- To use a menstrual cup, make sure your hands are clean and fold the cup in half to insert into your vagina — if the cup doesn’t open, try rotating it.
- You should boil the cup between cycles, but during your period you should wash it with unscented soap between each use.
- Menstrual cups are beneficial because they can last up to 10 years and are made of medical-grade silicone, meaning that they are unlikely to cause irritation.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
A menstrual cup is a small, rubbery cup that you insert in your vagina to catch period blood. Menstrual cups are a reusable alternative to tampons and pads and have become popular because they’re environmentally friendly and can save you money over time.
Using menstrual cups can be challenging at first, so you may need to try different techniques to make it work for you. Here’s how to use a menstrual cup and some tips to help you get started.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup works by acting as a plug for your vagina, stopping any menstrual fluid from leaking out. It does this by creating a seal around the inside of your vagina and collecting blood inside the cup.
Menstrual cups are usually made of silicone or rubber and are flexible enough that you can fold them. You can find menstrual cups over the counter at most pharmacies.
Here’s how to pick the cup that’s best for you:
Menstrual cups often come in two sizes — a smaller size recommended for people who have never given birth, and a larger size that may fit better for people who have given birth. However, if you feel that you need an even smaller size or a size somewhere in the middle, many brands have a wider range of sizes available online.
“Menstrual cups can be a game-changer for some and a no go for others,” says Dweck. You will likely need to try out a menstrual cup to see if you’re comfortable using one.
How to use a menstrual cup
It may take some practice to get the hang of inserting and removing a menstrual cup. Here are the basic steps for inserting your menstrual cup:
- Make sure your hands and the cup are clean. “For first use and between cycles, I recommend boiling silicone cups,” Dweck says. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure your cup can be boiled and if not, you can wash it with soap and water, Dweck says.
- If your vagina feels dry, you may want to coat the cup with lubricant to make it easier to slide in. Try not to overdo it though, as this can also make the cup slippery and hard to hold onto.
- Fold the cup in half. This can be trickier than it sounds. “Try various folding techniques to find what you like best,” Dweck says. You can find a visual guide to folding techniques here.
- Insert the cup deep enough that no part of the cup is sticking out of your vagina, but not so deep that you can’t get a hold on the stem at the bottom. As a general rule, the bottom of the stem should be no more than half an inch from the opening of your vagina.
- If you aren’t sure if the cup has opened inside your vagina, try rotating the cup to help it open and create a seal.
You can keep a menstrual cup in for four to 12 hours, depending on how heavy your flow is.
How to clean a menstrual cup
When it’s time to empty your menstrual cup, follow these steps to remove it:
- Make sure your hands are clean.
- Pull gently on the stem of the cup until you can get a comfortable hold on the bottom of the cup.
- Pinch the cup inward to break the seal inside your vagina.
- Pull the cup gently out of your vagina, tilting it slightly backward to avoid spilling any liquid.
- Empty the cup into the toilet.
- Wash the cup with unscented soap and water before putting it back into your vagina.
In between cycles, you should boil your menstrual cup or clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure the cup is completely dry before you put it away. “You should store it in the case or bag it comes with,” Dweck says, and avoid using airtight containers, as this can encourage the growth of bacteria.
Benefits of menstrual cups
You may need to try it out before deciding if a menstrual cup is for you, but there are several important benefits of menstrual cups, Dweck says.
- “Menstrual cups collect blood rather than absorb it,” Dweck says, which gives you more information about how light or heavy your flow is. This can be helpful to observe any changes in your period that could signal a medical issue. For example, if your periods suddenly become much heavier, it could be a sign of fibroid growths in your uterus.
- Because menstrual cups last for up to 10 years, “cost savings over time can be immense when compared to tampons or pads,” Dweck says.
- Tampons contain trace amounts of chemicals that can be irritating to people who are particularly sensitive. Menstrual cups are generally made from medical-grade silicone, which is very unlikely to cause irritation.
Using a menstrual cup can be tricky at first, but it can offer a lot of benefits in the long term. If you aren’t sure if a cup is right for you or don’t know how to choose a cup, ask your doctor for more guidance.
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