What Is a Menstrual Cup and How Do You Use It Right?

    Updated 24 April 2020 |
    Published 29 August 2018
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
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    Women today have many options beyond tampons and pads for managing their period. One is a flexible, reusable silicone cup that fits inside your vagina and collects, rather than absorbs blood. It can collect blood for 10–12 hours before you empty it. Then you wash it with water and replace it.They come in various styles and sizes; you may need to experiment to find the right fit.

    How to use a menstrual cup

    The menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product that is inserted into the vagina to collect (without absorbing) menstrual fluid.

    If you feel it inside or notice blood leakage, the cup is likely to have been placed incorrectly. Also, a menstrual cup might leak because of:

    • an intrauterine device
    • anatomical peculiarities (uterine retroversion, a short or scarred cervix, postpartum scars)
    • the wrong cup size (age and the number of births you have had should be taken into account since it can affect vaginal elasticity.)

    Before inserting a menstrual cup, you should thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. The cervix is slightly open so the risk of infection during menstruation increases many times. To remove the cup, don’t pull it, but push it out with the pelvic floor muscles. Then press on its base, grab it with both thumb and forefinger on both sides and easily remove it.

    Menstrual cup: cleaning and care

    During menstruation, the cervix is slightly open, which increases the risk of infection.

    Before inserting or removing a menstrual cup, be sure to wash your hands with soap.

    Empty the hygiene product at least twice a day or once every 12 hours.

    If you don't have a chance to wash it, pour out the contents and wipe the cup with a special napkin. Make sure your hands are clean.

    Don't use lubricants to insert the cup. Don't wash it with vinegar, oils, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or soda because these will damage the silicone.

    For the same reason, don't put the product in the dishwasher.

    After your period ends, wash the cup as usual or boil it for 5–10 minutes. Keep it in a bag made of breathable cotton.

    Is a menstrual cup suitable for every woman?

    In the event of certain diseases and using certain contraception methods, menstrual cup usage is not recommended, despite the fact that it is made from safe medical silicone.

    Try to avoid using menstrual cups if you have:

    • any cervical diseases, including cervical ectropion (eversion), as contact with a foreign body and retaining menstrual fluid inside, can aggravate the painful condition
    • endometriosis, since menstrual blood retained inside the body can influence the development of the disease
    • an intrauterine device. If you repeatedly insert and remove the cup, there is a chance that the strings of the IUD might cling to it, which will result in displacing the IUD and reducing its reliability.

    If you have any doubts about whether to use a menstrual cup or not, consult your doctor. You’ll get a professional advice on what hygiene products suit you best. Your doctor can also show you how to insert a menstrual cup correctly, so don’t hesitate to ask anything!

    Frequently asked questions on menstrual cups

    Can you get toxic shock syndrome from menstrual cups?

    Technically, yes. However, only 2 cases of toxic shock syndrome have been recorded in menstrual cups users. Just like with any other period protection product, you need to follow the instructions. In the case of menstrual cups, this means emptying them out regularly. You should also make sure you use a trusted brand made with quality materials. 

    Can menstrual cups be used by virgins?

    Of course! Many girls and women worry that using cups or tampons will make them “lose” their virginity, but this isn't true. A menstrual cup can be folded and placed inside your vagina without harming your hymen, and they come in different sizes to ensure your comfort. Besides, your hymen can stretch or tear from many activities besides intercourse. 

    Can you sleep with a menstrual cup?

    Yes. Most cups have enough capacity that they can be worn for 10 to 12 hours on end, giving you plenty of time to rest before you have to empty it out. But if you have a heavy menstrual flow, you can try sleeping with a pad as well to avoid having leaks. 

    Are menstrual cups dangerous?

    No period protection product comes without risks, but the menstrual cup is considered to be very safe. But you need to make sure you're buying a top-quality cup made of medical grade TPE that's also BPA-free.

    To avoid bacteria growth, you also need to sterilize them regularly. You can achieve this by boiling your menstrual cups.

    Is menstrual cup painful?

    Many women experience mild discomfort during insertion when they start to use a menstrual cup. But once the cup is properly inserted, its flexible material should ensure that you don't feel uncomfortable. You should also keep in mind that wearing the right size can make you feel more comfortable with your cup.

    Are menstrual cups safer than tampons?

    Experts agree that menstrual cups are safer than other period protection products, since they carry a lower risk of toxic shock syndrome. There's also no risk of having allergic reactions like the ones you can get from pads. And to top it off, you won't have to worry about leaks or accidents!

    Why is my menstrual cup leaking?

    Leakage can be caused by inserting your cup improperly. Your cup can also leak if you have a heavy flow and don't empty it out as frequently as needed. Bowel movements can also shift your menstrual cup, causing it to leak. Changes in your cervical position are frequent during menstruation and can cause leaks, too. 

    How long do menstrual cups last?

    You should replace your cup after 10 years. That means you'll be saving more than if you were using pads or tampons! It's also more eco-friendly. Keep in mind that you'll need to replace your cup sooner if you notice any tears or holes. You also need to sterilize your cup regularly to keep it in good shape and bacteria-free.

    Is menstrual cup hygienic?

    Yes, but it depends on how you use and care for your cup. You need to wash your hands before and after inserting it. Your cup will stay clean while you use the bathroom, too. Higher incidences of UTIs can be linked to the cup, so if you suffer from recurrent urinary infections the cup might not be for you. 

    Will a menstrual cup leak when full?

    Yes. Although most cups have been designed to hold your menstrual flow for 10 to 12 hours, they can leak sooner than that if you have a heavier flow. You'll need to keep this in mind when you start to use it, and learn how often you need to empty your cup, since every woman's period is different. 

    Can you swim with menstrual cup?

    Yes! Since your entire menstrual cup is inside your body, without any strings hanging out, you won't need to worry about hygienic concerns while swimming. You'll also stay protected for longer, since the cup holds more fluid than a tampon. However, it is recommended to empty your cup before swimming to maximize protection and avoid accidents. 

    History of updates

    Current version (24 April 2020)

    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK

    Published (29 August 2018)

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