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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: 11 February 2019

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. 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.

How do menstrual cups work?

Menstrual cups are made of soft, flexible material; to insert one, you fold it up to make it smaller, and then reposition it inside the vagina so it opens up (specific instructions vary between manufacturers). A cup can be worn for up to 12 hours, including overnight; it must then be emptied and washed with soap, and can then be reinserted. 

A study conducted by the Vancouver Island Women's Clinic in Canada in 2011 found that women who typically used tampons but switched to menstrual cups for three months reported higher satisfaction with their period product than those who continued to use tampons, particularly in regards to convenience and leakage. And 91% of the participants said they would continue to use the cup and would recommend it to others.

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.

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.

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

Juju

  • Material: Medical-grade silicon
  • Colours: Clear
  • Country of origin: Australia

JUJUMODEL menstrual cup size 2

Juju 2

Juju 1 – Small

  • Capacity (to the rim): 20mL 
  • Total length: 65mm 
  • Rim diameter: 40mm 
  • Stem: Long thin, 19mm 
Buy now from Amazon

Juju 2 – Medium/Big

  • Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 
  • Total length: 69mm 
  • Rim diameter: 46mm 
  • Stem: Long thin, 19mm 
Buy now from Amazon

Ruby Cup

  • Material: Medical-grade silicon
  • Colours: Clear, Blue, Pink, Purple
  • Country of origin: Denmark
rubycup menstrual cup medium

Ruby Cup M

Ruby Cup S – Small

  • Capacity (to the rim): 24mL 
  • Total length: 65mm 
  • Rim diameter: 40mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 19mm 
Buy now from rubycup.com

Ruby Cup M – Medium/Big

  • Capacity (to the rim): 34mL 
  • Total length: 68mm 
  • Rim diameter: 45mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 17mm 
Buy now from rubycup.com

Diva Cup

  • Material: Medical-grade silicon
  • Colours: Clear
  • Country of origin: Canada
DivaCup menstrual cup size 1

Diva Cup 1

The Diva Cup 1 – Small

  • Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 
  • Total length: 70mm 
  • Rim diameter: 43mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 13mm 
Buy now from Amazon

The Diva Cup 2 – Medium/Big

  • Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 
  • Total length: 70mm 
  • Rim diameter: 46mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 13mm 
Buy now from Amazon

MoonCup

  • Material: Medical-grade silicon
  • Colours: Clear
  • Country of origin: UK
mooncup with bag size A

MoonCup A

MoonCup B – Small

  • Capacity (to the rim): 28.8mL 
  • Total length: 71mm 
  • Rim diameter: 43mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 21mm 
Buy now from Amazon

MoonCup UK A – Medium/Big

  • Capacity (to the rim): 29.3mL 
  • Total length: 71mm 
  • Rim diameter: 46mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 21mm 
Buy now from Asos

The Keeper

  • Material: Natural gum rubber (Latex)
  • Colours: Brown
  • Country of origin: US
the keeper menstrual cup size B

The Keeper B

The Keeper B – Small

  • Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 
  • Total length: 79mm 
  • Rim diameter: 45mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 25mm 
Buy now from Menstrual Cups Australia Online

The Keeper A – Medium/Big

  • Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 
  • Total length: 79mm 
  • Rim diameter: 46mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 25mm 
Buy now from Menstrual Cups Australia Online

Lunette

  • Material: Medical-grade silicon
  • Colours: Clear, Blue, Yellow, Coral, Violet
  • Country of origin: Finland
Lunette menstrual cup size 1

Lunette 1

Lunette 1 – Small (soft)

  • Capacity (to the rim): 25mL 
  • Total length: 72mm 
  • Rim diameter: 41mm 
  • Stem: Flat tab, 25mm 
Buy now from Amazon

Lunette 2 – Medium/Big (firm)

  • Capacity (to the rim): 30mL 
  • Total length: 72mm 
  • Rim diameter: 46mm 
  • Stem: Flat tab, 20mm 
Buy now from Amazon

Lily Cup

  • Material: Medical-grade silicon
  • Colours: Pink
  • Country of origin: Sweden
LilyCup menstrual cup size A

Lily Cup A

Lily Cup menstrual cup Compact B

Lily Cup Compact B

Lily Cup A – Small

  • Capacity (to the rim): 28mL 
  • Total length: 78mm 
  • Rim diameter: 40mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 12mm 
Buy now from Amazon

Lily Cup B – Medium/Big

  • Capacity (to the rim): 32mL 
  • Total length: 78mm 
  • Rim diameter: 44mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 12mm 
Buy now from Amazon

Lily Cup Compact B – Medium/Big

  • Capacity (to the airholes): 19mL 
  • Total length: 58mm 
  • Rim diameter: 45mm 
  • Stem: Hollow tube, 10.5mm 
Buy now from Amazon

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.

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