Menstrual cups are small, flexible cups that collect blood during your period. They are considered to be healthier for you and healthier for the environment, but more recently they have been touted as a tool to help you fall pregnant faster.
What the science says
Yono Labs, an American-based company specialising in science-back fertility apps and tools, reports that by inserting a menstrual cup immediately after sex, the sperm will only have one direction to go – upwards. “Cervical mucus also helps the egg swim through the cervix and uterus and into the fallopian tube where the egg waits to be fertilised. Ideally, you want to have the sperm sit near the cervix and uterus entrance for as long as possible,” Yono Labs website reports. “When using a menstrual cup, always follow user guidelines. Menstrual cups should not be worn for more than 12 hours as extended use can alter vaginal pH, resulting in bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.”
Dr Sherry Ross, obstetrician, gynaecologist and author of She-oloy, The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period has been quoted in various media reports internationally that menstrual cups can be used as part of your fertility plan and can be beneficial to the fertility of healthy couples. According to Ross, one way is to have your partner deposit sperm into the cup, and then insert it. While another way is to immediately insert the cup after intercourse to ensure the sperm doesn’t “escape”. She has been quoted as saying: “In every ejaculate, there are millions of sperm swimming around. A menstrual cup full of sperm allows the sperm to only move in one direction and that is towards the egg.” Ross explains that healthy sperm can live for up to three days close to the cervix and entrance of the uterus.
This is not the first time menstrual cups have been linked to pregnancy. In fact, in 2006, Instead Inc filed an application with the US Food and Drug Administration to have its menstrual cup cleared to market as an over-the-counter fertility aid. According to the application at the time, this information came to surface through letters from users and the company’s online message boards, which showed a trend towards women using the menstrual cup as an internal device to holding semen close to the cervix. The Vice President and General Manager at the time, Terri Hirschfeld, was quoted as saying that they had learned that the menstrual cup “could be inserted immediately after intercourse to promote conception and had the amazing success stories to prove it.” However, the FDA didn’t approve the application.
Amanda Kouaiky, the co-founder of Maybe Mom SA, manufacturer and owner of Softcup Menstrual disc, says that safety is of great importance when it comes to reproductive health, one of the reasons they looked at the menstrual disc as a healthier alternative to pads and tampons. Since bringing the product to the South African market, they have found that couples are using the menstrual cup/disc to assist them on their fertility journeys.
“Scientists have discovered that sperm are designed to swim up and so when we lie on the bed and prop up our bums on a pillow after making love, up then becomes the wrong way,” she shares.
“What should happen is we should get up and start our day knowing full well that semen takes two hours to liquify and it will go where it needs to go without any of our help.” However, the truth is women don’t know that about sperm. “We don’t want to go about our day with splodgy wet undies reminding us of this morning’s hanky panky.”
She adds that ideally, we would like to wash and go on with our daily activities, fresh and clean. “At the same time, we don’t want to chance washing away that all-important sperm, so, we prop our butts up on a pillow and admire how amazing our legs look when lifted up against the wall and wait patiently for about 20 minutes for those baby makers to embark on their long swim.”
Kouaiky says we are stuck between what we think we are doing right, the actual facts about falling pregnant, and what our bodies are designed to do.
“What we found is that ladies have intercourse and then while still lying down, scoop any semen that may by now have started to run/drip out of her body and secure her partners sperm close to her cervix by inserting the Softcup menstrual disc where sperm will remain safely ‘pooled’ where it needs to be for up to 12 hours.”
Once the cup/disc is in place, you will be able to shower and carry on with your day. Kouaiky reiterates that while this is not recommended as a fertility device, and it is not marketed as a fertility device: “We do believe is that by using a menstrual disc to collect and secure sperm close to your cervix will create peace of mind, knowing that you have done what you believe is the best you could, while juggling everything else in your life, then we support that completely. Stress, anxiety and worry are the last things one should be going through when trying to fall pregnant.”
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.