Regardless of how familiar you are with the feminine care aisle, you may not have (yet) come around to use menstrual cup for yourself. Or you might have gone back to your comfort products —tampons or pads— after two failed attempts. And that’s okay. Not able to remove it after the first try can make anyone sweat all the way into a panic attack. You may not want to go through the stress again.
But let me ask you a question. How quickly do you go through tampons and pads? Imagine not having to spend your money on these period products (at least for a year)! And what if I say that money is only one among the countless benefits of this product? For example, more hygienic, more comfortable? In fact, it is the most preferred and recommended product by users, with the most likelihood of continued use(4)! Its growing popularity is not without reason.
When it comes to the question of how to use a menstrual cup, how familiar are you with the folding and insertion methods? How easy is it to use a menstrual cup for you? Or how difficult do you find it to insert a menstrual cup?
This Is How To Use Menstrual Cup With No Stress
What comes to your mind when you think of monthly periods? After period cramps, of course. Pads or tampons, right? How many times have you gone through episodes of panic-kicking right after realizing that you are short on pads or tampons? I am sure you won’t be able to put a number on the count. How much do they cost you monthly and yearly? You don’t want to calculate that.
If you really think about it, period products must be made accessible to everyone. It is a basic need of every woman after all. But that is a topic for another day. The point here is, your constant worrying about stocking them, never-ending monthly dents in your wallet, and the impact of their waste on the environment may seem easily preventable with the use of menstrual cup.
So, when you have the golden option to buy one menstrual cup —with more pros than cons— and use it for years, what’s better than that?
What’s more, there is no excess waste, less mess on heavy bleeding days, and less stress about embarrassing leaks. Users of menstrual cups would never have thought of going back to inserting tampons and wearing pads. They realize how seamless handling their monthly red flow is with a menstrual cup. Their earlier apprehensions turn to endless praises because let’s face it, menstrual cups truly are life-changers. No, I am not exaggerating. My friends who were anxious to use it before cannot stop singing its praises now.
I assure you that by the end of this article, you will be a dedicated cup evangelist. I can show you how to choose an eco-friendly way to go with your flow. So ladies, time to trade in your tampons and pads!
Menstrual Cups: An Eco-Friendly And Money-Saving Alternative
The buzz around the new period cup is not going anywhere. Though menstrual cups(1) have been around in some form since the 1800s (yes!), they came to fame in recent years. It may even seem like they popped out overnight. But now, it seems like the buzz around them is here to stay. And there are several reasons for you to switch to a menstrual cup.
Before we get into the pros and cons, let me give you a bigger picture of menstrual cups for beginners. What are menstrual cups? Menstrual cups are a type of small, flexible funnel-shaped, usually reusable, feminine hygiene product made of different substances ranging from rubber to silicone.
Designed to catch and collect period fluid, menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina and then emptied however often necessary. The dumping depends on the heaviness of your flow. But most menstrual cup brands claim you can wear it inside your vagina for up to 12 consecutive hours for safe use.
Unlike tampons and pads that absorb your flow, menstrual cups catch and collect it. If inserted in the right way to hold in position and they fit nice and snug, they seal themselves by the walls of the vagina and the vaginal muscles. They must be placed entirely inside the lower part of your vagina, below the cervix, and behind the pubic bone.
How To Use Menstrual Cup?
Don’t get intimidated by a small piece of rubber or silicone. All you need to do is master two things. First, find the right cup for your body and preference because cups come in different shapes and sizes.
The one for you will depend on your unique anatomy and menstrual cycle. Second, practice wearing it as much as you can until it becomes second nature to you —which will happen after a few tries. You can practice when you are not on your period as well.
So, let me walk you through the process of how to insert a menstrual cup for beginners in the right way without hurting or causing any discomfort.
Wash! Wash your hands before you use menstrual cup
Always, always start with washing your hands thoroughly using clean water and soap. Never, I repeat, never use a menstrual cup without cleaning your hands first. Hygiene is important to take note of, especially if you are going to touch your vagina.
Clean! Use only a clean menstrual cup
Make sure the menstrual cup is clean and disinfected, especially if you are using it for the first time or at the beginning of a cycle. All you have to do is drop your cup in a pot and add water until the cup isn’t resting on the bottom of the pot.
Boil the cup for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, let it cool down completely before you use it.
Lubricate! Lubricate your cup (if necessary)
This is an optional but quite useful step, particularly for a beginner. Vaginal dryness can make inserting the cup uncomfortable. To help the cup slide in easily, apply water or water-based lube to the rim of the cup before insertion.
Fold! Types of menstrual cup folds
You cannot simply push a menstrual cup inside your vagina(2) without folding the wide opening. You have to fold it before inserting it. There are different ways to fold a cup. The two most popular folds are the c-fold and the punch-down fold.
C-fold (half-fold or U-fold): Press the sides of the cup together, creating a long oval. Then, fold the top rim in half, creating a tight C or U shape.
Punch-down fold (tip fold or tulip fold): Push down a finger on the top rim of the cup, creating a triangle or narrow point.
Relax before inserting a menstrual cup
Before inserting the cup, you have to let your muscles relax. If you are nervous (which any first-time user will be), your muscles won’t be relaxed enough for easy insertion. You can either squat (which works for many), lie down, sit on the toilet, or with one leg on the toilet seat. Try to find a comfortable position for you.
After you find a position, hold the folded menstrual cup with one hand, and part your labia with the other hand. When you locate your vaginal opening, slowly insert the cup into your vagina, aiming it toward your tailbone. Remember to maintain the folded position of the cup.
Once you insert the cup inside, keep pushing it from the base of the cup deep enough so that the stem of the cup is no longer out of your vaginal opening. But, also, don’t push it so deep that you cannot grab the stem.
Anyhow, the stem should be completely inside of you. Then, let it “pop” open inside your vagina, preventing any blood from leaking. You may even hear a suction sound. If you are in doubt, just feel around the base of the cup to ensure that the whole rim has opened up.
To ensure that the cup is securely sealed, hold the base of the cup and twist it 360 degrees (one full circle). Then, try to pull the stem a bit, if you feel resistance, you have inserted the menstrual cup correctly!
#4 Wash again
After you are done inserting the cup, wash your hands clean. This shouldn’t even come as a step since it is a pretty obvious part of self-hygiene.
How To Remove A Menstrual Cup?
Now comes the menstrual cup removal part and it is easier than inserting it. But not for everyone, which is not unusual.
Again, wash your hands thoroughly. You can use mild hot water and soap to clean your hands. Always touch your private part after ensuring that your hands are clean.
Relax before removing menstrual cup
Stay in your comfortable position and relax your muscles. Remember that you will find it difficult to remove the cup if your vaginal muscles are contracted or you are tensed up during the removal process.
Place your fingers into your vaginal opening and gently pull the stem of the cup until you reach the base. You can twist the cup a bit to ease it. You cannot simply pull out the stem, it will hurt. Plus you will create a mess if you don’t be careful while removing.
Give the base a gentle pinch or you can insert your finger alongside to release the suction seal. This will ease the cup out.
Gently rock the stem and pull down the base while keeping the cup upright to avoid spilling the blood. Do not just pull it out without being gentle and careful.
#4 Clean – How to clean a menstrual cup
Once you remove, empty the cup into the sink or toilet. Then, rinse the cup with water. It is important to keep the cup cleaned after each use. Especially if you are going to reinsert it.
If you are done with your period and you are going to store it, disinfect it the way you did before using it for added safety. Also, check whether the air holes at the top of the cup are open.
For some, it may be frustrating or panicking to remove a menstrual cup. Especially if the cup just won’t come out. You may briefly think that it will get lost inside your vagina forever. But remember that every beginning can be difficult and information gives you relief. So, learn about your body. Your vaginal canal is only 3 to 5 inches long. No, it is not an endless abyss. If you have trouble removing the cup, don’t freak out. All you have to do is relax, breathe, and try again. Thanks to your cervix, no menstrual cup will get lost inside your body.
Tips On How To Use A Menstrual Cup
- Read the instructions thoroughly on the package.
- Lubricate the cup with water or water-based lube before insertion, if necessary.
- Practice inserting the cup before (dry run) and during your period.
- Trim the stem of the cup if it irritates you.
- Wear a pantyliner until you feel comfortable.
- Locate your cervix before placing the cup.
- Don’t force out the cup.
Now, you don’t have to start using a menstrual cup just because everyone around you has already made the switch. Excuse my bluntness, but literally shoving something up inside your vagina, and just blindly trusting it to stay put and hold itself there, then hoping to take it out without making a bloody mess is a lot to ask for. So, you have every right to be skeptical about using a menstrual cup.
But did you know that menstrual cups can hold way more blood than tampons and pads? They hold up to an ounce of blood, which is twice the amount a tampon or pad could ever hold. This simply means that you can wear them for a much longer time, even through the night. What’s more? Quoting a 2022 case study (3), “users were able to “forget” they were menstruating during the day and in organizational settings.” In fact, the majority of menstrual cup users around you will tell you the same. How much better can it get?
Menstrual Cups Get Even Better
Did that catch your interest? If not, hear this: you can reuse the same menstrual cup for years. You don’t have to throw it away after each use, unlike tampons and pads(2). Simply empty the cup, wash it with soap and water, and pop it back in. There are disposable options, too, if you prefer that.
Some of the popular reusable menstrual cup brands include Lena Cup, DivaCup, Moon Cup, Keeper Cup, Lunette Menstrual Cup, and Lily Cup. Instead, Softcup is a brand that offers disposable cups.
Below, find a list of advantages and disadvantages of menstrual cups to weigh and decide for yourself.
Pros And Cons Of Using Menstrual Cups
Indeed, menstrual cups were not widely embraced until recently. Now, women choose to use menstrual cups for the below reasons.
Menstrual cups are affordable and cost efficient
When compared to other period products, menstrual cups are cost-efficient. Even if you replace them once a year. If you buy this wallet-friendly product for $25 to $40, it can last up to 10 years (depending on the cup). That means no more spending money every month.
This is especially beneficial for those who have inadequate access to menstrual products. But just because they can be used for years, menstrual cups don’t come expensive either. So you can save money in the long term.
Use menstrual cup and add less landfill waste
Menstrual cups are reusable and recyclable (silicone and latex rubber). Meaning, a drastic reduction in the impact on the environment, the number of trees used for paper-based alternatives, the contribution of waste to clog up our landfills. There are disposable menstrual cups too, so make sure to read the label.
Menstrual cups hold more blood
A menstrual cup can hold up to one to two ounces of blood, which roughly is twice the amount of tampons and pads. This means you don’t have to change them frequently.
You can use it for up to 12 hours. You can keep them overnight and women find them more appealing than tampons and pads on days with a heavier flow.
Menstrual cups are comfortable
When you insert a menstrual cup in the right way, you won’t feel a thing. There is no vaginal dryness (like when you use tampons), no constant friction against the vulva (like when you use pads), or awkwardness while sitting or walking. You will be more comfortable.
Don’t leak or spill
When properly inserted and when the right size is used, a menstrual cup does not leak or spill. Meaning, less mess even while working out, showering, or swimming.
Menstrual cups are safer
Most women are concerned about the question can you get toxic shock syndrome from a menstrual cup and consider it as a side effect of menstrual cups. However, because they collect blood rather than absorb it, you are at less risk of getting TSS when using a menstrual cup. So cups are a healthier and safer option for the vagina if you follow the recommended cleaning procedures (5).
Can you have sex when you use menstrual cup?
Most reusable cups don’t allow you to have sex without removing them. But those soft disposable cups can stay in and allow you to have sex. Your partner won’t feel them. Also, there won’t be any blood leaks for you to worry about.
Menstrual cups give out less odor
When using menstrual cups, blood is not exposed to air because of the airtight seal. Thus, unlike tampons or pads, cups produce less odor. You don’t have to worry about that embarrassing odor wafting around you.
Menstrual cups can be worn with an IUD
Menstrual cups can be worn with an intrauterine device (IUD). But you can always talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
What are the cons of menstrual cups? Like any product, menstrual cups also have a few drawbacks. But none of them are severe enough to stop you from using it. They are:
Difficulty in inserting and removing menstrual cups
If you are a beginner, inserting and removing a menstrual cup would be difficult. You may feel uncomfortable, you may fail to find the right fold, or fail to pull out the cup as quickly as you would like.
This is normal, so don’t panic. With more practice, you will become a pro in no time. If you can feel the cup inside your vagina, it means that you haven’t kept it in the right position or you have chosen the wrong size.
Fitting troubles – What is the right menstrual cup size for me?
Since menstrual cups come in different sizes, finding the right one with the right fitting can be challenging. Depending on your age, flow, whether or not you had a child, you may have to go through a few failed trials to find your right cup.
Especially if you have a tilted uterus or low cervix. But we have all kinds of menstrual cups from different brands to solve all your problems.
Menstrual Cup use and Possible allergic reaction
You have to make sure that you are not allergic to the material of the menstrual cup. So if you are sensitive to latex, consider buying silicone cups. Most menstrual cups are made of latex-free materials. ‘
If you don’t care for the cup properly, it may irritate or cause discomfort to your vagina. This can be corrected with the right and proper cleaning of the cup. Also, don’t use a disposable menstrual cup twice.
Can get messy
You have to wash the cup after each use even if you are emptying it out from a restroom. This can get messy, or embarrassing for some if you are in public.
Regular sterilization of mentrual cups
After each use, you have to sterilize the menstrual cup using boiling water or sterilizing solution. But if you only have to do this little work to save a bundle of money, what’s better and easier?
Now that you know almost everything you need to know about using a menstrual cup, I am sure you are confident enough to give it a try for a cycle or two. After you get a hold of the learning curve of how to use a menstrual cup, your monthly struggle will be fuss-free with these cups and they can contribute to living a sustainable life.