Firmness is a hot topic in the menstrual cup community so it’s no surprise people also want to understand menstrual disc firmness. I have some good news. Firmness doesn’t matter all that much for menstrual discs the way it does for menstrual cups.
Why? Discs are totally different products in how they insert, remove, and where they sit in the body. Firmness bears less influence on the comfort and efficacy of how a disc works for you.
Menstrual Disc Firmness Scale
Period Nirvana uses the same firmness rating scale for cups and discs to try and make things less confusing.
Softest all the way through to firmest, menstrual discs can be measured on the same scale as cups. But that’s where the similarities end. What the ratings mean for a cup are different than what they mean for a disc. It’s a mistake to equate your preference for a softer or firmer cup to a softer or firmer menstrual disc. Someone who typically needs a softer cup may still find an average firmness disc entirely comfortable.
When Firmness Matters Most
- Insertion: Discs that are Softest or Soft might be a bit harder to push into position while you insert. With less rigidity, the rim can give way to your finger without movement, making it harder to insert and position. Firmer discs should insert with relative ease. Firmness doesn’t seem to make keeping a disc folded during insertion easier or harder- all discs are pretty large and the way they fold means you might even need to use two hands to keep it slender while you insert. With practice, a softer disc will get easier to insert but initially, users tend to prefer how easy it is to push firmer discs into place.
- Removal: Discs that are Softest or Soft might be more comfortable to remove. Firmer discs have more outward pressure as they leave your body. If you find removals uncomfortable a softer disc might help with this.
When Firmness Matters Some
- Auto-Dumping: Auto-Dumping, also referred to as Self-Emptying, is when your disc empties some of its contents while you’re on a toilet. This is not a leak. Leaks are when period blood lands in your underwear/liner any other time. While not exactly proven scientifically, the general consensus seems to show that firmer discs (when a proper fit) are less likely to auto-dump or require greater exertion to make an auto-dump occur. Meaning, if your disc is on the firmer side and you urinate you might not auto-dump, but when you push for a bowel movement this force should be enough to initiate it. Softer firmness discs might auto-empty with less force needed. If your disc is just barely the correct fit for you and is a bit large and is also firm, this may initiate the disc to become untucked during more everyday moments like exercising or coughing. That’s not normal and means you should look for a better fitting disc.
When Firmness Matters Less
- Comfort: Believe it or not, your vaginal fornix is pretty easygoing. Firm or soft, most people love using discs because they just seem to be comfortable no matter what. There are exceptions to this, as with everything, but by and large, any firmness disc you choose is probably going to be undetectable in your body. This is because the disc’s rim is the only part of the product making contact in your body, coupled with its position higher in your body (no nerve endings.) Pressure from firmer discs can be detected, but it’s rare compared to cups. If you do still experience some form of pressure or bladder pressure with a disc a softer firmness option or smaller diameter disc would help.
- Efficacy: Your menstrual disc doesn’t need to be firmer or softer to open effectively when you insert it. The position and angle of insertion matter more than how firm/soft it is. If you’ve used a menstrual cup before you probably know how important firmness is for making sure the cup opens, seals, and works. This is not the case for menstrual discs. It’s one reason the learning curve is shorter for new disc users than new cup users – once you push it inside it’s pretty intuitive and opens without issue. As long as the disc is tucked under the cervix and behind the pubic bone it should just magically work!
It Matters and It Doesn’t
A big reason I gravitate towards menstrual discs for my own periods is due to their easy-going nature. They’re far less finicky to get working without leaks and they’re “one size fits most.” Ask anyone who has switched from a menstrual cup to a menstrual disc their experience and most do say it’s just easier. Where they differ is in how involved they can be to insert and remove. Discs are usually messier to remove, but thanks to new designs like Hello Disc that offer a removal tab, this is opening up menstrual discs to the users who were hesitant about that aspect. There is a new favorite period product in town and I think menstrual discs are about to make it mainstream.