Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Using a Menstrual Cup
It has been said that once you convert to a menstrual cup, you never look back—you only need one to get through your 5 to 7 days, you don't have to mess with it for up to 12 hours, it's a more sustainable option, and better yet, you'll never have to endure that terrible dry tampon feeling ever again. "There is a slight learning curve in the beginning, so you'll want to check on it more often, and maybe even wear a pantyliner as a backup, but once you get the hang of it, using a menstrual cup is pretty easy," says Ruby Cup co-founder Julie Weigaard Kjær. "Every woman is different and some may need softer cups to alleviate the cramping, or a harder one if they have strong pelvic muscles, so there's some trial and error in finding your Goldilocks cup." Because the Ruby Cup ($31; rubycup.com) is made from a soft, flexible silicone, it's the perfect starter option while you gather your bearings, and the textured stem makes removal easier. To help navigate this uncharted territory for some, we asked Weigaard Kjær to debunk a few of our biggest menstrual cup FAQs. Read on to get all the info you've ever wanted to know about using a menstrual cup.
How do you insert a menstrual cup?
First things first, wash your hands before you do to ensure bacteria doesn't come in contact with your cup (or your innards). The cup is made from a flexible silicone, so you should be able to fold it into a smaller shape to place it. "The most common one is the C-fold, where you fold the cup in half, or the punch-down, where you fold the cup into its base to insert it," Weigaard Kjær tells us. "Then, insert it gently until you feel it pop open. The cup creates a seal against the vagina walls, so it doesn't leak, and the blood goes directly into the cup."
How do you know it has been inserted correctly?
Keep in mind that your menstrual cup will sit slightly lower than your tampon, just below the cervix to catch the blood. "You'll most likely push a tampon up toward your cervix, but you'll want to place your menstrual cup below yours, so knowing your placement is important," says Weigaard Kjær, who notes that your cervix can sometimes move or swell during your cycle, so your cup should be adjusted accordingly. "Once the menstrual cup is in, you can usually hear it pop open." If you don't hear the pop, use your finger to feel the walls of the cup to make sure they have come in contact with the walls of your vagina. In the case that they haven't, use the stem to turn or adjust the cup, or just take it out and re-insert it.
Can you feel it once it's in?
You shouldn't. The cup should sit all the way inside your vagina, but if your cervix sits low and the stem of the cup is an issue, Weigaard Kjær mentions that many women have trimmed the stem to make it shorter, or have cut it off altogether for a more comfortable fit.
How do you remove a menstrual cup?
Once your cup has filled up, grab the stem to pull it down, but don't pull the entire cup out completely by the stem—this can be painful and result in a messy clean-up. Once you can feel the base, use two fingers to gently pinch together the walls of the menstrual cup, allowing air to enter and remove the suction. Remove it, dump out the blood, and either rinse it out in the sink, wipe it out with a tissue, or fold it again to re-insert it.
Does it need to be cleaned every time I empty it?
We understand the struggle of not being able to rinse out your cup in the sink of a public bathroom, so provided that you washed your hands before insertion, Weigaard Kjær states that it is totally fine to simply re-insert it after it has been emptied. "You can take wipes with you, or wipe out your cup with a tissue, but if you're somewhere that you don't have either, you can re-insert it," she explains. "The cup has only been in contact with your clean hands, so there isn't bacteria on it. Then, clean it out whenever you have the chance later on." After you've finished your cycle, clean and rinse it completely to sanitize your cup. Weigaard Kjær recommends either putting it in boiling water, or pouring boiling water over your cup, and letting it sit for a few minutes.
What if it gets stuck?
Don't panic! Easier said than done, we know, but Weigaard Kjær notes that removal is often the more difficult part when you're learning to use a cup. "If you start panicking, you tense up and your muscles also start to tense up," Weigaard Kjær tells us. "Take a deep breath and try to relax, then try pulling down on the stem again to loosen the cup. You can try using your stomach muscles or pelvic floor muscles to help.
Can it ever fall out on its own?
Luckily, no. You'll never have to fear that your menstrual cup might pop out during yoga class. "It isn't something I've ever heard about because the cup fits inside of you tightly, and creates a suction," says Weigaard Kjær. "Even if you use the bathroom, it stays put. It's kind of like a wine cork—you'd need an insane amount of pressure and force to squeeze out the cup on your own without using your hands to remove it."
Does it need to be changed every time I go to the bathroom like a tampon?
Not necessarily. Though Weigaard Kjær recommends doing so when you're still learning to navigate your cup, it sits all the way inside your vagina, and won't come in contact with any of your other bodily functions.
Can you have sex with a menstrual cup in?
Though flexible, diaphragm-esque options like the disposable Softcup won't get in the way during sex, your menstrual cup should be removed beforehand. "Menstrual cups sit further down than a Softcup, which fit all the way around the cervix as far as I know," Weigaard Kjær says. "The penis would probably just push your menstrual cup aside, and it doesn't work as a contraceptive at all."