I love the freedom that a menstrual cup brings (not to mention the environmental impact). With that freedom, we do need to consider that when inserted it does have some risk. It is especially risky if it’s not being cleaned and sterilised appropriately.

Why are they risky? Surely wiping and rinsing is enough?

There has been some research which suggests we need better sterilisation practices. In 2018 a lab based study came out that sampled microbes on cups (in a bag simulation). Essentially a test to see what microbes would stick to and multiply on the cups. They found Staphylococcus aureus, the microbe responsible for Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). The S.aureus was able to stick and grow on the cup. The study itself raised some questions about the lack of guidelines for cleaning menstrual cups.

In a different study from 2017, 600, 14-16yr old females had their menstrual cups sampled over an 11 month period. The sampling results were surprising. Ten of the samples found S.aureus the microbe associated with TSS, with two cups carrying toxic strains! The finding raises the question: Do we need guidelines for cleaning cups and what should they be?

Do menstrual cup companies provide adequate cleaning advice?

Recently I bought a new cup. I needed a new one after mine met a hot end in a neglected saucepan on sterilisation day ( see sad pics). I eagerly read the many paged booklet that accompanied my purchase. Amongst the pages of ancient wisdom, woo woo and connection to my womanhood only one small paragraph mentioned cleaning. The cleaning guidelines they gave only mentioned rinsing with water between use/emptying. This is worth noting, those guidelines wouldn’t address a possibly toxic microbe lurking on the silicon. Luckily I already had a cleaning routine (hence the melted form that was my former cup). I was however surprised to see that the gave such brief information.

So how do I sterilise and clean my cup?

Currently there are no standardised guidelines as the research isn’t there yet, but I do suggest the following:

  • You should be flash boiling your cup at the beginning and end of your cycle. You should also clean any opportunity during your bleed.
  • I recommend you have more than one cup so you can swap as required (always a sterile on standby).
  • For a quick cleanse use a foaming cleanser. I like the EVOHE Foam Wash for this purpose https://evohe.com.au/shop/foam-wash-175ml/
  • You can use Apple cider vinegar for a quick clean as well.
  • 1.5-2% Hydrogen peroxide solution is suitable for a quick clean. Pop in a spray bottle and saturate or dip. Never use anything stronger.
  • You may also want to invest in a baby bottle steriliser . Dedicated for your monthly sterilising needs.
  • If your in a public restroom the pour and wipe technique is fine. Clean when you can. You can even rinse in the water in a washroom.

What should I do?…The take home message you should be sterilising the cup at least once in a 24 hour period and more if your organised.

On a practical level I find that those predisposed to vaginal infections may see the biggest impact. If you have noticed that you get symptoms after your bleed then sterilising your cup could help. It may reduce your incidence of infection. It doesn’t have to be hard. Why not sort your cleaning routine for your vaginal health?

If you get symptoms around your period or from your sanitary items why not book an appointment in person or online?

melted-sterilised-menstrual-cup
Melted Sterilised Menstrual Cup

References:

Juma J, Nyothach E, Laserson KF, et al Examining the safety of menstrual cups among rural primary school girls in western Kenya: observational studies nested in a randomised controlled feasibility study

BMJ Open 2017;7:e015429. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015429

Louis Nonfoux, Myriam Chiaruzzi, Cédric Badiou, Jessica Baude, Anne Tristan, Jean Thioulouse, DanielMuller, Claire Prigent-Combaret, Gérard Lina

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. May 2018, 84 (12) e00351-18; doi: 10.1128/AEM.00351-18