Let me start by saying that reusable menstrual cups are a really cool invention, but your vagina is not meant to have a suction cup shoved up in it for hours a day, 3 to 7 days per cycle. Not to mention that menstrual blood can provide nourishment for the vagina. When you wear a menstrual cup that catches all or most of your menstrual blood, you’re literally robbing your vagina of nutrients.
In case you didn’t know, menstrual blood has a high water content, more water than the blood in your body contains. In addition to a high water content, menstrual blood also consists of:
- Cervical mucous
- Blood plasma
- Arousal fluid
- Endometrium tissue cells
- Uterine stem cells
- Vaginal cell slough
- Vaginal flora bacteria
- Minerals such as sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphate and chloride
It’s good to note that the chemical makeup of menstrual blood can vary from womb to womb but for the most part this is what is in your menstrual blood. Now imagine that you put a reusable menstrual cup in on your heavy and medium days, the menstrual cup catches the blood, you pull the cup out carefully with minimal spillage and toss the blood down the toilet or maybe you mix your period blood with water and feed your plants. Wait, what? Feed your plants nutrient dense menstrual blood which helps them to grow healthy and can revive a dying plant? Yes, this actually happens. Think about that for a second… you can revive a dying plant with diluted menstrual blood!!! Now think about all of the nutrients that must be in period blood for a plant to come back to life. Whenever you wear a menstrual cup, you are preventing the vagina from soaking up those nutrients because the menstrual cup is typically inserted high in the vaginal canal up near the cervix where menstrual blood is released.
The other reason to give your vagina a break from menstrual cups is that it is not meant to have a foreign object inside of it for hours at a time. Your vagina is made up of fibromuscular tissue, with smooth muscle interwoven with connective tissue. You can think of your vagina like your esophagus, so imagine putting a suction cup in your esophagus to catch saliva from your mouth that helps to break down and digest food and keeping that suction cup there all day, 3 to 7 days per month for years on end…sounds weird right. Both the vagina and esophagus act as passageways between major organs inside the body and the orifices outside the body. They both have a job to do and they do it best when they are well lubricated and nourished.
Now I’m definitely not saying that menstrual cups do not have their place because they do if you want to swim, you’ll be traveling for long hours, working out, etc. but it doesn’t make sense to wear a reusable menstrual cup all day, every day of your period. So I’m definitely not saying don’t wear one, BUT your vagina needs menstrual blood to run down its walls.
Your vaginal microbiome is incredibly sensitive and one thing that I have heard women tell me is that over years of wearing a menstrual cup they notice a change in not only the shape of their vagina, but some mentioned an increase in vaginal dryness and an increase in yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Some noted a change in the smell of their vagina and their vaginal sensitivity. All of them noted that once they stopped using the menstrual cup that things gradually changed for them.
I, myself, experienced a change in my vagina after 13 years of using menstrual cups. I used a menstrual cup from 2004 to 2017. I mainly used the cup on my heavy and medium days so that was about 4 to 5 days per month for 13 years. A few times I slept in it but for the most time used cloth pads in the evenings and while I slept. During those last few years I noticed an increase in vaginal dryness, yeast infections, I noticed that I smelled different and my vagina felt different.. Now I’m a yoga teacher and reproductive health educator with a specialization in pelvic floor health so I practiced my pelvic floor exercises, have diverse movement patterns and a healthy pelvic floor but it got to the point that wearing a cup was uncomfortable and sex felt different. I went through the process of elimination and decided to stop using my menstrual cup. Within 2 cycles I noticed a huge difference. Now that I’ve been menstrual cup free for over 3 years I don’t even miss them and I’ve been perfectly happy using only cloth pads since then.
Have I mentioned that I absolutely love cloth pads? Yes, I workout, practice and teach yoga in reusable cloth menstrual pads. Cloth pads are reusable, breathable and chemical free depending on the type of material used, you can sew them yourself, you can repurpose old clothing to make pads and your blood is able to flow freely. Wearing reusable cloth pads may not be the solution for you though and you may want to continue using your menstrual cup. So here are a few tips to help you keep your vagina healthy and to let the menstrual blood flow as much as possible:
- Only use your menstrual cup on heavy or medium days
- When you’re chilling at home, wear pads
- Use pads when sleeping
- Remove your reusable menstrual cup as soon as possible, as soon as you get home
- Skip using your menstrual cup for a cycle or 2
- Use pads for light physical activity
- Use pads as much as possible and reserve your reusable menstrual cup for special occasions
The key to everything is balance… too much of anything is typically not a good thing. You can balance your vaginal microbiome by allowing your blood to flow naturally down the vaginal walls as much as possible. What it boils down to is that every woman can and should make the decisions that are right for her body. This is simply my experience and the experiences of many of my clients who have used reusable menstrual cups for years. Do you… always!