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Does anyone know of formal scientific studies or journal articles about the safety/general health of using a cup that stays in place using suction? I couldn't find anything in PubMed but given the proliferation of cups in the past few years it seems like there must be some research on this.

I'm curious about this because I have generally found the suction to be somewhat painful, and to me pain (even mild) indicates that something is not as it should be. Also, given that extended amounts of suction on other parts of the body can cause changes/problems (think of hickeys - those are due to broken blood vessels), it makes sense to me that strong suction on the cervix could do the same. I'm looking for answers grounded in science rather than random conjecture.

Background: I tried The Keeper years and years ago when I was 18 without much success, but my vagina was also not very used to having things in it at that point. Years later I tried a Divacup, and while insertion was fine, I remember feeling like having it in was painful - not for the space it was taking up, since other penetration is fine, but presumably due to the suction. Instead cups are fine, and are my current prefered menstrual product, but I'd prefer something reusable and would generally like to explore other options again.
 
yayforcupsyayforcups on February 26th, 2015 07:11 pm (UTC)
You had some very suction-renowned cups there! As far as I know the cups are held in place by muscles, not suction. Much like if you put something up your nose, it would be held in place if it was the right size. Sorry if this is more conjecture than science, but the holes are to release suction to let the air in to increase capacity then out as the cup fills with blood. it's comfortable while in which isn't causing damage, but at times there is a kind of vacuum created by letting the air out which is why on removal air should be let into the cup by "releasing the suction" via various methods (hot dog in a bun/ pressing the rim of the cup etc) then you can work it outside. That is why there are so many comments about making bigger holes in the diva cup specifically because larger holes would cause less suction but the non leak "seal" would still be there. There are softer cups which don't have as strong suction.

As far as scientific experiments go, how would you go about that? To see the harmful effects of suction when it hasn't been released? Are you more interested on the effect on the cervix or the vagina in general? I'll have a look for you but it's a tricky one.
Mbalmofgilead on February 26th, 2015 07:28 pm (UTC)
Well, if there's damage the effects would be present and potentially detectable after the cup has been removed.

Years ago I read an anecdote where someone said that during a pelvic exam her doctor saw bruising on her cervix (which she actually described as similar to a hickey, in a sense) and thought it might be due to cup use. While I'm sure many cup users get regular pelvic exams, I doubt that most people doing pelvic exams are clued in enough to look for or notice patterns associated with cup use.

That is a good point that the Divacup has strong suction. At the time I bought it it was the only silicone cup available, and I was interested in a material that could be sterilized and whose use in the human body had been studied more thoroughly.
trejoytrejoy on February 26th, 2015 08:44 pm (UTC)
I also started my cup experience with the Keeper and the Diva. Both were uncomfortable and I had to move on to other brands!
fee_parisienne on February 26th, 2015 09:19 pm (UTC)
If suction bothers you, do you think you might be more comfortable with a "saucer-shaped" cup? Like the Instead soft-cups, or a silicone diaphragm. I don't use the Insteads for more than 1 day in a row, because the rim bothers my bladder, but I think they're a fine option for occasional use.
Mbalmofgilead on February 26th, 2015 09:23 pm (UTC)
As I mention in my post, that's what I use currently :) Ideally I'd like something less disposable though, and I'm also not thrilled with the ways they can be cleaned. I've thought about getting a silicone diaphragm to use that way, but I don't know that something that rigid in that shape would be a good choice for longer-term use, and I think it would be tough to find someone to fit one for that purpose.
Kai: 2Cupskuradi8 on February 26th, 2015 09:57 pm (UTC)
Edited.

"...a cup that stays in place using suction?" They aren't held in place by suction. That's a misconception. They are held in place by your vaginal walls and the base cradled by your PC (pubococcygeus) pelvic floor muscle.

There shouldn't be any suction and this is why: http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/2091967.html

Skim/Read this: http://kuradi8.livejournal.com/


Edited at 2015-02-27 01:32 pm (UTC)
meah1 on March 1st, 2015 08:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was under the impression that the user should not feel any suction. A seal, yes, but no suction unless one attempts to remove the cup without first breaking the seal by pinching. I would not attempt to remove without first breaking the seal. I thought that if one could remove it without breaking the seal, no seal was formed, i.e. cup was improperly inserted.
Kai: 2Cupskuradi8 on March 1st, 2015 09:32 pm (UTC)
While anti-suction holes around the rim of a cup play a role, I think that suction or the lack thereof is mostly attributable to the technique/skill of the user.
Kai: 2Cupskuradi8 on February 26th, 2015 10:27 pm (UTC)
PS - Insteads ARE re-useable. There is no reason you can't wash them and re-use them for as long as you trust their integrity. The only reason they say that they are disposable is so that you will buy more. And more. And more. And more...
Mbalmofgilead on February 27th, 2015 05:52 am (UTC)
I do re-use them, but (as I said), I'm not happy with the way they can be cleaned. They can't be boiled or sterilized and because of the design and materials used, I can never get them totally clean.
..::bella vita::..por_que_no on February 26th, 2015 10:57 pm (UTC)
Honestly, probably due to having started exploring cups before better options were available, you ended up with the two worst starter cups around. If those had been the only two when I started checking out cups...I would've been turned off permanently. Luckily, by 2013 the number of brands was already around 20+ and I was able to find a workable one on the second try. (I need mine baby-soft though or I'm completely unable to urinate)
Jennifer Monoteasy2begreen on February 27th, 2015 03:53 pm (UTC)
I know one person reported that the Femmycycle caused visible swelling and bruising to her cervix (confirmed by a gynecologist), but the Femmycycle is a very different design from most reusable menstrual cups and doesn't have any air holes. Generally, I find soft cups less suction-y than firm ones -- some people are able to remove the Si-Bell without having to break the seal, and I also find removing the super soft Cuplee to be a much less painful task than removing, say, the fairly firm Fleur. I don't feel suction when any cup is in, however.
..::bella vita::..por_que_no on February 27th, 2015 04:26 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. I never felt any suction with the Femmy because (at least around the bottom) it never fully opened...as long as the top rim is open and covering the cervix it's fine. I did find it comparatively fiddly to insert though (and would've been difficult in non-shower situations without lots of coconut oil for the glossy, sticky silicone) so I sold it off. Never heard of the bruising thing though. I would imagine that happening more with the rock hard Keeper.
Jennifer Monoteasy2begreen on February 27th, 2015 05:59 pm (UTC)
She said her cervix swelled from the suction and then got stuck in the opening of the FemmyCycle. Ouch. I don't even want to think too much about that!
sophibugsophibug on October 3rd, 2015 06:10 pm (UTC)
http://www.cfp.ca/content/57/6/e208.short

This study showed that cups are safe, but it was the only one (at least the only available) that I found on scholar.google.com when I was searching. It had a pretty small sample size. I don't know what the strength of the data was. In general, however, it points to menstrual cups being fairly safe.