Menstrual cups and menstrual discs sound very similar. And they are. Both have perks to offer if you don’t want to use tampons or pads. But they also have some major differences. Like how they’re inserted and removed. To help us break down what you need to know about menstrual discs vs. cups, we called up Dr. Allegra Cummings, OB-GYN at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Menstrual disc vs menstrual cup: What's the difference?
Both products catch blood during your period. And can be worn for up to 12 hours before they should be taken out. The main difference is their shape: A menstrual disc is a flexible cup-shaped disc. Think: A hula-hoop lined with a plastic bag. It’s flatter than a menstrual cup, which is a bell-shaped, silicone cup with a small handle or tip at the bottom. They also differ when it comes to…
Discs are smaller than menstrual cups, which may be more comfortable for some people, according to Dr. Cummings. Think: Someone who has never given birth or has a lighter flow. “It's not quite as much plastic or material,” she said. Whereas menstrual cups are “a slightly larger cup that goes in the vagina.” Both cups and discs can hold more blood than tampons.
Insertion and removal
A menstrual disc is inserted further into the vaginal canal than a cup is. With the rim sitting behind your pubic bone. A menstrual cup sits further below your cervix and extends into your vaginal canal. Because of that, discs may be messier to remove, according Dr. Cummings. “You've really gotta put your whole hand in and get the little cup,” she said.
Unlike menstrual cups, you can have penetrative sex with a menstrual disc in. Because it sits high enough that neither partner will likely be able to feel it during period sex.
Disposable or reusable
Most discs are disposable, but there are some reusable menstrual disc options. Cups are typically reusable — and some can last up to 10 years.
A box of eight to 12 menstrual discs can cost around $10 to $20 from your local pharmacy. And the average person uses eight menstrual discs per cycle, according to the University of Texas Health Austin. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, can cost up to $40 (also available at the pharmacy). (Reminder: These can be reused during a cycle.)
For context: A box of 34 tampons may cost around $10, depending on the brand and where you live. And the average person uses 20 tampons per period.
Got it. So how do I actually use them?
PSA: Always read the instructions on the box. Because different brands might have different guidance. And before you insert either a disc or cup, wash your hands and wet your product (or put some water-based lube on the rim) to make insertion easier. And keep in mind that this might take a little practice. Now let’s break it down…
How to insert a menstrual disc
Fold the menstrual disc by pinching opposite sides of the rim with your thumb and index finger.
Insert the folded disc up and back, like a tampon. Push it as far as you can until it slides into place behind your pubic bone.
To remove it, hook one finger under the rim of the menstrual disc and gently pull it out to empty it.
How to insert a menstrual cup
Insert the cup while keeping it folded, until it naturally pops open inside.
Rotate the cup slightly so it completely opens.
To remove it, grasp the base of the cup that you can reach with your thumb and index finger, then pinch it to break the seal. Pull it down gently and empty it.
How do I know if menstrual discs or menstrual cups are the right choice for me?
You might prefer a disposable menstrual disc if…
You don't want to spend more money upfront on a menstrual cup.
The shape of a menstrual disc works better for your body.
A menstrual cup might be a better option for you if…
You like the idea of a ‘one and done’ purchase.
You want a low-waste period.
You want a less messy insertion and removal process.
At the end of the day, both products are pretty similar. So if you have more specific Qs about what’s right for you and your needs, reach out to your doctor.
Over the years, we've been exposed to different period product alternatives. And it can be uncomfortable or intimidating to transition to a new way of managing your flow. But educating yourself and using what's best for your body and your lifestyle can make a difference.
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