Intro – What is a Menstrual Cup?
- 1. What is a Menstrual Cup?
- 2. 18 Benefits of a Menstrual Cup
- 3. Cons of a Menstrual Cup
- 4. Why Haven’t We Heard of Them?
- 5. Menstrual Cups vs Disposable Menstrual Products
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup:
- How to Choose a Menstrual Cup
- 1. Cervical Height – How High Does Your Cervix Sit?
- 2. Your Age & Births
- 3. Soft or Firm? Physical Activities & Menstrual Cups
- 4. Bladder Sensitivities & Menstrual Cups
- 5. Light or Heavy Flow
- 6. Medical Grade Silicone & “Cheapies” & FDA Registration
- 7. Different Types of Stems
- 8. Different Colors and Cup Markings
- 9. Heavy Periods – High Capacity Cups
- 10. Menstrual Cups and Virginity and/or “Teens”
- 11. Is My Vagina Too Small to Use a Menstrual Cup?
- 1. Menstrual Cup Folds
- 2. How to Insert & Remove a Menstrual Cup:
- 3. How to Store Your Cup
- 4. Creating a Good Seal
- 5. When to Empty Your Cup
- 6. How to Trim Your Cup Stem
- 7. Menstrual Cups in Public
- 8. Sex & Menstrual Cups
- 9. Can I Use the Bathroom While Wearing a Cup?
- 10. Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup – Odors & Stained Cups
- 11. Lubrication & Menstrual Cups
- 12. Troubleshooting a Menstrual cup (Leaking, Collapsing, Opening, Painful Removal, Sliding or Rotating Cups)
- 13. Other Menstrual Cup Tips
- Common Menstrual Cup Questions
More on Menstrual Cups:
- Menstrual Cups and Internal Birth Control
- Menstrual Cups & Prolapse
- Kegel Exercises
- Vaginal Discharge and Cervical Mucus
- Menstrual Cups for Homeless or Developing Countries
- Menstrual Cup vs Menstrual Disc
Intro – Part 1:
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a type of reusable period product. It is worn inside the vagina, either around or below the cervix. During menstruation, the cup is used to catch menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it.
A menstrual cup normally holds more than a single super-sized tampon, which will allow you more freedom throughout the day.
When a menstrual cup is positioned properly, it is undetected. It cannot be seen or felt.
You can use a menstrual cup safely for up to twelve hours, depending on your flow. The cup needs to be removed periodically to be emptied and cleaned.
After emptying and rinsing the menstrual cup, it can be immediately reinserted.
Because a menstrual cup collects your flow instead of absorbing it, it won’t interfere with the delicate pH and bacterial balance in your vagina.
Parts of a Menstrual Cup
Rim: Depending on the shape of the cup, it can have a regular rim style rim or a flared rim. There are also cups that don’t have a defined rim.
- Visible – Includes a clear transition from the body to the rim indicated by either a raised edge or a slope. This area is normally thicker and firmer than the body.
- Invisible – There is no visible transition like an edge or slope on these cups; however, the silicone thickens as it nears the top rim.
- There are also cups that lack either and, therefore, have no secondary rim.
Air holes: A menstrual cup may or may not include air holes. The number of air holes, their size, placement and travel path all vary from cup to cup.
The number of air holes and their size help keep a cup open by allowing it to fill with air. Air holes can also create a good seal to ensure the cup stays in place.
If there are no holes or if the holes are very small, the cup might cause the user some issues by staying collapsed. It may even cause the cup to seal too tightly, and removal can be painful if the seal is not broken beforehand.
If the hole placement is too low or if the holes are too large, they can compromise the full capacity of the cup or cause leaking sooner than expected.
The travel path is not something that should “make or break” your decision in buying a cup. A straight travel path is the easiest to clean but a dental brush or toothpick can help make sure the area is thoroughly cleaned for any design.
Body: The main area of the cup.
Base/grip rings: The base of the cup is the area between the body and the stem. It is the area that you need to pinch and hold while removing the cup. The majority of cups have grip rings of some sort at the base of the cup.
Seal: The seal is the piece of silicone separating the base and the stem. This piece can be thick or thin. It is important to pay attention to the seal when trimming a stem (if needed), so that you don’t cut or file into the cup’s body; this will render it useless.
Stem: Like cups, stems come in all shapes and sizes with varying thickness, firmness, etc.
Some people don’t take stems into consideration if they are already comfortable retrieving and removing a cup without one. However, if you are unsure, you might want a cup that has a longer stem; you can always trim the stem of a cup to shorten it, but you can’t add length to it.
Measuring lines: Cups may or may not have measuring lines and/or numbers. If you would like to log the amount of menstrual fluid that is released, this may be an important feature for you when selecting a cup.
- Medical grade silicone (most common!)
- Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE)
- Natural gum rubber
Most menstrual cups are made of silicone. Medical grade silicone is biocompatible, which means it is safe to be used inside the body. Other silicones that have not been tested for biocompatibility may not be safe for internal use. Cups made with non-medical grade silicones are not recommended because the material and grade of the silicone are unknown and, therefore, pose a potential health risk.
You can also find a few menstrual cups that are made with TPE (thermoplastic elastomers), also known as thermoplastic rubbers. TPE is created with a mix of polymers, usually a plastic and a rubber, and is commonly used to create catheters in the medical field.
There is also one menstrual cup made with natural gum rubber. This cup is not recommended for those who have sensitivities or allergies to rubber/latex.
A Bit of History
You may think that menstrual cups are a new invention. In truth, a type of menstrual cup was patented in the 1860s. These were designed to be inserted into the vagina but were attached to a belt. Many more types were invented over the years until 1932, when the more modern style menstrual cup was patented by two midwives named McGlasson and Perkins.
In 1937, Leona Chalmers patented the first usable cup. It was made of latex rubber. Although we now know how hygienic and practical a menstrual cup can be, people at the time weren’t familiar or comfortable with the idea. During World War II, there was a shortage of latex rubber and production of the cup was halted. After the war, Leona Chalmers made some changes and patented a new design.
In the 1960s, the Tassaway brand of menstrual cup was introduced but it was not successful.
It wasn’t until 1987, when The Keeper was introduced, that menstrual cups made their turn around. This cup was created using latex rubber, just like those before it. The MoonCup, using the same design as The Keeper, was released as the first silicone cup fifteen years later. Both of these cups are still around today.
Over the years, many other brands of menstrual cups have been created with many different designs; they now come in various shapes, sizes, and colors with different stems, rims, firmness, and diameters.
Although this gives a potential cup user a wide range of options depending on their wants and needs, cup selection can be daunting to someone just starting out!
Intro – Part 2:
18 Benefits of a Menstrual Cup
1. They are Reusable
It’s 10 o’clock at night and you just jumped out of the shower. You’re drying off and you spot a SPOT on your light blue towel! You go to grab a tampon from under the sink and are horrified to find out that you only have ONE left! This may last you a few hours… but then what?! Do you get dressed and go to the store, or do you wad up some toilet paper to hold you over?
A menstrual cup is a reusable menstrual product. You simply use it as needed for up to 12 hours at a time, depending on your flow. You can then empty it, rinse it, and reinsert it. One cup is really all you need, although some people like to have one or two more as a spare or back up.
Because it’s reusable, you’ll never open your cupboard only to find out that you forgot to restock. This also means that you save money every month!
Most cup companies state that a menstrual cup can last at least ten years with proper care.
2. No Waste
Whether you want to do your part to have an eco-friendly environment or you want to save a few pennies on trash pick-up, a menstrual cup has no waste aside from its original packaging.
No more running to the store or sending someone to pick some tampons and pads for you!
No more checking if you have enough supplies with you when you’re about to leave the house.
You carry ONE menstrual cup with you and it’s stored away in a safe place: your vagina!
When a menstrual cup fits you well and is placed correctly, you won’t feel it! It beats strings and wings!
5. Long-Lasting Protection
Again, a menstrual cup can be worn safely for up to 12 hours, depending on how heavy your flow is. For the first few days of wearing a menstrual cup, you will probably need to empty it after 4-6 hours. When your flow starts to slow down, you can use the cup for the full 12-hour duration. Make sure you remove, empty and rinse it out at that 12-hour mark, and then you can reinsert it again for another 12 after that.
6. Easy Care
Caring for your menstrual cup is no big chore! Most companies suggest boiling the cup before your first use. After that, it’s up to you if you want to boil it again or not. Some people boil it at the end of every period. Others don’t ever boil it after the initial time.
You can wash your cup with gentle soap and water. Try to stay clear of using antibacterial soaps or soaps with oils in them. These may shorten the lifespan of the silicone or TPE.
To avoid staining, rinse all of the blood from your cup with cold water first. You can then use hot water to rinse/wash it.
7. Keep Your pH
Tampons absorb. They absorb everything, including your body’s own natural secretions. A menstrual cup collects only your menstrual fluid and doesn’t interfere with the delicate pH and bacterial balance in your vagina.
Because it doesn’t absorb your natural secretions, you don’t get that cringe-worthy, painful, dry removal!
8. One Cup
Unlike tampons, you can use one cup throughout the duration of your period. You don’t have to switch to a smaller cup when your period lightens, although some people may choose to do that.
9. Sleep Longer!
Some menstrual cups hold more than the average super-sized tampon, which can allow you to get some extra zzz’s. The cup collects your flow and keeps it contained, so you won’t wake up to a river of butt-crack blood and stained sheets!
10. No Strings, No Wings
No more wet strings while you use the bathroom! No more strings in your butt crack when you wipe! No more wings stuck to your pubic hair!
Have you ever gone to the beach or pool and worried the whole time that either:
- You can’t swim because you’re wearing a pad, or
- Your tampon string is hanging out!
Many of us have! But the great thing about menstrual cups is that the cup can’t be seen or felt, AND you can use them during almost any activity, including swimming! Another bonus for ex-tampon users: a cup won’t absorb the pool or ocean water!
11. Gender Neutral
Not all women have periods, and not all who have periods are women. If you’re confused or offended by this, there’s no need to be. This may or may not apply to you. If it does, you’ll be happy to hear that using a menstrual cup may lessen the fuss of menstruating. Because it holds more than a tampon and there’s nothing to see when looking down at your underwear, it can reduce the emotional stress, annoyance, and anxiety of being reminded. However, if you have dysphoria about inserting a cup, it may not be the best choice for you.
12. Get to Know Your Body & Your Flow
It might be strange at first for you to get to know your body like you have never before, but it really empowers you.
A period tracker app can notify you when to expect your period so that you’re prepared. It won’t be 100% correct 100% of the time, but at least you know if you need to pack for it. And, like I said before, you only need ONE cup!
Knowing your body and your flow will help you know what’s normal FOR YOU.
13. Do What You Want, When You Want
Menstrual cups can be used at any time, even if you’re not bleeding. Discharge? Spotting? Expecting your period? You can use a cup and not have to worry about surprises.
You can use a cup while you sleep, work, lounge, hike, ride a bike, do yoga, swim, party, travel, fly, bungee jump, walk the dog, dance, etc. – the list is endless!
The only thing that most cup companies suggest not doing is having penetrative vaginal sex (I say most because not all companies advise against it)*. Some people are willing to try and are successful (SEXessful) and others don’t care to try or are not willing to try. It’s your choice. However, foreplay, oral, and safe anal sex are fine! 🙂
*Remember: menstrual cups will NOT prevent an unwelcome pregnancy and will NOT protect you from STDs.
14. Great for People with a Heavy Flow
I had very heavy and long periods. For several days, I bled so much that I was changing my tampon AND pad every hour. Sometimes I even had to change my clothes because I would saturate both. I was bleeding so much that the doctors were concerned. I couldn’t leave my house because I was anemic; it made me tired and faint. Having to change so often, it became a chore to go anywhere too far and I lived 30 miles from the nearest store!
Since I’ve started using a menstrual cup, my periods seem to have eased up and have even shortened, which has made my life a lot easier! It’s not going to be the case for everyone but using a cup may give you some extra time between changes/emptying.
15. Allergies to Disposables
Do you find yourself with an unbearable itch and/or rash every time you use a tampon or pad? You may be allergic to something that’s in them or that was added, e.g. fragrance/perfumes, bleach.
Most reputable menstrual cups are latex-free, plastic-free, odor-free, BPA-free, dioxin-free, PBE and PBDE-free, lead-free, mercury-free and cadmium free. Some have dye added to them to create colored cups, but the dyes should be tested to be body-safe as well.
16. Odor Free
Some might disagree and say that there is an odor to menstrual cups. If you do detect an odor, there might still be cleaning solution on them after they were manufactured and processed. So, make sure you wash your cup well and boil it before the first use; there should be no fragrance added to the cup itself.
Because menstrual cups collect instead of absorbing, the blood is kept in a liquid state. This doesn’t allow the blood to dry and create an odor.
Your cup might start to have an odor to it, as does your vagina. It’s nothing compared to the rotting smell of blood, but it’s not very pleasant either. Don’t be embarrassed; many people experience this with various cups. A good cleaning will do the trick.
Make sure to check with the manufacturer’s websites or pamphlets for what THEY suggest specifically for your cup, but some of the things you can do to remove the smell from your cup are: boil it, soak it in hydrogen peroxide overnight, use Milton sterilizing tablets or denture tablets, wipe it with rubbing alcohol, soak it in lemon juice or white vinegar, or even just allow it to sun bathe on a window sill.
17. Less Bathroom Breaks
As I mentioned above, some menstrual cups hold more than the average tampon.
Super absorbency tampons hold approximately 9-12 ml of menstrual blood, which is just under a half an ounce. An average menstrual cup holds up to 30 ml, or 1 ounce.
During a normal period, a person loses an average 20-60 ml of blood.
Although it may seem like you can use your menstrual cup nonstop for two days straight according to these numbers, you DO still need to empty it every 12 hours for a rinse!
18. Save $$$!
You only really need one and you won’t be throwing your money in the trash because they’re reusable!
Although the initial cost of a menstrual cup can be up to $40 (many are less expensive), you won’t need to purchase boxes or packs of disposables each month. For some, disposables can cost $20+ a month. If you have additional menstruating people in the house, the expense can be significantly greater!
If $40 is a little more than you’re comfortable spending, you can try reusable cloth pads for a few months and save up that money to purchase a menstrual cup. 🙂
These are just some of the reasons why a lot of people have switched to using a menstrual cup – I’m sure there are many more. Some have switched for even just one of the reasons and have since found additional benefits. I’m sure you will too!
Intro – Part 3:
Are there CONS to a Menstrual Cup?
Well, yes. To be honest, not everyone who tries a menstrual cup falls in love with it, or even with the idea of it. And that’s fine. That’s the nice thing about alternative options – you’re free to choose!
Here are some things that people might not like about menstrual cups:
1. Learning Curve
Like almost everything else we do, there is a learning curve. For some people, inserting, using and removing their menstrual cup came easy. For others, it took some time to get the hang of it. Practice will help! Once you do get the hang of it, it’ll become second nature and you won’t need to think about what to do or how to do it.
2. May Seem Messier
It may seem messier in the beginning when you’re first learning. Again, this is part of the learning curve and practice will help! Remember, you most likely won’t need to empty your cup as often as changing a tampon or pad, so you’ll be dealing with your period a lot less throughout the day. When you learn how to insert and remove your cup, you’ll also learn in what position your body needs to be and also how to hold the cup just right so that it doesn’t spill.
3. Fit Problems
A specific menstrual cup might not fit you well. Most of us have heard of the Diva Cup: it’s very popular and can even be found at the local supermarket. However, it doesn’t feel comfortable for everyone who tries it. A chief complaint is that it’s too long. Others find it too soft or too firm. A great thing about menstrual cups is that you have options; the Diva Cup is certainly not the only cup out there!
4. Initial Cost
It may seem that menstrual cups are expensive. Most reputable cups on the market cost anywhere from 15-40 USD, and it may take a couple – or even a few – different cups to find the one that fits you perfectly. However, once you find a cup that is comfortable and meets your needs, you won’t have to spend anything else for your period for (approximately) the next TEN YEARS!
There are some groups (on Facebook and forums) that allow “de-stashing” of cups, or selling gently-used cups. Even if you don’t feel comfortable purchasing a used cup and sanitizing it to wear, yourself, you can still use the service to sell the cups that didn’t work for you and recoup some of your funds.
Some people feel that the maintenance of a cup has to be a big chore. Some menstrual cup companies even recommend that cups be boiled before being stored away. In reality, a good rinse with water or a mild soap wash is sufficient.
6. Public Bathrooms
Yes, it may be much easier for some to change their tampon or pad in a public bathroom, but remember that you probably won’t need to empty your cup as often. Some people can go several hours more using a menstrual cup than a tampon or a pad before needing to visit a bathroom. If your period is light, you might even be able to hold off for up to 12 hours! If you do need to empty your cup in a public facility, there are some tips that might help you out.
Intro – Part 4:
Why Haven’t We Heard of Them?
That’s a great question! I think we all wonder this when we are introduced to them.
- “Why didn’t my mom tell me?”
- “Why didn’t they discuss this option in Sex Ed at school?”
- “Why are there no commercials?”
First of all, the early versions of menstrual cups weren’t very successful. Our mothers and grandmothers probably didn’t even know about them; my mother didn’t until I told her about them.
Schools are very selective about what they can and can’t discuss. Everyone has different cultural and religious beliefs, so people felt that those topics should be taught by parents; some felt that certain topics were inappropriate to discuss between a teacher and their students.
I remember learning about periods, pads and tampons in 5th grade. In 7th grade, teachers went over them again. The teachers didn’t really go into describing these things or teaching us how to use them, but they were mentioned.
For both of my children, a son and a daughter, sex education was merely a discussion about hygiene. The only mention about menstruation was that it happens with no real explanation of why and how to care for it. Sex, in this sex education class, was brushed off; they were only told to abstain.
It seems that menstrual cups have larger followings in certain parts of the world for one reason or another. It’s like those parts of the world broke through the “ick” factor before many of us. The “ick” factor is one big reason why we haven’t heard about menstrual cups.
Many of us were raised to be quiet about our periods and that it was something we needed to keep a secret. We’re taught to think that our periods are “gross” and that knowing about or touching our “private parts” wasn’t something we should do. We’re taught that all of it is shameful.
When I first got my period, I lived in my grandmother’s house. She raised my sisters and me to keep everything surrounding our periods as discreet as possible. Our tampons and pads were kept under the sink and we had to wrap our soiled items in a specially-folded newspaper to be thrown out. Period blood was “gross”. Our bodily functions were “gross”. So, even at home, it was something I felt I needed to be ashamed about.
It wasn’t until my dad moved us out of my grandmother’s house that I felt a little more at ease about my period in my home life. I have to give my father some big props! He was a single parent of three bleeders. He did well to not make it anything out of the ordinary. He snaked tampons out from clogged toilets without complaining and never asked if we needed “stuff” – he just bought it. I love you, dad! You’re awesome!
However, at school, we hid our tampons in our sleeves if we needed to change ourselves. Sometimes we would just go to the nurse’s office because it had a private bathroom. We were embarrassed and/or teased by our schoolmates if they knew. Years and years of this “shame” carried over to adulthood.
Most menstrual cup users will probably tell you that they found out about cups from word of mouth, either from a friend or family member, or that they happened across something online.
To date, there’s only one company that I know of (at least in the USA) that has a television commercial, and I’ve only seen it a handful of times – if that.
I’m not exactly sure why more companies don’t make commercials. The reason that comes to mind is that their budget is a lot smaller than the big brand name pad and tampon makers.
Because a single menstrual cup can last upwards to ten years, cup companies don’t continue to make sales from one person every month.
I don’t know about all stores but I do know that some stores charge more for “prime real estate”. The cost for having a product on a shelf in a specific, well-seen area can be very costly. Plus, what store wants to carry a product that doesn’t need to be purchased more than once every ten years?!
Intro – Part 5:
Menstrual Cups vs Disposable Menstrual Products
Disposable Menstrual Products
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – 11 Things to Consider!
There are so many menstrual cups on the market these days. They range in shape, size, color, and firmness. It’s hard to know what will work for you and what won’t.
Before you get too overwhelmed, here are 8 things you can check or do to help narrow down your search.
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 1:
How High Does Your Cervix Sit?
Some people don’t think it is important but others, like myself, use cervical height to help narrow down the length of a cup for someone.
Your cervix moves constantly with every movement throughout the day, as well as throughout the different phases/times during your cycle.
I feel it is best to check your cervix during your period.
According to fertility specialists, the cervix is normally low, hard and slightly open to allow the blood to flow out during your period. It may be easier for some to measure their cervical height during this time. It is also normally at the lowest point, which will give you an idea of the size or shape of cup you might want to consider.
There are two ways to check your cervix.
Method One: Knuckle Measurement
- Wash your hands
- Spread your labia and gently insert your middle finger
- Locate your cervix with your fingertip (it should feel like the tip of your nose)
- Take note which knuckle is closest to your vaginal opening
*Note: You may find that you are between knuckles: low/medium or medium/high
Please remember that everyone is different. Your hands may be smaller or larger than someone else’s. Therefore, this method is for an approximate size and may not be completely accurate for everyone.
- Low cervix: You’ll want to use cups that are either size S (small), that were designed shorter than the average cup, or that are more bell-shaped.
- Medium cervix: You have more choices with shapes and sizes than those with a low cervix. Size S (small), shorter cups, and bell-shaped cups may work for you, as well as some of the V-shaped average cups in both small or large sizes. With a medium cervix, the possibilities are endless. I would suggest trying something in the middle (average size/medium firm) to avoid getting overwhelmed.
- High cervix: Again, you have more choices with shapes and sizes, but you may find that V-shaped cups are easier for you to reach during removal. If a cup is short, you may need to do a series of Kegel squeezes to bring your cup down closer to the opening of your vagina. Your vagina is like a pocket. Your cup can never “get lost”.
Method Two: Ruler Measurement
- Wash your hands
- Spread your labia and gently insert your middle finger
- Locate your cervix with your fingertip (it should feel like the tip of your nose)
- Take note of where your finger stopped at the opening of your vaginal canal
- Use a ruler to measure the tip of your finger to the stopping point
This method is more accurate because you have a specific numerical measurement to work with to determine which cups may suit you best.
Most cup companies state the total length of the cup. This includes the stem of the cup, which can be trimmed to make the cup shorter if needed. However, even using a numerical measurement won’t take the vaginal fornix into account. The vaginal fornix (or arch) is the area around a cervix. Depending on where your cervix is located, you may be able to feel a space totally around your cervix, or mostly around it.
The fornix allows the vagina to stretch, elongate and expand during childbirth, sexual arousal and penetration. During sexual arousal, the vagina can expand upwards to 200% its normal size. When an object (such as a penis, a toy, or something else) is introduced, the vaginal fornix will allow the vagina to stretch and accommodate.
For those using a menstrual cup, the rim of the cup may rest in the vaginal fornix allowing the cervix to be nestled inside the cup.
This is important to note when searching for a menstrual cup. Because the vaginal fornix may allow the cup to sit higher, you won’t have to limit yourself to an exact maximum measurement. You’ll likely still be comfortable with a menstrual cup that is 5-10 mm longer than what you had measured using the knuckle measurement method.
The rim of the cup nestles into these grooves or pockets, which may make the cup seem shorter once it is in place.
When shopping by number measurement, don’t limit yourself to ONLY cups that are less than the number you measured. Cups that are a little larger/longer by a few millimeters should be fine because of the vaginal fornix.
Cervical height might not be the only factor to consider when choosing a menstrual cup.
Here are some other things that might help you narrow down your cup search:
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 2:
Your Age & Births
You may have seen these statements on menstrual cup websites or packages:
- “Recommended for women under the age of 30 who have never delivered vaginally or by cesarean section.”
- “Recommended for women age 30 and over and/or for women who have delivered vaginally or by cesarean section.”
These are only guidelines if you have no idea which size will work for you and if you’re set on a specific cup shape or brand. However, don’t use them as a set rule that you have to follow.
You’re looking for a cup that will work with YOUR body and meet YOUR needs. This means that, if you have a heavy flow, you might just want that large-sized cup for the larger capacity even if you’re under the age of 30. Also, if you’re over the age of 30 but have a very light flow, you might want a shorter, small-sized cup.
Comfort is a huge key! If the cup isn’t comfortable, why would you want to wear it?! Longer cups are normally the larger size. If you have a low cervix, a longer cup might not feel comfortable for you no matter what age you are. If you have a high cervix, you might find yourself “fishing” for your small-sized cup, which could make your experience with a short cup quite scary!
As for giving vaginal birth, it’s usually mentioned because pregnancy and stress to the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) during birth may make them lose some tone. A larger cup is then suggested by these companies because they’re normally wider in diameter. However, Kegel exercises – or exercising in general – may tone your PFM and, therefore, a small cup might work for you, too.
Because we’re all different, one can never say that a specific cup is or is not going to work for another person. As you can see, there are other factors that can help narrow down which cup or cups might work best for you. The best place to start is to locate and measure your cervix (as explained in the previous section).
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 3:
Soft or Firm Cup?
Physical Activities & Menstrual Cups
A common question is: “What cup should I use while I work out?”
Honestly, I can’t answer that. There’s no magical cup that works 100% of the time for 100% of the people, whether they’re working out or not.
I have read blog posts and comments, and spoken to several people who use menstrual cups while performing various physical activities and sports, from aerial silks, extreme yoga, weightlifting, gymnastics, to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and many others.
The majority of these people find that when they used a softer cup, it tended to leak on them. They had better experiences using a firmer cup. It’s not always going to be the case and it might not be the case for you, but the numbers fall heavier on better results with a firmer cup.
- If you’re experiencing leakage while doing your activities, try a firmer cup than the one you have currently.
- If you have a sensitive bladder, pick a cup that’s medium-firm instead of going straight to the firmest cups on the market, like the MeLuna Sport or Yuuki Classic.
Firm Low Cervix Cups
Pictured left to right: Lumma Easy Cups: Low Cervix & Medium Cervix; Lena Cup; Ruby Cup; AmyCup Crystal; MeLuna Shorty
- Lumma Easy Cup: This cup comes in TEN different sizes. They have two low cervix cups in two different sizes, as well as a medium set that has four variations. The smallest of the two is just about the same size as the MeLuna Shorty in Small. However, the Lumma Easy Cup is made with silicone and has unique fingerhold placements instead of grip rings.
- Lena Cup Original: This bell-shaped cup with a flared rim is one of the firmest cups of this design. Some people find that the Large size is still too long for their low cervix, but the Small might be a good fit.
- Ruby Cup: Their Medium size cup is the larger of the two sizes they carry. It’s shorter than most cups on the market. Being short and bell-shaped, this cup should sit higher than V-shaped cups. I would suggest the Medium, as their Small seems softer.
- AmyCup Crystal: This is another cup that was designed to be short like the Ruby Cup. It is also labeled as a Medium for the larger of the two sizes that they have to offer. This is the firmest of the bell-shaped cups on the market as far as I know. However, they may not be available for shipping in your area.
- MeLuna Shorty: This variation of the MeLuna is shorter than standard sizes and was made for those with a low cervix. You can also find these cups in a Sport version, which is the firmest of the three firmness variations that they offer.
Firm High Cervix Cups
Pictured left to right: Lunette; Alicia Cup; MeLuna; Yuuki
- Lunette: This is the shortest cup of this group in both sizes. If you have a very high cervix, make sure to leave the stem at least partially intact. This cup normally doesn’t have any problems with opening and staying open. While it doesn’t hold as much as some of the others, the Lunette seems to be a great cup for those who work out or those who need that firmness to open their cups more easily.
- Alicia Cup: This is one of the longer cups on the market. It’s not actually being made anymore, but there are still some of these cups floating around for purchase. The Alicia Cup was originally available in four sizes, but only the size Small and Medium have been spotted.
- MeLuna Sport: I find that the MeLuna cups feel different between their different firmness versions and also between their sizes. The XL MeLuna Sport is a good match to the Yuuki Classic. The TPE of the MeLuna seems more rigid than the Yuuki’s silicone.
- Yuuki Classic: Also known as “The Rock”, the Yuuki Classic is the firmest cup on the market. Not only is it a little longer than the average cup, it also holds a bit more as well.
Soft Body, Thick & Rigid Rim
Pictured left to right: FemmeCup; NaturCup; SheCup; MoonCup
Some other cups that might interest you are the cups that have a soft body with a thick and rigid rim.
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 4:
Bladder Sensitivities & Menstrual Cups
Some people don’t know if they have bladder sensitivities or issues prior to using a menstrual cup. Others experience sensitivities with the use of tampons or sex toys, or during masturbation and intercourse, etc.
If you try a menstrual cup and feel that you need to urinate more often than normal or you feel like you don’t empty your bladder completely when you do urinate, you may have a sensitive bladder. You may also experience some discomfort, pain or even cramping while using a cup.
If this is the case, you might want to look into a softer cup or try one that is shaped differently.
Using a softer cup will apply less pressure in those sensitive areas. Trying a cup with a shape that’s different to the one that you’re currently using may also shift the pressure to an area that doesn’t give you any issues.
It’s hard to know if a cup is soft or firm prior to making a purchase. Most menstrual cup companies don’t include this information when marketing a cup. The only way to get an idea is to read reviews or watch videos that fellow cup users may have posted.
One last thing to mention is the size of the air holes. Menstrual cups with small air holes or no air holes seem to create a stronger seal/suction. This can be a good thing if you find your cup migrating often, but it can be an issue if your bladder is sensitive. The suction can become uncomfortable and may pose a problem when removing your cup. If the suction is too strong, it can tug your cervix downward and cause some pain. You’ll want to make sure to collapse the side of the cup and break the seal before removal.
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 5:
Is Your Flow Light or Heavy?
Menstrual cups usually come in two different sizes within a single brand. For example, Small/Large, Size 1/Size 2, A/B. Other companies have included additional sizes, such as: Small, Medium, Large, Low Cervix, High Cervix, Mini, Shorty, Teen, etc.
Many companies tend to provide sizing guidelines.
They normally recommend a small cup for people under the age of 30 who have never delivered vaginally or who have delivered by cesarean section.
They’ll recommend a large cup to people age 30 and over and/or for those who have delivered either vaginally or by cesarean section.
But, again, these are guidelines and recommendations. There are many who are under the age of 30, who may be virgins, and use a large cup. There are also many people who are over 30 who need a small cup.
What you want and need in a cup is determined by you.
If you feel that you have a light flow, a small-sized cup should be sufficient. However, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to use a small cup. If a large cup feels comfortable and you want to be able to use it for the full 12 hours without fuss, then it’s perfectly fine.
If you have a heavy flow, you’ll probably want to get the largest capacity cup that fits you comfortably. This doesn’t always mean the largest cup on the market is going to be the best fit.
A lot of people don’t pay attention to how much they bleed. We measure the amount in how much blood covers a pad or when a tampon has fully expanded. We use words such as “spotting, light, normal, moderate, or heavy”, but we’re all different and have different definitions of what “light” or “heavy” may be. Someone’s “light” flow might be the next person’s “heavy” flow and vice versa.
Some companies offer their cups in a two-pack. If you’re unsure which one will work for you, it’s a great idea to pick up one of these packs because they’re normally cheaper than buying them separately.
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 6:
Medical Grade Silicone & “Cheapies”
Almost every single menstrual cup on the market mentions medical grade silicone, whether they’re a “cheapie brand” or a “name brand”. We already know that’s not always true.
Medical grade silicones are generally grouped into three categories:
- Non-implantable (e.g. medical tubing, one-time-use disposables)
- Short-term implantable (can be implanted up to 29 days)
- Long-term implantable (can be implanted for more than 29 days up to a lifetime)
It is important to note that just because a cup is advertised to be made with medical grade silicone doesn’t mean it was tested to be used INSIDE of the body.
In the United States, the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) regulates devices that are meant to be implanted into the body.
Materials approved as Class V and VI can be considered medical grade, and most medical grade silicones are at least Class VI certified.
The term “medical grade” means that this particular silicone has, at some point, been tested for bio-compatibility or biological use (at least through the FDA). This means that the silicone has undergone extensive testing to make sure that there is no potential toxicity resulting from contact of that material with the body.
The FDA does NOT test each product or inspect each factory. Companies must provide sufficient paperwork to the FDA outlining testing, comparisons, manufacturer facilities, etc., and pay a fee. This only ensures that they have information for who to contact if anything should go wrong. If a report is made, it is documented. A single report against a product will not mean a product is pulled from the shelf.
FDA Registration Vs FDA Approval
The FDA does NOT grant “approval” to menstrual cups nor to the silicone that is used to make them. As long as a company can provide the necessary documentation and certificates, the FDA deems the product to be safe enough and exempts them from the approval process. Using the term “approval” or “approved” is misleading and misbranding. Menstrual cups are Class II medical devices; the FDA only gives approval to class III medical devices (more details here). Therefore, no menstrual cup is “approved” by the FDA.
A menstrual cup can only be FDA registered. For a menstrual cup to be legally sold in the USA, all involved parties – the silicone manufacturer, the cup manufacturer, and the seller/vendor – must be registered with the FDA.
How Do I Know What’s “Medical Grade” or Not?
There is no way to tell by looking at a silicone if it is medical grade or not. The only thing you can do is judge for yourself.
If the menstrual cup is very inexpensive, it’s most likely not medical grade. If you find a cup design duplicated several times with a new name, it’s probably a “cheapie” cup.
Scrolling through eBay and/or Amazon, you can find a couple of “brand names” that carry several different cup designs. Most of them are under $10 each and are sometimes closer to $1 each.
Many “cheapie” cups are found on sites like Alibaba, Aliexpress, Wish, Groupon, and other similar sites. Many are sold for under $1.
Buy from a reputable company. Do the research. Ask friends, family, and menstrual cup Facebook groups. Google search the cup or company. Check YouTube. Gather as much information as you can about that cup or company and make your assessment.
Are Non-Medical-Grade Silicone Cups Safe?
Honestly, I can’t answer that. All of the professionals that I have contacted said to focus on whether the silicone is medical grade or not because it was tested to be sure that it IS, in fact, safe to use within the body.
The other classes of silicone have not had bio-compatibility testing.
Many that have used “cheapie” cups say they are fine and they have had no issues – yet. However, who knows what may surface in the future. We don’t know what kind of slow toxic leaching may be possible.
“Cheapie” menstrual cups may contain fillers. These are materials or substitutes that may be added to lower the cost of manufacturing. They cost less than medical grade silicone and may therefore be added to stretch the number of parts/pieces that can be made.
These fillers probably weren’t tested for bio-compatibility, i.e. whether they are safe to be used inside of the body.
These fillers do not include colorants and hardeners, which also need to be tested for bio-compatibility if they are used for medical devices that are implanted either short- or long-term inside the body.
I know we don’t like to think of it, but these materials are tested on living tissue – normally mice, rats and/or rabbits.
The actual silicone used to make the menstrual cup was tested at some point, but not the menstrual cup itself after it is produced. So, when a menstrual company says that they did “no animal testing”, it’s likely true that they did no such testing themselves, but it doesn’t mean the materials they sourced from other manufacturers didn’t do animal testing.
Here’s a reply from one of the manufacturers that I contacted (for privacy reasons, let’s call them “AAAA”. They manufacture both medical and non-medical items).
AAAA does not test on animals – I also find animal testing revolting. At the same time, we need a safe product for people. Our Silicone suppliers are basically forced by the FDA to test their material on animals for a ‘Bio-Compatibility Certification’ We find Dow QP1 best for our Menstrual Cups. Please see Bio-compatibility Cert attached and other Bio-compatibility material links on our website.
Please feel free to forward this to your friends – unfortunately, we are a bit trapped by the FDA, the American legal system and our requirement to get people safe products.
A cup listing or advertisement may display pictures that they have certification to produce medical devices; however, this doesn’t mean that actually HAVE certificates. It’s easy enough to Google search “ISO Certificate” and save that information to your computer for your reference.
These companies can edit the certificate to show their own company name and whatever else they want it to say. We’ve all seen what wonders photo editing programs can do!
Here’s a reply from one of the world’s largest silicone suppliers (who do not make menstrual cups, themselves, but they do supply silicone to cup manufacturers):
The retailer may make any claims they want about their product, but the liability also lies with them if anything goes wrong.
– Susan Cassar @ Wacker Chemical Corp
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 7:
Different Types of Stems
Just like each menstrual cup is unique, so are the stems that they feature. They come in many different shapes and lengths with different firmness, thickness, etc.
- Some stems can be made of a solid piece of silicone, while others may be hollow. Both work the same; however, a little more care may be needed to ensure that a hollow stem is completely clean of any menstrual fluid.
- Stems may or may not have grip rings.
- While a stem shouldn’t dictate if a cup is going to work for you or not, there are certain stem features that may interest you more than others.
Remember, you’re only using the stem to wiggle the cup down until you can reach the base of the cup. You will NOT use the stem to remove the cup completely from your body. A stem will NOT support the weight of the cup, especially if it contains fluid in it.
This type of stem is great for someone who needs a shorter cup length but still likes to have a designated stem to grab onto. Some ball stems are completely spherical, while others are flattened on two sides.
This gives you a nice flat area to place your fingers.
If you find your fingers slipping off a straight stem and feel more secure reaching and wiggling a ring, this is a feature you might like. There is at least one cup stem that is a series of rings, forming a ladder.
These may be solid or hollow, and short or long. The tip may be rounded, flat, or may taper to a point.
Stick with Ball End
These come in all sorts of lengths and contain a small ball at the end. This ball acts as a stopper so that your fingers don’t slip or slide off of the tip of the stem.
While some people feel they need a stem, or at least part of one, most people end up trimming it down or removing it completely. If you already know that you don’t need a stem, you can look for a cup without one, or look for cups that have a stem that can be easily removed and leave the least amount of excess silicone (read more in the How to Trim Your Cup Stem section).
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 8:
Different Colors and Cup Markings
Menstrual cups come in every color of the rainbow! Some are even offered in black!
The color doesn’t change how a menstrual cup works or performs, but some might choose a color based on a few things.
- First and most obvious, it’s the individual’s favorite color! Anything that will make that time of the month more pleasant works for me!
- Second, if there is more than one cup user in the household, having a specific color per person will reduce confusion.
- Lastly, if you find that your blood stains menstrual cups easily, you might want a colored cup to keep those stains at bay.
Even with a colored cup, stains may start to set in and eventually show. A good overnight soak in a 1:1 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water will take care of that.*
*Make sure to check with the cup company before using any alternative washing methods other than what is listed on their packaging or website.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with owning a white or clear cup. In fact, some prefer having a white or clear cup. One reason is so that they can see if it’s dirty or stained or not.
Another reason is that there’s one less thing to worry about: just like medical grade silicone, any coloring, dyes, or pigments also need to be FDA-compliant. This means that they also need to have bio-compatibility testing to be safe to be used for short- or long-term inside the body.
Outside: If you’re prone to chafing, you might want to hunt down a cup that has minimal raised areas on the outside of the cup. This can include:
- Grip rings
- Measuring lines
- Secondary rim transitions
- Brand names
Some companies have kept the marking on the outside of the cup to a minimum. Others chose to keep them but went with a lower profile that is minimally raised. It seems that, lately, more and more companies are listening to the wants and needs of the community, and have been rounding off any and all edges of the markings inside and outside of the cup.
Inside: While you won’t feel these markings, they may need extra attention while cleaning.
Some markings are easily cleaned with a swish of water. Others may need to be rubbed clean if there are hard edges.
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 9:
Heavy Periods – High Capacity Cups
For many of us, heavy periods are just part of our lives. Some have always had heavy periods. For others, heavier periods arise because of conditions such as PCOS, PID, fibroids, endometriosis, and others.
No matter what situation you’re in, your period can be quite a challenge. Many people find themselves doubling up and using both tampons and pads at the same time. Even then, it seems like you’re changing them out a lot more frequently than you would like.
Many people who have a heavy period, even due to conditions mentioned above, find that using a menstrual cup can help them save some time.
How Much is “Too Much”?
Everyone is different, so it’s hard to define a heavy period because it varies from one person to the next. The best thing to do is figure out what’s normal for you.
The average amount of blood lost during the complete duration of a period is approximately 30-40 ml, or about 1 ounce, or a bit more. Most of us lose less than 80 ml.
60 ml or more during the duration of a period would be considered heavy bleeding.
If you feel that you’re a heavy bleeder, you might want to note this with your doctor. It may be normal for you, but it’s best to be sure.
A super absorbency tampon holds approximately 9-12 ml of menstrual blood. Because an average, large-sized menstrual cup can hold approximately 30 ml or more, you’ll have less frequent trips to the restroom to change. It is also possible to get high-capacity cups. These hold more than the average cup at about 40 ml, and even a bit more in some cases.
A person who uses a super absorbency tampon and normally frequents the restroom every hour might find themselves needing to empty their cup every three hours or so. I know it doesn’t seem like a long time, but gaining two hours can mean getting through a long car ride without having to stop at every gas station!
Also, once you’ve used your cup for a few months, you’ll get to know your body and your flow. You can then create a mental time schedule for when you need to excuse yourself to empty your cup instead of getting an unexpected leak!
If you experience clotting like many people do, you’ll be happy to NOT feel those clots drop out of your body!
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 10:
Menstrual Cups and Virginity and/or Teens
Many people have different beliefs and/or definitions of virginity. Virginity is what YOU believe it is in YOUR culture or YOUR religious traditions.
Because we all come from different walks of life, I’m not going to sit here and tell you what I believe. It’s totally up to you and how you feel.
A menstrual cup is like a tampon in this instance. If you’re comfortable using a tampon, then you should be able to adapt to a cup.
If you believe that your virginity is taken if any object is inserted into the vagina, then a menstrual cup is not for you.
If you feel that your virginity is lost when your hymen is “torn”, then you’ll probably want to check with your doctor before you decide to use a menstrual cup. If you still decide on using a cup, you’ll probably want to seek a cup that is smaller or narrower.
Even if your hymen is still intact, it is possible to use a menstrual cup with sufficient lubrication and gentle stretching.
If you feel that virginity is lost with penile-vaginal penetration, then a menstrual cup will not take your virginity.
Since menstrual cups come in many shapes and sizes, they can be used by those who are young and old. There are even companies that have designed some of their cups specifically for teens or first-time users. These tend to be smaller, shorter, or narrower.
Someone who has just started their period will most likely only experience spotting or light bleeding, whether you are a teenager or even younger. This irregularity is normal for at least the first two years because your hormones are crazy and unbalanced. A small-sized menstrual cup may be sufficient during this time. However, some companies offer a two-pack of cups with one in each size that they offer. This will allow you to try both sizes to see what feels comfortable for you and gives you an alternative option depending on your flow. Plus, it’s normally cheaper by the pack!
How to Choose a Menstrual Cup – Part 11:
Is My Vagina Too Small to Use a Menstrual Cup?
We come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and so do our vaginas. What’s normal for you may not be normal for the next person.
First of all, so that there’s no confusion, the vagina is the elastic muscular canal between the outer vulva (vaginal opening) and the cervix. You may or may not have a membrane of tissue surrounding or partially covering the vaginal opening, called a hymen.
When someone comments that they’re “too tight”, they’re normally referring to their vaginal opening, not the vagina itself.
The vagina is never too small to accommodate a penis, finger, tampon, toy, menstrual cup, or a wide variety of other things – including a baby! The vagina is designed to expand and elongate when a person is aroused; it lengthens and pushes your cervix and uterus upwards.
Things That May Cause a Feeling of Being “Too Tight”
The vagina releases its own natural lubricant. This allows for easier and less painful penetration. If there is insufficient lubrication, penetration of an object may be difficult. If you feel “dry” while inserting a menstrual item, toy or penis, then it may help to purchase a water-based lubricant.
The hymen is a piece of tissue that lines the vagina opening. It can be of any size and can also be thick or thin. The hymen normally does not cover the vagina entrance completely and has an opening, except in the case of an imperforate hymen (see below). Some people are born without an intact hymen.
We frequently hear of a hymen being “broken” or torn. However, a hymen can still remain intact after penetration vaginal penetration if the area is well-lubricated and gently stretched. On the same note, it is believed that a hymen can be torn during various activities including masturbation, riding a bike, horseback riding and others.
If the hymenal membrane is still intact, it could cause a feeling of tightness.
Anxieties can play a big part in the whole experience. Vaginismus causes the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) to involuntarily contract. This condition may tighten the PFM so much that a penis, toy, or anything else may feel too large, uncomfortable, or painful and may even make it impossible for them to penetrate.
This can occur at any time in life and can happen due to a variety of reasons including infection, disorders, fear or phobia, injury and/or trauma, conflict or abuse.
Treatments can include self-awareness, breathing exercises for relaxation, lubrication, and touch therapy either with fingers or a toy.
Someone with a severe case of vaginismus may need to seek the help of a therapist. They will help you figure out the root cause of the condition and may work with you to use vaginal dilators or trainers. These will help you to gain control of your PFM and relax them.
This is a congenital condition (i.e. present from birth) in which the hymen covers the vaginal opening completely. This is most often noticed during adolescence when menstrual blood lacks an exit. A surgical incision can be made to treat an imperforate hymen.
Different Techniques – Part 1:
Menstrual Cup Folds
Here are some of the more popular and practical folds that you can do while inserting your menstrual cup. Some of them are easy, and some are a little trickier and take more time to get the hang of doing. If you are having trouble with one fold, are finding that your cup isn’t opening easily, or are having some comfort issues while inserting, you might want to experiment with another fold.
Some folds create a small insertion point and others create a smaller body overall. Some people find that certain folds help them open a particular cup more easily, especially when used with a softer cup. If you have more than one cup with various levels of firmness, you might find that different folds work best for different cups.
The order in which the folds are listed is from the easiest to the trickiest. But remember that the easiest fold may not be the one that works best for you or with a particular cup.
1. “C” Fold
A quick and easy fold to do with most menstrual cups. However, the point of insertion may be too large to be comfortable for some. The fold may make it easier to get a softer cup to open.
2. “Punchdown” Fold
A pretty quick and easy fold that creates a small insert point. This fold is easy to hold while inserting but may cause some difficulties with softer cups.
3. “7” Fold
A one-motion fold that is easy and quick to do, but the insertion point and body of the cup may feel too large to be comfortable for some. You can use a finger between the crease to “nudge” the rim open.
4. Triangle Fold
This fold is similar to the “7” fold; however, it creates a smaller insertion area.
5. “Labia” Fold
This fold can be tricky when first learning it. You may need to practice it a few times before inserting it. It can also be hard to hold if the cup is very firm. However, this fold is great for cups that don’t open easily because it allows you to use a finger to press the rim open.
6. “Origami” Fold
This is another fold that you might need to practice before it’s time to insert. It creates a small insertion point and allows you to “nudge” the rim open.
Folding your menstrual cup is going to be a process of trial and error until you find what works for you with a specific cup. If one particular fold doesn’t work or feel comfortable for you, try another. Once you figure out which fold works for you, it’ll become second nature and you won’t have to think about it!
Different Techniques – Part 2:
How to Insert & Remove a Menstrual Cup
For some people, inserting and removing their cup comes easy. For others, it can be a challenge when you’re still new to it. We all have different experiences when it comes to using a cup for the first time. We were all new to it at some point, so don’t be discouraged!
Tips Before You Begin
- Relax! If you’ve been researching cups, you’ve probably seen it many times, but it’s crucial to relax! If you have any anxieties, you may be tensing your body without even knowing it. This causes your muscles to clench up and can make inserting and/or removing your cup more difficult.
- Take a break! If you’re getting frustrated, take a break and try again later. I know that you’re determined to get this to work, but we commonly start making mistakes when we’re in this state of mind. It will do you no good to force the process. Your cup isn’t going anywhere!
- Practice! Practice makes (almost) perfect! You can practice inserting and removing your cup even when you’re not on your period. This will help you figure out which position feels most comfortable, which folds work for you, and how to get the cup to open, all without worrying that you need to use the cup RIGHT NOW.
- Water-based lube is your friend! If you’ve been practicing for a while and you’re starting to feel dried out, use a water-based lube to help ease your cup in.
- STOP! If you’re starting to get frustrated, dried out, and feeling swollen, it’s really time to take another break!
Inserting Your Menstrual Cup
- Wash your hands.
- Find a comfortable position.
- For example, you can:
- Sit on the toilet and scoot back
- Prop a foot on the toilet
- Prop a foot up on the side of the tub
- Squat down
- For example, you can:
- Fold the menstrual cup (click for details).
- Gently spread your labia.
- Insert the cup aiming towards your tailbone, until your hand rests on your body.
- Release the cup.
- If your cup was not inserted completely, you can use a finger to maneuver the cup up and into place.
Tips After Inserting Your Cup
- Insert a finger and “swipe” around the rim.
- Check that the cup is open.
- Make sure the cervix is inside or below the cup.
- If you are unable to reach the rim with your finger, feel as high up on the cup as you can.
- If you notice any indentions, it could mean that the cervix is keeping the rim from opening.
- Gently pull or wiggle the cup back and allow your cervix some room to drop in.
- After your cup is in place, bear down with your pelvic floor muscles to bring the cup closer to the opening of your vagina. Use a wet wipe or cloth to clean the grip rings and/or stem of any excess blood. This will help eliminate any “residual slobber” spotting.
- Give your cup a gentle tug to check if it sealed.
- If there’s a slight resistance, chances are your cup created a seal/suction around your cervix.
- If it slides easily, you may want to give the base a pinch or spin your cup to hopefully create a seal.
- Note that not every cup may seal! It depends on your cup and your body.
Removing Your Menstrual Cup
- Wash your hands.
- Find a comfortable position.
- For example, you can:
- Sit on the toilet and scoot back
- Prop a foot up while in the tub
- Squat in the tub
- For example, you can:
- Bear down with your pelvic floor muscles to bring the cup closer to the opening of your vagina.
- Gently spread your labia and locate the stem of the cup.
- If needed, slightly wiggle the cup down by the stem until you can reach the base of the cup. The base is the area you’ll want to hold when the cup exits your body for stability. The stem will not be able to hold the weight of your cup upright, especially if it’s filled.
- Holding the base of the cup, wiggle or slide your cup down and out, keeping it level to avoid spilling.
- Dump the contents into the toilet or drain.
- Rinse (if possible) and re-insert or store.
Tips for Removing Your Cup
- Break the seal/suction: If your cup has created a seal around your cervix, you don’t want to pull your cup down without first breaking the seal. If you don’t, you might tug too hard on your cervix, causing discomfort, cramping and/or pain.
- Either pinch the base of the cup
- Press/collapse the side of the cup
- Press/collapse the rim of the cup
- Protect your urethra! Even if you don’t normally have a sensitive bladder or urethra, you might find it uncomfortable or even painful if your cup rim brushes or hits it on the way out. This is more common with a firmer cup.
- Bring your cup down to a comfortable position – approximately half way out
- Slide your thumb higher up the body of the cup
- Slightly compress the side nearest to your bladder
- Continue to hold until the cup completely exits your body
Remember, it may take some practice before you’re completely comfortable with inserting and removing your menstrual cup. I can’t promise that it will “click” on your first try – or even your second and third, for that matter.
Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged. If it’s still not working after a few months of trying a particular cup, you have many other options to choose from. Maybe that particular cup just isn’t the right one for you!
Different Techniques – Part 3:
How to Store Your Cup
Most menstrual cups arrive with some sort of storage case, such as a pouch or a container with holes. A simple cotton drawstring bag is the most common. After you have become confident in your cleaning process, you can store your cup in whichever storage case was included with your purchase.
Pictured left to right, top to bottom: AmyCup “Original” storage container; Cup Spot; Sckoon bag; Lumma Collapsible Sterilizing Container; Casco Cup storage container; Fun Cup Tyvek Pouch; Moskito bag; LaliCup bag
If your cup didn’t come with a bag, you can either purchase one that was specifically made to hold menstrual cups or you can use any small fabric bag that allows airflow.
If you’re comfortable with leaving your cup out in the open, you can place it on a shelf or counter. Just make sure you give it a good wash prior to using it again. A medicine cabinet is fine.
Never store your menstrual cup in an airtight container or a Ziploc-type bag. Moisture has no way to evaporate. If your cup doesn’t have a breath of fresh air, bacteria can start to grow and can also create a foul odor!
Different Techniques – Part 4:
Creating a Good Seal
Whichever menstrual cup you choose, it’s a good habit to check that you have a good seal.
After you insert your cup, give the stem a gentle tug.
- If the cup slides down easily, chances are that the cup is not properly sealed.
- If the cup has some resistance, it should be sealed well and properly in place.
However, it is best to double-check that your cervix is not on the outside of the cup. There is always a chance that you have missed your cervix and that the cup has sealed to your vagina wall.
Different Techniques – Part 5:
When to Empty Your Cup
Many of us are sold on the idea that we can use a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours – I know I was! But if you have a heavy flow, you might find yourself needing to empty your cup every 6, 4, or even 2 hours.
When you need to empty your cup totally depends on how light or heavy your flow is.
Some people think that you can use a cup until it fills to the rim. In reality, it doesn’t work this way. Once you fill the cup to a certain point, there is a possibility that it could overflow. You’ll want to leave at least a little space from the collected fluid and the rim of the cup so that, when you pinch the base, there’s some wiggle room for the fluid to occupy instead of overflowing onto your hand.
Furthermore, if the air holes are large and/or low, you might find yourself spotting or leaking sooner than you had expected.
So, how do you know when you need to find a bathroom?
Well, the only safe way is to schedule a time. I know it seems silly, but you can’t see what’s going on when the cup is placed, so you’ll need to anticipate an overflow.
It’s probably best to do this experiment in the safety of your own home. You may need a change of clothes!
Start off on your heaviest day and insert your cup. Set a timer for three hours. At the end of the three hours, remove your cup and try not to spill. Take notice of how much menstrual fluid is in your cup and adjust the timing for your next check.
If the cup is ¼ full
You can probably use your cup for another couple of hours.
If the cup is ½ full
Add one hour – instead of 3 hours, you can wait until the 4th hour.
If the cup is ¾ full
This would probably be the best time to schedule.
If the blood is at the air holes or above
You’ll want to drop the time down an hour – instead of 3 hours, you would empty it at the 2nd hour.
If possible, continue to do this until your period lightens up. This will give you a good idea of when you need to empty your cup on your heaviest days. As your period starts to taper down, you can add more hours.
Remember that everyone is different, so we’ll all have various schedules between emptying sessions.
Different Techniques – Part 6:
How to Trim Your Cup Stem
Different Techniques – Part 7:
Menstrual Cups in Public
First of all, you can do almost anything your heart desires while you’re wearing a menstrual cup. You can ride a bike, hike, run, swim, skydive, camp, hula hoop, and so much more!
Because a menstrual cup holds more than a tampon and keeps you dry, unlike a pad, you can spend more time doing what you want and less time finding a restroom!
Depending on your flow, you may even be able to use your menstrual cup up for up to 12 hours before needing to remove and rinse it.
If you do find the need to empty your cup while you’re out, here are a few things you can try or do.
Empty as needed and reinsert
Some people don’t have a problem with emptying their cup and reinserting it without a rinse. Although, you’ll probably want to wipe yourself again just to make sure you didn’t leave any blood behind.
Empty as needed, wipe with toilet paper and reinsert
After you empty your cup into the toilet, wipe the majority of blood away (clotting) before you reinsert.
Find a Private Bathroom
(E.g. family restrooms)
Most public family restrooms are larger and normally include a toilet, a sink, and a baby changing station. This will give you space and privacy with a sink handy.
You can take a water bottle or even a small pocket-sized spritz bottle with you into the stall if you feel the need to wet your cup or rinse yourself.
Grab n’ Go
Wet paper towels
Before entering a stall, grab and wet some paper towels (normally already provided in restrooms). Use them to wipe your cup and/or yourself down. You might want to grab an extra one to wipe your hands of any blood before unlatching the door!
Pick up a travel-sized package of baby/wet wipes. These will fit in a small handbag, clutch purse, or even pocket! If you have a large container at home (which is normally cheaper to buy), you can fill a “snack” baggie with a few and carry that. 🙂
Reusable Cup, Why Not Reusable Cloth?
If you’d like to stick to eco-friendly products, you can invest in some cloth wipes, or make your own out of scrap flannel. They can be carried wet or dry and stored in a waterproof bag or pouch.
And one more tip for when you’re not in the comfort of your own home
Before you sit down on the toilet, lay a couple of squares of toilet paper on the water. When you empty your cup, your blood will be enveloped in the squares and won’t stick to the bottom of the bowl! No evidence left behind! 😀
Different Techniques – Part 8:
Penetrative Sex & Menstrual Cups
First of all, because we all walk different paths in life, this portion is only referring to penis/vaginal penetrative sex.
You’re probably wondering, “Why?!” Quite simply, some people don’t like to wait.
You might say, “Just put a towel down!” And someone might respond, “I’m lazy, and I don’t like to clean more than I need to, especially after a good time!” Using a menstrual cup while having sex may allow for a mess-free experience.
“Shower sex!” – Lucky you! I sadly don’t have an en-suite (yet) and the only shower is between BOTH of my children’s bedrooms.
“It’s only 7 days! Can’t you wait!?” – Not everyone’s periods ONLY last 7 days or less.
If you are looking for a menstrual cup that is specifically designed to be used while having penetrative sex, you can check out the SoftCup or Flex, which are actually menstrual discs.
I have actually contacted several menstrual cup companies (the ones that answered are listed at the bottom) to ask for their exact reason why we “can’t” have penetrative sex while using their menstrual cup. I was very surprised that a few of them asked me HOW it was possible or told me that it was IMPOSSIBLE.
A couple companies asked me to elaborate, and a few more said that they don’t have any problems with people having penetrative sex while their menstrual cup was inserted as long as we remember that:
***A menstrual cup will NOT prevent an unwanted pregnancy or protect you from STDs***
First of all, the vagina can expand by 200% when sexually aroused. Remember that the vagina was made to give birth to a small human. Even if your lover’s member is the “size of a baby’s arm”, it still doesn’t equal the WHOLE baby.
If you and your partner are comfortable with having penetrative sex while using a cup, then there should be no reason that you shouldn’t at least try it. If you or your partner experience any pain or discomfort while having sex with the cup inserted, you need to communicate that. Maybe it’s not the right cup for it or maybe it’s not the right position.
Like anything else, COMMUNICATION is the key.
Your partner will want to be gentle during the first insertion. It’s a new experience for both of you, so neither of you yet knows where things are going to fit. I have found that no matter what size the cup is, or how soft or firm it is, my husband and I are able to enjoy this time, pain-free.
However, a softer cup might be easier to manipulate for a “first timer”. A softer cup will collapse to the penis as it does when your finger is against it while inserting or removing your cup.
Start off slow at first. Get to know the feeling and test to see if there’s any pain for either of you. Let your partner move around and see if there’s another area that feels more comfortable. Maybe it feels better with the cup above or below or even to the side of his penis.
Once you both are comfortable, you can gain some speed and momentum.
People always ask, “Won’t the cup stem stab him in the pee-hole?” Hmmmm… well:
- You can trim the stem if you are able to remove your cup without it.
- Not all men exit the vagina with each thrust. If your partner doesn’t, then he will likely keep the stem pressed off to the side.
- The stem is usually soft enough, even on a firm cup, to get pushed to the side.
- If the stem is long, then it has more area to bend when it’s “poked”.
- If he gets “stabbed”, it’s very doubtful that it will enter further than a few millimeters. He will probably feel it, but not be bothered by it.
Again, COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
Some tips for success:
- Empty your cup prior to having penetrative sex. This will eliminate leaks.
- Make sure you have a good seal on your cup, also to eliminate leaks.
- Because your vagina expands and your cervix normally moves higher when aroused, your cup might be harder to reach. Allow your body and vagina to return to its normal state for an easier removal. If you had emptied your cup prior to having sex, you should be all set until the morning anyhow.
- If you have more than one cup, experiment with them. You might find that you and/or your partner enjoy one cup over another. Some allow for more sensations, others dull it.
You never know if it’ll work for you unless you try it. If it’s not something you feel comfortable with, then that’s totally fine too! There are so many other ways to enjoy each other while your cup is inserted; penetrative sex doesn’t have to be one of them.
While not all of these companies agree with using a menstrual cup while having penetrative sex for one reason or another, these are the companies that took time to reply and answer me. Thank you all very much!
Sckoon, Yuuki, EvaCup, LaliCup, Ruby Cup, Super Jennie, Lady Cup, Lunette, and LuvUr Body.
Different Techniques – Part 9:
Can I Use the Bathroom While Wearing a Cup?
For most people, the answer is YES!
You insert the menstrual cup into the vagina, you urinate through your urethra, and defecate (poop) through your anus. These are three separate entrances/exits. It is impossible for urine or fecal matter to collect into the cup unless you’re “going” while you remove it.
Although these are separate areas, they are located close in proximity with only a thin wall of mucous membrane and connective tissue between them.
Some people have no issues using the restroom as normal. Others may experience some difficulties with either a slow stream of urine, feeling like they need to urinate more frequently or that their bladder didn’t empty all the way when they do. They can even feel like they’re constipated.
If a menstrual cup is too firm for you, it may be pressing against your bladder, your urethra, or your rectum causing you to feel this way. It may cause some people to cramp or to have pains even when they don’t feel the need to relieve themselves.
People who experience this may find it frustrating and a hassle to remove their cup each and every time they need to use the restroom.
Some things that may help your situation and make you more comfortable are:
- Trying a softer menstrual cup
- A softer cup will ease the pressure off of those sensitive areas
- Trying a different cup shape
- A different cup shape may shift the pressure of the cup to an area that isn’t sensitive
- Trying a different size
- Like changing a different shape, a different size may also shift the pressure of the cup to another area
Different Techniques – Part 10:
Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup – Odors & Stained Cups
Cleaning your menstrual cup doesn’t have to be a huge chore. In fact, some people just use plain tap water to clean their cup before storing.
The way that you clean your menstrual cup and what means you use to do so are totally up to you and how comfortable you are.
- Boiling: Most menstrual cup companies suggest boiling their cup when you initially receive it, before the first use. They also suggest boiling the cup after each period has ended, before you store it away.
- On the stove: Using a pot, make sure that the water comes to a rolling boil first and then submerge your cup completely for at least three minutes. You can use a tool of some sort, like a whisk or a slotted spoon, if you feel more comfortable keeping the cup from touching the cookware.
- In the microwave: Using a microwave-safe container or a container specifically made to sanitize your cup in the microwave, insert your cup and fill the container with water. Set the microwave to 2-5 minutes.
- DO NOT place a lid completely over the container. Steam needs to be able to escape!
- You may want to set the container on a plate or bowl to catch water that may boil over.
- Allow the water to cool completely before removing.
- Cup wash or wipes: There are soaps and wipes specifically made for cleaning your menstrual cup, like the DivaWash, Lunette Feelbetter Wash or Lunette Cupwipes. These are supposed to take the guesswork out of which soap is safe for you and your cup. However, not everyone wants to buy a specific wash, or may have sensitivities or allergies to ingredients in those washes.
- Mild soap: Any mild soap or intimate wash that does not contain perfumes, oils, or anti-bacterial ingredients should be fine to clean your cup.
- Tablets: Cleansing tablets such as Milton tablets are safe for menstrual cup cleaning. These work like denture cleansing tablets – some people use those too!
- Water: Some people are very sensitive and/or allergic to soaps in or on their genital area. They prefer to NOT wash with any type of soap. Plain water is all they use to rinse their cups and themselves the best that they can.
Blood itself has an iron-y odor. Our bodies have an odor, too. While cup companies mention having “no odor”, this is typically referring to the odor that arises from having blood sitting on a pad either in your underwear or in the trash, or a disposed tampon sitting in the waste can. When blood is exposed to air, the bacteria (from your vagina) and old blood start to give off a foul odor.
Sometimes this odor can cause your cup to smell as well. If you find this happening, there are a few things you can try to eliminate it.
- Shortening the time that you use a cup between rinses.
- Baking soda: Add water to make a paste consistency, then use an old toothbrush to clean your cup. Make sure you rinse well or boil before using it.
- Soak your cup for at least an hour or more in one of the following soaking solutions, and then wash your cup as normal or boil to remove the soaking solution.
- Rubbing alcohol
- White vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Sun bathe: Place your cup on a sunny windowsill for a couple of hours. This can also be done after a soak if needed.
If you find that your menstrual cup is taking on a brownish-reddish hue, then your cup is starting to get stained. Although it doesn’t interfere with how the cup performs and isn’t harmful, some people just don’t like looking at a stained cup. Either it isn’t pleasing to see or it makes the person feel as though it’s not clean.
Whichever the reason may be that you’re seeking cleaning tips for stained cups, here are a few that might help:
- Always rinse your cup in cold water first. This makes sure that the stains don’t set. After all traces of blood are gone, you can use hot water for a good rinse.
- Hydrogen peroxide: Most over-the-counter hydrogen peroxides* are safe to use straight from the bottle but you can dilute it if you wish. A 50/50 mix will still do the trick. Soak your cup overnight to get rid of any stains.
- Sun bathe: Place your cup on a sunny windowsill for a couple of hours. The sun will bleach your cup.
*Note: Hydrogen peroxide breaks down when exposed to light (which is why it’s stored in a brown bottle) and will turn into water.
Please use these methods at your own risk and visit the manufacturer website for the specific cup that you purchased. Some companies suggest certain cleaning methods and others advise against them.
Some feel that using some of these methods too frequently may shorten the lifespan of a cup. If a cup is a “cheapie”, there’s a greater chance that it will deteriorate quicker because the cup materials are unknown.
If your cup has a sticky, slimy, tacky or gummy feeling that won’t wash off, chances are that your cup’s integrity has been compromised. It’s time to buy a new cup!
Pay special attention to the air holes (if your cup has them). Clean them thoroughly to ensure that blood is not left behind in them and allowing bacteria to grow. An easy way to clean your cup is to fill it with water, place a flat palm over the rim and squeeze the body. This will push anything through the air holes out as the water is forced through. Make sure to do this carefully or you will get splashed! 😛
You can also use an old toothbrush, dental brush or toothpick for any stubborn blood bits.
Different Techniques – Part 11:
Cups & Lubrication
The vagina releases its own natural lubrication. This allows for easier and less painful penetration. If there is insufficient lubrication, penetration of an object, including a menstrual cup, may be difficult.
We all have that feeling of dryness from time to time. If you feel the need for a supplement while inserting a menstrual cup, you can find a water-based lubricant in the hygiene aisle at almost any drug or grocery store.
Make sure that the lubricant is WATER-BASED. This will ensure the longer lifespan of your cup.
Why Not Silicone-Based Lubricants?
- The silicone molecules in a silicone-based lubricant will bond with the silicone molecules of a silicone item, such as a menstrual cup, sex toy or other.
- The silicone item will then start to deteriorate.
- The item may have a slimy, sticky, or gummy feeling that will not wash off.
- Tiny holes may start to form, allowing bacteria to fester and making the item unsafe to use.
Try to find a lubricant that is free of glycerin, propylene glycol, and parabens.
Even after weeding out all the silicone-based lubricants and the ones that lack glycerin, propylene glycol, and parabens, there is still a huge variety of lubricants that you can use.
Many companies offer sample packs for under a dollar. Some of them even have a sample kit of the different varieties that they offer, from gels to liquids, and sensitive to gentle to extra gentle!
Vaseline, mineral oil, baby oil, vegetable oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and many others are said to be safe to use on any item EXCEPT those that contain latex. However, these may not be ideal for some to use INSIDE the body because they may increase the risk of urinary or vaginal infections.
Some say that oils break down silicone. Although silicone is pretty resilient to many things, the risk is up to you.
I would suggest against using any oil lubricants on “cheapie” cups because the materials are unknown.
Different Techniques – Part 12:
Troubleshooting a Menstrual cup
- Spotting: If you’re experiencing light spotting on your underwear while using the cup.
- This might be “residual slobber”. This is when the blood coating your vaginal walls, even after inserting your cup, slides down and out.
- To help eliminate this extra blood, bear down after you insert your cup and wipe the stem and/or grip ring with a wet wipe, toilet paper or cloth.
- Insert a finger to check the rim of the cup or as high up as you can.
- Make sure the rim isn’t sitting partially on the cervix.
- Make sure the cup didn’t push the cervix to the side.
- If you are unable to reach the rim, insert a finger as high up as you can.
- Take notice if there are any indentions. If there are, then your cervix might be keeping the rim from opening.
- Gently wiggle or pull back on the cup to allow your cervix to drop in.
- Check if the cup has created a seal.
- Gently tug on the cup.
- If there is a slight resistance, chances are you do have a proper seal.
- If the cup slides easily, pinch the base to create a seal and gently tug again.
- Not everyone experiences a seal or suction with their cup. It depends on your body and the cup.
- Gently tug on the cup.
- This might be “residual slobber”. This is when the blood coating your vaginal walls, even after inserting your cup, slides down and out.
- Overflow: Either invest in a cup with a higher capacity or empty your cup sooner than you have been doing. You may also want to try a cup that’s a little firmer if you don’t have bladder sensitivities.
You may also find that your cup is only half full when you remove it but you experienced overflow nonetheless. If so, consider the following possibilities:
- Your cup may be sitting higher within your vaginal fornix, allowing your cervix to sit inside of the cup and compromising the capacity.
- You might want to try a cup that has more length, like a V-shaped cup.
- If you have a low cervix, it may also be sitting inside of the cup.
- Try a cup with a rounded body, such as bell-shaped cups or cups like the FemmyCycle, Merula, or Formoonsa.
- If your cup is soft, it may be compressed, which will cause the fluid to be higher than when a cup is completely expanded.
- Your cup may be sitting higher within your vaginal fornix, allowing your cervix to sit inside of the cup and compromising the capacity.
If you find that the body of the cup is collapsing or staying “smashed”, you might want to try a cup that is a little firmer. This will keep the cup fully expanded during use.
Trouble with Opening Soft Cups
If you’re having trouble getting a softer cup to open, there are a few things that you can try.
- Run your cup under cold water to firm up the silicone.
- Use a different fold.
- Some folds may allow the cup to open more easily.
- The “Labia” fold allows you to press on the rim to help it pop out and expand completely.
- Inserting the cup halfway.
- Sometimes adjusting the position of where you release a cup will help it open.
- If halfway doesn’t work, try sliding it in or out a bit and try again.
- If you find that after several attempts, folds, and positions, the cup still does not open easily, you might want to try a cup that’s firmer.
People normally experience a painful removal when they don’t break the seal their cup has created, when they hit their urethra, or when the cup is firm and applies pressure to other sensitive areas.
- Breaking the seal: If you give your cup a gentle tug and there’s resistance, the cup probably created a seal around your cervix. You’ll want to pinch the base, press on the side of the cup, or collapse the rim of the cup to break the seal before removing it any further.
- If you pull the cup down without breaking the seal, you may cause yourself some discomfort, pain or even some cramping.
- Urethra: Even if you don’t normally have a sensitive urethra, the cup or the cup’s rim may brush, hit, or apply pressure in that area during removal, causing some irritation.
- When you remove your cup halfway, slide your thumb up the body of the cup to compress the side nearest to your bladder. This will collapse the side of the cup/rim and avoid hitting the sensitive spot.
- Some people find their cup or rim to be causing too much pressure during removal. You can pinch the body of the cup to collapse it for an easier removal, but make sure to empty your cup before the capacity gets too high. You may also consider purchasing a softer cup.
Migrating Cup – Sliding or Rotating Cups
First of all, make sure that the cup fits you correctly. If you have a low cervix and your cup is too long, it might just be pushing or sitting outside of your body.
If you feel comfortable reaching your cup without a stem, you can try turning your cup inside out to see if it fits better. If that works, you can continue to use it this way, or you can take note of the size when shopping for another cup.
If your cup is, in fact, sliding down, turning to its side or rotating completely, you might want to consider checking the following.
- Cervix: Check that your cervix is either right above or sitting inside of your cup.
- Seal/suction: Gently tug on the cup and see if there’s resistance. If there is, you should have a good seal. Note that some people don’t create a seal depending on their body and the cup.
- Consider a softer cup: Some find that a firm cup will slide out more easily for them. A softer cup may stay in place better because it can collapse and move with the body more.
- Pelvic floor muscles (PFM): If you know for a fact that you have weak PFM, consider doing Kegel exercises at least a couple times a day for a few minutes each session. PFM don’t actually “hug” your cup to keep it in place. They are more like a hammock of muscles that your cup sits on. If they’re not toned, your cup may slip beyond them.
- A cup with a flared rim: These tend to ride up and sit higher for people. This might help you keep the cup in place.
Different Techniques – Part 13:
Other Menstrual Cup Tips
FAQs – Common Menstrual Cup Questions
Q: What are menstrual cups made of?
Most menstrual cups are made from some type of silicone. Medical grade silicone is the only type that has been tested to be safe for use on or inside of the body for an extended amount of time. There are a few menstrual cups that are made with TPE and at least one that is made from gum rubber (i.e. latex).
Q: I’m allergic to latex, can I still use a menstrual cup?
If you’re allergic to latex, you should research the cup(s) you’re interested in and make sure that they are from respectable companies. Beware of companies that claim to use medical grade silicone when they actually don’t, or they add fillers to cut costs. You never know what materials they used to create a “cheapie” cup. You’ll also want to stay away from the cup made using gum rubber (read more).
Q: Can I use a menstrual cup if I have an IUD or am using a birth control ring?
- Most menstrual cup companies claim that you can. However, you’ll want to double check with the specific company from whom you intend to purchase your cup. It’s suggested to let your doctor know that you’re planning on using a cup. They can instruct you when it’s safe to start using a cup after IUD insertion and they can also trim your IUD strings so that they don’t get in the way. Make sure to pay attention to the height of the strings on a normal basis. If they feel lower than normal, it could be a sign that you’ve dislodged your IUD. Also make sure to break the seal before tugging on your cup because this can also cause your IUD to be dislodged.
- If you are using a birth control vaginal ring, the ring is inserted first and then your menstrual cup is inserted after.
Q: How does a menstrual cup stay in place?
- The vagina is an elastic muscular canal; it can expand and stretch like a balloon to accommodate various items and objects including a menstrual cup. It will also hug against the item and return to its normal size when the item is removed.
- Menstrual cups may create a slight seal/suction around your cervix.
- Toned pelvic floor muscles create a “hammock” for the cup to sit upon and keeps it from sliding out.
Q: Can you feel the menstrual cup while wearing it?
- We have very few nerve endings in the vaginal canal. If a cup fits you and is positioned correctly, you shouldn’t detect it at all.
- If you feel any pressure (after getting used to using the cup), feel like you need to urinate more often, feel as though you didn’t empty your bladder completely when you do urinate, or have a slow urine stream, the cup might be too firm. I would suggest trying a cup that is softer, or trying the cup again with it turned inside out (as long as you’re comfortable retrieving it without a stem).
Q: Can my cup get “lost”?
- No. Your vagina is NOT a never-ending canal. It is more like a balloon from which the menstrual cup only has one way out. However, if you have a long vaginal canal or a very high cervix, your cup may slip out of reach. It is also possible to place your cup into the vaginal fornix (the area around the cervix), which may also put it out of reach.
- Bear down with your PFM to bring the cup closer to the opening of your vagina. You may need to do a series of pushes, but your cup should eventually be close enough to reach.
- I would suggest trying a longer cup or one that’s V-shaped, if needed.
Q: Can my cup get stuck?
No. When you’re new to using cups, you might think that it’s stuck. The cup can and may create a seal/suction around your cervix. If it does, don’t panic. Bear down with your muscles to bring the cup closer to the opening of your vagina. Locate the stem and rock/walk/wiggle your cup back and forth to bring it down enough to reach the base of the cup. Pinch the base to break the seal. If it doesn’t break, use a finger to press on the side/body of the cup. If you can reach the rim, you can also press down on it to break the seal.
Q: Will airport security detect my menstrual cup?
No. Security will not detect a menstrual cup with their machines or wands.
Q: Will my cup feel different while I’m on a plane?
No. Cabin pressure will not crush or cause your cup to feel different in any way.
Q: Does it hurt to use a menstrual cup?
- A menstrual cup should not hurt while you insert, use or remove it. If it does cause you discomfort, pain or cramping, you might want to troubleshoot the reason for it.
- If a cup fits you, you should not be able to feel it while wearing it.
Q: Is using a menstrual cup messy?
I’m not going to lie – it can be, especially when you’re new to using it. Once you get the hang of it, it will become less messy and a lot easier to insert and remove. Wet wipes are your friend!
Q: How do I know which size to use?
There are a few things you can use to help determine which cup(s) might work for you. Finding and measuring your cervix is the best place to start. If you have a low cervix, you don’t want to get a cup that will be too long for you and vice versa for a high cervix. You can also use your flow amount to determine if you prefer the lower capacity with a small or the higher capacity with a large-sized cup (read more).
Q: Will a menstrual cup stretch out my vagina?
It may, but not permanently. Your vagina is an elastic muscular canal. It’s like a balloon. Fill it with air and it will expand. Let the air out, and it returns to its normal shape.
Q: Can I use a menstrual cup if I’m a virgin?
Honestly, that is totally up to you and depends on your beliefs or religion. But, yes, virgins are and have been able to comfortably use a menstrual cup. However, a larger cup may be too large to feel comfortable during insertion. You might want to try a smaller size or a cup that’s narrower, and some water-based lube to help ease the cup in (read more).
Q: Can I use my menstrual cup to sleep?
YES! Because a menstrual cup holds more than a tampon, many people find that their cup gives them a longer period of rest time. Make sure to empty your cup before you go to bed. It will give you a fresh cup with full capacity to fill while you catch some zzz’s!
Q: Can I use a menstrual cup to swim?
Definitely! The great thing about using a cup is that it only collects your menstrual flow and will NOT absorb pool or ocean water!
You can swim, wade, dive, and even scuba dive while using your cup! It has been reported by a scuba instructor that pressure changes while diving do not cause the cup to collapse.
Q: When should I empty my menstrual cup?
- Depending on your flow, you can use a menstrual cup safely for up to 12 hours.
- Because a menstrual cup typically holds more than a tampon, you can probably wear your cup for two extra hours on top of the time you normally need to change a tampon. So, if you would normally change your tampon every 2-4 hours, you might want to check your cup every 4-6 hours. If your cup is only half full, you can probably add another hour next time. If it’s to the rim, subtract an hour next time (read more).
Q: Can I use a menstrual cup for sports?
Of course! In fact, many people that play sports or do physical activities such as Jiu-Jitsu, weight lifting, yoga, aerial silks, bike riding, hiking, etc., find that they prefer using a menstrual cup over other menstrual products because it’s comfortable, holds more, and can’t be detected. They have more time to do what they love doing rather than worrying about their period! (Read more.)
Q: Can I use a menstrual cup while I have sex?
Most menstrual cup companies recommend against using their cup while having penetrative sex. However, not all companies are against it. Contact the specific company that made your cup if you have any concerns. Use a menstrual cup at your own risk if you choose to engage in penetrative sexual activity, and remember that a menstrual cup will NOT prevent an unplanned pregnancy, and will NOT protect you against STDs!
Read more on Sex & Menstrual Cups
Q: Will a menstrual cup prevent me from getting pregnant?
- A menstrual cup will NOT prevent an unplanned pregnancy, and will NOT protect you against STDs.
- Some claim that a menstrual cup has actually helped them GET pregnant when they were TTC (trying to conceive).
Read more on Sex & Menstrual Cups
Q: How do I clean my menstrual cup?
- Here are some popular methods:
- Plain water: Rinse out all the menstrual fluid first to prevent stains, and then give it a hot water wash.
- Mild soap, including “feminine” washes and/or menstrual cup specific washes
- Sanitizing tablets
- Boil, either on the stovetop or in a microwave-safe container
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Lemon juice
- White vinegar
- Sun bathe
- Everyone has their own cleaning methods. Use these at your own risk. It’s up to you to be comfortable with your routine.
- Some companies suggest against some of these methods. Visit the cup company’s website or contact them by email if you have any concerns.
Read more on Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup
Q: How long should I boil my menstrual cup?
If you feel the need to boil your menstrual cup, make sure to bring the water to a rolling boil and fully submerge your cup for at least 3-5 minutes.
Read more on Cleaning Your Menstrual Cup
Q: Will the blood go back into my uterus if I turn upside down?
Highly unlikely. The opening of the cervix is very tiny. Our blood trickles down through it with gravity and our muscles are pushing the unused lining down and out. Even if you’re standing on your head for a few minutes, it’s very unlikely that it will have enough time to trickle back into your uterus.
Q: Why did my cup turn to the side/upside down!?
- There’s really no solid answer for this. However, it does seem that everyone who has experienced this has also trimmed the stem completely off. They feel that maybe the stem helps anchor their cup in the correct position and, without it, the cup flipped.
- Others feel that the cup might be too small and not placed correctly to create a seal/suction, allowing the cup to become dislodged and turn with body movements.
- I can’t tell you for sure why it’s happening, but I would suggest maybe trying a cup with a different size or a different shape to prevent it from happening.
Read more on Troubleshooting a Menstrual Cup
Q: Can I use a menstrual cup if I have long nails?
- YES! It might take some getting used to, but it’s still possible.
- When inserting your thumb and pointer finger into your vagina, tuck one nail into the other so your nails are not pointing outward to your labia. When your fingers reach your cup, you can separate them and grasp your cup.
- If you start with shorter nails and then grow them out (or get any type of artificial nails applied), it can make the adjustment process easier.
- Using gloves or finger cots may feel more comfortable when inserting or removing.
- Make sure you use a nail brush before and after you insert/remove your cup.
Q: Do I have to be on my period to use my menstrual cup?
- NOPE! That’s one great thing about having a menstrual cup: you don’t have to be bleeding to use it.
- Some people use their cups on a daily basis to keep dry from discharge. Others use it to help against stress incontinence (it pushes against the bladder to prevent leakage).
- If you’re expecting your period, you can use your cup and not have to worry about it, packing or carrying extra supplies for “just in case”.
Q: Why is my menstrual cup leaking?
First of all, determine if your cup is truly leaking or if it is residual blood.
- Residual blood:
- After you insert your cup, squat down and bear down with your muscles.
- Wipe the stem and base of the cup with a wet wipe or cloth.
- This will remove any excess blood that may be finding its way onto your underwear.
- Make sure cup is completely open.
- Check position of the cervix – it should be right above or inside the cup.
- Check the seal/suction:
- Give the cup a gentle tug. If the cup has resistance, it has created a seal.
- If not, pinch the base of the cup and gently tug again.
- Not all cups will create a seal with your body.
- Empty your cup sooner to avoid overflow.
- Seek a higher capacity cup.
- That cup may be the wrong size/shape for you.
Read more on Troubleshooting a Menstrual Cup
Q: Why is my cup sliding down?
That particular cup may be the wrong shape or size for you.
Read more on Troubleshooting a Menstrual Cup
Q: My cup feels too long! What do I do?
- You can try to turn your cup inside out and see if it fits better.
- Only do this if you’re comfortable retrieving your cup without a stem.
- Trim the stem.
- Find a shorter or smaller-sized cup.
Q: I can’t reach my cup! What do I do?
- Don’t panic!
- The vagina is like a balloon. There is NO way for a cup to travel from the vagina into other parts of your body.
- Squat down, part your knees and sit your bum on your heels.
- This will roll your pelvis forward for you to get a better angle.
- Bear down with your muscles like you’re having a bowel movement.
- This will bring your cervix down closer to the opening of your vaginal opening.
- You may need to do a series of pushes, like giving birth.
- Insert your fingers and locate the stem.
- You may need to push your fingers in deeper to reach.
- If you still can’t reach, continue to do another series of pushes.
If you can reach the cup with your longest finger (normally the middle), you can nudge the base of the cup to release the seal/suction and bring it down.
Q: What do I do with my menstrual cup when I’m not using it?
Give it a good wash and store it away for your next period.
Most cups come with some sort of storage bag or container. If not, you can use any bag that allows air flow. NEVER store your cup in an airtight container! It needs fresh air to allow any moisture to evaporate.
You can store your cup in the open, sitting on a shelf or in a cabinet. You can also tuck it away in a sock or underwear drawer.
Make sure to keep your cup out of the reach of pets! Some pets think they’re chewing toys!
Q: How long does a menstrual cup last?
Most companies state that their cups last up to ten years with proper care.
Q: When should I replace my menstrual cup?
- Make it a habit to inspect your cup before storing it away.
- If there are any tears, nicks, or scratches or feels tacky, sticky, or gummy even after washing it, it’s time to go shopping!
Q: Can I use a menstrual cup if my cervix/uterus is tilted?
- Definitely! There are many people who are successfully using a menstrual cup with their tilted/prolapsed, cervix/uterus.
- Shorter cups may be a more comfortable fit for you.
Q: Do I have to remove the cup to use the bathroom?
- NOPE! However, there are some people who feel safer removing it so they don’t lose their cup while they go! It’s totally up to you.
- If you feel like you need to urinate more often while using a cup, feel like you don’t empty your bladder completely when you do, have a slow urine stream or feel constipated, your cup may be applying too much pressure in a sensitive area. You might want to look into a cup that’s a tad softer.
Menstrual Cups and Internal Birth Control
Many people have been successful with using internal birth control, such as an IUD or a NuvaRing®, alongside using a menstrual cup.
Because it’s common for some people to experience spotting or daily bleeding while fitted with an IUD, a menstrual cup can be invaluable. A cup, even a small-sized one, should be sufficient to continue to collect the flow for a full 12-hour duration.
If you’re thinking about using internal birth control with your menstrual cup, speak with your gynecologist prior to the procedure. Your doctor can trim the IUD strings and make them shorter to minimize the chances of the IUD becoming dislodged.
Get to know where your IUD strings are and their normal length. Monitor them regularly, both during your period and off your period when you aren’t wearing a menstrual cup. If the strings suddenly feel longer than normal, it might be a sign that your IUD has migrated and you’ll want to check with your doctor.
After your cup is inserted and correctly placed, use a finger to swipe around the rim and make sure the strings are not between the cup and your vaginal wall. The IUD strings should be inside the cup.
Make sure to break the seal/suction of the cup before removing it. If the seal is not broken, there is a chance of dislodging the IUD.
If you’re using a contraceptive ring: insert the ring first and then the menstrual cup after.
Again, be sure to speak with your doctor about using a menstrual cup prior to starting any internal birth control methods (or vice versa).
Menstrual Cups & Prolapse
Many people experience at least one, and sometimes more, of the several types of pelvic organ prolapses.
- Bladder Prolapse – Cystocele
This is the most common kind of pelvic organ prolapse. This happens when the bladder presses against the wall of the vagina.
- Urethral Prolapse – Urethrocele
This is when the urethral tube, which carries the urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, curves and/or widens.
- Uterine Prolapse
This happens when the uterus drops from its normal position and allows the cervix to press further into the vagina.
- Vaginal Vault Prolapse
This type of prolapse normally only happens after a hysterectomy. When the vagina no longer has the support from the uterus, it may drop into the vaginal canal.
- Small Bowel Prolapse – Enterocele
This is when the small bowel presses against the wall of the vagina.
If the tissues separating the vagina and rectum are too weak, it can cause a bulge in the back wall of the vagina.
All of these prolapses are caused by stretched or weakened ligaments, tissues, fascia and/or muscles (pelvic floor muscles) that support the pelvic area.
It is most common for someone who has been pregnant or has given birth to experience one or more of these prolapses due to the strain from pregnancy or delivery.
Breastfeeding can lessen estrogen levels and contribute to weakening the vaginal walls.
Aging may be another factor in experiencing a prolapse: with falling estrogen levels during and after menopause, the pelvic floor may lose some of its strength and elasticity.
Many people who have a pelvic organ prolapse do not have symptoms and may not even realize the prolapse occurred. These are minor and do not cause any issues or pain.
Others have found them quite bothersome and have reported symptoms such as:
- Pelvic pressure
- An abnormal bulge inside their vagina
- Feeling as though something is protruding out of their vagina
- A pulling or stretching in the groin area
- Lower back pain
- Painful intercourse
- Spotting or bleeding
- Urinary problems or incontinence
- Problem with bowel movements
A prolapse rarely gets better on its own. Speak with your doctor if you’re unsure. They may recommend that you see a special physical therapist to correct the prolapse and get your organs back to where they belong!
Things that can worsen your prolapse include:
- Chronic cough/allergies or sneezing
- Heavy lifting
Even with a prolapse, many people have been able to use a menstrual cup successfully and without pain. The key here is to find a cup that doesn’t cause any discomfort and is still effective.
Because a prolapse will cause the vagina to be shaped differently than a “normal” vagina, it may take some trial and error to find the right cup, position, and angle. However, with the right one, it should be both possible and comfortable.
The majority of the people with a prolapse of any kind have reported that a shorter and/or wider cup tends to fit better. Firmness depends on the individual, but some feel that their cups actually help support their vaginal walls rather than worsening the prolapse.
Kegel exercises are to keep your pelvic floor muscles (PFM) toned or to strengthen them. What are pelvic floor muscles, you ask? The PFM are a layer of muscles that stretch from the pubic bone to the coccyx (tailbone). They act like a hammock, if you will, that supports your pelvic organs. These include the bladder, bowel, and uterus (if you have one!).
These muscles help you control urination (peeing), bowel movements (pooping), and flatulence (farting), among other things.
When the PFM is contracted, the internal organs are lifted and the openings of the vagina, anus, and urethra are tightened.
Before I get into it – please note that if you are having any symptoms or issues, you’ll want to get the advice of a doctor. They can confirm if you have a weakened pelvic floor or one that is hypertonic (too tight). If needed, your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist or continence professional to determine the cause and instruct you with exercises to target your specific needs.
Weakened Pelvic Floor
If your PFM are weak, you may not be able to control them very well, resulting in one or more problems such as:
- Incontinence – leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, etc.
- Sudden or constant urges to urinate
- Feeling as if you didn’t empty your bladder or bowel completely
- Uncontrollable flatulence, either from the anus or vagina
- Reduced or painful sensations
- Sliding of a tampon or menstrual cup
- Bulge at the vaginal opening (prolapse)
- A feeling of heaviness in the vagina (prolapse)
Some people can experience weakened PFM at an early age. Some others only notice issues after certain life events such as pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause. Others still have experienced weakened PFM due to obesity, chronic constipation, surgery, constant coughing, and heavy lifting.
Strengthening your PFM will help you gain support and control for your bladder and bowel, reducing the likelihood of incontinence issues.
If you’re unsure where your PFM are located, one of the easiest ways to consciously control them is to stop or slow the flow of urine midstream. Hold it for a second or two, and then relax to continue. The muscle that you feel tighten around your vagina and anus is the muscle that you want to target.
Once you know where these muscles are and how to control them, you can do Kegel exercises at any time without anyone knowing.
You can be standing, sitting, or lying down when doing Kegel exercises. Try to squeeze and hold the muscles without tensing your upper body. If you’re holding your breath and pulling your belly button in, you’re doing it incorrectly. Breathe normally and hold the squeeze for ten seconds, then relax. Relaxing is just as important as the exercise. It allows the muscles to recover and prepare for the next contraction. Repeat the exercise up to ten times, relaxing a few seconds in between. Doing this two to three times a day will help strengthen your PFM or keep them toned.
Remembering to do these exercises can be hard. It’s not a part of the body that we see and think about. A great way to schedule a “workout” is to pair it with something you do on a daily basis, such as sitting in traffic, typing an email, watching your favorite show or news, waiting for dinner to heat, etc.
Hypertonic Pelvic Floor
This is the opposite of a weakened pelvic floor in which the muscles are too tight and cannot relax. If you have hypertonic pelvic floor muscles and you perform Kegel exercises, you can make them worse. This is the importance of seeking the advice of a physician beforehand!
Having hypertonic pelvic floor muscles is also called nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction. A specific reason or cause for it is unknown. For some, it may have started in childhood. For others, symptoms may arise in adulthood when urine or bowel movements are voluntarily held, either out of habit, lifestyle, occupation, or previous bladder or bowel incontinence.
There have been several studies seeking to find a cause for nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction. Although these studies have included many different kinds of people, such as those who have been abused, people with scar tissue, those with conditions relating to nerves, those who have various exercise routines, people with anxieties, and many others, no specific cause for nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction has been found.
Symptoms of nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction can include:
- Sudden urges to urinate
- Leaking urine (tired muscles)
- Hesitate urination
- Painful urination
- Bladder pain
- Painful sex
- Pelvic aches after intercourse
- PFM spasms
- Lower back pain radiating to the thighs or groin
- Pelvic pain in general
Again, a physical therapist can help identify, target and suggest exercises to help.
Some techniques that may be used to help are:
- Trigger point massage
- Myofascial/tissue release
- Strain-counterstrain – alleviates muscle and connective tissue tightness
- Biofeedback – neuromuscular training in which patients learn how to contract and/or relax muscles
Physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor dysfunction may be found at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Web site (www.womenshealthapta.org/plp/)
Vaginal Discharge and Cervical Mucus
Every person with a vagina will have vaginal discharge, mucus, and secretions on a normal basis. These are a normal part of vaginal functions and self-cleaning.
This fluid is made by glands in the vagina, which help prevent infection by carrying away dead cells and bacteria.
The amount of discharge, the odor, and the color will change depending on where you are in your cycle.
The color usually ranges from clear to milky white-ish.
It’s normal for the amount of discharge to increase during ovulation, breastfeeding, or sexual arousal. It may also increase if there is a lack of personal hygiene.
This fluid is secreted by the cervix and plays a part in nourishing and protecting sperm as it makes its journey to meet with an egg.
The amount of mucus will fluctuate during ovulation and will peak during the most fertile days in your cycle. Cervical mucus is normally lowest immediately after your period, which can cause a feeling of dryness.
The normal consistency of mucus is clear and stretchy, similar to that of egg whites.
Taking note of what’s normal for you in both discharge and mucus will help you keep your vagina healthy. If there are any changes in odor, color or texture, or if you experience itching or burning, it’s a sign that you may have an infection and that it’s time to contact a physician.
Some of us experience the extra wetness while either of these are exiting our bodies. It can make moving around uncomfortable, and cause chafing, irritation or rashes. Some people experience an accumulation of wetness that seeps through to their outer clothes.
Using a pad on your underwear to collect mucus is safe but it is not suggested to regularly use a tampon during these times. Because tampons absorb all moisture, you may experience vaginal dryness, micro-tears, and vaginal ulcers, and have an increased risk of infections – or even more serious, toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
Menstrual cups are perfect for collecting excess discharge and mucus, and are safe to wear for up to 12 hours before needing to be removed and washed. They can be emptied and re-inserted immediately afterwards. Unlike tampons, you can use any size menstrual cup to help reduce the amount of excess moisture.
Menstrual cups do not absorb or interfere with the delicate balance in your vagina, so you can use one even when you’re not on your period!
Menstrual Cups for Homeless or Developing Countries
Menstrual cups are a great idea for anyone – as long as they have access to clean water. Otherwise, it can cause some problems.
We’ve all seen companies advertise that they donate menstrual hygiene products to developing countries or those in need, including menstrual cups. This is awesome and I stand behind them 100%. I’ve donated money and items, and purchased items from companies that donate and distribute. I’ve done both online and locally.
If you’re interested in being a part of this, there are many organizations online that have a hand in supplying these items, as well as menstrual cup companies.
Some menstrual cup companies offer a “Buy One, Give One” program, where every cup purchased equates to a cup given to someone in need.
Normally cup companies hold local classes to teach the people how to use a cup and how to care for it.
If water is available, it can be boiled to drink and can also be used to clean a cup, as long as the water has not been contaminated with chemical toxins.
However, if the person or area does not have access to clean water on a regular basis, a menstrual cup may not be the best idea.
Menstrual Cup vs Menstrual Disc
Both a menstrual cup and a menstrual disc collect your menstrual flow instead of absorbing it like a pad or tampon. An average large-sized menstrual cup will hold approximately the same amount as a menstrual disc. They each can be worn safely for up to 12 hours before needing to be removed, thrown out or rinsed and reinserted, depending on your flow. All types of internal birth control can be worn at the same time, including the IUD and ring. Neither the cup nor disc will interfere with the delicate pH balance of the vagina.
The similarities between the two end there.
Menstrual cups are normally bell or funnel/V-shaped.
Menstrual discs are shaped more like a diaphragm. They have an outer ring with a soft center.
Menstrual cups come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, diameters, firmness, and even colors, to suit many different people.
Menstrual discs follow a “one size fits most” system and, therefore, may not be comfortable for all people because the diameter of the rim is quite large.
Here are some more key differences between menstrual cups and menstrual discs.
While using either the cup or the disc, practice will be needed to figure out the best way to insert and remove the device FOR YOU.