Wellness·5 min read

Still Nervous to Try Using a Menstrual Cup? Read This

Person holding a menstrual cup folded in half
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Nov 14, 2022

POV: It's that time of the month. You're headed back to the store again to pick up your usual tampons or pads...and you're starting to realize that they might not be the most economical or eco-friendly option. Enter: Menstrual cups. They offer a few perks that tampons and pads don't. Particularly when it comes to the environment and your wallet. But learning how to use one takes some practice. And a good guide. Which is where we come in. We connected with Dr. Allegra Cummings, OB-GYN at Weill Cornell Medicine, to talk about how to insert and remove a menstrual cup. 

How do menstrual cups work? 

Menstrual cups are reusable silicone cups that catch blood during your period. (Not to be confused with menstrual discs, which are flatter and typically disposable.) Some menstrual cups can last up to 10 years. And they can be a cost-saving and eco-friendly alternative to single-use products. 

They typically come in two sizes: The larger size is usually for people who’ve given birth vaginally. “A lot of times the vagina is a little bit more stretched and there's more room, so you'll need a bigger cup,” said Dr. Cummings. And the smaller size fits most people who have never delivered vaginally. 

Can you tell me how to use a menstrual cup? 

Lock the bathroom door, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and prepare to get personal with yourself. 

Illustration: Michele Rosenthal

How to insert a menstrual cup

  1. Wash your hands before inserting the cup. 

  2. Wet your cup or apply some lubricant to the rim to make insertion easier. Dr. Cummings explained that you probably won’t need lube once you get used to putting it in. But it’ll make the first few times easier. 

  3. Fold the cup. Either in half, making a c-shape (like a taco), or by pushing the rim down into the cup. 

  4. Keep the cup folded and insert it into the vagina until it pops open. Note: The end of the cup (usually a stem or a ring) should be deep enough so that it’s about a half-inch away from the opening of your vagina. Because if it sticks out or sits too low, chances are “it's going to bother you, it’s probably going to dislodge the cup, and you might bleed around the cup,” said Dr. Cummings. 

  5. Rotate the cup slightly to create a seal and help prevent leaks. You’ll be able to tell if you’ve done it right if you don't feel any dents or folds when you swipe a finger around the side of the cup. 

  6. Once the cup is inside, you shouldn’t be able to feel it when walking, sitting, or doing any other activity. If you can, take it out and try inserting it again. It might take some practice to get the hang of it, so be patient. 

How often do I need to change my menstrual cup?

You can wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours at a time. Wearing it too long may increase your risk of toxic shock syndrome. And you may need to change it sooner if you have a heavier flow. 

How to remove a menstrual cup

  1. Make sure you’re sitting over a toilet to help reduce any mess. 

  2. Spread your legs and pinch the base of the cup with your (clean) thumb and index finger. If you can’t get a hold of the cup right away, it may help to push slightly (like you’re trying to poop) to get the cup where you can grasp it. 

  3. Gently pull it out from the stem or the ring. 

  4. Empty the blood into the toilet, then rinse your cup (more on that below).

  5. Once it’s clean, reinsert the menstrual cup (if you still need it). Or swap it out for a second clean cup if you can’t wash the first one right away. 

Got it. And what about how to clean a menstrual cup? 

Each menstrual cup has its own instructions for aftercare, so be sure to give them a read first. But generally, you should boil the cup for five to 10 minutes before the first use, then wash the cup with water and fragrance-free soap every time you empty it. “Scented stuff, that's great for your hands, but get it away from the vagina,” said Dr. Cummings. 

Once your period is over, boil the cup for a few minutes to sterilize it. Then let it completely dry before putting it away. And while we’re here: Don’t put it in the dishwasher. Because the dish detergent could irritate your vagina. 

theSkimm

It can be intimidating to learn how to use a new period product after years of dealing with your period. But if you’re looking for something to save you money over the long term and want to have a low-waste period, menstrual cups might be for you. 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 


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