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How to buy the best menstrual cup for you

Cost-effective and environmentally friendly too – here's what you need to know about menstrual cups.

woman holding menstrual cup in hand
Last updated: 18 May 2020

A recent Roy Morgan survey found almost 5.4 million Australians buy tampons, pads or panty liners in an average month. But there's an alternative that's starting to grow in popularity that could save money and help the environment too.

Menstruation, menstrual or 'moon' cups are reusable, bell-shaped devices made of silicon or rubber which are worn internally. They sit low in the vaginal canal and collect, rather than absorb, the menstrual flow. Once it is unfolded in place, it forms a seal that prevents blood from leaking out. When full, it is simply removed, emptied, washed and reinserted.

And while they've actually been around since the 1930s – just like tampons – they aren't widely known or advertised in Australia.

But this is starting to change, as more women discover the advantages of using a menstrual cup for economic, environmental and convenience reasons.

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How to choose the right menstrual cup for you

Every body is unique and therefore a general recommendation for one menstrual cup is impossible. It might take one or two tries to find the right cup as there are some differences between different brands. 

Here are some points to consider if you decide to buy one:

Material 

Silicone (medical or non-medical grade), TPE (rubber and plastic) or latex. Other additives are used to adjust the colour. 

Firmness

The cups can be firm, medium or soft. Larger cups are usually a bit more firm than the small ones. The firmer they are, the easier they pop open, but it may be harder to insert them. Also, if you have a very sensitive bladder, you may want a softer cup.

Capacity

They can hold up to 20–30ml. You should choose the capacity according to the heaviness of your period.

Size

The overall length and diameter of both the cup and stem. There are also usually two sizes: one for women who are under 30 and have not given birth vaginally, and one for women who are 30 and over or who have given birth vaginally, regardless of age. The length depends on how high or low your cervix sits during your period. Ask your GP for help and look at our table for measurements.

Cup shape

Some are long and narrow, while others are more rounded. The rims can also vary in thickness and shape. Which one is more comfortable depends on your personal preference.

Stem design

The stem can be rounded, flat, triangular, hollow, solid, and with or without grips. Most can be cut shorter to adjust to your needs.

Air holes

Number and placement of air holes vary, depending on the brand. They are helpful in the insertion and removal of the cup, but have no other function. The LilyCup, for example, doesn't need air holes due to its design.

Quality and safety

Since 2018, menstrual cups are no longer required to be registered with the TGA before selling in Australia.

Menstrual cups available in Australia

Another tricky part of buying a menstrual cup is finding out where to get one. The Keeper, DivaCup, Juju and Lunette are available from Australian retailers (a list of retailers can be found on the brands' websites). 

The following product information is based on the manufacturers' websites, and menstrualcupreviews.net and menstrualcupsaustraliaonline.com.au.

JUJUMODEL menstrual cup size 2

Juju 2

Juju

Material: Medical-grade silicon 

Colours: Clear, pink, blue 

Country of origin: Australia

Juju 1 – Small

Capacity (to the rim): 20mL 

Total length: 65mm 

Rim diameter: 40mm 

Stem: Long thin, 19mm

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Juju 2 – Medium/Big

Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 

Total length: 69mm 

Rim diameter: 46mm 

Stem: Long thin, 19mm

Buy now
rubycup menstrual cup medium

Ruby Cup M

Ruby Cup

Material: Medical-grade silicon 

Colours: Clear, Blue, Pink, Purple 

Country of origin: Denmark

Ruby Cup S – Small

Capacity (to the rim): 24mL 

Total length: 65mm 

Rim diameter: 40mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 19mm

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Ruby Cup M – Medium/Big

Capacity (to the rim): 34mL 

Total length: 68mm 

Rim diameter: 45mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 17mm

Buy now
DivaCup menstrual cup size 1

Diva Cup 1

Diva Cup

Material: Medical-grade silicon

Colours: Clear

Country of origin: Canada

The Diva Cup 1 – Small

Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 

Total length: 70mm 

Rim diameter: 43mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 13mm

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The Diva Cup 2 – Medium/Big

Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 

Total length: 70mm 

Rim diameter: 46mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 13mm

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mooncup with bag size A

MoonCup A

MoonCup

Material: Medical-grade silicon

Colours: Clear

Country of origin: UK

MoonCup B – Small

Capacity (to the rim): 28.8mL 

Total length: 71mm 

Rim diameter: 43mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 21mm

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MoonCup UK A – Medium/Big

Capacity (to the rim): 29.3mL 

Total length: 71mm 

Rim diameter: 46mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 21mm

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the keeper menstrual cup size B

The Keeper B

The Keeper

Material: Natural gum rubber (Latex) 

Colours: Brown 

Country of origin: US

The Keeper B – Small

Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 

Total length: 79mm 

Rim diameter: 45mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 25mm

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The Keeper A – Medium/Big

Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 

Total length: 79mm 

Rim diameter: 46mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 25mm

Buy now
Lunette menstrual cup size 1

Lunette 1

Lunette

Material: Medical-grade silicon

Colours: Clear, Blue, Yellow, Coral, Violet

Country of origin: Finland

Lunette 1 – Small (soft)

Capacity (to the rim): 25mL 

Total length: 72mm 

Rim diameter: 41mm 

Stem: Flat tab, 25mm

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Lunette 2 – Medium/Big (firm)

Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 

Total length: 72mm 

Rim diameter: 46mm 

Stem: Flat tab, 20mm

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LilyCup menstrual cup size A

Lily Cup A

Lily Cup

Material: Medical-grade silicon

Colours: Pink

Country of origin: Sweden

Lily Cup A – Small

Capacity (to the rim): 28mL 

Total length: 78mm 

Rim diameter: 40mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 12mm

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Lily Cup menstrual cup Compact B

Lily Cup Compact B

Lily Cup B – Medium/Big

Capacity (to the rim): 32mL 

Total length: 78mm 

Rim diameter: 44mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 12mm

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Lily Cup Compact B – Medium/Big

Capacity (to the airholes): 19mL 

Total length: 58mm 

Rim diameter: 45mm 

Stem: Hollow tube, 10.5mm

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The pros and cons of menstrual cups

The best way to figure out if a moon cup is the right thing for you is to try it. You might be surprised by how easy and convenient it is.

Pros

Easy to use

If you've used tampons (especially those without an applicator) or a diaphragm you should have little trouble learning how to insert a menstrual cup. The websites of the brands explain the process in detail.

Convenience

You've always got the cup handy at home, or it easily travels with you. Even if you replace it once a year, you can still save yourself eleven trips to the pharmacy or supermarket.

Cost saving

The cups are designed for long-term use (some women use them for up to ten years), which means significant cost savings over tampons or pads. One month of pads and tampons costs around $10, while the price of a moon cup varies between $40 and $55. It's a higher upfront price, but it's worth it after six months.

Environmental benefits

Fewer tampons or pads also means less waste clogging up our landfills and less cotton or paper use.

Odour

As the blood doesn't get exposed to air as it does with pads or tampons, there'll be less odour.

Health benefits

Moon cups leave your vaginal pH and bacterial balance in place – unlike tampons, which absorb your vaginal fluid.

Hypoallergenic

They are suitable for those with sensitive skin, dermatitis and latex allergies (except for latex cups, obviously).

Replacement

Tampons need changing every four to eight hours, but cups can stay in for up to twelve hours before emptying. This is especially useful for overnight.

Capacity

They can hold up to three times more fluid then tampons (about 20–30ml).

Comfortable

Once you've found a brand that's the right fit for you, you shouldn't notice it's there. You can also wear one when anticipating your period, whereas wearing tampons when you don't have your period is not recommended, and  you risk toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and dryness.

Action-friendly

No strings, no wings and no leaks. Perfect for those with an active lifestyle, who enjoy sports such as running, swimming and yoga.

Cons

Mess

Emptying the cup can be messy in the beginning, though most users get the hang of it. Some suggest changing it in the shower once every 12 hours. Cleaning it in a public bathroom could cause some embarrassment.

Fitting

Not every cup is the same; some are longer or shorter. You may need to trial one or two brands to find the right fit. Also, individual anatomy can make it difficult to put the cup in the right place (for example, if you have a dropped uterus).

Insertion

For younger girls and those who've never had penetrative sex, it can be difficult to insert a cup.

Removal

It takes some people longer to learn than others. You should never pull on the stem; instead pinch the base and pull. Be careful if you have an IUD, as using a cup could pull the strings and dislocate it. Ask your GP for more information.

Maintenance

You should sterilise the cup after each cycle, following the manufacturer's directions. This usually involves using boiling water or special sterilising solution.

CHOICE user trial

In 2016, CHOICE asked five women to use a JuJu cup for two menstrual cycles and report back on their experience, comparing it to using pads and tampons.

Are they reliable?

The JuJu Cup website says it can be worn two to three times longer than a pad or tampon, or up to eight hours, and this was the experience of all triallists on their lighter flow days."I almost forgot I had my period as I could just wear it all day," said one triallist. Four out of five felt they didn't need to change the cup as often as a tampon or pad. Heavy flow days, however, weren't quite as carefree for three out of five of the triallists, who experienced some leakage with the cup. But they also reported having previously had leakage with their usual usage of tampons.

Better sleep was another bonus, with one triallist saying "I sleep better at night… once inserted I forget about it. It's a total success."

Ease of use and comfort 

All triallists enjoyed the comfort of the menstrual cups with one saying, "I could wear it all day, and tip it out during the shower at night. It feels like you're wearing nothing."

Inserting the cup took some experimentation for two of the triallists, but the biggest issue was the blood when handling it, with three people saying it was messy. Three triallists also noted the absence of any odour with the cup. 

Cleaning the cups involves scrubbing with soap and water and then boiling in a pot for up to five minutes.

Better for the environment

An average women uses at least one box of tampons or pack of pads during her period, which adds up to around 11,000 to 16,000 pads or tampons in a lifetime. 

Production and disposal of tampons and pads can cause multiple environmental issues. In addition to contributing to landfill, concerns have been raised regarding the pesticides used to grow cotton, which can pollute waterways and have harmful effects on aquatic wildlife. 

Raw materials

When it comes to menstrual cups it's very clear what the cup is made of – usually medical grade silicone or latex. But what materials make up a tampon or pad? You generally won't find this info on the packaging – or anywhere else. In Australia, unless you're a manufacturer, there's no way of knowing exactly what's in tampons or pads.

Why is this? In Australia, tampons are classified as "medical devices", while pads are not regulated at all. As a result, companies are not legally required to list their ingredients once they get approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). So, if you're concerned about what you're putting in (or very close to) your body, a menstrual cup may be the better choice.

Are menstrual cups safer than tampons?

Menstrual cups are considered by some to be a safer alternative to tampons as they are thought to be less likely to provide the kind of environment that will foster bacterial growth (as the tampon is thought to) but there has been one confirmed case in Canada of a woman developing toxic shock syndrome 10 days after using a menstrual cup. 

Menstrual cup brand JuJu advises washing and disinfecting the cup regularly and discarding it if it has rips, tears or changes in texture. 

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