Menstrual cups have become all the rage lately. As a low-cost, eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads, they’re a great option for today’s environment-conscious woman or person with a period.
But they can also seem intimidating to use if you’ve never tried them. Maybe you’re afraid it won’t work, or worried about using them wrong.
Don’t worry––we’ve got you covered! Read up for some tips and tricks on how to use this newfound trend in the world of period products.
What is the menstrual cup and how exactly does it work?
Shaped like a cylindrical funnel, the menstrual cup does exactly what the name suggests: it collects fluids – in this case, your menstrual fluids, or the blood that’s shed during your period. When inserted, it sits inside the vaginal canal at the base of the cervix.
Reusable menstrual cups are typically made of silicone, so they’re compatible with most bodies––even those with latex allergies. They contain a stem at the bottom to help with insertion and removal, ridges for gripping, a rim at the top that helps form a seal around the vaginal walls to catch the blood, and air holes to help with suction and to break the seal when removing.
Now that you know what a menstrual cup is and how it works, let’s discuss a few tips on the best ways to use it.
Research your options and check out the menstrual cup size guides
It’s important to look into all your options when it comes to finding the right cup for you. Just like tampons and pads, they come in various sizes and brands to accommodate different body shapes and menstrual flows.
Typically, sizes include small, medium and large––small being shorter for those with lower cervixes and lighter flows; large being longer for those with higher cervixes and heavier flows.
In addition to cervix placement and flow, other factors that go into determining the best size include your age, lifestyle, whether you’ve been pregnant, and more.
Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. Most menstrual cup companies offer a specific breakdown on how their product works, and some even have a quiz you can take to find just the right style for you.
Relax and take your time
Think back to when you were 12 or 13 –– remember the first time you tried to use a tampon, how it felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable? Well, it’s the same thing with the menstrual cup. As with anything new that you attempt, it may take a few tries to get it right. So we highly recommend that you don’t take your first go at it while you’re in a rush headed out the door. This will only cause unnecessary frustration and impatience.
Instead, set aside a day when you know you’ll have plenty of time and access to a bathroom without interruptions. Then, relax, sit back, and practice the rest of the tips listed here.
One more thing: even if you allow yourself extra time and attempts, you may not perfect the process during your first session. You’ll have to insert, wear, and remove it a few times to test out fit and leakage. So don’t sweat it if you don’t master this right away. Give yourself plenty of self-compassion!
Use the proper insertion method
Now that you’re properly relaxed and ready to go, let’s talk about insertion.
Since menstrual cups are larger and don’t fit inside your vagina at full size, you’ll need to fold them to get them in. (Don’t worry; they’re very pliable!) You’ll find many suggestions on how to do this, but the one we recommend –– and the most common –– is the C-shape method.
Here’s how to do it:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Wet the cup with a bit of water (not lubricant!).
- Hold the cup horizontally with your index, middle and ring fingers on top and your thumb on the bottom. Then, using your middle finger and thumb, bend the sides of the cup together until they touch to form the C-shape.
- Position yourself how you would insert a tampon (either sitting or standing, whichever is your preference), and then, keeping the cup folded, insert it into your vagina at roughly a 45-degree angle. The cup should then open inside of you.
- Gently pull on the stem of the cup to ensure the rim at the top is sealed to catch the blood flow. You could also insert your finger and feel around the edge of the rim.
If the C-shape method doesn’t work for you, there are other folding options out there. And most companies are good at providing insertion tutorials for their products.
Again, this may take a few tries to get right. In case of leakage, you may want to wear a backup method such as a pantyliner or period underwear until you perfect the process.
Empty your menstrual cup every 12 hours
You can wear your cup up to 12 hours, as they hold more blood and are more sanitary than tampons or pads. Another benefit the cup has over tampons: You can safely wear them overnight––woot!
Once you get used to wearing it, it can be easy to forget about. So don’t forget to empty your cup before leaving home for the day or heading out for long stretches of time.
Remove the cup by pinching the bottom of it
To remove the cup, grip and pinch the base of it for a few seconds. This should pop the seal around the rim and release any air that may have built up. Just make sure you don’t pull on the cup without pinching first––that could end up being painful!
And don’t forget to sit or stand over the toilet (or in the shower) to avoid making a mess in case you spill.
Sterilize your cup before and after each menstrual cycle
Although menstrual cups are a more sanitary alternative to other period products, you still need to follow some basic cleaning guidelines. For starters, rinse your cup after each use and sterilize it in boiling water before and after each menstrual cycle. And be sure to avoid cleaning products that will cause irritation if used inside your body.
A thorough cleaning and sanitizing process should help prevent stains or discoloration, but if you do notice some, try gently scrubbing it with a cleaning brush or soaking it in hydrogen peroxide once or twice a year
Enjoy the many benefits of using your menstrual cup!
Now that you know the basics on how to use your new period product, you can enjoy its many benefits, including:
No irritation or dryness and less risk of infection
Since cups are made with silicone and not cotton or other fibers, they don’t dry out or irritate the mucosa of your vagina. In addition, there’s less risk of infections like toxic shock syndrome.
The average woman uses 240 tampons/year, or 300 lbs. over the course of her menstrual lifetime! 😟 By switching to a menstrual cup, you would significantly reduce the amount of sanitary landfill waste.
You’ll typically spend $50 or more a year on tampons, where the cost of one menstrual cup is around $40. That’s a lot of money saved over the years!
We hope this article has given you more information about the menstrual cup so you can decide if it’s right for you. And to learn more about periods in general and how they affect your body, mind, and desire, check out the Menstrual Cycle collection in the Emjoy app.