It is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluids. Once in place it forms a seal, preventing blood flowing out of the vagina by collecting it in its “cup” shaped reservoir. Unlike a tampon which absorbs the blood along with the vagina’s natural secretions, a menstrual cup simply holds the fluids until you remove it – so they don’t dry out the vagina and don’t hold the TSS risk that tampons do.
They hold around 15-30ml (Depending on the size and brand), which is for most women will cope with a full day without emptying, and at most perhaps you would need to empty it a few times a day for a very heavy flow.
A menstrual cup will last (with proper care) for around 10 years, perhaps longer, so while the initial outlay is high, it pays for itself with savings pretty quickly.
You might think these are a modern invention… not so. The concept was patented as early as 1902! There were several versions produced from the 1930s onward, but it wasn’t until the Keeper came out in 1987 that menstrual cups started getting more popular. So cups have been around for a LONG time, even if most women have never heard of them.
There have been several new brands of menstrual cup brought out in the last few years, most offering coloured versions to help women pick a cup that is appealing to them. While there are different brands available, the menstrual cups are essentially all similar devices and offer only minor differences from one brand to another. Most of the cups come in 2 sizes. The smaller version of the cup is designed for younger women who have not had a baby. The larger versions are designed for older women or women who have had a baby. The different cup brands often have different size recommendations, so it is best to check the manufacturer’s recommendations when choosing a cup size.
For information on the different cup brands and news – see the cup site: