How to stop menstrual cup leaks

I had a question from a reader a few weeks ago about menstrual cup leaks.  This reader was discouraged from using her menstrual cup because she was experiencing frequent leaks, particularly when she wore her cup on the heaviest days of her period.  The potential for leaks is one of the main deterrents from trying a menstrual cup.  However, during my experience I’ve found leaks to be very uncommon, provided that you’ve chosen the correct cup for your body and you’ve inserted it correctly.  To help you out if you’re experiencing leaks with your cup, I’ve created a little troubleshooting guide for you to run through.

 

Are you sure your cup is actually leaking?

I’ve had moments when I’ve thought that my menstrual cup has leaked, but it was a false alarm.  Sometimes, if you’ve removed the cup, emptied it, and then reinserted it, or if you’ve inserted the cup after a period of not wearing it, there can be traces of blood left on the walls of the vagina that wind up on the outside of the cup after it’s inserted.  If this is the case, you might get a small amount of blood in your underwear even though you’re wearing the cup.  If you notice a little bit of blood on your underwear, this is probably what’s happened.  However, if there is a lot of blood or the amount of blood increases throughout the day, you might have a leak that needs to be addressed.

 

Has your cup opened fully after you’ve inserted it?

One of the main reasons a cup will leak is that it is not inserted properly.  If the cup hasn’t popped open fully after insertion, it won’t create the seal it needs to work effectively.

 

If you’re not certain if your cup is properly opened, it’s very easy to check.  Once you’ve inserted the cup, insert a finger into your vagina alongside the cup.  Gently feel all the way around the cup.  If it is open, it should feel smooth and round.  If you feel any puckers, folds or dips, then the cup has not opened up fully.

 

Another way to check is to very gently pull on the base of the cup, being careful not to pinch the cup (which will break the seal).  If there is resistance, then the cup is properly sealed in position.  If you can easily move the cup, then it’s not properly inserted and you need to take it out and try again.

 

There are certain cup folds that make it easier for your cup to pop open.  Every body is different and some people find that certain folds work best with their bodies.  I personally find that the often-used C-fold makes it harder for my cup to pop open.  I have three favourite folds that work best for me:

The Punch Down fold is achieved by pushing one edge of the cup down inside the cup and then pinching the two edges closed to hold the punched-down edge inside.  This fold pops open the most easily once inserted.

The 7 fold is where you flatten the cup and fold one of the upper corners down diagonally to meet the opposite lower corner.

The Labia or Diamond fold is achieved by taking hold of the rim on one side and bending it to meet the lower edge of the cup.  Then pinch the two outer corners of the cup to fold the cup in half vertically.  This one is a tricky fold to master, but it’s one of the best because it gives you a really narrow width to insert.

 

Both the Labia and 7 folds have the added advantage of having the rim of the cup folded downwards.  This makes it really easy to feel if the cup hasn’t opened, because you’ll feel that ridge with your finger.  And if it hasn’t opened, you can just nudge that rim up with your finger to open the cup.

 

This fantastic video gives really clear instructions to help you find a fold that works for you.

 

 

 

Is your cervix inside your cup once it’s inserted?

Your cervix is the point where your vagina opens into your uterus. It’s the opening where menstrual blood comes out during your period. In order for the cup to catch all your menstrual fluid, your cervix must be contained completely within the cup.  Before you insert your cup, it’s worthwhile checking the position of your cervix.  To do this, insert a finger into your vagina and feel for the top of your vagina.  Your cervix feels like a little dimple, and has some resistance to it.  Feel for something that has roughly the same resistance as the tip of your nose. This is your cervix.

 

You might notice that your cervix is off to one side, or tilted back rather than dead centre.  That’s ok and totally normal.  But you will need to take this into account and angle your cup accordingly to make sure that your cervix is inside the cup once it’s inserted.

Is your cup large enough for your body?

Most menstrual cup brands make their cups in two different sizes.  This is done to accommodate variations in cervix size and vaginal depth.  Generally, it’s advisable to purchase the larger of the two sizes if you have given birth.  The reason for this is that after giving birth, the cervix tends to be softer and wider, and the vaginal canal may also be wider.  This is true even if you didn’t have a vaginal birth, because the muscle contractions experienced during labour still dilate the cervix, even you didn’t end up pushing a baby through that opening.

 

Even if you haven’t given birth you may want to try a larger sized cup.  This will help you to make sure that your cervix is fully contained inside the cup. Additionally, if you know that you have a heavier flow, a larger cup will accommodate that and make leaks less likely.

 

Is your cup firm enough for your body?

One thing a lot of people don’t really consider when shopping for a menstrual cup is how firm the cup is.  Although all cups are made of silicone, silicone can range in texture from very soft to quite rigid, and cups come in a variety of levels of firmness.  Many people prefer to buy a softer cup, because they believe it will be the most comfortable, but softer cups can be tricky to insert as well as being more prone to leaks.

 

If you have strong pelvic floor muscles, it’s really important that you choose a firmer cup to avoid leaks.  During activities where your pelvic floor is engaged, such as during yoga, pilates, weightlifting or using the bathroom, your kegel muscles can squeeze your cup.  If the cup is too soft, this squeezing might break the seal of the cup, and cause a leak.  So if you know you have strong kegels, or you are very active and enjoy sports like yoga or pilates, a firmer cup might be a good choice.

 

It can be tricky to know how firm a cup is without feeling it.  This is especially hard when you’re shopping online for cups.  Luckily, the awesome folks at Put a Cup in It have created this fantastic table comparing the firmness of most of the popular cup brands.

 

 

Have you left the cup in for too long?

It’s perfectly safe to leave a menstrual cup in for up to eight hours.  However, if you know that your flow is on the heavy side, you’re going to want to empty it much more frequently than that.  Once you use your cup more, you’ll get to know how often you need to empty it in order to prevent leaks.  But if you are leaking, then you might want to try emptying your cup more often.

 

Hopefully once you’ve run through all these tips, you’ll be able to put a stop to menstrual cup leaks.  If you choose the right cup and use it correctly, leaks are very rare.

 

Do you have any further menstrual cup questions that you’d like answered?  If you do, leave a comment down below.  Also, if you have any other tips for preventing leaks, I’d love to hear them.

 

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Product review: Thinx Period Underwear.

So everyone knows how excited I am about alternative menstrual products, right?  I mean, I talk about menstrual cups all the darn time.   But as much as I love my Lunette Cup, I’m always eager to try out new products when they hit the market.  And I recently caught wind of a clever-pants item that I wanted to take for a spin.

 

Thinx period panties are basically underwear that you wear when you’re on your period.  They have an absorbent core that wicks fluid away from your skin and prevents it from leaking.  So you can wear them on their own (in place of a pad, tampon or cup) or use them as a backup method of protection in case your tampon or cup leaks.

 

Admittedly, I wasn’t interested in using them as a backup.  Since I’ve started using my Lunette Cup I haven’t had a single leak so I don’t bother with such things.  And even when I was using tampons I never worried about throwing on a pad or pantyliner as well.  What I was really fascinated by was the idea that I could forgo the need to even use a cup or pad and just wear a pair of underpants instead.  So I jumped online, ordered a pair of Thinx and then waited patiently for them to arrive.

 

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And it didn’t take long at all!  In barely more than a week I had my Thinx package in my hands. And what a package!  I adore the sweet little designs on the envelope so much that I didn’t want to tear it open.

 

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Before I get started talking about the actual product, I want to chat a little about price.  See, a lot of the time alternative period products are initially more expensive than their disposable counterparts.  But over time they work out to be a lot more economical because they can be used over and over.  So I don’t mind paying a bit more for these items.  However, I did find the Thinx to be on the pricey side.  A single pair of the hiphugger style costs $34.  By the time I paid for postage to Australia I was looking at around $50.  Which is about the same amount I paid for my Lunette Cup.  However, while you only need one cup to see you through your menstrual period, you would need a minimum of five pairs of Thinx to get you through a period (assuming you menstruate for five days, and you were using a pad at night, or doing a wash during the week).  That makes the initial outlay very expensive.  Thinx do offer discounts when you buy multiple pairs, which is a bonus.  But I find the price very steep compared with other menstrual products.

 

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Thinx come in a range of styles, including full brief, bikini and thong.  I chose the hiphugger because they were the most absorbent and looked as though they would be comfortable to wear.  The sizes do run a little on the small side, so I recommend choosing a larger size than you would normally buy.  I picked the medium, which were a perfect fit for me, particularly when I encountered a nasty bit of mid-period bloating.

 

dscf0810_zps3lbx0v4eMy first impression upon taking the Thinx out of the package was how ordinary they looked!  They are available in black and nude, and I chose the black because it seemed a little cuter to me.  The gusset is reinforced but it isn’t thick or bulky at all.  The material is very stretchy and I found them extremely comfortable to wear.

 

In fact, on the day I chose to test them out I found them almost too comfortable.  I was a wee bit nervous because I didn’t feel like I was protected.  It felt like walking into battle armed with only a paper sword.  I deliberately decided to wear them on the heaviest day of my period to give them a proper test, and I was very aware of the possibility of a Shining-esque disaster in my trousers.

 

But I was most pleasantly surprised.  Not only did they feel great, but they actually worked!  I wore them for the entire day at work and didn’t have one hint of a leak.  The Thinx also did a brilliant job of wicking the moisture away, so I felt dry and comfortable for the whole day.  There was none of the odour that you get with disposable pads either.  (I have never noticed that smell with reusable pads, and so I believe it has something to do with the chemicals in commercial pads).

 

The Thinx hiphuggers are supposed to be able to hold two tampons worth of fluid. I’d say this is pretty accurate, based on how much I usually bleed during my heaviest days.  I should note that I don’t have a super heavy flow.  If you have a heavier flow then you might consider saving the Thinx for your lighter days, or bringing an extra pair to change into if you feel you might leak during the day.

 

This brings me to the other aspect of the Thinx that I don’t like.  Although they are super discreet to wear, they aren’t so easy to change.  If you did have a heavy flow and wanted to freshen up during the day, you would have to carry around a spare pair of undies and then smuggle the soiled ones into your bag.  When compared with, say, a menstrual cup, this is far from discreet.  That being said, from my experience I don’t think you’d need to change throughout the day, so this problem is a bit of a non-issue.

 

One thing I will note that, while it didn’t bother me, might be an issue for some.  As any person who menstruates will realise, periods don’t just consist of blood. There is also some *ahem* solid matter that is excreted.  The Thinx don’t absorb this matter, and it just kind of sits on the top.  However, this same thing happens with pads and I found it was easy enough to use a piece of toilet paper to pick up the offending globs and flush them so I felt dry again.

 

The Thinx underpants are machine washable and came up brilliantly after a wash.  I’m  not sure how well the nude ones would resist stains, but the black ones look good as new.  There was no smell after washing and no residue on my other clothes.

 

I would definitely recommend the Thinx for women who are fed up with pads and tampons and want something very comfortable and effective to wear during their periods.  If you can get past the price, they are a great alternative to traditional menstrual protection.

 

Have you tried Thinx?  What did you think?  Would you give these a shot?

Sustainable Menstruation Australia

I’m a passionate advocate for positive periods and the use of re-usable menstrual products.  When I began researching reusable menstrual products, specifically menstrual cups, I was dismayed that there are very few places in Australia where these items can be purchased.

 

I’ve learned that in England and the U.S, there are a wide range of menstrual cups available.  Most of these can be purchased online, and some pharmacies and health food stores sell them as well.  However, in Australia it can be tricky to find somewhere to buy a menstrual cup.  I’m yet to find one stocked in a brick-and-mortar shop, despite an extensive search.  You can order them online, but often shipping costs can be expensive.

 

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Sustainable Menstruation Australia.  This tiny sole-trader business is run by a gorgeous lass named Rosie, who shares my passion for promoting a healthy attitude about periods.  Sustainable Menstruation Australia is your one-stop-shop for menstrual cups in Australia and offers information and support for cup-users.


Sustainable Menstruation Australia currently stocks two varieties of menstrual cup: The Lunette Cup and the Juju Cup.  The Lunette is my cup of choice, and I’ve been using it for several months with excellent results.  The Juju cup is an Australian-made cup.  Although I haven’t used the Juju cup myself, I’ve read some excellent reviews of this product.  Both of these cups are often given as examples of good cups for first-time cup users, because they are easy to fold and tend to open with minimal fuss.  The Juju also has a fairly small rim, which is perfect for women who are just learning to use a cup because it makes insertion and removal a bit easier.  Both cups come with a carry pouch.

 

Another thing that I love about Sustainable Menstruation Australia is that they donate some of the money from each cup sold to developing education programs about menstruation and providing menstrual cups to women in disadvantaged situations.   That means that these women will no longer have to spend money on disposable feminine hygiene products, which frees up funds for other essential items. As the average woman spends about $100 per year on pads and tampons, this is a huge saving.   This is an awesome initiative which I am proud to get behind.

 

Rosie is also in the process of planning some awesome awareness-raising events in the new year, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve.

 

So if you’re an Australian woman who is interested in trying a menstrual cup, I would definitely recommend buying yours from Sustainable Menstruation Australia.  In doing so, you’ll be supporting a budding Aussie business as well as helping women in disadvantaged situations.

 

If you have any questions about menstrual cups that you would like to ask, fire away.  I’m happy to answer them.

 

P.S: This is not a sponsored post.  I just strongly support this business and wanted to tell you all about it.

Lunette cup review.

You might remember a couple of months ago that I wrote a post about switching to reusable menstrual products.  In that post, I talked mainly about re-usable pads, but now I’ve got another product to share with you.

 

Once I’d run through my stash of tampons, I decided to buy a menstrual cup.  A menstrual cup works in a similar way to a tampon.  To use it, you fold it up and insert it into the vagina.  Once it’s inserted, the cup pops open and creates a seal around the cervix and collects menstrual fluid.  Then you simply remove it, empty and clean the cup and then re-insert it.

 

 

I did a fair bit of research before purchasing my cup.  While there are a lot of cups on the market, they aren’t widely available in Australia.  I ended up choosing the Lunette cup, which retails for $54 online.  The reason I chose the Lunette cup is that I’ve heard that they are softer and easier to fold than some of their competitors.  They have a good reputation among first-time cup users too. Plus Lunette includes a cute carry pouch with each cup, which I liked.

I’m going to start by saying that the menstrual cup has a pretty steep learning curve.  Using it takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, I think it’s much more convenient than other menstrual products I’ve tried.

I found it pretty easy to insert, but I was worried that the cup hadn’t opened fully.  The best way to check this is to insert a finger alongside the cup and just feel your way around.  After a few goes, I noticed that I was actually able to feel if the cup hadn’t opened.  It just felt…wrong I guess.  Not unlike when you don’t insert a tampon far enough.  I noticed that certain folding techniques made it easier for the cup to open.

Removing it was very difficult to master.  For starters, I had to be a lot more *ahem* “hands-on” with myself than I’d expected.  If you aren’t comfortable touching your lady-bits, then I wouldn’t recommend using this product.  I found that the best method was to locate the stem at the bottom of the cup and then use that to guide by thumb and forefinger until I could feel the bottom of the cup.  Then I would give it a little pinch to release the suction and gently rock the cup back and forwards to ease it out.  The first few times I removed it, it was a tiny bit painful but I think that was because I was anxious about spilling the contents.  Once I got used to it, things went much more smoothly.

I was a bit worried with how I would manage with a cup because I’m quite squeamish about blood and other fluids.  But once I got used to it I was totally fine.  The experience really opened my eyes to how far our culture removes us ladies from our periods, to the point where we have so many products that are designed to make sure we never come in contact with our menstrual fluid.  Actually seeing it there in the cup was a bit of an eye-opener, but overall a good experience.

I didn’t experience a single leak while I was using this product.  It was incredibly discreet too.  You only have to empty the cup every eight hours (or more often if your flow is very heavy), so it’s perfect if you are at work or school.  You don’t have to hunt for a bin to dispose of used tampons.  You can wear the cup while you’re sleeping and it’s ideal for exercising.  I used mine during several yoga sessions and I didn’t even notice it.

If you’re interested in trying a cup, here are a few handy hints I learned to make things easier:

– Practice using the cup when you don’t have your period.  That way you can experiment with inserting and removing without the added stress of worrying about leaks and mess.

– A few drops of water-based lubricant will make inserting the cup about a million times easier.

– If you’re worried about spilling the contents of your cup, try removing it in the shower.

– Experiment with different folding techniques.  Every body is different and you might find that one of the more unusual folds works well for you.

 I am totally converted and am very happy with my cup.  I would recommend it, especially if you are travelling, are a very active person or are looking to save money.  It might not be for you if you aren’t comfortable getting hands-on with your body or if you are grossed out by bodily fluids.

Do you have any questions about the cup?  I’m happy to answer any queries you might have, but let’s keep all the questions respectful, Mmm-kay?