Menstrual Cups for Conception: What the Research Says
Reusable menstrual cups and menstrual discs have been around since the 1860s and come in different shapes. But has become more mainstream in the past decade. The latest menstrual cups and discs are primarily designed to hold menstrual blood and are increasingly becoming more popular because they are eco-friendly and a painless alternative to tampons. They are also known for boosting one’s chances of conception, so you are assured of getting pregnant faster.
Do menstrual cups help with conception?
But what is the logic behind this recent buzz? When used as a cup to keep the donated sperm or ejaculated sperm closer to the cervix opening, the menstrual cups/discs can, in theory, increase the probability of conception during your fertile window (a few days before and on the ovulation day).
So, does this theory hold when we examine the real-world outcomes? It isn’t easy to know this yet. As of now, there is no clinical data that suggests that people who use menstrual cups or discs have a high chance of getting pregnant quickly compared to people who do not use them. But were are hoping to get some statistics on this soon.
Before we dive into the origin of the theory and the information we have on the subject, you should know this: Fertility science keeps evolving, but there are significant research gaps even in women’s health. Nonetheless, even if something hasn’t been validated by several large-scale trials done randomly, that does not mean it will not benefit you as an individual. In the end, personal experience can be as valuable as scientific evidence.
Some medical advisors claim that both lesbian and heterosexual couples have been using menstrual discs for this purpose for many years. However, no data shows that it is more effective or can cause some harm. Particularly for couples who choose to go for sperm donation, utilizing a menstrual disc can possibly be more productive than putting sperm in the vagina alone.
Where did this menstrual cup theory originate from?
A lot of factors need to go right for conception to occur. One of the first and most significant steps in getting the sperm to fertilize the egg. To accomplish this, sperm needs to enter the vagina, past the cervix, and get into the uterus and fallopian tube to meet an egg that has just been released (during each ovulation cycle).
During penile-vaginal intercourse or intracervical insemination, the sperm are usually deposited close to the cervix, enabling them to get to the fallopian tubes in a few minutes. Fertility treatments such as IVF or Vitro fertilization bypass the need for the sperm to go beyond the cervix fully.
In both IVF and penile-vaginal intercourse, the quantity of sperm that manages to get to the fallopian tubes is directly linked to the sperm deposited near a cervix. Due to this (in theory), anything that can keep sperm there may increase the total number of sperm that get to the egg and boost the probability of fertilization. The approach is based on the idea that the menstrual discs or cups inserted into the vagina may help in conception.
Cervical caps & Possible Fertility Booster
The menstrual device theory may have been inspired by the history of the cervical cap, which was initially introduced as a birth control method over 100 years ago. Still, the recent data reveals that they are not particularly good at this. These tiny silicone devices were put right at the cervix before a sexual act so they could block the sperms from getting into the cervix.
At some point (maybe around the 1980s), certain physicians started wondering whether the caps could be used for an opposite purpose. For instance, they wanted to know if they could use them before sex to ensure sperm are kept out, after insemination, or after sex to keep the sperm in and increase the chances of conception. The findings on these are mixed, but we shall discuss them in the next section.
Remember that cervical caps are not being used regularly due to the availability of better forms of contraceptives nowadays. Most OB-GYNs also don’t prescribe them too.
Menstrual cups and conception
Narratives and success stories of women who get pregnant during their initial cycle of keeping the menstrual cup in after insemination or sex can be found in many articles online, on Reddit threads, and on online forums. Although personal experiences, in their own right, are valuable and intriguing when it comes to the evidence of efficacy, they are not enough to indicate that anyone who uses a certain intervention will see the same results – the potential confounding factors are just too many. This is the reason why anecdotal reports are at the bottom of the scientific evidence hierarchy.
Until the day systematic studies on menstrual discs/cups and pregnancy are done, it is unclear whether we can expect to identify a connection for the ordinary people trying to conceive. Anyway, menstrual discs and cups are affordable, so if you would like to try them out as a tool that can assist you in conceiving, you will not experience any real downside.
And while we may not have clinical data on whether menstrual cups and discs can actually increase your chances of getting pregnant or not, you will not harm your body when you choose to use them for insemination or after sex. All you need to do is ensure they are clean and used as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
What we know about cervical cups and conception
As mentioned earlier, doctors have been wondering about the utilization of cervical cups for conception for about 40 years now. Some studies were organized to address this and gave mixed results:
- Some revealed a high pregnancy rate for women who used menstrual cups. A study of individuals undertaking the ICI (Intracervical insemination) showed that the rate of pregnancy per cycle was 5.9% in cases where menstrual cups weren’t used and 15.2% in cases where the cervical cups were used.
- Others didn’t: One study that involved more than 600 treatment cycles revealed pregnancy rates of 7.8% for each cycle after using a cervical cap and 9.8% when the usual ICI protocols are followed.
- Also, the idea of doing certain things to keep more sperm and increase the probability of conception isn’t consistently supported. For instance, lying down after the IUI procedure to avert sperm backflow will not boost the chances of conception, nor does sex positions that may decrease backflow.
Regardless of the lack of clear, published evidence to prove that menstrual cups are helpful for women trying to conceive, many companies have produced customized cervical cups to be utilized for conception reasons. It’s crucial to remember that these manufacturers haven’t yet given their own data to show that the products work as advertised, and this isn’t a requirement for the usual TGA medical device clearance.
Even if we had reliable scientific evidence showing that the cervical cups can promote conception, we could not assume that the same results would be attained after using menstrual cups and discs. This is especially true for menstrual cups as they are longer than cervical caps and can hold fluid substantially away from the cervix.
Menstrual cups & falling pregnant conclusion
Although there isn’t scientific data suggesting that methods for preventing sperm backflow from a vagina (such as positions post-sex, insemination, cervical cups, or menstrual cups/discs) increase the chances of conceiving, with menstrual cups or discs mainly, there are no known dangers of using the after insemination or sex. But, we shall keep looking out for more research as it’s released.
Choosing whether or not to try out menstrual discs or cups after sex or insemination is entirely up to you, your partner, and your healthcare provider. What’s recommended is that you do some due diligence on your fertility and that of your partner first. Check whether you ovulate regularly, examine your partner’s semen parameters, and so on. When you know such details and consult your doctor, you will be better positioned to make an informed choice to attain your reproductive goals.