By Erin Lukas
Dec 28, 2018 @ 12:00 pm
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Switching to a menstrual cup seems appealing whenever I'm waiting in line to pay $10 for a box of tampons. Aside from being more affordable in the long run, menstrual cups are eco-friendly, don't have to be changed as often as tampons, and they don't cause toxic shock syndrome, to name just a few benefits.

Still, despite all of their advantages, the fact that menstrual cups can leak and be more difficult to insert and remove (Kristen Bell said she actually fainted when trying to take hers out) have understandably kept me from trying one. 

But, considering that anyone I know who has taken the plunge and bought a menstrual cup can't stop raving about how it's so much better than using tampons or pads, I'm willing to reconsider — once I get the right intel on how to properly insert and remove one. That's why I turned to Felice Gersh, M.D., board certified OB-GYN founder/director of the Integrative Medical Practice of Irvine in Irvine, California for her tips on how to correctly insert and remove menstrual cups, along with how to clean it. 

HOW TO INSERT A MENSTRUAL CUP 

Putting a menstrual cup in isn't all that different from a tampon. With clean hands, fold it and then gently insert it into the vagina — yes, it's really that simple. Where women run into problems is if they're trying to insert the cup at the wrong angle. "Many women don’t realize that when standing, the vagina is parallel with the floor — they think it’s heading straight up!," explains Dr. Gersh. "Consequently, when trying to insert it, they try aligning it with the wrong spot. That, of course, will get them nothing except frustration. The trick is to recognize that they need to aim towards the small of their back. Once they know that, insertion will be a breeze."

RELATED: Here's How Much the Tampon Tax Is Still Costing American Women 

HOW TO CORRECTLY TAKE OUT A MENSTRUAL CUP

Breathe a sigh of relief because, as it turns out, passing out when taking out a menstrual cup is extremely rare. "I see little possibility that a woman would pass out with the removal of the menstrual cup, when all is done properly," says Dr. Gersh. "The only mechanism I can construe would be the stimulation of what is called a vasovagal response [a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure in response to a stressful trigger that can lead to fainting]. 

"Any woman who gets faint with blood draws, or any procedure, should be on alert for a rare reaction like feeling faint when manipulating a menstrual cup, she adds. "I’ve never seen this happen with a menstrual cup, and it is indeed a very rare occurrence."

When it is time to remove a menstrual cup, it's best to pinch the base of the cup (the bottom) to break the suction that's holding it in place. This will cause all of the cup's contents to spill out. So if you aren't over a toilet, yes, it will be very messy. 

VIDEO: 5 Things to Know About Menstrual Cups Before You Try One

HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED TO EMPTY A MENSTRUAL CUP?

One of the reusable menstrual cup's major selling points is that you don't have to empty it as often as you have to change other menstrual products like tampons or pads. Dr. Gersh says that it can officially left in for 12 hours, but recommends emptying it every six hours. "The concern for me is that the blood is sitting there for so many hours, and blood is an excellent growth medium," she explains. "I certainly don’t want an infection to occur, which is why I suggest the six-hour window. Still, the chance of a problem with the 12-hour guideline is low." 

HOW DO YOU CLEAN A MENSTRUAL CUP? 

Ideally, you should clean your menstrual cup every time you empty it. The best way to do this is by sterilizing it in boiling water for 10 minutes. Realistically, you're not going to be able to do this if you have to empty your cup when you're at work. That's why Dr. Gersh recommends owning two to three cups. 

But what about just rinsing it with soap? Dr. Gersh doesn't recommend doing this, but if it must be done, she says to use an unscented organic soap. 

WHEN SHOULD YOU REPLACE YOUR MENSTRUAL CUP 

The lifespan of a single menstrual cup is one year. However, if you own multiples that you rotate using and keep sterilized after each use, Dr. Gersh says you can keep them up to three years as long as their original color and flexibility are still intact.  

Any cup that's become stiff should be immediately thrown out. "You certainly don’t want the chance of any pieces of the cup breaking off when extracting it," she says. "It’s an unlikely possibility, but any material can stiffen over time."