While we might all be curious about the best plunger or probiotic tampon or cold-sore remedy, it can be difficult to discuss these more personal items. That’s why we’re tackling Things We Don’t Talk About, a series in which we track down the best hygiene-, sex-, and bodily function–related things we all need but might be too embarrassed to ask about. In this installment, we consult experts on the best menstrual cups.
The menstrual cup may be unconventional, but for many women, the payoff is also undeniable — reusable menstrual cups are less wasteful than tampons and pads (and even disposable ones can be more comfortable); they don’t have to be changed as often; and they save money over time. Some women start with the ever-popular Diva Cup and never look back, though there are so many alternative, personalized models coming out every year — from those for disabled women to compact, collapsible ones — that you might be inspired to shop around.
If you’ve never used a menstrual cup before or have questions about where to start, Jennifer Conti, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at Stanford’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recommends consulting the site Put a Cup in It, which offers a quiz asking nine questions about factors like age, whether you’ve had a baby, your activity level, and cervix to determine which menstrual cup to use. Nicole Bullock, D.O., an OB/GYN based in Abilene, Texas, is even more relaxed: “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.” For Bullock, the two main criteria are whether you’ve had a baby and your age range (which is why many cups come in only two sizes). The rest, she says, is really just research and trial and error.
To find the best menstrual-cup options, we spoke to various professionals, enthusiasts, and gynecological experts about their favorites. Of course, your own mileage will vary, but their recommendations are a helpful place to start.
“If ten years of writing about cups has taught us anything, it’s that no one cup fits every vagina. We feel confident in recommending the Lena Sensitive as a great starter cup that should work well for most people. It’s offered in two sizes that make it great for teens as well as adults. Lena’s cups are made from medical-grade silicone (meaning most people won’t have allergy concerns), and the shape of the cup and level of firmness makes it extremely comfortable. Best of all, it’s priced reasonably and available on Amazon.” —Kim Rosas and Amanda Hearn, founders of Put a Cup in It
“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.” —Jackie Bolen, creator of menstrual-cup-reviews site Reusable Menstrual Cups
“I use a menstrual cup in regular rotation with tampons and reusable pads. I’ve tried the Diva Cup and Softcups. The Diva Cup works best for me when I’m traveling or backpacking. Not having to pack out a bag of used tampons makes camping much more pleasant. I’ve found that the Diva Cup can put too much pressure on my cervix, though, if it is sitting lower in my body, so whenever that happens, I switch to Softcups.” —Ansley Hayes, graduate student
“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.” —Thahabu Gordon, writer
“I started using the Diva Cup a long time ago, when you had to go to a Portlandia-style feminist bookstore to buy one. But I’ve never even contemplated trying a different brand, because it is just so very, very reliable. In my pre-cup life, my period was like this comedy of errors, where I was always either dripping onto my underpants or pulling out a too dry tampon, and my skin was constantly getting irritated by the tampon string. Diva Cup introduced me to a life where I don’t have to be uncomfortable or splattering blood everywhere. It allows me to actually forget I’m having my period — who wouldn’t become loyal?” —Gabrielle Moss, author of Glop: Nontoxic, Expensive Ideas That Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious
“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.” —Nicole Bullock, D.O., obstetrics and gynecology specialist
“I’ve been using a Diva Cup for the past decade. It’s super easy to maintain (just boil between periods. Try to save for a time when your roommate isn’t home) and lasts a lot longer than a tampon. Although it took a while to master the C-fold insertion tactic, once I did, it’s a piece of cake. Plus! Buying a $30 Diva Cup every couple of years is a helluva lot cheaper than boxes of tampons every dang month — not to mention cutting down on waste generated through menstruation.” —Beca Grimm, freelance writer
“It’s no a secret that I think menstrual cups are a revolutionary invention. If only they were more accessible, I think they would change so many lives. In terms of my favorite cup, I actually use two and switch them up throughout my cycle. For heavier days, I use a Lunette, and I use a Mooncup for lighter days. I have tried a handful of other brands, but these are the two I keep returning to. Why? They’re the perfect balance of breathable but solid material, I love the colors, and most importantly, they never let me down.” —Tara Costello, freelance social-media manager
“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.” —Theresa Blaydoe, blogger at the Low Country Socialite
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