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The Best Menstrual Cups: Your Complete Guide to the Tampon Alternative

You've probably heard of the Diva Cup, but what exactly is it? Here's everything you need to know about the best menstrual cups and how to make the transition to this eco-friendly tampon and pad alternative.

Let's get personal: Most of us grew up using tampons or pads to combat our first big flow, and have been using them ever since. But with the big push to reduce waste and stop putting unneccessary chemicals in our bodies, other period alternatives are taking over. We're talking about the No.1 alternative: the menstrual cup (the small, reusable rubbery thing you insert like a tampon). Though a little, shall we say, unconventional, this environmentally-friendly option is becoming more popular among the everyday woman. If you're interested in making the switch, learn more about the pros and cons of this alternative, and find out which menstrual cup is best for your body.

What exactly is a menstrual cup?

In short, a menstrual cup is a flexible cup-shaped vessel made of silicone or rubber that you wear inside your vagina while on your period. Unlike a tampon or pad, a menstrual cup collects your period blood until you're ready to dump it out, typically holding way more liquid than the cotton alternatives. According to Dr. Renee Allen, an OBGYN from Atlanta, GA, a reusable menstrual cup can hold up to 1 ounce of fluid, which is almost twice the amount a super-plus tampon or pad can handle. Dr Allen says you can even keep it in overnight, as long as you dump it out every 8-12 hours and rinse between uses.

Pros

The increased popularity of menstrual cups is largely due to its eco-friendliness and cost effectiveness. You're not throwing away wrappers, applicators and cotton products each month (or more if you're irregular), making them less wasteful than tampons and pads. And, while the initial cost of one cup may range from $15-$40, Dr. Allen says menstrual cups can last up to 10 years, saving you a pretty penny over time.

Plus, menstrual cups require fewer trips to the bathroom throughout the day, compared to the recommended every 4-8 hours for tampons, don't leak as much, and aren't scented or full of other strange chemicals like some feminine products.

Cons

I won't lie to you. I was a bit intimidated by the menstrual cup, not understanding how to use it. The learning curve associated with using a menstrual cup requires you to get up and personal with your vagina, which may be difficult or uncomfortable for younger girls or women who have never engaged in sex.

There's also the potentially messy empying process, which has made many skeptic. To avoid this, empty the cup while hovering over the toilet (at home is ideal) or even in the shower, so you have easy access to a sink for rinsing the cup and washing your hands after. Dr. Allen also recommends sterilizing the cup between cycles using boiling water and unscented soap. Dr. Sherry Ross, OBGYN and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period, says you can also clean your menstrual cup with a vinegar solution (1 part vinegar to 9 parts water).

Though advertised as being safer than other alternatives, menstrual cups still pose a very slim risk of Toxic Shock Syndrom, like all products that allow air to enter the vagina.

Should you use one?

Of course, everyone's body is different, so deciding whether or not to use a menstrual cup really comes down to personal comfort and easy of use. Dr. Nicole Bullock, an OBGYN based in Abilene, TX says, “The vagina’s pretty elastic and forgiving. The differences between most models are pretty small, and it doesn’t have to be a perfect fit — it just has to fit comfortably.” Her two most important factors in determining which cup size to use are whether you’ve had a baby and your age range. The rest is up to research and trial and error.

Put a Cup in It offers a free quiz asking nine questions about factors like age, whether you’ve had children, your activity level and cervix to help you find your cup match made in heaven.

Both Dr. Allen and Dr. Sherry say you are safe to wear a cup with an IUD. Dr. Allen says, "Recent studies that have looked at IUD expulsion and menstrual cup use have been reassuring in that they have found no increase in the IUD expulsion rate between pads, tampons and menstrual cups." If you're at all worried that your cup may interfere with your IUD, talk with your gyno just to be safe.

Here are a few of the top-rated menstrual cups on the market, along with nitty gritty personal testimonies to help you best control your flow.

Best Menstrual Cup for Beginners: Lena Cup

Lena menstrual cup

Lena Menstrual Cup$50 $24.90

“The best menstrual cup for 2018 is the Lena Cup. It’s made in the USA from top-quality, medical-grade silicone, and the company sells them for a very reasonable price — about one-third cheaper than the Diva Cup. I personally love the ‘sensitive’ model, which is considered one of the softer cups, because it doesn’t give me cramps like some of the stiffer ones. It’s easy to insert and remove, and doesn’t leak for me.”

Best Menstrual Cup for a Heavy Flow: Super Jennie

Super Jennie menstrual cup

Anigan Super Jennie, $34.95

"I cannot say enough great things about this. I have the copper IUD and was bleeding though a super-plus in 45 minutes. Then switched to a Diva Cup and same thing. I ordered the large because I've had a child and bleed a lot. Also in the Diva Cup, I had an uncomfortable feeling from the harder plastic (some people have this problem). The Super Jennie solved all my problems. I'm able to go all night without dumping it and don't have to worry about changing it every hour. I couldn't recommend a better cup! If you're having problems with bleeding through or pressure on your bladder, this is a great cup to try! Sounds cliche, but I actually don't dread my period anymore!"

Most Accessible Menstrual Cup: Diva Cup 1

Diva Cup

DivaCup Model 1, $21.33

“I love Diva Cup. It’s the only one I’ve ever worked with. For me, Diva Cup is the one I can find in stores. I loved it immediately and never looked to try another one.”

Best Affordable Menstrual Cup: Blossom Cup

Blossom menstrual cup

Blossom Menstrual Cup, $12.95

“I discovered menstrual cups a year ago, when I was couch hopping between different friends’ places, and couldn’t always go to a store for pads and tampons. What I love about the Blossom Cup is its size and the resistance level of the silicone. A harder cup could snap open before you’ve inserted it all the way, and a cup that’s too soft may not open at all once inserted, but I found the perfect medium in the Blossom Cup. It’s also cheaper than most cups, on top of the money I save from not having to buy traditional menstrual products. I forget I’m wearing it 85 percent of the time. Since buying it, I’ve noticed that my period is shorter, and my cramps aren’t as painful. Menstrual cups also force you to kind of get to know your private parts, so now I feel more in tune with my cycle.”

Best Menstrual Cup for Traveling: Lily Cup

Lily Cup collapsible menstrual cup

Intimina Lily Cup, $22.46

"Know yourself and know the product! When people talk menstrual cups usually you get a lot of people saying "Diva cup!" I did some research and the diva cup would be way too long for me! Even if I cut the whole stem off, it would be longer than comfortable. The Lily Cup Compact isn't the absolute shortest one around, but it's short enough for me and I like the collapsible design. I don't carry a purse, never have. If I needed to carry a diva cup or something like it around with me when I need to be prepared, well that would just be awkward. This fits in my wallet/clutch, pocket, slipped into my bra, etc."

Best Menstrual Cup Set: Menstrual Cup

Menstrual Cup set

Menstrual Cup 2-Pack, $11.99

“When I jumped on the menstrual-cup bandwagon, I was decidedly skeptical. Would it work? Leak? Be uncomfortable? I went on Amazon and read a plethora of reviews and decided on a lesser-known product simply called Menstrual Cup. It was a little less than $16 with one-day shipping. It is made of medical-grade silicone and comes with two sizes included. They are easy to use, and I don’t even feel it once it is placed. I definitely would recommend.”

Taylor Borde

Taylor is an Editor at More.com and an alumna of Iowa State University. Aside from her sartorial love, she considers herself a documentary enthusiast and Frenchie aficionado. She is also shamelessly addicted to predictable rom coms and anything by Drake.

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