FEMFACTS
14 May 2019

Menstrual cups are fertility devices? That's what the Internet thinks now

A menstrual cup can help you conceive, according to some company and parenting websites. The claim, neither tested nor proved, has social media buzzing.

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
Menstrual cups are fertility devices? That's what the Internet thinks now - NewsMavens
Menstrual Cup, PixaBay

Menstrual cups are becoming more and more popular. On the internet, they are being advertised as an eco-friendly, reusable alternative to traditional feminine hygiene products, one that is also more effective and more economical than disposable ones.

For many women, those are good enough reasons to start using them instead of pads and tampons during their periods. For many sellers, that is a good enough reason to start producing them in different shapes, colors and sizes. In the last couple of years, the menstrual cup market has rapidly expanded and cups can be purchased from various online companies, in pharmacies and hygiene stores.

But with menstrual cups going mainstream, some women started have using them not only to collect their menstrual fluid -- but to get pregnant as well. The claim that the cup -- when placed in the vagina after ejaculation -- helps the sperm fertilize the egg, has stirred up some nascent faith among women about menstrual cups as fertility devices. The rise in anecdotal evidence that it worked for “some people” means that menstrual cups have found a new market -- couples trying to have children.

From word of mouth this claim jumped straight onto internet forums and soon enough -- it became news. One of the headlines read: Women Are Using Menstrual Cups to Get Pregnant Faster and It Might Work.

But it also might not.

WHAT’S THE CLAIM?

Trying to conceive can be one of the most exciting times in your life. It can also be one of the more frustrating. You might have heard the various methods used by couples to boost the odds of conception. From lying on your back with your legs in the air after sex to eating pineapple to aid in implantation, there’s no shortage of tips and trick out there. While these tactics can be useful, menstrual cups have been found even more effective in helping women get pregnant faster.

This is how Yono Labs, a US company that started off by making wearable earbuds for predicting ovulation, is advertising another one of its products -- the YONO Menstrual Cup.

The company published an article titled “Can a Menstrual Cup Really Help You Get Pregnant Faster?” on its website in December last year, giving an affirmative answer to the question raised in the headline while explaining the principles of how menstrual cups work. “If you are trying to conceive, try YONOCup to get pregnant faster,” the article suggests to readers at the end.

News Mavens has tracked variations of the same line of argument on parenting websites such as Parents.com or Wehavekids.com.

US gynecologist Sherry Ross, the author of a book on women’s intimate health She-ology the definitive guide to women’s intimate health. Period, gave an interview to Parent.com saying that menstrual cups “could definitely support efforts to conceive.” These are some of the quotes:

‘Having sex and having your partner 'pull out' to deposit sperm into a menstrual cup is one method,’ Dr. Ross says. “Others have sex and immediately insert a menstrual cup into the vagina to ensure the sperm stays in place, close to the entrance of the uterus.” Couples who are using artificial insemination can also use the method, Dr. Ross notes.

“‘Healthy sperm lives for three days," Dr. Ross explains. "The longer the sperm hangs out at the cervix and the entrance to the uterus, the better chance it has at swimming up into the fallopian tube to fertilize the egg. Since there are no real guidelines to using a menstrual cup to help keep in sperm at the cervix, I would suggest leaving the cup in place as long as you safely can." She advises following the general guidelines for menstrual cup wear, which is no more than 12 hours.”

On Wehavekids.com, author Charlotte Doyle wrote a piece titled How to Get Pregnant Using the Menstrual Cup. Doyle, who is an “artist, freelance writer, homeschooling mother, and college student pursuing a Master's degree in psychology” (as written below the headline of the article), wrote the following in her tutorial on how menstrual cups help women conceive:  

“Male deposit can live up to three days in a woman's body when not exposed to air. Without the menstrual cup, the potential babies may die inside of the first twelve hours.”

Doyle also wrote that the menstrual cup “can even help prolong the life of the deposit, up to seven days.”  

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

No scientific research has backed up the claim that the usage of menstrual cups can make women pregnant. Dr. Ross did say cups could help, but she did not give any concrete evidence that it works. A gynecologist contacted by News Mavens said she is not able to comment since she is not familiar with the procedure. The claim published by Yono Labs that cups “have been found effective in helping women get pregnant” is not proved nor provable yet.

The article titled Can using a menstrual cup increase your chances of getting pregnant?, published on the Babyology.com.au parenting website this January wrote that “there’s anecdotal evidence on various parenting forums attributing pregnancy to the use of a menstrual cup, but it’s not really possible to know whether the cup was indeed what helped sperm meet egg.

Website Sheknows.com interviewed another US gynecologist, Felice Gersh, who said that news stories claiming women are getting pregnant after using cups to conceive should prompt real scientific studies, but until then, she considers the method ineffective at best and harmful at worst.

Some parenting websites, however, interpreted what might only be a coincidence as a proof of efficiency. The claim that cups are effective tools for conceiving was picked up by companies such as Yono Labs, that have began advertising its own cups as fertility tools.

But the claim has spread through some parenting websites. The website Parents.com has quoted Dr. Ross, a gynecologist, who has explained the process of conception in scientific terms. But other ones (such as Wehavekids.com) let non-experts, who call sperm “potential babies,” to write articles on how to conceive using menstrual cups, which state that cups can help keep sperm alive for a week.

Dr. Gersh, however, told Sheknows.com that while it’s true that sperm can live for five days in a woman, allowing for conception to occur a few days after intercourse, it is not true that sperm can live and thrive in a menstrual cup for that period of time. “In fact, having sperm and semen sit in a menstrual cups for days would certainly add risk for overgrowth of toxic bacteria and promote bacterial vaginitis,” she explains.

The “cup story” has found its way to an audience in the Balkans, via popular new sites RTL (Croatia) and Klix (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The articles are a combination of translations of some of the aforementioned articles from English into local languages lacking any critical distance or additional reporting. RTL, in fact, used the selection of quotes from Dr. Ross’s interview with Parents.com to support the claim that cups help women to get pregnant. Klix mentioned potential risks but doesn’t specify the “how-to” instructions for using menstrual cups, which have been mentioned in some of the original articles. The necessity of wearing them for the maximum of twelve hours, as its extended use can alter vaginal pH and cause infections is a very important fact for maintaining hygiene. The majority of companies that produce the cups recommend for them to be held inside vaginas for the maximum of twelve hours for that reason.

CONCLUSION

The claim has no basis in any medical study  to date, yet it is presented as a fact by some websites, this is why we label it as pseudoscience. At the same time, some important information on potential risks is omitted, which is why we label it as manipulation of facts. Even if there’s not much harm in trying out menstrual cups for conceiving -- as some of the websites noted -- the decision to use them based on information found on internet might impose hygienic risks.

Menstrual cups are still unfamiliar to some women who, for example, might wrongly conclude that the longer they keep them inside of their vaginas the bigger the chance for conceiving is. Furthermore, articles such as these might give a false sense of hope to fertility-challenged couples who might spend time on trying to conceiving with the help of cups instead of focusing on standard medical fertility treatments.

WITH FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM:
SUPPORTED BY:

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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