Non-disposable menstruating with an IUD/IUS
January 26, 2012 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to use a menstrual cup with an IUD/IUS? alternatively, what are my options for re-usable pads and how does one handle dirty pads at work, etc?

I'm about to get a new IUS (intrauterine system or IUD with progestogen, branded as Mirena in North America), and the doctor has told me that I have to give up using my beloved menstrual cup, because the suction created by the cup might dislodge the IUS (same with an IUD).

However, I had previously had an IUS for 5 years, and used a silicon menstrual cup the entire time and it did not dislodge my IUS. This was in another country, where IUS/IUDs were common, but the gynecologist who placed my IUS didn't seem to know anything about menstrual cups (I asked whether it would be a problem, and she looked confused and then said she wasn't sure but thought not).

So, do I have to give up my cup or not? I really dislike tampons or disposable pads (both irritate my skin, as well as being expensive and disposable). My cup is so awesome - I never feel it, and it rarely leaks. And I never have to worry about running out of supplies.

My other alternative is using non-disposable menstrual pads, which I've been meaning to get anyways. But I have no experience with these - how do you handle bloody pads at work? Do they smell as bad as regular pads do, and (if so) how can you carry them in your bag on the public transit? How do you clean them, etc? (Yes, I know I can google some of this, but I wanted to hear about both pads and using a cup with an IUD/IUS. Also, any recommendations on make of non-disposable pads is very welcome).
posted by jb to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This LiveJournal community has some archived stuff on this topic. Also Mooncup FAQ.

I have used these reusable pads, which fold up and snap so you have a little bundle with the waterproof liner on the outside. Yes, they smell a little, but I don't think they smell as much as disposables do. They also sell cute little waterproof cosmetics bags to stash them in.
posted by liketitanic at 10:34 AM on January 26, 2012

I asked the doctor the same thing when I got mine (Paragard, though) put in. She said it depended, some people used the cups and did fine. So I waited a few months and then started using it again and haven't had any problems.

And since you've already done it with your previous one ... it seems like it would be fine. Wait a little while, try it out, be careful to completely break suction before removing it?
posted by little cow make small moo at 10:35 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a Mirena and asked my doctor when I got it put in, and she said I should be fine to keep using my divacup. Just make sure you press the cup to "break the seal" before removing it.

That said, I haven't had a period since I got my mirena 1.5 years ago, so you may not have to worry about it at all!
posted by sanitycheck at 10:52 AM on January 26, 2012

When I was asking the doctor about the IUD as an option, she said I could still use my menstrual cup with it. She said she has a friend who does that and it works fine.

Also logically, the cup shouldn't have enough suction to dislodge the cup... if it's that easy to dislodge, there are other things that could do it too. You might want to give it a few months until it's settled into place though.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:54 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use a DivaCup with an IUD. My doc said it was fine and six months later, no issues.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:09 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have an IUD (Paraguard) and use a menstrual cup (the Keeper) with no problems. It's been about 6 months so far. When I got the IUD inserted I asked my doctor this very question, as I had heard using them together can be problematic. She said it would be fine. I have heard also that it can be more of an issue if you are using a cup that sits closer to the cervix, like the "Instead" brand softcup.
posted by aka burlap at 11:10 AM on January 26, 2012

My reusable pads are flannel, and there's no better way to say what I'm about to say than to just say it:

Unlike disposable pads on the market, which focus on absorbacy to the point where, I think, the pad is practically reaching up in to suck everything out, I find that my flannel pads just catch what's falling. The majority of the fluids actually fall out when I use the restroom. Thus, I can get through the workday with one pad.

I was so surprised when I found this out! Disposable pads are basically ShamWow in my new world view.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:21 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hi, I have a Mirena IUD, a DivaCup, and some flannel panty liners (not pads, just the little liners from PartyInMyPants).

My gyn told me it was fine to continue to use my DivaCup with my Mirena, but my periods are so light that it doesn't seem worth it. I just put on a PIMP liner if I see any blood and it's light enough that I just wear it all day and throw it in the washer and put on a new one when I get home. I am weirdly sad that I don't get to use my DivaCup anymore because I love it so much, but there's really not enough flow to justify it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:29 AM on January 26, 2012

Oh yeah, the dr. did say to make sure and squeeze it to break the suction rather than just pulling it out, but you probably already do that.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:36 AM on January 26, 2012

I have a Mirena and a Keeper. I didn't wait to start using the Keeper, no problems. I previously also had a Paraguard + Keeper, similarly drama free.

I sometimes use 2-4 thicknesses of flannel sewn together around the edges as lightweight pads, I think they're like six or seven inch squares? I rinse them briefly before tossing them in the laundry, they still look fine/clean after years. So much softer/comfier than disposables. Maybe try them out at home first to see if you need to worry about spares (I never have)? I imagine a ziplock baggie with a spare plus a quick rinse of the used one, where possible, would cover you.
posted by momus_window at 11:45 AM on January 26, 2012

There's a whole online community devoted to menstrual cups -- check it out here. And you can also do a tag search for questions related to cup use and IUDs. Good luck!

P.S. I heart my LadyCup, but I don't use an IUD. So I'm afraid I can't help you there.

P.P.S. The menstrual cup community also includes posts on cloth pads. Not to mention these entries from the Vagina Pagina site.

I love me some cloth pads. Disposables made me itch, for the reasons you mention. Then there was also the delightful factor of losing a few pubes every time I changed pads. And who thought it would be a wise idea to put something treated with dioxin (either tampons or disposable pads) near a mucus membrane?
posted by virago at 11:52 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use a copper IUD (Nova T - I'm in Canada) and a DivaCup with the blessing of my doctor. It's been great, no problems. I'm careful to break the suction before removal and also check the strings to make sure they are tucked away to avoid accidentally tugging on anything (cringe)
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:55 AM on January 26, 2012

You could use Instead softcups. They don't suction onto the cervix. I've used them successfully before.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:59 AM on January 26, 2012

Oh yeah, and there is an online community dedicated to cloth pads.

virago = more links than you'd ever have time to follow on any given subject
posted by virago at 1:05 PM on January 26, 2012

My doctor told me that it wouldn't be a problem to use my Divacup with my Mirena...aaand then it got pulled out about 2 weeks later. Oh boy!

However, it wasn't the suction that caused it -- my strings were extremely long (over an inch), and when I was pinching the cup to take it out, a string got pinned by the rim and then tugged. If your strings are short, you'll probably be safe, although I was too spooked to test this theory with my shorter-stringed 2nd IUD (and the downside to short strings is higher potential for stabbing male partners in the junk).

If you're lucky, the Mirena will stop your periods and you'll get to evade the whole issue.
posted by introcosm at 1:43 PM on January 26, 2012

I have a Mirena and I use Instead -- both this time and with my last IUD. I asked my doctor, she said it was fine, I've never had any problems.
posted by KathrynT at 1:51 PM on January 26, 2012

I was told not to use anything insertable (tampons, diva cup, etc) after the IUD was placed (they did it while I was actively menstruating). After that it was fine. I found that after a couple of months my periods all but disappeared. I still rarely spot and any spotting I have isn't even worth a panty liner. So keep that in mind.
posted by radioaction at 2:23 PM on January 26, 2012

I've been using a cup with an IUD for about 2 years. Never caused me any problems.
posted by Lobster Garden at 3:45 PM on January 26, 2012

Another vote for 'I used a cup with an IUD just fine'. Detail: it was a copper IUD. After using pads for the first period after insertion, I decided that if there was a problem, I would rather keep the cup than the IUD, and went back to using my cup. No problems despite occasional drunken cup-changing (always fun....) and apparently having very longs strings (the bonus side of which is that they didn't stab anything delicate....). I had the IUD removed after a year for reasons unrelated to cup use.
posted by Lebannen at 4:03 PM on January 26, 2012

I just had an IUD consult yesterday and asked this question about Mirena + DivaCup. The doctor said that there was a small but nonzero chance of bacterial issues with the strings carrying bacteria from the cup, so she recommends tampons or pads instead. I hadn't heard that before, just the suction concerns, so I'm planning to do a bit of research and see if this is an actual thing or my new doctor just making wacky stuff up.

She did also say that after a few months periods are likely to get so light that I can make do with a pantiliner and won't need the cup anyway. That'd be nice!

I can't remember right now what reusable kind of pads I have, but I use them just as backup and can easily use one for a whole day with no problems without having to swap and carry used pads around, so I'm guessing the same will be true with Mirena.
posted by Stacey at 5:42 PM on January 26, 2012

Another data point: I've used a diva cup for 10 years, and had an IUD(copper) for 5 years. No issues. None. (Well, the only problem is that feeling of superiority when bypassing the feminine hygene wall of products at the pharmacy.)
posted by unlapsing at 7:48 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I use pads by Luna, and they came with little plastic pouches. They don't seem to be offered anymore, but they have a bag just for the issue you are worried about. A makeup bag would be fine, too, if lined.

It sounds like the consensus is that the cup is fine with an IUD, rhough.
posted by annsunny at 8:58 PM on January 26, 2012

Paragard+divacup=awesome, in my experience. Ziploc bags make for a fantastic cloth pad transport system. Flannel pads are 1000X better than disposable pads. I used one plastic/disposable pad, once, with my first period. Fuck that crinkly plastic shit. Snuggly flannel for my labia, all the way.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:01 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok. I have reeled in drunk Molly. Somewhat. I have a paragard IUD. I currently use the divacup most of the time. But, when cramps get really bad, every 3-4 periods, days 2-3 typically, taking out the cup tends to help. At that time, I use flannel pads. They rock. When work conspires to make me unable to wash my hands all day, I switch to tampons for the day, as I can change them without touching my junk.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:05 PM on January 26, 2012

I meant they aren't offering the little plastic carriers I have, not the pads, those are plentiful. So are my typos, sorry. Mine are made from un-dyed organic cotton and flannel. Forums probably cover this, though.
posted by annsunny at 9:16 PM on January 26, 2012

Same story as most -- I used my DivaCup with my Mirena with no problem. My strings were very short though (introcosm's comment sounds a little terrifying!). BUT, I hardly ever needed it, because my periods were so so light with the IUD. I think I used the cup fewer than 5 times in the 4 years I had the IUD. I did use Lunapads though. I basically never had to change the pad during the day.

I have my IUD out now and am having a regular (heavy) cycle, though, and even with the cup I very occasionally have to change the pad insert midday. I put it in a baggie and shove it in the bottom of my bag, and I do not notice a smell, and no one's ever made funny faces at me on the bus. I just huck them in the wash with everything else, but then I am a casual launderer.
posted by librarina at 10:28 PM on January 26, 2012

I occasionally use flannel pads when I don't feel like using the diva cup. I put used ones in a ziplock baggie and then into one of the small zippered interior pockets of my purse. Take them out and wash them when I get home. I have never had issues with smell with this method.
posted by HMSSM at 10:36 PM on January 26, 2012

Hello, I'm a 'lucky" person who kept using her Diva Cup with an IUD and wound up dislodging it.
The suction on the cup was strong, I didn't break the seal, and wound up pulling the IUD right into my cervix. I had it removed later that day.

With my second IUD, I decided not to use the Cup. I think it depends on your level of comfort -- I wouldn't be willing to go through insertion a third time, so I stopped using the cup, even if I know I could break the seal and use it safely.
posted by OLechat at 11:10 PM on January 26, 2012

Thank you all - you have all given me best answers.

Unfotunately, it's been a moot point: I had the expensive IUD failure in the first month (came out on its own). But I didn't use a cup at all, so it wasn't that - it was just bad luck (and maybe bad insertion - it was a more painful insertion than before). Money and my age being what it is, I don't know if I will try again (since it would be only for 1-2 years), but I don't want to discourage anyone else - I had five great years on the first one.
posted by jb at 10:10 AM on February 28, 2012

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