Jordan Harrison is a full-spectrum doula, placenta specialist, and Moon Cup distributor. During a recent conversation on menstrual cup safety on the Maya Wrap Facebook page, she stepped up and offered us straight talk on the pros and cons of using cups and and how to stay safe on the go.
Hi, Jordan! Thanks for joining us. How did you come to learn about cups?
I stumbled upon menstrual cups when I was pregnant with my son back in 2014/2015. I started researching and reading as much info as I could find about the pros and cons, safety, storage, etc.
What are the benefits? Are there any parts you dislike?
Using a menstrual cup has a few great benefits like being a reusable, one-time-buy product, meaning you’re saving money and you’re reducing your waste. One cup, when properly cared for, can last over 10 years. A Moon Cup user reported a 13-year use of her cup until her menstruation stopped. That’s incredible!
I’ve personally experienced lesser cramping. Ever noticed how you insert a tampon and then within 15 minutes the cramps begin? That has completely gone away with my use of menstrual cups because there’s no bleached or chemically treated fibers in my vagina anymore.
You’ll also notice that you bleed less when using a cup compared to a tampon. That is because the tampon is not only absorbing your menstrual blood but the other vaginal fluids that you need, making it seem like your flow is heavier than it actually is.
There can be a learning curve when it comes to using a menstrual cup and learning which fold(s) works for you so my advice is to use a cup at home during your first try. You may experience some leaking, which can be fixed by adjusting your cup position or using a different fold method. Having to clean your cup can be annoying but it’s easy to do once you get it down!
What are some basics for safe use that menstruating people (especially sleep-deprived parents) might not know?
Learning how to safely use a cup may seem hard but it’s super easy! Remember that anytime you insert something into your vagina for an extended amount of time, bacteria will grow and create a bio film. We need to break down that bio film when using cups to keep it safe and clean. Boiling between uses is a method that works well but isn’t always practical when you’re dumping your cup and reinserting right away. When this happens, you can use alcohol or toothpaste with fluoride and something to scrub it with, like a toothbrush. Scrub, rinse with hot water, and it’s good to go. (If choosing to use the toothpaste method, please be mindful of the ingredients, such as mint. You’ll want to either choose one without it or be sure to rinse your cup extremely well before reinserting your cup.)
Alternatively, alcohol wipes or wipes made for cups work well. Some people use plain soap and water to rinse between uses. It’s important to note that this method doesn’t necessarily break down the bio film but most people use this method and have not had any issues. Having a second cup on hand can be helpful and useful.
You may have seen the Consumer Reports article on menstrual cups and TSS. Was the cited study itself valid? What do you think of the reporting surrounding it?
I think anytime we see a study that shows us that bacteria can overgrow in our vaginas, it seems really scary! The study cited wasn’t actually done using human vaginas and I feel like that is super important to understand. Yes, the lab created conditions did show an overgrowth of bacteria which could lead to TSS. However, vaginal flora varies in humans and we have only 2 confirmed cases of TSS linked to the use of menstrual cups. I feel like the numbers just aren’t there to panic but we should always be vigilant and mindful of what we insert into our bodies.