What can you tell me about the menstrual cup?

Answers from Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.

A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped device worn inside the vagina during menstruation to collect menstrual fluid. Menstrual cups provide a viable alternative to pads and tampons.

Menstrual cups are typically made of silicone or other nonlatex materials. Some menstrual cups are reusable — either one cup for an entire menstrual period or one cup for many menstrual periods — while others are intended for one-time use. Examples include The DivaCup, The Moon Cup and Softcup.

During your period, you insert the menstrual cup into your vagina. If you're using a reusable menstrual cup, you empty the cup when it's full, wash it and then place it back in your vagina. If you're using a disposable menstrual cup, you discard it when it's full and replace it with another cup. How often you need to empty or replace the menstrual cup depends on the size of the cup and your menstrual flow. Generally, a menstrual cup can be worn about twice as long as a tampon — up to eight to 12 hours at a time.

A menstrual cup can be left in place during urination or a bowel movement. Some menstrual cups can be worn during sex, while others must be removed first.

Menstrual cups don't offer protection from pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Check with your doctor before using a menstrual cup if you use an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control or you've experienced toxic shock syndrome.

Menstrual cups are available over-the-counter in pharmacies. Menstrual cups can also be purchased online. If you decide to try a menstrual cup, read and follow the product directions carefully.

Mar. 06, 2012