I tried the right size and bought two different brands. Wish I had saved myself the trouble.)

    1. I am so glad someone spoke up!

      It’s so easy to get caught up in such peer pressure or even when we start doubting ourselves that we maybe doing it wrong.

      I hope more people do share their stories because we must remember that one product isn’t for everyone and it’s tough when you’re made out to be against the environment, which we’re not because health has to come first and the freedom to use what’s best for our own body is essential.

      Thank you so much for sharing this Carrie – I hope it helps others realise they’re not alone.

  5. I tried a menstrual cup once because every one and my friends were raving about it. But I actually didn’t like it. Was thinking to try a different brand and size, not sure. But yes, thanks for this useful post!!

    1. Thank you for sharing Sheryl and I’m really pleased you found this useful.

      I think it’s good to try things out and see what works and doesn’t work for us (unless the doctor says ‘no’ of course!) 🙂

  6. Thank you for this. Has been really helpful as I’ve been weighing this up for a while and now I know to check for medical guidance before embarking on a Mooncup.

  7. Omg I actually switched to a cup because of my EDS! I also have MCAS. I knew there was the possibility of irritation and difficulties but if it worked I’d be so happy. And I am! I bought the Clex cup because of the Release Ring and it’s been great. Of course there was a little bit of a learning curve but nothing insurmountable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts