In general, the menstrual cup does not cause odours because as the blood is not in contact with the air, it does not oxidise so it does not smell (or smells very little). With a menstrual cup, you will find that the smell of your period is quite different from the smell you experience when you wear other period protection (tampons or pads): they usually smell like 'fresh blood'.
However, you may notice a smell in your menstrual cup, and this smell (like most vaginal smells) is an indicator of the health of your vagina.
Types of odours that can occur when using a menstrual cup
Your menstrual cup smells like metal
If your cup smells metallic, there's no need to worry: it's simply that the iron level in your blood is high, which is a good sign, as iron is one of the essential minerals for the body to function properly.
In particular, it plays an important role in the manufacture of haemoglobin - which carries oxygen in the body and makes up a large part of the blood.
Iron levels can vary depending on your cycle and your diet. If you have eaten iron-rich foods, this may affect the smell of your period.
While red meat is well known for its iron content, other sources of iron include seafood (clams, cockles, oysters, mussels), snails, soya, legumes (lentils, white and kidney beans, chickpeas, etc.), nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, etc.) and green vegetables (peas, spinach, broccoli, chard, etc.).
Your menstrual cup smells like cheese
Sometimes a cheese smell can appear in your cup, and this surprising and very unpleasant odour can worry you.
In fact, again, it is actually an indicator of good health. Your vagina is full of good bacteria that protect it from infection and keep it in balance. These bacteria are called Lactobacilli: there are several types, but what they have in common is that they are never pathogenic (no type of Lactobacilli causes disease).
Lactobacilli protect against fungal infections, and some are even used as probiotics (e.g. Lactobacillus L. Casei).
However, if a high concentration of Lactobacilli is a sign of very good protection against various vaginal infections, they are also lactic acid bacteria, which are involved in the manufacture of cheese. Hence the odour that can be released from your cup, which often appears after several months or years of using a menstrual cup, as your vaginal flora is strengthened (since it is much less attacked than with tampons). But it is of no consequence.
Your menstrual cup smells like fish
If your menstrual cup starts to smell more or less fresh, you should be concerned: this is a sign of an illness or infection that needs to be treated and whose cause is often the rise in the natural pH of the vagina (hence the need to use a suitable intimate cleanser when using a menstrual cup)
In most cases, this smell is caused by a bacterial infection - bacterial vaginosis. This infection is caused by the abnormal growth of a naturally occurring bacterium in the vagina (Gardnerella vaginalis), which overpowers the good bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis is treated with targeted antibiotics, sometimes combined with probiotics to restore the vaginal flora.
This bad smell can also come from a sexually transmitted infection (STI) called Trichonomiasis. Trichonomiasis is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis, and although in 50% of cases it is asymptomatic, it can lead to a fishy smell, a greenish, frothy vaginal discharge or pain at the entrance to the vagina, especially during penetrative vaginal sex. It is important to be careful because this STI has a very high transmission rate (about 80% transmission), but it is easily treated with a single targeted antibiotic and possibly probiotics to restore the natural vaginal balance. If you are a victim, make sure you use condoms and/or dental dams when having sex until you are cured.
In any case, this fishy smell is a reason to consult your gynaecologist or midwife.
How do you remove the smell from your menstrual cup?
In any case, if the odour is impregnated on your cup, simply boil it for 5 to 10 minutes and add one of these products to the water (your choice, but be careful not to mix them together):
- a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda
- or a little spirit vinegar (white vinegar)
- or the juice of half a lemon
In the case of a fishy smell, do not put your cup or any internal protection back on until you have treated the cause, as you are reminded that you should not use your cup if you have a vaginal infection or suspected infection.
How to limit odours on your menstrual cup?
The platinum medical silicone we use for La Cup Luneale is naturally bacteriostatic, meaning that bacteria do not grow on its surface. So with proper cleaning, there is no risk to your health.
But to limit odours, you need a minimum of air in your cup, because it is air that will oxidise the blood: this is why we advise you to use a cup size adapted to your flow.
If you have a heavy flow at the beginning of your period and you use an L cup, but at the end of your period your flow is much weaker, you will have to think about emptying it more often, or taking an S cup in addition. Because a very small flow in a large cup leaves room for a lot of air, and in addition, you tend to keep it longer because it is not full. This is a mistake, as the maximum wearing time is 8 hours.