Are you interested in using a menstrual cup for the first time? With its massive popularity, it’s no wonder you want to find out more about it. If you have only been using tampons and pads and want to make the switch to menstrual cups, then the following article will cover all your concerns. Let’s begin!
- “I’m concerned that using a menstrual cup is not safe.”
- “Are colored cups safe?”
- “I’m not sure what size to start with”
- “Are menstrual cups really cost effective?”
- “Am I too young to use a menstrual cup?”
- “Menstrual cups look really big! I’m afraid to insert them.”
- “Will a menstrual cup will hurt me?”
- “Will my cup be messy with blood spilled everywhere?”
- “Can a menstrual cup give me an infection?”
- “Is it safe to use a cup with Internal Birth Control?”
- “I have a vaginal prolapse. Is it safe to use a menstrual cup?”
- “Can I use a menstrual cup at school/college/work?”
- “Is it possible to empty a cup in a public restroom?”
- “Is a menstrual cup messier than using a tampon/pad?”
- “How will I know when it’s time to empty my cup?”
- “Can my menstrual cup get stuck? I don’t want to have to go to the ER.”
- “Can a menstrual cup get lost in my body?”
- “Can I still use a menstrual cup if it drops in the toilet or on the ground?”
- “I don’t want to waste money on a cup that doesn’t work.”
- “What if I don’t like a cup, can I return it?”
- “Will I feel my menstrual cup when I’m wearing it?”
1. “I’m concerned that using a menstrual cup is not safe.”
As of yet, there haven’t been any serious medical cases linked to menstrual cups. However, there was a TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) case linked to tampons in 2017, and tampons have led to serious illnesses and even death. Pads can also cause irritating and uncomfortable rashes and thrush.
Of course, you need to use a menstrual cup correctly, and follow all its hygiene rules, emptying it regularly as directed, to make sure it’s always safe. Here’s some extra information you’ll find interesting:
There is a plethora of reputable cups on the market that have received positive feedback. All you need to do is take a look at Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and other selling platforms that allow for genuine customer reviews to see what others have to say about the specific cup you are interested in.
The main things to look for are reviews covering the quality and durability of the cup, as well as customer care service. It doesn’t really help reading comments that express, for example, that the cup is too long or big, as everyone has a different-sized vagina and a low or high cervix.
Since menstrual cups are so popular these days, an abundance of generic and cheaply manufactured cups has entered the market. Many are made in the same factory, just marketed differently, and offered at different prices.
You will see many generic cups on different selling platforms with different names under various brands. The packaging may resemble one another too. The manufacturers who import these cups will brand cups, bags, leaflets, and boxes for a small up-fee to their clients that resell, relabel, and repackage these menstrual cups.
Unfortunately, online sites that offer generic cups often lack very detailed information and offer poor customer service. Generic cups come with their own risks, as quality control is not always put in place, the way it is with reputable cups.
Use our comparison tool to find a cup with higher ratings.
2. “Are colored cups safe?”
That’s a great question, and one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Just like when questioning the quality of generic cups over reputable cups, colored cups can be questionable as well.
When purchasing a colored cup through a reputable company you aren’t always guaranteed pigments or color additives within the cups that are healthy for your body. However, they are much more likely to have quality control in place and work closely with the manufacturer, and follow the standard safety guidelines that are set in place by their country’s health and safety administration (all standards differ between countries).
Certain reputable companies whose cups are manufactured outside of their country may be at risk at receiving cups with material that they don’t approve of. Only companies with trustworthy representatives who are able to perform quality checks regularly can guarantee material that is safe to use, and make sure there are no material changes.
Clear/Opaque White vs Colored
Some feel that it’s safer to stick with cups that are clear and opaque white, as they don’t contain any pigments or colorants. They may also feel that it’s easier to make sure their cups are fully clean once washed, as it’s easier to see if there’s any trail of blood on it.
However, colored cups offer a unique experience where you are able to own a color of your choice. It’s appealing to the eye and hides stubborn stains over time.
Color Additives & Pigments
Standards differ from country to country, and not all cups are available in every country. This is sometimes due to the import duties, and sometimes due to the specific color additive or pigment that is used.
For example, a reputable company can offer the same cup between countries with a slight variation in the cup color because of a different color additive that has to be used due to government regulations. If not for that, the cup would not be able to be sold in that country.
Who is the FDA?
The FDA stands for USA’s Food and Drug Administration. They regulate what is deemed safe for consumers. Although they don’t test products themselves, they maintain an up-to-date database of contact details of manufacturers who need to be contacted should an item need to be recalled. Each country has their own body of professionals who regulate food and drugs.
3. “I’m not sure what size to start with”
This is among the three top concerns when women decide to try a menstrual cup for the first time. Of course, it is bigger than a tampon, however it will fit comfortably, you just need to know what size will sit snug and unnoticeable.
When searching online, many companies will suggest a specific size based on your age and whether or not you have given birth before (as the vagina changes after childbirth). It really all depends on the location of your cervix, as well as your menstrual flow.
However, when trying out a cup for the first time, it’s safest to go with a dual pack to try out both the small and regular size. That way you will know exactly what fits you best. You also have to keep capacity in mind, and larger cups will hold more flow for longer.
If you are a teenager, you may want to start off using a smaller and slimmer cup, and see how that feels. Over time you will feel more comfortable sliding in a larger cup.
Are you a tampon user? Then you may be very comfortable wearing a larger cup as you are used to inserting menstrual products inside your vagina. For the best results, you should insert your finger inside the vaginal canal to check the location of your cervix and get an approximate measurement of how low or high it is. This can help determine what type or size of cup might be best for you.
Some menstrual cup brands offer a “one-size-fits-all,” while others offer 2, 3 or 4 different sizes. Most will offer a different length and diameter between sizes, while some offer their cups in the same length with only a change in the diameter of the rim.
Small-sized cups are generally meant for:
- New users
- Young adults
- Individuals who have not had any type of penetration
- Those who have a medium to low cervix
- Individuals with a light flow
Large-sized cups are generally meant for:
- Experienced users
- Those over 30 years of age
- Individuals who are sexually active
- Those who have given birth
- Those with a medium to high cervix
- Individuals with a heavy flow
Once again, these are guidelines to help you choose a cup. In actuality, you will want a cup that is easy to use, comfortable to wear, and has a decent capacity to get you through the day, whether it falls within the general guidelines or not.
Menstrual cups generally come in two specific shapes: “V”-shaped, and “Bell”-shaped.
V-shaped cups, such as the Mooncup, have long bodies that taper to a point in the shape of a “V.” Because they are typically longer than bell-shaped cups, they are easier to reach for those with a high cervix.If you are unsure of cervical height, it’s best to start with a “V”-shaped cup. This will give you the easiest reach during the learning processת since it won’t ride up as high as some of the other shapes.
Bell-shaped cups, such as the Venus Cup, usually have a rounded base and flared rim. However, there are variations in which the bell-shaped cup has a rounded base with a standard rim or vice versa.
These cups may be more comfortable for those with a medium to low cervix.
They tend to ride up higher around the cervix and may become a bit hard to reach for those with a high cervix.
Other shapes that you might come across are:
Although there are only a couple of these shaped cups, they are said to be specifically designed for comfort and efficiency.
These may look very large, but the diameters are normally very similar to the size of average large-sized cups. However, spherical cups tend to be shorter.
These are great for individuals who have a low cervix. The round body provides extra capacity without the length.
Read our full article on how to choose a menstrual cup – for beginners and pros.
4. “Are menstrual cups really cost effective?”
Although certain companies selling menstrual cups suggest replacing their cups every two years, a menstrual cup, can in fact last up to 10 years with the proper care.
If you were to purchase a new cup every two years, it would still be significantly cheaper than buying supplies of tampons, pads, or both, every month. It also saves you the time it takes to shop for the items, stocking and carrying them, and all the worry involved in making sure you don’t run out.
Reputable cups cost an average of $20 to $30 (including starter kits). With just a bit of research, you will find the perfect cup (or two) after trying 1-5 different shapes or sizes.
This may seem costly at first, but spending $50-$60 on menstrual products every two to ten years is much cheaper than spending $5-$10 every month for the same number of years.
Some companies offer a type of assistance (if you qualify). These are accounts used to save on taxes and pay for medical expenses. These are:
5. “Am I too young to use a menstrual cup?”
You can use a menstrual cup once you hit your teenage years. You can even practice using one before getting your first period. In this instance, it’s advisable to use a small-sized cup.
All you need is to be confident and comfortable with the insertion and removal process. You can use a mirror for the first few times, as this will help you navigate your fingers. Also, good hygiene practices always need to be carried out. There are cups tailored for younger users, such as the Lily Cup One which is narrower for comfort and easy insertion.
Virgins can still use a menstrual cup with ease, even though they have not experienced penile/vaginal penetration. Of course, narrower cups are the best choice for comfort when starting out. They should always be inserted with a water-based lubricant to make them slide in easy.
**SPECIAL NOTE: As everyone has a different definition of what the word “virgin” implies, please make sure that using a menstrual cup does not go against your religious and spiritual beliefs.
6. “Menstrual cups look really big! I’m afraid to insert them.”
It’s true, there are some very wide or long cups on the market today that can intimidate even the most experienced of users. However, one must keep in mind that our vaginas are able to stretch – just look at intercourse and childbirth; and there is no unnecessary pain that goes along with sliding in a large cup (for most users).
Also, when searching online, the pictures you see are never really the actual size of the cup.
Different Shapes & Sizes
If you are a first-time user, teen, or young adult, you may feel more comfortable with a cup that has a narrow diameter. It may not be your perfect cup, but it will make it easier to get used to while learning the insertion and removal process.
Make sure you read more about this here.
7. “Will a menstrual cup will hurt me?”
A menstrual cup might feel uncomfortable at first, but it should never cause you any pain. If it does, something in the process is wrong. Either you’re experiencing dryness, the cup is not positioned correctly, or it’s not a good size for your anatomy.
Menstrual cups come in a variety of sizes. No two are exactly the same from brand to brand. A small cup from one brand can be long and narrow, and from another, short and narrow.
It’s always best to locate and measure your cervix to make sure you get the right-sized cup. However, if you aren’t sure, a longer cup is always best to start with. That’s because when using a menstrual cup for the first time, this kind of cup is always easier to locate, reach and pull out.
On the other hand, it’s not really comfortable having something too long resting in your vagina. If you feel this way, a bell or spherical shape may be the best option.
If your cup feels too wide after using it for a few hours or days, you might consider trying a smaller size. You may also want to try a smaller or narrower cup if you:
- Experience bladder pressure
- Have a sensation to urinate more frequently
- Feel like you don’t empty your bladder all the way when you urinate
- Experience a slow urine stream
- Are often constipated
If you experience a lot of dryness, it’s essential to insert your cup using a water-based lubricant. It will help the cup ease in smoothly and without a dragging feeling or resistance. It might be easier to apply some lubricant to your labia, then rinse your fingers and insert your cup. Otherwise, the cup may be slippery to handle.
8. “Will my cup be messy with blood spilled everywhere?”
Experiencing some mess is inevitable. You’re dealing with fluid in a small cup, from a small space. It is the same with using a tampon, if you’ve ever used one. Emptying your cup in a timely manner will help eliminate some of the mess because the contents of the cup are contained and not overflowing. Good hygiene habits will help you avoid this from happening.
Set a timer on your phone until you get the hang of emptying your cup on time. With practice and awareness, you’ll know when the cup needs emptying.
Spotting can often occur when using a menstrual cup for the first few times. This is due to incorrect cup placement or a bad seal. It is advisable to wear panty liners, reusable menstrual pads, or period panties together with your cup for extra security if you are just starting out.
Excess blood can coat the vaginal walls and cup even after placement. There are tons of crevices where blood can become lodged. In this instance, it’s best to use a pH balanced wet wipe or wet cloth to clean the stem and base of the cup as best as you can. This will help keep excess blood from transferring onto your underwear.
Your cup should create a good seal. After you have positioned it, give it a gentle tug. There should be a slight resistance. If the cup slides easily, it has not created a seal.
You will need to give the base a pinch or two and try again. If the cup still slides easily, you can try insert a single finger to feel around the body of the cup, or use two fingers to pinch the base and spin the cup. If all else fails, re-insert the cup and try again.** Please note that the seal may be detected by a very slight resistance or a strong one. This will differ from person to person and cup to cup.
Overflow occurs when there is leakage in the cup. It can even occur when removing and the cup is not at its full capacity.
Your cup needs to be aimed down and back towards the tailbone during insertion. The cervix is not typically located straight up. Inserting it in this position can push the cervix to the side and prevent it from collecting the blood as it should.
Cervical height makes a big difference when it comes to capacity. If your cup collects your blood, but is only half full at removal, it may be resting high around your cervix. If you personally experience this, it usually indicates that your cervix is sitting deep inside of your cup and compromising the capacity. If this is the case, a wider or higher capacity cup may be a better option to accommodate your cervix and flow. A cup that offers a very high capacity is the Venus Cup, which offers a maximum capacity of 47ml for its large cup, and 29ml for its small cup.
A common question when this happens is, “will it help to position the cup lower?” The answer is, no. Cups will migrate to the point of least resistance. As a toned pelvic floor will help keep your cup from falling out, the cup is likely to move upward no matter what position it is placed initially.
If you find that your cup overflows quite soon after inserting it, it’s better to use a higher capacity cup that is either larger or wider, or both.
If you’re satisfied with your cup in all other aspects and don’t feel the need to purchase another size or shape, the alternate option is to schedule your emptying sessions more frequently.
9. “Can a menstrual cup give me an infection?”
A good quality menstrual cup won’t give you infections. However, underlying issues and/or unhygienic conditions can put you at a higher risk of infections. To keep infections down, make sure to wash your hands before inserting or removing your cup, and wash or rinse your cup well between uses with clean water.
As menstrual cups continue to rise in popularity, more manufacturers meet supply and demand, and this causes a risk if the cups made are not high-quality. A reputable brand spends time, effort and money making sure their cups follow hygiene standards and are of exceptional quality, when compared to generic cups. If materials are replaced or steps in the curing process are skipped, toxins may remain in the finished product.
Discontinue use until cleared
Common infections that have been mentioned throughout the cup community are:
- Yeast Infection
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
An overgrowth of yeast in the vagina can contaminate your cup, which in turn will reinfect you if not cleaned properly. Symptoms include vaginal pains, redness, swelling and itching of the vulva, vaginal rash, burning during urination, and watery discharge.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
BV is caused by an imbalance of one or more bacteria in the vagina, which again, can reinfect you if not cleaned properly. Symptoms may include gray or white discharge, a foul or strong fishy smell, burning during urination, and itching.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
If the bladder is not emptied completely, there is a higher risk of bacterial growth, which can lead to a UTI.
In all cases, discontinue use of your cup until all signs are cleared. Medication may be needed to clear the infection. Seek medical advice to determine and diagnose the infection, and clean the cup (boil) thoroughly before using again.
Boil cup before use
If you experience any of the infections above, or just want to make sure that your cup is as clean as possible, place it in a pot of boiling water (already bubbling) for at least 10-15 minutes. Be sure not to leave it unattended, and keep it away from the sides and bottom of the pot. You can encase it in a wire whisk or slotted spoon, and set a timer to make sure that the water doesn’t evaporate.
10. “Is it safe to use a cup with Internal Birth Control?”
Although internal birth control can cause periods to stop, some individuals still experience spotting heavy enough to need protection.
It is safe to use most menstrual cups alongside internal birth control. The best thing to do is check with the company who you purchased the cup through. A cup should not interfere with either an IUD or Ring.
There are a few things that will ensure that both are working as intended without compromising each other:
Let your doctor know that you’re planning on using a menstrual cup. They will likely advise you to wait a certain amount of time (approx. 6 weeks) before using one, after the insertion of your IUD. They may also inform you that if your body rejects the IUD (expulsion), it will happen within the first year. This will have nothing to do with the cup itself, unless used incorrectly. Your doctor should be able to trim the “strings” shorter so that they don’t get in the way of using a cup, or not accidentally pulled during removal.
It’s a good habit to periodically check the location of the strings and make a mental note of how short/long they are. If they move, you might want to double check with a doctor if the IUD has become dislodged.
Make sure to “break the seal” before removing the cup. Suction can be created if the seal is not broken when the cup is gently tugged, and may dislodge the IUD.
If you plan on using a birth control Ring like the NuRing, place it first, and then insert your menstrual cup. If the Ring moves during removal, reposition it right away, and use alternative contraception before having intercourse.
11. “I have a vaginal prolapse. Is it safe to use a menstrual cup?”
If you have been diagnosed with any type of prolapse, it’s safest to seek your medical professional’s advice before using a menstrual cup. If you use a menstrual cup when you have a prolapse, you may want to take extra precautions to release the seal before removal.
“Can you use a cup if you have a prolapse?”
It is possible to use a menstrual cup even if you have a prolapse, and many people do. Some would even say that it is more comfortable than using tampons. Although some individuals have been successful with using smaller sized cups, a wider cup may be easier to position.
“Can a cup cause a prolapse?”
There is always a possibility that this can happen, but there has been no concrete evidence suggesting it. A cup may contribute to one tugging down on their organs, but to tug on it enough to cause serious damage is unlikely. To avoid doubt, make sure to release any seal or suction the cup creates before removing it.
12. “Can I use a menstrual cup at school/college/work?”
Just because you go to school or work away from home, doesn’t mean you can’t use a menstrual cup. Keep in mind that most menstrual cups hold much more blood than tampons, and keep the contents contained so as not to spill over a pad.
Choosing a suitable size that is comfortable, yet has enough capacity to keep you dry is the key. Before leaving the house for the day, empty your cup to start off with the highest amount of capacity.
13. “Is it possible to empty a cup in a public restroom?”
Yes! The best situation would be for you to find a single person restroom with a sink. However, since that option is not always available, you can still use paper towels if your school or work place provides them. Wet a couple before entering a stall. If paper towels are not available, use wet wipes to clean yourself and your hands. Dispose of these accordingly, as they should not be flushed.
14. “Is a menstrual cup messier than using a tampon/pad?”
There will be some mess when using a menstrual cup, but the same can be said for using a tampon or pad. If a cup is left in long enough to fill to the top or overflow, it will cause some mess.
You can experience the same with a completely absorbed tampon, and pads may keep the blood against your body or spill over if it is saturated.
Getting to know your flow and how often it needs to be emptied will help you keep from creating a large mess. Plus, emptying a cup will become easier and less messy with time and practice.
15. “How will I know when it’s time to empty my cup?”
That’s a great question and one that is asked by a lot of first-time users. Knowing when your flow is heavy and when it starts to lighten up is the key to learning when you need to empty your cup.
Whether you have a period that starts off heavy and then lightens over a couple of days, or is pretty equal until its end, paying attention to how full your cup is when emptied will help you create a schedule.
If you are an individual who has a heavier period in the beginning, you’ll need to empty the cup more frequently. As your period lightens up, you can start to leave the cup in longer, or even leave it in for the maximum time suggested of 12 hours, as long as it doesn’t overflow.
If your period is light to moderate, depending on your cup’s capacity, you may be able to leave your cup in throughout the day; only emptying it twice, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Make it a habit to empty your cup before any outings (work, school, etc.) to start with the highest capacity available.
If your period is moderate, but pretty even throughout the day, make a schedule to empty it at certain times. For instance, once before school/work, once at 3 pm, and once more before bed.
If you often forget to empty your cup and experience frequent leaking or overflows, you might want to consider setting an alarm on your phone to remind you. Cups are so comfortable that it’s easy to forget that you’re wearing one!
16. “Can my menstrual cup get stuck? I don’t want to have to go to the ER.”
Nobody likes going to the ER, let alone going there to get a menstrual cup removed, but it has happened. I’m almost willing to bet that all of the people who ended up in the ER to remove a menstrual cup were new users who didn’t do any research first.
Remember, cups are not “one-size-fits-all”. A cup that is ill-fitting to your anatomy can move up higher and even get out of reach. If you find that the cup is out of reach, there are a few things that you can do to help bring it lower:
Different body positions can help push the cup down. Think of positions that birthing mothers do to push a baby out. Squat down, sit down and lean forward, put one knee up to your chest, put a foot on a toilet or tub side, etc. These may not only help bring the cup closer to the vaginal opening, but may also help you reach the cup better during removal.
Bearing down might be another term that you’ve heard of from a birthing mother. It’s the attempt or effort to push a baby out. In this case, you’re doing the same thing but with a menstrual cup. A combination of positioning and a series of pushes can urge the cup closer to the vaginal opening for easier reach.
17. “Can a menstrual cup get lost in my body?”
The vaginal canal only really has one way in and one way out unless there is a medical condition that compromises that. There is no way for a menstrual cup to travel anywhere else but inside the vaginal canal. The cervix is at the back of the canal, but the opening is so small and tight that a cup cannot pass through it.
18. “Can I still use a menstrual cup if it drops in the toilet or on the ground?”
All is not lost! Just fish your cup out of the toilet, or pick it up off of the ground and give it a good wash. If you’re still worried about it not being sanitary, you can place it in a pot of boiling (already bubbling) water for 10-15 mins.
19. “I don’t want to waste money on a cup that doesn’t work.”
It’s not all a waste. If a cup doesn’t fit you correctly, feels uncomfortable, applies too much pressure, is hard to reach, or doesn’t have the capacity that you hoped for, you still learned something about cups for your body. It will help you narrow down your search for the perfect cup.
On average, an individual will find a comfortable cup after 1-5 tries. You will still save money in the long run if your spending limit per cup is in the $20-$30 range. That’s why your best option is to purchase a starter kit which offers both a small and large cup.
20. “What if I don’t like a cup, can I return it?”
Some companies allow returns if your cup doesn’t work for you. They may offer an exchange as well. But that is up to each company. It doesn’t hurt to contact the company before purchasing their cup to inquire about their returning policy. Many reputable companies, such as the Venus Cup, will allow you to return your cup if you feel it isn’t right for you.
21. “Will I feel my menstrual cup when I’m wearing it?”
Just like with tampons or pads, you will probably feel your cup for the first few hours, days, or even over a couple of periods. Mentally, you’re aware that “something” is inserted; it’s new and strange.
As you go about your day and your mind is not constantly thinking about it, you should be able to forget that it’s even there. However, if the cup is uncomfortable, or you can still feel it even after a few test periods, it may not be the right one for you. In this instance, try a different size or shape to see if it fits better.
Menstrual cups are very different when compared to the menstrual products we normally see on shelves. Even though cups have been around since 1937, some individuals are still anxious about using them. No wonder many out there have no idea what to expect!
The above are all concerns before trying out your first cup. They are all valid concerns, but hopefully the information provided will put your mind at ease. You’re one step closer to trying a menstrual cup, now armed with some helpful knowledge. If you’re still on the fence, ask more questions and do more research online!
One last tip that I suggest is finding a reputable company that offers their cups in a two-pack; small and large, so that you can try both sizes. It really helps to take some of the guesswork away, and is usually less expensive.