Pads or tampons?

For most menstruating people in the U.S., these have been the two main options available to care for their period each month. Within the last decade, menstrual cups have gained popularity for their sustainability and longer wear time. According to market research by Technavio, the menstrual cup market value is estimated to grow by $366.3 million from 2021 to 2025, with 48% of this growth derived from North American consumers. 

Making the switch from a familiar product to a seemingly foreign object can be intimidating, especially because menstrual cups are inserted into the vaginal canal by hand, unlike most American commercial tampons which utilize an applicator. Additionally, these silicone or rubber cups are more of an upfront investment than a box of pads or tampons. One cup can cost around $20 to $40, according to Forbes Health, and even though they can last up to 10 years it may not be financially feasible to gamble on a cup you’re not sure you’ll like.

With so many cups now on the market – ranging in size, shape and price – how does one determine which best suits their needs?

Experts say the key to finding the right fit is knowing the height of your cervix. The cervix is at the very top of the vaginal canal and the furthest that a menstrual cup can go. Because the cervix shifts throughout the menstrual cycle, it’s recommended to measure your cervix when you’re on your period. 

You can measure it at home yourself, using clean hands. Insert a finger or two into the vagina and feel for the cervix – comparable to the feeling of the tip of your nose or puckered lips. Take note of how far your finger went in, remove it and measure that length with a ruler (a digital ruler or tape measure app works just fine). This is the height of your cervix.

According to PopSugar, the average cervix height is between 1.8 to 2.25 inches. A low cervix sits at 1.6 inches or lower and a high cervix sits at 2.25 inches or higher, and factors like pregnancy and age can impact height as well. Most companies offer cups in at least 2-3 sizes determined by this measurement, combined with the heaviness of your flow.

It can be a very Goldilocks and the Three Bears type of situation finding the perfect fit. A 2021 study found that not only are women not informed on how to find a cup, but brands also lack consistency in size. 

“With no correlation between menstrual cup size, shape, and its volume, or material, shape, and its firmness, consumers cannot estimate which menstrual cup might be most suitable,” the study concludes.

However, most companies offer a sizing guide to help customers find the right fit for their specific brand. Some examples include DivaCup, Saalt, Rael and Lunette. Compare the measurement of your cervix to the guidelines provided by the product you’re interested in for the best recommendation.

As popularity increases, companies are turning to tech to set their products apart. Emm Technology claims to offer the “smart menstrual solution,” a reusable menstrual cup with a tampon-like applicator that not only catches blood but measures volume, flow rate, cycle length, and regularity which users can track through an app. This product is currently in beta testing but slated to drop this year, according to The Verge.

The first menstrual cup was patented back in 1937, yet they are still surrounded by a sense of mysticism. While this type of product may not be for everyone – and that’s completely valid– the market’s swift growth proves that there is a demand and consumers are willing to invest in their menstrual care.