After years of being a hush-hush hippie secret, menstrual cups are having a moment. Not only are they an eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads, but many women find them easier and more convenient to use. I have become one of those women.
For the uninitiated, a menstrual cup is a washable, reusable, silicone container, worn during your period for up to 12 hours at a time or until it's full—at that point, you empty its contents into a toilet as needed. When you use a menstrual cup, you never "run out" of products like you do with tampons or pads, and you never have to leave the house with a secret stash.
According to the website Racked, the makers of the DivaCup—one of the most popular brands—say that sales are growing by double digits in both the U.S. and Canada, and that they have been for the last dozen years. And yet, while you may have heard about or tried a DivaCup, what you may NOT know that there are many menstrual cup brands out there—cups come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and some come from far-away countries like Sweden and Germany.
Here's the deal: I have really heavy periods. Super annoying. Very inconvenient. I went through tampons like crazy. Then I used the DivaCup for a few years, and it was pretty great—definitely better than tampons. But sometimes it leaked, and it started looking grungy. Instead of reordering, I decided to branch out. Since it's my dream to make that time of the month as hassle-free as possible (TALL ORDER), I took four very different cups on test runs. This is what I learned.
The facts: The Sckoon is, like the DivaCup, American-made and constructed out of high-quality, medical-grade silicone. Unlike the DivaCup, it comes in seven other colors besides clear. That's cool for two reasons: 1. A bright turquoise cup just feels more fun, and 2. clear silicone can get dingy-looking over time. Stains don't show up as much with colored silicone.
In addition, as I learned from reading the website Menstrual Cup Reviews, the holes on the rim of the Sckoon are angled: "This allows the SckoonCup to supply the highest potential capacity and leakage protection with its flawless sealed suction." The Sckoon and the DivaCup both state that they have a 30 milliliter capacity, but if the angled holes gave the Sckoon an advantage, I wanted to give it a shot.
The test results: I got a bright blue Sckoon, and I really liked it. It's a lot squishier than the DivaCup, which makes it more comfortable. The holes provided better suction than the DivaCup holes, so it leaked less easily, and I didn’t have to empty it as frequently—buying me some time between trips to the bathroom. In the end, though, it was actually TOO soft for me. While it protected against leakage better than the Diva, it still leaked some, I suspect because it wasn't holding its shape and staying open.
The facts: While the DivaCup is shaped like a bell, FemmyCycle—created by San Diego-based company FemCap—is rounded, almost like a fishbowl. It has a special spill-proof opening—the lip folds inward to trap liquid, and pops up so you can pour out what's inside. Unlike the DivaCup and the Sckoon, it doesn't feature holes to create a seal inside your body. Instead, when you insert the FemmyCycle, you leave a little air inside the bowl part, and the entire cup acts like a suction device, drawing in menstrual blood. The design won an award.
Like Diva and Sckoon, the FemmyCycle's maximum capacity is 30 milliliters.
The test results: It was difficult to figure out if the FemmyCycle was inserted properly, since it's so soft that it doesn't keep its shape when it's inserted. While the rim opens up into a circle, the fishbowl part does not—it just kind of molds itself to your body. This makes it very very comfortable, however, you have to locate your cervix to make sure the cup’s opening is pointing in the right direction, which can be…tricky.
But! It worked surprisingly well once I figured it out. The downside: When you pop the rim up to pour stuff out, you basically have to stick your finger inside the cup—so if it's really full (and it seems like mine is always full!) you WILL get blood all over your finger. Also, one time I popped the rim open and there was some splashing. Eesh. NOT COOL. In addition, the cup is so smooth and slick that sometimes it gets…slippery. I wouldn't use the FemmyCycle on a heavy day, but it worked really well on a light day.
The facts: Swedish company Intimina makes a really cool compact collapsible cup that folds flat, making it super easy to carry around. But it's only for light-to-medium flow periods. For heavier flows, there's the LilyCup Size B, a soft, opaque pink cup with a 32 milliliter capacity—2 milliliters more than Diva or Sckoon!
The design of the cup is different from Diva and Sckoon, too. It's a little bit asymmetrical—one side of the rim is higher than the other, and when you insert it with the higher side pointed down toward your tailbone, it really lines up with your anatomy. There are no holes, but somehow the thing creates a seal with your body and stays where you put it.
The test results: I really like the LilyCup—the larger capacity is just what I was looking for. It takes longer to overflow. It also feels good to the touch; the silicone is soft and smooth, but not slippery. The opaque color is great—no dingy look—and it's both sturdy and comfortable. This would be my new favorite cup…if I hadn't tried the Yuuki.
The facts: Yuuki is produced by a Czech company that specializes in health care products, and it's manufactured in Germany. It looks a lot like the DivaCup, but the DivaCup only comes in 2 sizes—while the Yuuki comes in 2 sizes (smaller and larger) AND 2 variations (soft and classic). Classic is a stiffer, harder silicone than any of the other cups I tried—there was no doubt that, once inserted, it was going to open up and stay open. In addition, the large cup holds 37 milliliters, which is the most of any cup available. Perfect for those of us whose cups runneth over.
The verdict: Yuuki is my new favorite cup. Since the cup is stiff, it's not AS comfortable as some of the others, but it holds more, leaks less, and you don’t really feel it once it’s in. Plus—while other cups need to be boiled on the stove before and after your period, Yuuki comes with a plastic vented container: Drop your cup in, fill the container with water, microwave it for 5 to 8 minutes, and voila! Sterilized cup.
Remember that everyone's body is different, so what works for me might not work for you (and vice versa). But despite what you see in your local drug store, there are plenty of options out there! And they might make your life easier. Dealing with your period doesn't have to be bloody hell.