Reusable period products, like menstrual cups, can save you money, take less toll on the environment and can be more comfortable to wear compared to traditional options like tampons and pads. That being said, you may not know as much about menstrual cups, like how to choose one and ultimately use one. Don’t worry, we’re here to take the mystery out of how to use a menstrual cup. Find the answers to all of your questions below:
What Is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a reusable tampon alternative that collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. A cup is worn inside the vaginal canal and it sits below your cervix (the base of your uterus and the thing that dilates to allow a baby to exit during birth.) During menstruation menstrual fluid exits your uterus (sloughs off the lining inside) through the cervix. When you wear a tampon the fluid is absorbed. When you wear a pad the blood exits the vagina and is absorbed by the pad in your underwear. When you wear a menstrual cup the fluid is collected inside until you remove the cup and empty it.
Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time. The actual wear time will vary for each person, but generally speaking if you have an average flow you will be able to wear a menstrual cup the full 12 hours. If your flow is heavier you will need to change more frequently.
How to Insert a Menstrual Cup
To insert your menstrual cup you will want to fold it first. There are many fold styles but the easiest for a beginner is the “punch down fold” shown below.
It can take practice to get your menstrual cup to fold and stay folded so keep playing with it until you feel comfortable.
Once folded, it’s time to insert the cup. This can be done when you’re not on your period if you want to practice.
While inserting your cup you will want to try and keep it folded as long as you can until it’s fairly high in the vaginal canal. If it opens too soon you can still try to wiggle it to the correct position, but if this doesn’t work remove it and try again. Remember – this is new! Mistakes will happen but you will get better with practice.
The cup should fit inside without anything sticking out of you, including the stem if there is one. If the stem sticks out you will want to remove the cup and trim it to a comfortable length.
For you to be successful with your cup it needs to be fully opened and sealed against the vaginal walls. To make sure this has happened you can insert a finger and run around the cup walls to check for dents. To help it open fully you can try pushing the base or pushing the vaginal walls out to allow it to open fully.
Is it a good fit?
If your cup can’t be felt, stays in place, and doesn’t leak you have a winner! This may only happen after some trial and error. Most cup users take 1-3 cycles to get things going. You may want to wear backup liners or period underwear until you know it’s going well.
How to Remove Your Menstrual Cup
Removing your cup is farily simple though it is a scary thought at first! You can try removing your cup for the first time while you’re in the shower to reduce your worry about mess.
First, relax! Again, fear and worry will tense up your muscles making it harder to remove your cup.
You must break your cup’s seal before removing. The stem is not to be pulled on as a removal device, it’s just to find the cup! Pinch the base of the cup to break the seal. If it’s too high inside, bear down using your vaginal muscles until it’s low enough, then pinch the base and break the suction. If you have an IUD in place it’s especially important to be sure your strings are not in the way and you aren’t grabbing them.
Gently wiggle down the cup and once it’s out of your body, keep a firm grip with your pinched fingers of the base and keep the cup upright. If over a toilet, tip over and dump the contents. If in the shower, bend down towards your drain and dump the contents low towards the drain.
Wash with warm water and a cup safe cleanser (if desired) and re-insert.
Tips for Menstrual Cup Success (or, ahem… Period Nirvana)
1. While inserting your cup, push against it with your vaginal muscles (like you’re pooping) while pushing it in. Release the muscles when the cup is in the highest position. This gives it extra security to keep it in place.
2. “Burp” your cup after inserting it by pressing the base and releasing air. This can help it open.
3. Bubbles = Trouble! If you feel bubbles it means your cup may be full and it’s time to remove it before you have a leak.
4. Cup too soft? Run it under cold water to stiffen the silicone before you insert it. Firmer cups open easier and are easier to insert.
5. Cup too firm? Run it under hot water to soften the silicone before inserting. Check the temperature before inserting to make sure it doesn’t burn the skin.