This guide covers everything you need to know about menstrual cups. From choosing the right menstrual cup from for your body type to the best menstrual cups money can buy. Everything is explored. Why? ‘Cause knowledge is power!
Warning: If you are a prissy girl who is easily offended then stop reading here. This guide will discuss your vagina, your period and other topics you may find disturbing.
For everyone else who is comfortable with their body and wants to learn everything there is to know about the most amazing feminine hygiene product available; keep reading!
Now when I say ultimate guide I don’t say it lightly. This guide is literally HUGE! Use the index below to jump to your desired section or keep reading through from top to bottom. By the time you have finished reading this guide you will be a menstrual cup expert. Cool, huh?
- Why have you never head about menstrual cups?
- What is a menstrual cup?
- Advantages and disadvantages of Menstrual cups
- How to choose the right menstrual cup for your body
- Menstrual cup buyers guide
- The best menstrual cups examined
- Menstrual Cup Users Guide
- How to fold a menstrual cup
- How to insert a menstrual cup
- How to remove a menstrual cup
- How to clean your menstrual cup
- How to maintain and store your menstrual cup
With the introduction out of the way, lets jump right into the wonderful world of menstrual cups.
Why have you never heard about menstrual cups?
I was oblivious to the fact that menstrual cups actually existed until one of my friends on a mission actually convinced me to give it a go. While researching menstrual cups I noticed there was no guide online that covered them and their benefits in great detail. As a now devout user, I have created the guide I would have wanted to read while when I first discovered menstrual cups and I hope that it helps you too.
Although menstrual cups may appear to be a new invention, they were actually patented in 1932 by a group of midwives (around the same time as commercial tampons were introduced). So why do you hear so little about them?
Well, it all comes down to funding. Pads and tampons are an ongoing cost that guarantee the manufacture repeated purchases. Guaranteed purchases equals guaranteed profits and these profits are HUGE (The tampon and pad industry is worth over $700 million in the US alone). The profits are then partially used by the manufacturers to fund monstrous advertising campaigns to promote more buying.
Since menstrual cups are a one off purchase that can last up to 10 years, the manufacturers do not see the same level of profit and as a result are unable to help raise awareness. To be fair, if you were a retailer, which would you stock on your shelf out of the following?
- A product that is guaranteed to be purchased monthly by your customers
- A product that is bought once and will not need to be replaced for years.
The obvious answer is product 1. Since retailers and manufacturers both want continued sales, despite being a potentially life changing product; the menstrual cup has never received the recognition that tampons and pads have received.
You can change that!
Share this article. Tell your friends and family. Yell it from the rooftops! Let the world know just how amazing the menstrual cup actually is.
With my long winded introduction out of the way, lets get on with the guide.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a type of feminine hygiene product (like tampons, pads and liners) constructed of a flexible material. It is inserted inside the vagina during menstruation to catch blood.
The menstrual cup gets it’s name from how it collects blood. Rather than being absorbed into the feminine hygiene product (like a tampon or pad) the blood pools inside a cup and is collected until the menstrual cup is removed and emptied. Unlike tampons and pads, menstrual cups are reusable.
If you have not heard of the term menstrual cup before then you may have heard of by one of it’s other names:
- Period Cup
- Instead Cup
- Diva Cup
- Lily Cup
- Lunette Cup
You may have noticed that many of these are actual brand names of menstrual cups. When talking about menstrual cups, many women refer to them by their brand rather than the broad term “menstrual cup”.
Please note that I have moved the menstrual cup FAQ to the bottom of the article due to so many questions being asked and requiring an answer
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a menstrual cup?
It is amazing that menstrual cups are not more commonly used given that they have so many benefits. These benefits include convenience, health, cost and environmental.
Lets look at each of these benefits in greater detail. If you are new to menstrual cups then you will definitely be surprised at all the positives.
Longer wear – A menstrual cup can be worn up to 2 – 3 times longer than a tampon. This means that menstrual cups are great for overnight use or those times when you don’t have ready access to a bathroom.
No strings attached – Literally, menstrual cups have no strings or wings making them the perfect menstrual solution for women who lead physically active lifestyles. Running? Swimming? Yoga? Enjoy them all in comfort.
Travel light – Menstrual cups are perfect for holidays and road trips as you do not need to worry about buying or disposing of products. If you enjoy hiking, camping or travelling a menstrual cup should be your feminine hygiene product of choice.
Absorb more – Menstrual cups are capable of holding up to an ounce of liquid, that’s five times as much liquid than a tampon can hold. Lady’s with a heavy flow rejoice! A friend of mine recently converted to menstrual cups has a heavy flow. Previously she used BOTH a tampon AND pad because her tampon would always leak. She now only uses a menstrual cup without leaks.
Focus on your job – Menstrual cups allow you to focus on your job. Are you deployed? A firefighter? No need to pack the pads and tampons. A single menstrual cup will do.
Nothing harmful – Unlike other feminine hygiene products, menstrual cups contain no harmful substances.
Nah, no, nope and definitely not.
You wouldn’t put these chemicals inside you on their own, so why would you do the same when they are found in tampons or pads?
Shock free – Unlike tampons, menstrual cups have not been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
Kiss the dry goodbye – You know that dryness that can come on from wearing tampons? That awful sensation is a thing of the past. Tampons absorb every bit of moisture around them. Unfortunately this includes healthy bodily fluids that are supposed to stay inside your body. Organic tampons still suffer from the same problem! Since menstrual cups collect blood rather than absorb it you will not experience a dryness down there.
Hypoallergenic – Sensitive skin? Dermatitis? Latex allergies? Menstrual cups will not trigger your allergies.
Can fix health problems – The fit of the menstrual cup means that you may no longer experience menstrual cramping. Goodbye Tylenol and Midol! Many women report that they no longer suffer from dryness, infections and vaginal itching since swapping over from tampons and pads to the menstrual cup. Some women even report they bleed less when using a menstrual cup instead of a tampon!
Odor free – Have you ever wondered what that smell was only to discover that it is actually you? When exposed to air, menstrual fluid can give off a unique and somewhat unpleasant odor. Menstrual cups prevent air from reaching the blood preventing bad smells from occurring.
Double is not a problem – If you have the rare condition known as uterus didelphis ( having two cervixes) then menstrual cups are still a viable period solution. Because the cup sits below the cervix it is will still collect blood and fit right.
The average woman spends approximately $120 a year or on pads, tampons and liners. This works out to be approximately a whopping $5600 over your lifetime.
While many women consider tampons and pads a necessary monthly expense, buying these products can still be a major struggle for low income households. Menstrual cups are a one time purchase that saves big in the long run.
A menstrual cup is a one off cost that will last many years if properly cared for. Now you can skip the tampon and pad section at the grocery store!
Lets say that you are on your period. If you were to use 5 disposable feminine hygiene products a day for 5 days you will use 300 disposable pads or tampons across a year. This grows to over 10,000 disposable products across your lifetime! Seriously, if you were to line up that many tampons they would end up to be twice as tall as the empire state building. That’s a LOT of waste.
Being reusable and lasting many years with proper care, menstrual cups will help to reduce landfill. By being more environmentally friendly you will have a greener period if you use menstrual cups (although if you ACTUALLY have a green period you should definitely see your doctor).
But there are disadvantages…
After reading all those benefits menstrual cups sound too good to be true, don’t they? I’ll be honest with you; despite all the benefits, there are some disadvantages to menstrual cups. This guide is designed to inform you about every possible aspect of menstrual cups. While I do want to convert you, I want you to be sure they are right for you.
Menstrual cup disadvantages include:
Learning curve – Unlike other feminine hygiene products, practice is required to perfect the technique of inserting and removing the menstrual cup.
More mess – While using menstrual cups you will be washing your hands more than usual. Particularly when you are just learning how to correctly use a menstrual cup.
Difficult if young If you are a younger girl who is yet to have intercourse then you may find inserting a menstrual cup difficult. A menstrual cup can also break the hymen, which is used as the evidence of virginity in some cultures. This can discourage young women who have been brought up in those cultures from using menstrual cups.
Fit problems – Menstrual cups will not fit everyone. If you have fibroids (benign tumors that develop on the walls of the uterus) or a dropped uterus (the uterus sags into the vagina itself) then you may find a menstrual cup will not fit correctly.
Maintenance – After each cycle it is recommended that you sterilize the menstrual cup before storing it away. While a minor inconvenience, it is still a step that is not required with pads or tampons.
So as you can see, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Despite this, menstrual cups are not for everyone.
The anatomy of a menstrual cup
As you can see, the design of a menstrual cup is quite basic. Despite numerous brands being available, the vast majority resemble the bell like shape above.
The only real exception to this look are disposable menstrual cups, which closely resemble a contraceptive diaphragm .
How to choose the right menstrual cup for your body
Unlike tampons and pads, menstrual cups are a bit more difficult to fit. It may take you a few cups before you find the perfect one for you. Below are all the things to consider when choosing a menstrual cup. It’s not a perfect science but by taking the following into consideration you will be able to make an educated guess. Chances are you will love your new menstrual cup!
What is your age and have you given birth?
The majority of menstrual cup brands come in two different sizes.
Manufacturers recommend that women under the age of 30 who have never given birth vaginally should choose a smaller size menstrual cup. On the flipside women over 30 or who have had a vaginal birth should wear the larger size.
How does age affect the required menstrual cup size? As you age your hips will naturally widen. With this widening your vaginal muscles will lose some of their elasticity. As a result a larger menstrual cup is recommended.
This is just a general rule
Every woman is different. For instance, some woman are over 30, have children but still have incredibly strong pelvic floor muscles due to being very physically active. If this is you then you may still feel more comfortable with a smaller cup. You will be able to make the best decision if you know your own body and use that information alongside manufacturers suggestions.
How high does your cervix sit?
Did you know that the position of your cervix rises and falls according to your menstrual cycle? Knowing where your cervix sits during menstruation can also play a role in determining the right menstrual cup for you.
- High Cervix – If your cervix is hard to reach or you cannot feel it at all then your cervix sits high during ovulation. A longer menstrual cup will likely be required.
- Average Cervix – If your cervix is easy to reach but doesn’t sit low then your cervix height is average. The good news for you is that you will be fine with most lengths of menstrual cup.
- Low Cervix – If you find that your cervix sits just inside of your vagina (roughly an inch or so) then you have a low cervix and will need to choose a shorter cup
You can determine where your cervix sits by inserting a clean finger inside your vagina to find it. Slowly move your finger to the back of your vagina, past the pelvic bone and what can only be described as an “empty space”. The cervix is a round nub with a decline in the middle. During menstrual bleeding the cervix should feel like the tip of your nose.
You many wish to measure your cervix height a couple of days across your period as it may not sit in exactly the same location each day.
How heavy is your flow?
Despite many women believing that they have a heavy flow this simply isn’t the reality. Studies have shown that the average woman’s flow is only moderate. So what is moderate? 1 – 4 oz (2 – 8 tablespoons if you are having a hard time picturing it in your head) over then course of the entire period. The average sized menstrual cup is designed to satisfactorily cope with the average flow.
If you do have a heavy flow then you should choose a cup with a higher capacity. A menstrual cup with a higher capacity will need to be emptied less frequently.
When in doubt of your flow it is always best to overestimate. This way you will not be changing your menstrual cup too often.
Menstrual cup buyers guide
Now you know what a menstrual cup is. Check. You know how to measure your body for a suitable cup. Check. Okay, now for the final step before you buy. It’s time to take a look some questions you should ask when comparing one menstrual cup to another.
What material is the menstrual cup made of?
By and large, reusable menstrual cups are made from one of three different materials:
- Natural gum rubber (latex)
- Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)
Silicone menstrual cups are currently longer lasting of the three material choices. Latex and TPE will start to break down earlier than silicone but still have an incredibly long shelf life.
The majority of menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicon. When choosing a menstrual cup it is important you take your allergies into consideration. Latex allergies are not uncommon and using the incorrect material could prove dangerous. Natural gum rubber has been known to trigger latex allergies.
There is one exception to the rule and that is the Softcup. The Softcup is made from polyethylene.
Does the menstrual cup have a stem
Some menstrual cups have a stem or handle on the base. The stem is designed to assist with inserting and removing the menstrual cup.
There are numerous types of stems used on menstrual cups including:
- Ball stem – An oval or rounded ball.
- Ring stem – The stem loops over to form a ring.
- Flat stem – Flat like a piece of paper.
- Solid Stem – The stem is solid.
- Hollow Stem – The stem is hollow tube .
A stem is not a necessary feature. Some women even find the stem uncomfortable. You will still be able to insert and remove your menstrual cup without it. Fortunately you can easily remove the stem from their menstrual cup by neatly cutting through it with a sharp knife. Some women leave ¼ of an inch of the stem remaining when cutting it, claiming it makes removal easier.
Don’t want to cut your menstrual cup? You can also invert most brands of menstrual cups, meaning the stem will be on the inside. The only downside to this method is that it will reduce the holding capacity of the menstrual cup.
How firm is the menstrual cup?
Certain brands of menstrual cups are firmer than others and can vary according to the size of the cup itself.
A firmer menstrual cup will pop open after being inserted easier than a softer cup. A firmer cup may press tighter against the vaginal wall which can result in a tighter seal which in turn prevents leaking.
The downside is that some women find a firmer menstrual cup less comfortable to wear than a cup softer cup.
What color is the menstrual cup?
While looking around you may have noticed that menstrual cups come in either a colored (made from food safe grade dye) or clear silicon option. What you may not have realized is that the color serves a greater purpose than just looking pretty.
As you are no doubt aware, blood is great at staining anything it touches. Since menstrual cups constantly come into contact with blood they will eventually start to stain.
Clear menstrual cups tend to lose their initial appearance faster than the colored variety and get yellowish stains. While the shade of colored cups may change over time, stains are not as noticeable; particularly on darker colored cups like blue or purple.
Stains do not affect the performance and should not be used as an indicator of whether a menstrual cup is clean or not. If you really like a particular colored menstrual cup over the others then just go with it!
Does the menstrual cup have measuring lines?
Some brands of menstrual cups have measuring lines on the side of them (similar to a measuring cup you would use when cooking). These markers are useful if you need in determining exactly how much menstrual fluid is collected over a period of time.
Not all menstrual cups have measurements so if this is a feature that appeals to you then be sure to shop around.
Does the menstrual cup contain suction holes?
You may have noticed that some menstrual cups contain tiny little holes just below the rim. These holes allow air to flow inside the cup, preventing a vacuum like seal from forming. Essentially, these holes allow the menstrual cup to be removed easier than a cup that does not feature them.
While these holes are a benefit, they can get dried blood stuck in them if you do not properly rinse your menstrual cup. This isn’t the biggest issue as you can easily remove it with toothbrush bristles. The larger the suction holes on the menstrual cup, the easier they will be to clean.
Is the menstrual cup ribbed?
You may notice that some menstrual cups feature ribs or a textured surface towards the base of the cup. No, it is not ribbed for your pleasure (there isn’t that much pleasurable about a period), the textured section allows you to better grip your menstrual cup when inserting and removing it.
These textured areas are particularly handy if you have removed the stem or handle from your cup.
Does the menstrual cup have FDA approval?
The sales of menstrual cups is strictly regulated by government health agencies. It is vital that you check that the particular brand has approval from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to buying .
Brand name menstrual cups will all have FDA approval however there have been reports of rogue importers selling low quality menstrual cups from china at a cheap price. This object is going to be sitting in your vagina on a monthly basis. You do not want to run the risk of infection or other health conditions for the sake of saving a few dollars.
The best menstrual cups
Now that you know what to look for when comparing cups its time to review some of the most best menstrual cups available. These cups are the favorites of women the world over. Lets take a look at what makes them so great.
Remember, your vagina is unique. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. You may have to try a few different types of menstrual cups before you find the perfect one for you.
Most popular menstrual cup
Hands down the most popular menstrual cup in America. The Diva Cup does its job and does it well. Made in Canada, the diva cup is constructed from 100% medical grade silicon. Definitely no skimping on quality there.
The Diva cup is available in two sizes:
Size 1 (small) – For pre-childbirth and under the age of 30.
- Length: 2.25”
- diameter: 1.69”
- Stem: Hollow Round
Size 2 (large) – If you have birthed a child or are over the age of 30.
- Length: 2.25”
- diameter: 1.81”
- Stem: Hollow Round
Since size 2 is bigger it is also more suited to those with a heavier than normal flow.
The cup features measuring lines of 1/4oz and 1/2oz respectively, great for those of you who want to learn how heavy your flow actually is or need to record it for medical reasons.
Also included in the Diva Cups packaging is a cotton carry bag. Perfect for storing your menstrual cup in at the end of your cycle.
Many people use the diva cup as it is the cheapest entry in the quality menstrual cup market. This makes the diva cup a great starting point if you wanted to test a menstrual cup out for yourself.
Best smaller sized menstrual cup
Lunette Menstrual Cup
Style: 6 colors available
- 100% medical grade silicone.
- Made in Finland.
- Free storage pouch.
Another popular choice for menstrual cups is the Lunette. While the main appeal of the Lunette menstrual cup is its smaller size; it is still a very effective menstrual cup. This is the menstrual cup I use and could not be happier with it’s performance.
The Lunette Menstrual Cup is available in two sizes:
Model 1 – For light to normal flow.
- Length: 1.9”
- diameter: 1.6”
- Stem: Flat
Model 2 For normal to heavy flow.
- Length: 2”
- diameter: 1.8”
- Stem: Flat
As you can see, the sizing of the Lunette Menstrual Cup runs considerably smaller than the Diva. If you had trouble inserting the Diva Cup because it was too big then you should definitely give the Lunette a try.
As you can see below, the lunette menstrual cup is available in many different colors. Made from food and medical grade dyes, the darker colored cups are a little more resistant to stains than the clear version. That said, a clear option is also available if you prefer.
The suction holes on the lunette menstrual cup are larger than that of the diva. The larger holes make the lunette a much easier to clean menstrual cup.
The lunette is also made from a firmer silicon than the diva cup, allowing it to easily pop open once it is inserted. Like the Diva Cup, the Lunette also comes with a storage pouch.
Best rubber menstrual cup
Believe it or not, this menstrual cup has been manufactured since 1987. Manufactured in the USA from natural gum rubber (latex); the Keeper menstrual cup claims that it will last up to 10 years with proper care.
The Keeper Menstrual Cup is available in two sizes:
Size A – For women who have given birth.
- Length: 2.13”
- diameter: 1.81”
- Stem: .1” hollow tube
Model 2 For women who have not given birth.
- Length: 2.05”
- diameter: 1.73”
- Stem: 1” hollow tube
Be careful with the sizing of the keeper. Unlike other menstrual cups; which go from small to large, the Keeper works in reverse. Size A is the larger of the two sizes. Pay attention, you do not want to order the wrong sized menstrual cup!
As now seems to be the norm; a natural carry bag is found in the packaging. The carry bag is used for when you wish to store your Keeper menstrual cup away at the end of your cycle.
Unfortunately, being made of latex; this menstrual cup is unsuitable for anyone who suffers from a latex allergy. If this applies to you, stick to menstrual cups that are made from silicon (There are many other choices available to you in this buyers guide!).
Best disposable menstrual cup
A Softcup is a disposable menstrual cup. You may be thinking “Isn’t the benefit of menstrual cups the fact that they are reusable for years?” You would be correct, however, the soft cup offers some advantages over the traditional menstrual cup.
The softcup can be worn during sex. Yep. You read that right.This menstrual cup can be worn during sex. You know what that means don’t you? All pleasure with none of the mess. There is nothing worse than destroying a set of sheets just because you got caught up in a moment of passion just because its that time. Simply insert a Softcup and no more worry.
Despite being worn during sex, the Softcup is not a contraceptive. Instead, think as a mess retainer. The Softcup can also be worn as a replacement for a standard menstrual cup, pad or tampon as well.
An interesting thing about the soft cup is that there are two separate varieties:
- Softcup – Your standard disposable menstrual cup. Wear it once. When full, simply remove the cup and dispose of it.
- Reusable Softcup – This soft cup can be reused. A single reusuable Softcup lasts a single menstrual cycle. It is then disposed of.
Both varieties of Softcup are purchased in packets containing multiple cups.
So if you are tired of your pads and tampons but are not ready to switch over to a full blown menstrual cup then try Softcups.
Menstrual Cup Users Guide
This section covers everything you need to know about how to use a menstrual cup; from inserting and removal to cleaning and maintenance. I even look at how you can get your head around using the menstrual cup for the first time.
Use the below links to jump to your preferred section. If you are a menstrual cup beginner I strongly recommend reading through so you know exactly what to expect when it comes to using a menstrual cup.
- How to fold a menstrual cup
- How to insert a menstrual cup
- How to remove a menstrual cup
- How to clean your menstrual cup
- How to maintain and store your menstrual cup
Before you use your menstrual cup for the first time
Okay, so you have purchased your brand new menstrual cup and are now cant wait to get started (or like me and looking for reasons not to start using it). Let’s take a look at some things you will need to overcome before you get started.
The stare off – I know what you are thinking because I thought it too. How on earth is that thing going to fit in my hoo-ha? Yes, menstrual cups do look intimidating but when folded it is only just larger than a regular tampon. Your vagina is a magical place. If it can make room for a baby coming out it can definitely handles a squishy piece of silicon barely two inches in diameter.
Reassuring words: You have already bought the thing, it would be silly to turn back now. At least give it a go!
Take your time – You will need practice inserting a menstrual cup (and if you nail it first time then lucky you, you are much more coordinated than me). Using the correct folding technique and angling your body correctly are skills that you will soon perfect. It just takes time. This is a normal part of learning any new skill.
Reassuring words: It’s like learning bike, you don’t just hop on and do it!
You may leak – Even if you think you inserted the menstrual cup perfectly on your first it is worth wearing a disposable liner. After the first cycle or two and you are feeling confident then you can skip the liner.
Reassuring words: It’s still like learning to ride a bike, you need training wheels before you are confident to ride on your own!
Okay, stop trying to talk yourself out of it you big baby. Lets look at how you can fold menstrual cups to a less scary size.
How to fold a menstrual cup
My first thought when I saw the size of a menstrual cup is “how on earth is that thing going to fit into my hoo-ha?”. Yes menstrual cups do look intimidating but they fold down to a fraction of their size.
Learning the folding technique that works best for you is a vital part of owning a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are folded up before “popping” into place after being inserted.
The video below outlines some of the different ways you can fold your cup for easy insertion. Step by step instructions are outlined below the video for each fold.
The C fold
The most basic and commonly used fold is the C fold. The C fold gets it’s name by the shape left when the fold is completed (it looks like the letter C. Or the Letter U, depending on how you hold it). This fold is commonly found in the instructions on menstrual cup packaging. It is also one of the thicker folds you could use.
How you do it:
- In one hand place your menstrual cup between your fingers and thumb and pinch the cup, squeezing both sides of the cup flat together.
- Using your index finger to assist you, fold the cup in half.
- With the cup folded in half, pinch the cup together. The lip should form the shape of the letter C when looked at front on.
- Hold the cup at the base to insert.
The punch-down fold
This fold is much easier to insert due because the width is decreased. So why doesn’t everyone use this fold? Depending on the menstrual cup you use, you may have difficulty with the menstrual cup popping open when inserted.
How you do it:
- Push the rim of the menstrual cup down into the base of the cup with your finger.
- With the rim still pushed down, squeeze the sides of the cup together
- Still squeezing, grasp the cup at it’s base to insert.
The 7 Fold
Another fold that helps reduce the width of the menstrual cup. Try this fold if you are having trouble getting the punch-down fold to pop open with your brand of menstrual cup. The name comes from the shape of the rim resembling the number 7.
How you do it:
- Squeeze the menstrual cup so that it flattens out (similar to how you would begin a C fold).
- Take one of the corners and of the cup fold it down. The rim should form the number 7.
- Still holding the cup in the 7 fold, grip the cup as close to the base as possible before inserting.
The triangle fold
The triangle fold is a variation of the 7 fold above. While it will not work with all cups, it makes the fold slimmer again for easy insertion.
How you do it:
- Rather than pull the fold down to form the number 7, continue pulling the corner down until it touches the base of your cup.
The labia fold
The labia fold is aptly named because it resembles a labia (well it does on menstrual cups with a thinner rim. A thicker rim will distort the look somewhat but the fold will still work). This fold can be a little tricky to get the hang of and will require practice.
How you do it:
- Hold the cup in one hand and with the other pinch one side of the rim.
- Press down on the base so that you can push the point down towards the base of the cup (similar to a punch down fold but with the extra piece you are pinching).
- With the hand that is holding the cup, squeeze the menstrual cup. The rim should now resemble the look of a labia (you may have to use your imagination).
Do not be afraid to experiment with different folds until you find the perfect one for you!
Okay, so now you know how to fold your menstrual cup it’s time to insert it.
Easily insert a menstrual cup
Do not use OIL BASED or SILICON BASED lubricants to insert a menstrual cup. These ingredients in lubricant can actually break down and damage the silicon in your menstrual cup. If a lubricant is needed, use a water based one.
The key to inserting any menstrual cup is relaxing. If you are tense then you will find it much more difficult to insert your cup.
- Prepare – Wash your hands with soap and rinse your menstrual cup with water to remove any dust that may have accumulated. Do not use soap on the menstrual cup.
- Take your position – Get into a comfortable position:
- Sit on the toilet
- Stand and put one leg up on the toilet
- Lay on the floor with your knees up and legs apart
- Whatever other position you can think up
Whatever you find comfortable. If you are having difficulty inserting the cup then try changing positions.
- Relax – I’ll say it again; relax. Let go of all your troubles, even if just for a moment. Try not to tense your pelvic muscles (the muscles you use to stop and start peeing), keeping your pelvic muscles relaxed will make inserting the menstrual cup a much easier task.
- Get ready – Hold the base of your folded menstrual cup in one hand (use a fold from the previous section) and with your free hand gently separate your labia.
- Insertion – Slowly insert the menstrual cup into your vagina; aiming it horizontally towards your tailbone (the very bottom of your spine). Your cup will pop open before it is completely inserted. Despite this continue to insert towards the tailbone until the stem or base of the cup (if the cup has no stem) is even with the vaginal opening and does not protrude.
- Ensure the cup is open – You may have heard or felt a “pop” as your menstrual cup unfolds. You now want to make sure that the cup is firmly in place, if you touch the base of the cup it should feel round. Rotating the cup 360 degrees in either direction will ensure that the cup is fully open and positioned towards the tailbone. Alternatively you can swirl your finger around the outside of the cup to ensure you have a good seal.
If the cup has not completely opened; insert a a clean finger vagina and press against the vaginal wall just below the cup. This will make space for the cup to fully open if it has not already. Failing that, remove the cup, refold it and try again.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Although it may take what seems like forever to insert your menstrual cup the first time you will soon perfect the technique. Once you get the hang of it you will be able to insert your menstrual cup in seconds.
So now that you have properly inserted your menstrual cup you are free to continue with your day’s activities.
Wearing your menstrual cup
Whether or not you can feel the menstrual cup inside you will vary from woman to woman. Some women report not being able to feel it all unless they really focus while others declare that they can slightly feel it but it is in no way uncomfortable.
If your menstrual cup causes discomfort try reinserting it using a different fold. It is possible that you are using the incorrect size and may need to try a different one. If discomfort persists it is best that you discontinue use.
You can now wear your menstrual cup for up to 12 hours before you need to remove and empty it. By monitoring how full your cup is you will quickly learn how often it will need to be emptied.
You will be pleased to know that you continue wearing your menstrual cup even when going to the toilet to urinate or empty your bowels.
How to easily remove a menstrual cup
So while you have been working, playing or simply hanging out and chilling; your menstrual cup has been busy collecting blood and will have to be emptied. Let’s take a look at the steps to take to easily remove your menstrual cup.
- Prepare – Before you remove your menstrual cup it is vital that you thoroughly wash your hands.
- Take your position – Just like with inserting your menstrual cup you will need to find a comfortable position to remove it whether that be:
- Sit on the toilet
- Stand and put one leg up on the toilet
- Lay on the floor with your knees up and legs apart
- Whatever other position you can think up
You may find that the position you use to remove your menstrual cup may be different to the position you use to insert it. There is no right or wrong position, just go with whatever works for you.
If you are learning how to use a menstrual cup then I recommend attempting to remove it either over the a toilet or in the bath tub. If you make a mess (a distinct possibility the first time) then it will be super easy to clean up.
- Push – Using your abdominal and pelvic floor muscle, gently push downward (the same muscles used when pushing out a poop).
- Grab it! – Insert your thumb and index finger into your vagina until you can reach base of the cup. If your cup has a stem; gently pull it horizontally until you can grab the base of the cup.
- Squeeze it! – Gently pinch the cup to release the seal.
- Pull it! – Gently pull your cup, angling it slightly sideways while moving it from side to side. Be careful not to tilt the cup as it exits your vagina as you risk spilling the contents everywhere (trust me, you definitely don’t want this).
Congratulations, you have successfully removed the menstrual cup from inside of you. If you found it difficult or made a mess; do not despair. With practice, removing a menstrual cup will take mere seconds.
Emptying your menstrual cup
So you have removed your menstrual cup and it is now balancing precariously in your in you hand. The next step is emptying it.
Simply empty the menstrual cup into the toilet or sink. Be careful not to pour the cup out from too high up or you risk the blood splattering everywhere. The lower the height you empty your cup from, the less chance of mess.
Cleaning your menstrual cup
Once your cup is empty you will need to clean it before you reinsert it. A menstrual cup should be washed at least twice a day ( a minimum of once every 12 hours, aligning with how often you need to empty it). Regularly washing your menstrual cup will prevent bad smells from occurring.
Ignore what menstrual cup companies recommend; you do NOT need to use their specific brand of wash/tablets in order to effectively clean your cup. While there is nothing wrong with using these products, they work just as well as any mild soap but are generally more expensive.There are five ways you can wash your menstrual cup;
- The rinse – Medical grade silicone is not a material that harbors bacteria. It is safe to simply rinse your menstrual cup with water and reinsert it. Every so often you will still want to wash your menstrual cup with soap.
- The soapy wash A mild and unscented soap and warm water will help you to easily clean your menstrual cup. Be sure to rinse the cup thoroughly in fresh water, you do not any left over soap residue irritating your vagina. Instead of soap you can also use a feminine wash that is made to be safely used on the genitals.
- The vinegar wash Wash your menstrual cup in a vinegar solution (1 part vinegar to 9 parts water). Using clean hands rub and swirl the cup in the solution for around a minute. While manufacturers warn you not to use vinegar to clean, based on research; I would be VERY surprised if it actually lead to your menstrual cup wearing out when used at such a low concentration for such a short period of time.
- The Natural wash – This is how I clean my menstrual cup. I make the wash myself. Simply combine ½ cup of filtered water, a tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 drops of orange essential oil (therapeutic-grade) in a spray bottle and shake. Spray onto your menstrual cup and rinse immediately with warm water. Presto, home made menstrual cup wash that smells great!
- The denture tablet – You know those effervescent tabs that clean dentures after being in the mouth all day? Well they are awesome for cleaning menstrual cups. After you have rinsed your menstrual cup, Simply fill a 10 oz cup with very warm (not hot) water and place your menstrual cup inside. Leave to sit for 20 minutes before removing. This method is particularly effective at removing stains from menstrual cups.
You may find that blood gets stuck in the suction holes. When washing fill the cup with water, cover the opening with your hand and squirt the water out the suction holes. If any blood remains in the holes, simply stretch and bend the suction holes under water.
By regularly cleaning your menstrual cup you will prevent any odors from building up. There is nothing worse than a bad smelling menstrual cup!
But how do you clean your cup in public restrooms?
You don’t want to freak out other people in the restroom cleaning your bloody menstrual cup under the sink, they would assume you had been stabbed! Below are two techniques you can use to effectively clean your cup in public restrooms:
- The wipe down – After emptying your cup, simply wipe it using dry or damp tissue. At your next convenience, clean the cup using one of the three washing methods.
- The water bottle – Carry a bottle of water into the stall with you and rinse your menstrual cup into the toilet. This method will require some forward thinking on your part; You will need to keep a bottle of water on hand for when the need arises. You can also use this method when camping or at any other location away from a fresh water source.
So as you can see, whether you are at home or out and about; cleaning your menstrual cup is not a big deal.
Do NOT use the following cleaners on your menstrual cup:
- Rubbing alcohol
- Antibacterial soap
- Oil based soap
- hand sanitizer
- hydrogen peroxide
- Any other aggressive cleaner you can think up
These cleaners can either damage the silicon in your menstrual cup, causing it to wear more quickly or worse; irritate your hoo-ha (trust me, you do NOT want a burning sensation own there).
Remember, that you should still refer to the instructions of your menstrual cup. Each brand will have it’s own instructions on how to effectively clean their particular menstrual cup.
When your period has finished (Yay!) you will need to clean and sterilize your menstrual cup prior to storing it away until your next period (Boo!).
Menstrual cup maintenance and storage
before you put your menstrual cup into storage it is important that you give your cup a good clean and sterilization. It is important that you follow your menstrual cups instructions regarding the sterilization process (some cups, such as the keeper are not recommended to be boiled).
The most common way to sterilize your menstrual cup is in a pot of boiling water. Simply add water to a saucepan and bring to the boil before adding your cup. The boiling time varies from cup to cup so be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions.
If your cup can be boiled, use a deep pot. This will allow your menstrual cup to float. Try to avoid your menstrual cup from touching the bottom of the pot as this will very likely result in your cup turning into a melted mess.
Once your menstrual cup is sterilized store it in a fabric drawstring bag. Many menstrual cups come with their own storage bag. If your menstrual cup did not come with a bag then they are fairly inexpensive to buy. With your menstrual cup tucked safely away you can now store it in a drawer or cabinet.
Do not store your menstrual cup in an airtight container or plastic bag. You run the risk of mold growing if you use these storage options. You don’t want mold growing on anything that you are going to insert into your vagina!
During the sterilization and storage process you should inspect your menstrual cup for signs of wear. While discoloration is normal, keep a look out for a thin white film on the surface of the cup or areas where the smooth surface has turned coarse. These features can cause vaginal irritation. If present it is best that you dispose of your menstrual cup and buy a new one.
It is important that you correctly care for your menstrual cup. A properly cared for menstrual cup can last up to 10 years. Some women even report that with proper care they have had their menstrual cup for over 15 years and is still going strong.
Menstrual Cup FAQ
Below I will answer commonly asked questions surrounding menstrual cups. If you have a question regarding menstrual cups not covered in this guide; ask it in the comments below and it may even be added to this section.
How long can you wear a menstrual cup for?
menstrual cups can be worn for twice as long as tampons. Use the chart below to determine how long you would wear a menstrual cup vs. your tampon use.
|1 – 2 hours||2 – 4 hours|
|3 – 6 hours||6 – 8 hours|
|5 – 6 hours||10 – 12 hours|
Can you feel the menstrual cup inside you?
It may shock you how large a menstrual cup looks. But don’t worry; if used correctly you cannot feel a menstrual cup once it has been inserted into your vagina. While menstrual cups sit low in your vagina they are still high enough that you will not feel it.
Do menstrual cups hurt to remove?
No, absolutely not. Since menstrual cups do not dry out the body like disposable tampons there is not uncomfortable feeling when removed.
Do menstrual cups prevent you from playing sport?
Once you are used to your new menstrual cup you will be able to perform all forms of physical activity as normal. Even doing the splits and headstands! In fact, menstrual cups are more comfortable for swimming than tampons since they do not get waterlogged.
Can menstrual cups be worn overnight?
Menstrual cups can safely be worn through the night. The best practice is to empty your menstrual cup before going to bed and empty it again as soon as you wake.
Below you will find some other amazing resources on menstrual cups.
- A look at all menstrual cups
- The Australian menstrual cup movement
- A great read on society and menstrual cups
Phew, you made it to the end one giant guide on menstrual cups. Do you have any further questions regarding this amazing feminine hygiene product? Let me know below.
If you found this guide helpful then please share it with your friends! Lets convert the world to menstrual cups!
Please note: I do not recommend menstrual cups specific to you and your situation; so please don’t ask. Every woman is unique and what works for some may not for others. An unfortunate part of menstrual cup usage is trial and error. Some find the perfect cup on their first try while others will need to purchase a few before they find the right fit.