This post and the photos within it may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you.
Menstrual cups are gaining some popularity (and for a good reason), and I’ve been covering various topics on how to insert your menstrual cup, sterilize it, remove it (without a mess), and much more.
I want to combine all this in a giga-article, covering everything you need about menstrual cups.
Keep reading to discover comprehensive info on the ins and outs of this eco-friendly alternative to traditional menstrual products.
You can read full-on guides with many additional tips if you want to know something more specific. Here are the contents of this article:
- Menstrual cups: Origin, evolution & how it works
- Type of menstrual cups
- How to use menstrual cups
- Pros & cons
- Menstrual cup alternatives
OK, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Menstrual cups: Origin, evolution & how it works
Origin & evolution
Did you know that menstrual cups have been around for over a century? Me neither! The first early designs were in the late 1800s.
The modern menstrual cup we know today started gaining attention in the 1980s when a medical professional created ‘the keeper’ – the silicone menstrual cup. It was a game-changer and began a new wave of popularity for menstrual cups.
In the 2000s, menstrual cups took off. More and more people started becoming aware of this eco-friendly, cost-effective alternative to disposable products.
Nowadays, many brands have different cup designs, materials, and sizes, and more and more women are trying them & loving the freedom and comfort they provide.
How a menstrual cup works
A menstrual cup is a reusable product that collects your menstrual flow instead of absorbing it, like tampons or pads.
Once you insert it, the cup will create a seal to prevent leaks and collect blood inside.
They’re usually made of medical-grade silicone, rubber, or latex and come in different sizes to fit different bodies.
Summary: Menstrual cups have existed for over a century but gained popularity in the 1980 – 2000s. They create a seal, collect menstrual flow, and are made of medical-grade materials in different sizes to fit different bodies.
Types of menstrual cups:
There are many different types, each with unique features and designs. Here are some common types:
- Bell-shaped cups: A rounded base and a flared rim. Accommodates different cervix positions.
- V-shaped cups: A narrower body, providing a secure fit for those with a lower cervix or a tilted uterus.
- Round or bulbous cups: Оffer a higher capacity making them suitable for individuals with heavy flow.
- Low or high cervix cups: Designed for individuals with a lower or higher cervix. They have the ideal length to ensure a comfortable fit.
- Firmness options: Menstrual cups also come in different firmness levels. Firmer cups offer better control and more resistance and hold their shape better when inserted. Softer cups provide a gentler feel when inserted and are ideal if you are more sensitive.
- Stems options: The cups also have different stem variations to make taking them out easier.
Some great choices for beginners include:
- AllMatters cup – Medium soft, easy to insert
- Saalt cup – Ultra soft, gentle & comfortable
- Flex cup – Medium soft, easy removal
For more choices & details, check the 6 best menstrual cups for beginners.
Good options, if you have a heavy for heavy flow, are:
- Diva cup – 32 ml capacity (equal to 6 tampons)
- Super Jennie – 41 ml capacity
- Venus cup – 47 ml capacity (equal to 9 regular absorbency tampons)
For more, look at the 6 ideal menstrual cups for heavy flow.
Summary: There are many types of menstrual cups, and finding the right one for you depends on factors such as anatomy, flow, and personal preferences.
How to use menstrual cups
It boils down (no pun intended) to three main steps when it comes to using your menstrual cup:
I have articles for each of the steps, explaining everything in detail. But here’s a quick summary of each step:
Part 1: Sterilizing your menstrual cup
First, you have to boil your cup. Add water to a saucepan and heat it on the stove. Once it starts boiling, add your menstrual cup for 3-4 minutes.
Ensure it floats on top and doesn’t stick on the bottom. After that, rinse the cup with fragrance-free natural soap and water.
Part 2: Inserting your menstrual cup
Wash your hands, and then find a comfortable position for inserting the cup. The most common ones are – squatting, sitting on the toilet & leaning slightly forwards, or standing with one leg raised on a toilet seat or bathtub.
Fold the cup; try the C-fold, one of the best beginner-friendly folds. If that doesn’t work for you, try punch-down fold or 7-fold.
Use water-based lube or a bit of water for smoother insertion. You must gently insert the folded cup at a slight angle, aiming toward your tailbone.
Push everything inside, including the cup’s stem (If it pops out and is uncomfortable, once you take it out, you can trim it).
You can check if the cup is adequately open by running a finger around the base. You can use your finger to push against the vaginal wall to help the cup fully unfold.
Check my guide for newbies on inserting a menstrual cup for more tips.
Part 3: Removing your menstrual cup
After no more than 12 hours, you can remove your cups. Find a comfortable position, such as putting one leg up or squatting down. Use your pelvic muscles to bear down and push the cup lower.
Then, reach for the cup’s stem and gently pull it downward. Once the cup is within reach, switch your grip to the base of the cup.
To break the seal, gently pinch the base of the cup with your fingers. Slightly squeeze the cup to release the suction and maintain it at a horizontal angle to prevent any spills.
For my in-depth guide, check how to remove your menstrual cup without making a mess here!
Summary: Using a menstrual cup involves three main steps: sterilizing the cup by boiling it, inserting it using a comfortable position by folding it (adding lube to make it easier), and removing the cup by breaking the seal and squeezing.
Pros & cons of menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are pretty amazing but have some downsides, like everything. After over three years of using one, I can share the most important pros and cons of menstrual cups are:
- Eco-friendly: Because menstrual cups are reusable, they are one of the least wasteful options, unlike disposable pads and tampons.
- Cost-effective: Most brands sell their cups for ~$30 or so, and you can use one for many years, saving you lots of money in the long run.
- Longer wear time: Menstrual cups can be worn for 8 to 12 hours, depending on your flow, providing long-lasting protection.
- Safe: Made with medical-grade silicone, which won’t disrupt your natural vaginal pH. Since they collect menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it, it minimizes the risk of toxic shock syndrome or other issues.
- Super comfy: Once correctly inserted, menstrual cups are comfortable and allow free movement, including swimming or exercising, without leaking.
- Learning curve: Getting used to inserting and removing the cup may take time and practice.
- Cleaning and maintenance: Menstrual cups require regular cleaning and sterilizing between cycles, which adds an extra step to menstrual care.
- It can leak: If you got the wrong size or the cup is inserted wrongly, it won’t be able to create suction, and there may be leaking.
- Can be messy: Emptying the cup can be messy and can cause a bit of stress, especially if you need to empty and clean it in public restrooms.
Find more of the pros and cons of menstrual cups here. Even though they have some disadvantages, menstrual cups are unique, and I can confidently say they are one of my favorite eco-friendly swaps. You can have a smooth and easy transition by following some tips I will share below.
Summary: Menstrual cups have pros, like being eco-friendly, cost-effective, and comfortable, but cons, such as a learning curve, maintenance, potential leakage, and messiness during emptying. Despite the cons, menstrual cups are amazing and my favorite eco-friendly option.
Safety of menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are super safe when used correctly. There are a couple of things to do to ensure everything is fine:
Choose a high-quality cup
You will be good to go if your menstrual cup is made from high-quality medical-grade silicone, natural rubber, or latex-free materials. You can find a list of safe & beginner-friendly options here.
Clean and sterilize it properly
You must sterilize your cup twice – before and at the end of each cycle. You can boil it on the stove in a saucepan or a microwave in a sterilizing silicone cup.
I have a complete guide explaining each option – you can find how to boil your menstrual cup correctly and for how long here.
You must also follow other hygiene practices, such as always handling your cup with clean hands and using fragrance-free natural soaps to wash the cup during your period.
In case you are in a situation where you don’t have the best condition for cleaning it, you can find tips and ways to sterilize your cup without boiling here.
If persistent odor or discoloration occurs, it may be time to replace the cup.
Ensure a proper fit
Choosing the right size and shape of the cup is essential based on your anatomy, cervix height, and flow.
It can be annoying if you get the wrong size, but it may cause your cup to leak or feel uncomfortable.
Luckily, there can also be the chance that your cup isn’t correctly open, and there can be an easy fix.
Stick to recommended wear times
Because of how incredibly comfy menstrual cups are, sometimes you can forget it inside for longer than the recommended time (12 hours). After checking Reddit, I found that, surprisingly or not, it is a common occurrence.
If you wear your cup for 24 hours, most times, there won’t be any terrible consequences, but of course, it’s better if you don’t leave it for more than 12-13 hours. Here is a guide on what to do if you leave your menstrual cup in for too long.
Summary: Menstrual cups are safe when used correctly. Choose a high-quality cup, sterilize it properly, ensure a proper fit, and stick to recommended wear times. Proper hygiene and regular maintenance are crucial for a safe and comfortable experience.
There are some common issues that some menstrual cup users experience. Here are some tips and ideas on how to prevent or fix it if you experience any of those problems –
Difficulty with insertion: Try different folding techniques to find the best for you. Relax your pelvic muscles, use water-based lubricant if needed, and ensure the cup is positioned correctly.
Leakage: Ensure the cup is fully opened and create a proper seal against the vaginal walls. Check that the cup is inserted high enough, and consider trying a different cup size or firmness.
Discomfort or pain:
- Adjust the position and angle of the cup for maximum comfort.
- Trim the stem if it protrudes too much.
- If you experience persistent discomfort, consult a healthcare professional.
- Relax and bear down with your pelvic muscles to lower the cup.
- Pinch the base of the cup to break the seal before gently pulling it out.
- If it’s still difficult, try different techniques or seek guidance from experienced cup users.
Odor or discoloration: Properly clean and sanitize your cup between cycles. If persistent odor or discoloration occurs, consult the cup manufacturer or consider replacing the cup.
Allergic reaction: While it is uncommon, there is the possibility that silicone or rubber material may be causing you an allergic reaction. If you think it is an allergic reaction – immediately stop using it, and it is recommendable to visit your gynecologist.
Inspect for any damage: A menstrual cup can last up to 10 years which is fantastic! But you should regularly inspect it for signs of wear, such as cracks, tears, or deterioration. If you see any signs of damage, you must replace your cup.
Summary: Overcome insertion challenges with different folding techniques and relaxation exercises. Prevent leaks by achieving a proper seal and adjusting the cup position. Address discomfort by modifying the cup angle and trimming the stem as required. Keep your cup clean to avoid odor and discoloration, and inspect it regularly for any signs of damage or wear.
Menstrual cup alternatives
Reusable period pads
Cloth pads are made from soft, absorbent fabric and can be washed and reused. They are available in various sizes and absorbency levels.
I didn’t find them most comfortable for the day (because of their thickness), but I found them okay for the night.
Period panties are designed with built-in absorbent layers. They are washable and reusable, offering a comfortable, eco-friendly option for managing your period.
I tried period panties, and while they felt a bit more comfy than cloth pads, I still prefer the cup. Period panties can be a good addition if you want a cup but are worried about leaks.
Menstrual discs are similar to menstrual cups but are shallower and have different shapes without a stem.
Unlike cups, they sit deeper in the vaginal canal and collect blood in different manners (they are designed to capture the flow in a more horizontal orientation). Because of their design, you can have sex with a menstrual disc.
Organic cotton tampons or pads
Alternatively, you can opt for single-use cotton pads or tampons made from organic cotton, free from synthetic materials and chemicals.
Even though single-use, these products are more environmentally friendly than conventional options.
Summary: Explore reusable period pads, period panties, menstrual discs, and organic cotton tampons/pads as eco-friendly alternatives to menstrual cups. Each option offers different levels of comfort and convenience, allowing you to find the best fit for your needs and preferences.
How do I choose the right cup size?
Finding the right size depends on a few factors:
- Your age
- Length of your cervix (here you can find how to measure it)
- What is your flow firmness
- The flexibility of the cup
- Strength of your pelvic floor muscles
- If you’ve given birth
Most menstrual cups have guides on their websites and thrifty tips on how to pick your menstrual cup. You can use the Put a Cup In quiz here.
How much does it cost?
A menstrual cup costs $30 – $40. While the initial cost is a bit higher, you can save a lot of cash in the long run.
Women spend $80 – $140 per year on menstrual single-use products (tampons or pads).
Additionally, we get a period for about 40 years of our life, so when you calculate that, it ends up quite a lot of money, $5600.
On the other hand, even if you change your menstrual cup every 5 years, you will spend only $320 for 40 years.
How often should I empty my menstrual cup?
This depends on your flow. In general, cups can be worn for up to 8 to 12 hours before emptying. If your flow is heavy, you must change it more often.
How do I clean and care for my menstrual cup during your cycle?
You should wash your cup with mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water between uses. At the end of your cycle, sterilize it by boiling it in water for a few minutes.
Can I use a menstrual cup overnight?
Yes – you can wear your menstrual cup overnight. Just empty and clean your cup before bed and when you wake up.
Can I exercise or swim with a menstrual cup?
Yes, when you insert it correctly, the cup creates a ‘vacuum’ inside and protection for leaking when you move. So, you can freely move, hike, dance, work out, or swim.
Can I use a menstrual cup if I have an IUD (intrauterine device)?
Using a menstrual cup with an IUD is generally safe (1). Just be cautious and adequately position the cup to avoid dislodging the IUD. You can also consult your healthcare provider for advice to be sure about it.
Can I use a menstrual cup if I’m a virgin?
Yes, virgins can use menstrual cups. But if you have concerns or specific questions, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional.
How long do menstrual cups last?
With proper care, menstrual cups can last 1 to 10 years, depending on their quality and the care you provide. However, replacing your cup is advisable if you notice signs of wear and tear or damage.
How do I know if my menstrual cup is in right?
Listen for a suction sound or “pop,” which indicates the cup has formed a seal. You can also pull the stem gently to check for resistance, feel around the cup with a finger, or rotate the base of the cup to ensure it’s open and positioned correctly. For more tips, check How do I know if my menstrual cup is in the right article.
How to tell if a menstrual cup is open?
Insert a finger and move it around the cup gently. This way, you will feel if there are any folds or dents. If the cup isn’t open entirely and folds, insert a finger and gently push the cup side to side. You can find more tips on how to tell if the menstrual cup is open here.
What to do if the menstrual cup stem is poking?
If the stem pokes out and is uncomfortable, trim it slightly once you remove the cup. Do not trim the stem while the menstrual cup is inserted.
What to do if I can’t reach my menstrual cup?
Don’t worry – the cup won’t get lost inside! All you need to do is to push your pelvic muscles to press and push down the period cup.
Menstrual cups are unique and work for most women. If you are considering making the switch but are still unsure, answer those questions for yourself:
- Do you want to save money?
- Do you want to feel more comfortable with your period?
- Do you want to be able to stay active?
- Do you want to be a safe option & be able to wear it for a longer time?
- Do you want to reduce the waste from single-use menstrual cup products?
If the answer is yes to all or most questions, then getting a menstrual cup is the right choice! 🙂
If you have any other concerns, check my Sustainable period category, or feel free to leave your question in the comments below.