Congratulations on making the switch to the DivaCup!
You proudly walked out of that store with your new cup in hand, head held high, excited for your period to arrive. Or you quickly stuffed the box into your bag and scurried out hoping no one saw you.
Whichever experience you had with purchasing the DivaCup, congratulations!
Tomorrow when your period is due to arrive, you will open up that shiny new package, take out the DivaCup and experience immediate period bliss. That is the hope anyway.
The truth is for many first time users, finding success with the DivaCup can take a few days, or even a few cycles and that is really okay. In fact, it is more common than you think. Unlike tampons, the DivaCup is inserted differently and makes you get up close and personal with your vaginal health.
We spent some time chatting with our Consumer Care Team (who are menstrual cup gurus) to find out what advice they’d offer to first time users. They gave us lots to draw from and we’ve put it all together for you below.
- 10 Tips for first time menstrual cup use
- Ruby Cup
- Pelvi Cup
- The Hello Cup
- Learn more about Menstrual Cups:
- How to use a Ruby Cup in 5 simple steps:
- Switching From Tampons to a Menstrual Cup is no big deal
- How to use a menstrual cup in a public bathroom
- Download product brochure
- 3 steps on how to use a menstrual cup
- Step 1: Inserting the menstrual cup
- Step 2: Wear for up to 12 hours
- Step 3: Remove your menstrual cup
- Top 5 Menstrual Cup Beginner Tips
- Instructional video on how to use a menstrual cup
- The DivaCup
- Put A Cup In It
- Everything You Need to Know About Using Menstrual Cups
- Why Your Menstrual Cup is Leaking [+ Prevention]
- Menstrual Cup Leaks – Oh No!
- Four Reasons your menstrual cup is leaking
- What’s So Great About A Menstrual Disc?
- Leaks at a glance
- The Bottom Line on Menstrual Cup Leaks
- Look at the positives
- Beware the myths
- In a public bathroom
- Out in nature
- 5 Top reasons to travel with a menstrual cup
- The Perils of Using a Menstrual Cup at Work
Read the User Guide
First things first, read the User Guide. While you may be able to get away with putting together your new closet organizer without reading the instruction manual, the DivaCup’s User Guide is one you do not want to ignore. Plus, your vagina deserves the best and the best is what the DivaCup can give it. The User Guide not only explains how to insert, rotate and remove the DivaCup, but also gives lots of assurance for first time users.
Before trying the DivaCup, be sure to thoroughly wash the cup (and your hands) with warm water and the DivaWash or a mild, unscented, oil-free soap. If you have longer nails, be sure to clean them well and trim them back a bit.
Use Only During Menstruation
Many of our Divas are so excited to try the cup that they decide to try it while not on their cycle. This is a bad idea for many reasons. The cup is regulated for use only during menstruation, meaning a key element of success is menstrual flow. If you find yourself saying, “What’s the harm in practicing beforehand?”, stop! If the cup is inserted when not menstruating, the vaginal canal is often less lubricated and the cup will not glide in as easy (and will be quite uncomfortable). The cup will also not open as easily which can lead to difficulty with removal and an overall unpleasant experience.
You may be wondering what people mean when they say, “Relax your pelvic floor!”. Enter a pelvic health physiotherapist. A pelvic health physiotherapist will not only show you how to relax your pelvic floor, but also teach you how much your pelvic floor muscles matter to the rest of your anatomical make up.
For many first time users, inserting the DivaCup can be tough, because it is different, and much bigger than a tampon. Add tense muscles to the mix and insertion can take on a whole new meaning. With tense muscles, insertion will be uncomfortable and the cup will most likely not open or be placed at the right angle. The reason being, the vaginal muscles are what hold the cup in place. While they are designed to naturally expand and contract, if you are nervous or stressed while inserting the cup, your muscles will react with intensity.
So how does one exactly rest the pelvic floor?
To relax the pelvic floor, take a deep breath in, breathe out and consciously envision releasing the pelvic floor muscles (similar to the feeling you have after having to pee and finally being able to). You can also try imagining that your vaginal muscles are holding a ball and releasing the ball as you exhale with your breath. Your deep breath should be felt deep within your belly, not just in your lungs.
The instructions note to insert the cup horizontally, but what does that even mean?
Unlike a tampon, which is inserted upwards, the cup is inserted horizontally, toward your tailbone. Think of it this way, take your cup and place it on its side on a flat surface (such as a chair). Slide the cup back towards the back of the chair – this is a horizontal motion.
When you are inserting, pay close attention to your wrist on the hand that is holding the cup. Be sure that as you insert, you are not twisting your wrist upwards, but rather that it is staying straight. If you are turning your wrist as you insert, the cup is most likely also being inserting upwards, rather than horizontally. We would also recommend trying our “Push Down” fold option as this should help the cup glide in easier, open up and allow you to better position the cup at the opening. When you insert the cup horizontally, you should feel it slide into place at the base of the canal and open up. If you find the cup is moving up the canal, it is most likely not fully open. Standing with one leg up on the tub may also help to relax the muscles.
Although it may make sense, we do not recommend using any lubricant with the DivaCup as it may compromise the integrity of the silicone and the vaginal environment. As the DivaCup sits in place for 12 hours at a time, if lubricant is used to insert the cup, the lubricant will also sit in the canal for the same time and may irritate the canal. We recommend using only warm water as this can help warm the cup. Warm water, combined with the lubrication of the menstrual fluid, should help the cup slide in easier.
Some may wonder why we instruct that the cup be rotated a full 360 degrees. The reason really is to ensure the seal is in place. Although you may feel the DivaCup open as you insert it, it does not necessarily mean that it is open all the way. Oftentimes it may feel as if the cup is open, but after feeling around the cup, there is still a part of it that is folded in. Once inserted, try sliding your finger along the outside of the cup and your vaginal wall, pressing gently on the sides of the cup, this should open the cup fully, creating the seal and will make rotation easier.
If the cup is not fully open, the cup can move up during wear which can lead to difficulty with removal.
Because the vaginal canal is only about 3-4 inches long, the DivaCup will not get lost inside of you. If the cup was not angled correctly, fully open at the base of the vaginal canal, this may lead to removal taking a bit longer than a few seconds. When positioned properly, the stem should sit about a half inch in the canal, with the labia covering the stem.
Similar to insertion, the key to success with removal is to relax your muscles. Because the muscles hold the cup in place, having tense muscles will not loosen the cup for removal. Once relaxed, a trick that often helps is to stand with one leg up on the tub. The reason this position is helpful is that it aligns your body in the same horizontal position you were in to insert the cup. Sitting on the toilet and squatting are also good options, but they can add extra stress to the pelvis.
After taking a few deep breaths, bear down with your abdominal/pelvic muscles (as if you are having a bowel movement) and gently insert your thumb and index finger into your vagina until you can reach the stem. If you cannot reach the stem right away, continue to take some deep breaths and bear down. We recommend five deep breaths in between each time you bear down. A hot shower or bath or taking a walk can also help to relax the muscles.
Once you can reach the stem, gently pull the stem until you can firmly pinch the base of the cup to release the seal. The key to successful removal is actually in the base, not the stem of the cup. Many of our Divas cut their stem off as the stem can irritate the labia. Once you have a good grip on the base with your thumb and finger, squeeze the cup gently, and angle it slightly sideways while moving it from side to side to release the seal as you remove it.
It may also be beneficial to talk to a pelvic health physiotherapist or your healthcare provider as they may be able to offer some insight on the strength of the muscle and pelvic floor. Some customers may experience difficulty as a result of weak muscles, but others may have difficulty with removal as a result of tense muscles. Learn more about pelvic health here.
Clean the DivaCup, every 10-12 hours.
It is really important to clean the DivaCup every 10-12 hours with warm water and our DivaWash. Not cleaning the cup in between uses can lead to some unpleasant odors and irritation. Ensuring the four holes around the brim are clear will help ensure the seal is in place and against leaking.
While there are many cleaning products on the market, using DivaWash, or a mild, unscented oil-free soap, are your best options. For a list of ingredients to avoid, please visit our Care and Cleaning webpage.
Try the DivaCup during the day on your first try!
Our Consumer Care Team is here to help, but they too need to go home to see their beloved families. If you are hesitant to try the DivaCup, we recommend trying it during the day (8:30 am – 4:30 pm EST) so that you can reach out to our team with any questions or concerns. We do not recommend trying the cup for the first time before you hit the hay. The reason being, when we sleep our muscles often relax and if the cup is not positioned correctly, fully open at the base of the vaginal canal, it may move up during wear. Once you have mastered insertion, wearing the cup at night is sheer bliss! With the DivaCup you don’t need to imagine a world with clean sheets on day 1 of your period because with the DivaCup, this scenario becomes an amazing reality.
Connect with our team at [email protected], 1-866-444-9482 or by using our online Contact Us Form. Our Instructional Video below also has some helpful visuals and you can always find our User Guide online for easy reference.
While this is a lot of information to take in, trust us, it will help you when your period comes and you put the DivaCup in for the first time.
10 Tips for first time menstrual cup use
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The Hello Cup
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Ok, so you have decided to give a menstrual cup a go. You have read the rave reviews or been recommended to try one by a cup loving friend. It may seem daunting as you look at your new purchase and wonder just how well it will work. To help you as you begin along your menstrual cup journey, we have put together a few tips to help you get the best results when using your cup for the first time.
It is important to remember that every women is different, in cycle length and flow, in cervix position, in pelvic floor strength, and the list goes on. However, following the below suggestions, should help prevent or resolve any issues you may be experiencing.
Don’t expect to be able to insert and then remove your cup perfectly the first time and then proceed with life as normal with no further issues. In some cases, this might be exactly what happens, but experience shows that it takes a little practice to get used to using a menstrual cup – but the results are always worth it! You may wish to consider wearing a panty liner for the first couple of cycles until you are confident with using your menstrual cup.
If your cup is correctly sized and inserted:
- You should not be able to feel it inside of you
- You should not experience any leaks
- No part of the cup stem should be protruding from the vaginal canal (please read about trimming the end)
1. Read the instructions
Make sure you read the instructions that come with your cup thoroughly, BEFORE using it. This may seem obvious, but we know many of us get so excited about our new period cup, that we just jump right in without fully knowing what to do.Get a grasp of the different folding techniques, so that you can try each and find the one that suits you best. For all menstrual cups, use only as directed and always read the label. If any symptoms occur from the use of the cup, please see your doctor/healthcare professional.
Inserting a menstrual cup will be easier when you are relaxed. Try your menstrual cup for the first time when you ARE NOT having a period. If you have difficulty inserting or removing it, at least you won’t be dealing with rampant hormones, blood, and stress at the same time. DO NOT leave the cup in place, simply try inserting, walking around, and then removing it.
3. Wet the cup
It is easier to insert a cup when it is wet. For this reason you may want to dampen the entrance to your vagina with water or a water-based lubricant as well as the rim of the cup. Many women find it helpful to learn how to insert their cup while in the shower.
4. Get the correct angle
Do not insert a menstrual cup in a straight up (vertical) angle. For correct insertion, it needs to be put into the vagina at a horizontal 45 degree angel. Aim towards the base of your spine. Squatting down with knees spread open is often a good way to first insert your menstrual cup. You should stop inserting the cup as soon as the cup and end of the stem can no longer be seen.
5. Wait for the ‘pop’
To ensure the cup doesn’t leak, it needs to achieve a good suction seal around the vaginal wall. Once you insert the cup, it needs to ‘pop’ open to form the seal. Some people feel this pop, others do not. Gently run your finger around the base of the cup. If it feels flat or scrunched at any spot, it probably hasn’t popped open properly. Grip the base of the cup and try rotating it 360 degrees. If that doesn’t work, remove the cup and try again. You may also want to try performing a few pelvic floor exercises (Kegels), as this can help establish a proper seal.
6. Keep it low
Many women make the mistake of placing the cup too high in their vagina. It should sit low in the vagina (lower than a tampon), and ideally, not over the opening of your cervix. The end of the stem should be sitting no more than 1cm from the vaginal opening. Nothing should be sticking out, but it should be only just inside you.
In some cases the menstrual cup may rise up higher and then settle in it’s own position. Do not be alarmed by this, it just means you may have to reach a little further in to remove it. If the cup is sitting right against your cervix, you may experience some discomfort. Try re-inserting the cup again.
7. Partially insert then open
Another tip is to only insert the first part of the cup and then try opening it just inside the vaginal canal. One it has opened, you can gently push it up into the correct position.
8. Trim the stem
The stem of the menstrual cup should not be protruding outside your vagina, or irritating your labia. Some women who have a low cervix, may find that this happens. To combat this, simply trim the end to a length where it will not be a problem. Please note: DO NOT trim the end until you are able to easily remove your cup. Trim no more than half a cm at a time, and try your cup again to see if it is more comfortable.
9. Remove correctly
Do not pull on the stem! Use the stem simply as a guide to find the base of the cup.
If the cup is hard to reach, try bearing down so as to push the cup down your vaginal canal.
If the cup is slippery and hard to grasp when you try to remove it, you can use a tissue to wipe the base before pulling it out.
10. Get the right size
Often leaking issues or discomfort may be due to a cup that is the wrong size for your needs and stage of life. Make sure you read the menstrual cup sizing guidelines for the particular brand you are purchasing accurately, to ensure you have a cup that will provide a correct suction seal around your vaginal wall.
Learn more about Menstrual Cups:
How to use a Menstrual Cup
5 Tips to help with removal of your Menstrual Cup
Common causes of Menstrual Cup Leaks
View all our period care products
You’ve tried tampons and pads, but you’ve heard about menstrual cups? Using Ruby Cup is very similar to using tampons, and cups are widely used by people all over the world.
You can find out everything you need to know about how to use Ruby Cup – we’ll explain it all in one video and five simple steps.
How to use a Ruby Cup in 5 simple steps:
This step-by-step guide to using a menstrual cup will take you smoothly through each stage. Here’s how to get the very best of your cup, and your period:
1. Fold and hold
Always start by washing your hands. Fold Ruby Cup using a fold that works best for you. Many start with the C-fold. If that does not work for you, try some of the other folds to make insertion easier. Every menstruator’s anatomy is unique, so find the fold that works for you.
Details on other menstrual cup folds are explained in our FAQs , to help you find the right folding method.
2. Insert and ensure
As with tampons, gently insert the folded cup into your vagina, tilting it back to the base of your spine. The cup should sit as low as it can comfortably sit inside your vagina, normally lower than a tampon but with the stem fully inside.
When the cup is inside, it wants to pop open, creating a light suction. The suction is how the cup prevents leaks, so use your finger to check if it is fully unfolded. Twist or rotate the cup if you need to.
Do not rush, take your time – it’s like learning to use contact lenses.
3. Use it up to twelve hours
One of the great benefits of using a menstrual cup is that it can be used up to twelve hours. However, most menstrual cup users find they need to empty their cup in the morning and again in the evening.
4. Remove and empty
With clean hands, gently pull the stem of the cup downwards until you can reach and hold the base of the cup. Pinch the base to release the suction and take it out gently.
You may need to use your pelvic muscles to push your lower cup in the vagina to help you reach the base with your fingers.
When you’ve got your cup, empty it in the toilet, and rinse it with water.
If you do not have access to water, you can wipe it with some tissue or simply reinsert it right after emptying it. But make sure to rinse it at your next available opportunity.
When your cup is rinsed, you can reinsert it, and you’re ready to go again! Ruby Cup care, having a look at cleaning and storing .
Switching From Tampons to a Menstrual Cup is no big deal
Making the change to another product is easier than you may think. Using a menstrual cup is very similar to using tampons, just with improved health benefits – no irritation, no chemicals and no drying out.
Menstrual cups are the modern alternative to tampons and pads. They are environmentally friendly and super healthy.
Finding the right menstrual cup does not have to be tricky. Ruby Cup comes in two sizes, medium and small. You can find more advice on how to choose the right menstrual cup size here.
How to use a menstrual cup in a public bathroom
Planning your next backpacking trip? Going camping or visiting a festival? Or even if you’re just planning a night out, you do not have to worry about using Ruby Cup. Emptying is easy no matter where you are.
If the sink is out of reach, simply wipe the cup clean with dry or damp tissue, or rinse with bottled water and reinsert straight-away. You can simply reinsert it without rinsing it, but make sure you rinse it at your next available opportunity.
More hacks on how to use a menstrual cup in a public bathroom, and what to do when you are traveling, check out our Traveling with a Menstrual Cup article and you’ll be ready for anything!
Do you have questions and/or concerns about how to use a menstrual cup? We’ve scoured the internet for the best examples.
There are over 100 menstrual cup brands in the world.
Some have existed for a while and are well established, others are just getting started, while even more are still seeking financing.
And it shows, based on the instructions and educational material they provide.
The following list contains some of the best in their field, according to us.
As an added bonus, we’ve included two exceptional videos from Put A Cup In It at the bottom
of the article.
These ones you do not want to miss!
Diagram of a menstrual cup
Trimming the stem
Download user instructions
How to use a Lunette menstrual cup
Wash your hands
Fold + Hold
Wear + Learn
Remove + Empty
Clean + Sanitize
Instructional video folds
Half V fold / Punch Down fold
Tampon Roll fold
Instructional video manuscript
Using a Lily Cup or Lily Cup Compact takes just a few steps, and both cups work in the same way.
Before using your cup for the first time, we recommend that you boil it for five minutes to sterilize it.
For regular use, simply wash your cup with soap and water.
Always remember to wash your hands as well.
There are three ways to fold the cups.
Try the different techniques and pick the one that works best for you.
The Lily Cup is the only cup that can rolled as thin as a tampon.
Hold the cup with a shorter rim facing you, flattening it, then tightly roll it up.
Just like this.
The C-Fold is great for Lily Cup Compact.
You simply flatten the cup and fold it in half so it looks like a ‘C’.
Half-V fold works well for both cups.
Push the rim down, then hold the body of the cup.
You will insert the pointed end first.
This is how it looks with Lily Cup Compact.
No matter which cup you have, or fold you choose, it is inserted in the same way.
Like a tampon, angle the cup towards the tailbone, and insert it into the vagina.
Release it and the cup will open up.
Gently squeeze the base of the cup, and rotate it slightly to help it fully open, and form a light seal with the vaginal walls.
The cup, including the stem, should be fully inside the vagina yet sit lower than a tampon.
If you find that the stem is too long for you, you can trim it down.
To double check that a seal has formed and it won’t leak, you can run your finger around the cup to make sure that it has completely opened.
You can also lightly pull down on the cup, and wiggle it left and right.
If it doesn’t move easily, the seal has formed.
Once the cup is correctly positioned you won’t feel it at all, and you’ll enjoy hours of worry-free protection.
To remove your cup, relax your body and use your vaginal muscles to push the cup down.
Grip the stem to gently pull downwards, until you can feel the base of the cup, then squeeze to release the seal.
Pull the cup down, and when it’s almost out, angle it slightly to avoid spillage.
Discard your menstrual fluid, wash the cup then reinsert.
There you have it!
Using a Lily Cup will become like second nature after a few uses, and then you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!
Insert menstrual cup
Remove menstrual cup
1. Wash your hands. Fold your menstrual cup.
2. Fold Evelina Menstrual cup.
3. Find a comfortable position before inserting Evelina menstrual cup.
4. Check with your finger that your Evelina Menstrual cup has unfolded properly. If not, rotate it or move it from side to side.
Download product brochure
3 steps on how to use a menstrual cup
Sterilize your menstrual cup
Before using your menstrual cup for the first time you should sterilize the cup in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
Remember to not let the cup touch the bottom of the pot.
Step 1: Inserting the menstrual cup
Wash your hands using clean water and a mild soap
Remember to wash your hands and your menstrual cup using clean water and a mild soap, such as OrganiWash, before inserting it.
There are many different folding techniques so experiment and find the one that works for you.
Two of the most popular methods are: The Punch-Down Fold and The C-Fold.
When you’re inserting your menstrual cup, you need to keep it folded until it is inside of your vagina.
Find a comfortable position before inserting your menstrual cup
It’s important to relax your muscles when inserting your menstrual cup, so find a comfortable position.
You can lie down, squat, sit on the toilet or simply stand up.
You’ll find the position that works best for you over time!
You might want to use water or a water-based lubricant to make insertion easier.
Insert and release
Insert the folded menstrual cup and once the entire cup is inside of you, simply remove your fingers and let it pop open.
If the menstrual cup has been inserted correctly, you might hear a “pop” or a suction sound which means that the cup has folded out completely and created the necessary suction seal.
If you’re in doubt, reach in and feel around the base of the cup – it should feel round or oval and not have any noticeable folds.
If you feel any dents or folds on the base of your menstrual cup and you’re not quite sure the suction seal has been created, then gently grip the base of the cup (not the stem), and rotate it to make it unfold.
Once your menstrual cup is in place, try to pull the stem a bit, if you feel resistance, the suction seal has been created and the cup has been placed successfully!
Step 2: Wear for up to 12 hours
Wear your menstrual cup for up to 12 hours
One of the benefits of using a menstrual cup is that you can use it for up to 12 hours at a time, so once inserted you can leave your cup in all day – and night.
Depending on how heavy your flow is, you may have to empty it more often than twice a day.
That’s why, we recommend that you empty your menstrual cup more often in the beginning to get to know the cup and your flow.
How much can a menstrual cup hold?
The cup can contain more liquid than 3 super tampons.
According to the NHS (National Health Service, UK), you’ll lose 5 to 12 teaspoons of blood during an average period, so you might be surprised of how little you bleed.
In comparison with a tampon, the menstrual cup should be placed lower in the vaginal canal.
The stem should be completely inside of you.
However, we’re all built differently and if the stem pokes out and annoys you, you can trim it.
Step 3: Remove your menstrual cup
Wash your hands with warm water and a mild soap
Again, start out by washing your hands with warm water and a mild soap.
Find a comfortable position that works for you: lie down, squat, sit on the toilet or stand up.
Being relaxed is essential as removing your menstrual cup will only be more difficult if you tense up.
When removing your menstrual cup, pull slightly on the stem while using your abdominal muscles to push the OrganiCup downwards until you can reach the base.
Give the base of the cup a gentle pinch to release the suction and ease it out.
Avoid removing your menstrual cup by pulling the stem as this might cause discomfort.
Empty and wash
Once you have removed your menstrual cup, you should empty the collected fluid into the toilet or sink and rinse the cup with water (remember the air holes) and re-insert.
If you’re in a bathroom without access to clean water, you can use an OrganiWipe or toilet paper to clean your cup and rinse it with water at a later time.
Reinsert or store
When your menstrual cup is clean, re-insert it as outlined in STEP 1.
However, if your period has ended: Boil the cup for 3-5 minutes in water or simply use an OrganiWipe to disinfect it and store your cup in the original OrganiCup cotton bag.
Top 5 Menstrual Cup Beginner Tips
Until you feel 100% comfortable with your menstrual cup, you might want to wear a panty liner so you don’t have to worry about leaking.
We all have differently positioned cervixes and the cup should be placed below the cervix, if not, it will most likely leak.
Try to locate your cervix with your finger, you should feel for a slightly firmer area of tissue and position your cup under it.
If you can feel the stem and find it uncomfortable after a couple of tries, you can cut it shorter.
However, do not trim the stem while the menstrual cup is inserted!
No one expects you to be an instant menstrual cup pro, so we recommend you practice inserting and removing your cup before you get your period.
You can use water or a water-based lubricant to make insertion easier.
Instructional video on how to use a menstrual cup
Infographic: 6 easy steps to use EvaCup
Put A Cup In It
An “Inside” Look at Menstrual Cups
9 Great Menstrual Cup Fold Techniques
For more videos visit
Remember to always follow instructions carefully when using your menstrual cup!
menstrualcup.eco staff 1 year ago 34 min
Everything You Need to Know About Using Menstrual Cups
If you’re interested in using a menstrual cup, talk with your gynecologist. Although you can buy any of the brands online or in most stores, you’ll first have to find out what size you need. Most menstrual cup brands sell small and large versions.
To figure out the right menstrual cup size for you, you and your doctor should consider:
- your age
- length of your cervix
- whether or not you have a heavy flow
- firmness and flexibility of the cup
- cup capacity
- strength of your pelvic floor muscles
- if you’ve given birth vaginally
Smaller menstrual cups are usually recommended for women younger than 30 years old who haven’t delivered vaginally. Larger sizes are often recommended for women who are over 30 years old, have given birth vaginally, or have a heavier period.
Before you put in your menstrual cup
When you use a menstrual cup for the first time, it may feel uncomfortable. But “greasing” your cup can help make the process smooth. Before you put in your cup, lubricate the rim with water or a water-based lube (lubricant). A wet menstrual cup is much easier to insert.
How to put in your menstrual cup
If you can put in a tampon, you should find it relatively easy to insert a menstrual cup. Just follow these steps to use a cup:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Apply water or a water-based lube to the rim of the cup.
- Tightly fold the menstrual cup in half, holding it in one hand with the rim facing up.
- Insert the cup, rim up, into your vagina like you would a tampon without an applicator. It should sit a few inches below your cervix.
- Once the cup is in your vagina, rotate it. It will spring open to create an airtight seal that stops leaks.
You shouldn’t feel your menstrual cup if you’ve inserted the cup correctly. You should also be able to move, jump, sit, stand, and do other everyday activities without your cup falling out. If you’re having trouble putting in your cup, speak with your doctor.
When to take your menstrual cup out
You can wear a menstrual cup for 6 to 12 hours, depending on whether or not you have a heavy flow. This means you can use a cup for overnight protection.
You should always remove your menstrual cup by the 12-hour mark. If it becomes full before then, you’ll have to empty it ahead of schedule to avoid leaks.
How to take your menstrual cup out
To take out a menstrual cup, just follow these steps:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Place your index finger and thumb into your vagina. Pull the stem of the cup gently until you can reach the base.
- Pinch the base to release the seal and pull down to remove the cup.
- Once it’s out, empty the cup into the sink or toilet.
Reusable menstrual cups should be washed and wiped clean before being reinserted into your vagina. Your cup should be emptied at least twice a day.
Reusable menstrual cups are durable and can last for 6 months to 10 years with proper care. Throw away disposable cups after removal.
I’ve tried so many weird-ass period products here at Cosmopolitan, my colleagues have nicknamed me our Chief Menstruation Correspondent. I am fearless when it comes to all things that time of the month.
Even after having a ridiculously hard time with alternative menstrual blood collector Diva Cup, (as a reminder: it completely effed with my manicure!), I still decided to give the Softcup a try. My hopes were that it would be easier to insert and pull-out—heh.
The Softcup is a menstrual cup, just like the Diva Cup. It sits inside you, collecting the blood. It can be worn for up to 12 hours. The difference is that it’s more flexible. The cup part of the product is a pliable plastic material (kind of like Saran Wrap) and the rim is very bendable.
Right before bed, I opened a box of the disposable cups. Enclosed in a lavender wrapper, the product looked and felt like a giant condom. I then read the directions over once. After using the Diva Cup, I felt like a period cup pro. I zeroed in on the important things: how to put it in, how to know it was in securely, and how to take it out.
Straddling the toilet, I unwrapped the Softcup, bent the rims together, and inserted it. Sticking the product up my vagina took less than 10 seconds. Like, what?! I was SHOCKED. I anticipated experiencing a struggle like I did with the Diva Cup (ugh!). The Softcup entered my lady bits like a tampon with a plastic applicator—smooth sailing.
I stuck my fingers into my vagina to make sure the product was properly placed. Check. I then looked down at my hand and saw how bloody it was. Ew. This time around I wore nail wraps from Go Scratch It, so they were securely on my nails and I was certain no pieces would be left behind in my cookie. After cleaning up, I hopped into bed.
The next morning I had no leaking, except when I blew my nose after I woke up. (I like to engage my abs when I blow my nose, okay.) But, my worst nightmare became a reality. I could not, for the life of me, get the darn product out of my vagina.
I simulated a bowel movement and tried to hook my finger on the rim. Nothing. I stuck my finger deeper into my vagine. Nothing. Now my hand was covered in blood and I was beginning to freak the eff out. I could feel the rim of the cup, but I just couldn’t hook a finger on it to pull it out. Ah!!!
I jumped into the shower, stuck one leg up, and slipped my finger up my vagina. After trying to retrieve the Softcup with my right hand for 10 minutes, my wrist was sore. I had to switch hands. Ugh. I’m right handed! This could get even more complicated.
Using my left hand and squeezing my abs like I was giving birth, I was finally able to fish the menstrual cup out of my vagina.
Goodness gracious. The inside of my vagina felt awfully raw. I mean, I basically just spent 20 minutes unpleasantly fingering myself. Ugh.
All in all, I am never using the Softcup ever again. It did its job, but when it came down to removing the darn thing, it was almost impossible. Never again.
Between this, UndiePads, and the Diva Cup, I am sticking to pads and tampons for my monthly flow.
Have you tried the Softcup? What other period products have you tried? Is there something else I should try?
Want more from Dara? Follow her on Twitter @dadeeyo.
Photo: Sohfian Mohamed Kamari/Getty Images
There is nothing I love more than a bonkers analogy — especially when it involves sex — so I was pretty pleased with my semantic skills a few years back when I once whispered to a friend I had been publicly, drunkenly making out with at a bar: “We can’t hook up tonight, the game is rained out.”
“What? What game?” he replied. In his defense, it was raining outside.
“You know … the game.” I tried briefly to elaborate on my chosen imagery (“My vagina is a baseball diamond …?”) before giving up and telling him I was on my period.
Jason didn’t skip a single beat. “So? I’ve had girlfriends before. It’s not a big deal. Be an adult.” I ultimately was an adult (after much coaxing), but not without a lot of panicked giggling.
Since Jason, a few years have passed and I have grown up considerably. I’ve become real comfortable with my vagina, and with talking about it ad nauseam. I swapped out oral birth control for a NuvaRing. I traded tampons for a menstrual cup on a bet and have loved the DivaCup for the last year, and not just because of the whimsical purple brooch that comes in the packaging (letting you proclaim to the world that you are indeed a “DIVA”), though that does help a lot. I’ve even become one of those annoying IUD evangelists, because they really are great, aren’t they? At this point, my vaginal canal is a funhouse — you really never know just what you might find in there.
But period sex? That’s one thing I hadn’t come around on. Much of this was because of the curse of semi-perpetual singledom: On one hand, casual sex romps with guys I enjoyed sleeping with could often be so sporadic, I knew I should take it where I could get it, a little period blood be damned. On the other hand, period sex is one of those ick-factor level 100 things that’s already so awkward to talk about, the idea of never having to have sex again is often more palatable than both of you being able to see the postcoital carnage on his inner thighs left behind as a macabre souvenir. I ended up defaulting to the other hand a lot.
Upon hearing that I loved the DivaCup so much, a friend suggested I try out the Softcup — a menstrual cup similar to the Diva, save for one important difference: You can have sex with a Softcup inside you. It’s purported to be mess-free, allowing the user to have her cake and eat it, too. Or, in this case, have it be eaten, I suppose.
Problem one: finding a willing participant. While I wasn’t as single this time — I had just started dating someone casually — our situation was casual enough that I felt weird making him my accomplice in period journalism.
So I went with the adult route: a fake drunk text.
“Hey, what r u up to? Me? Omg soooo wasted haha, by the way, i said id try out this thing, it’s superrrr weird but like u can have period sex with it in and there’s no mess, here look at this link. Lol.” In retrospect, despite my studiously random capitalizations, these texts would have seemed more plausibly drunken had I not sent them at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday — but Aaron, ever understanding, was game. My period, not so much. It showed up a week and a half later than normal, likely as terrified as I was.
Once it arrived, I embarked on one giggly trip to the drugstore near my office and emerged victorious with a box of Softcups. Fancying myself a DivaCup pro, I planned to put one in midday and let it carry me through coitus later that evening, just as God and the Softcup manufacturers over at Evofem, Inc. had intended. It hadn’t even occurred to me that the process of using one might be different from the DivaCup, which relies on a complicated insertion process involving a 360-degree internal twist, various levels of suction, and a lot of prayer. Luckily, the wonderful sociopaths over at WikiHow provided this tutorial, which includes an animated video on Softcup insertion and over 12 steps involving a lot of inexplicable cup tilting, and, terrifyingly, the phrase “hook it behind your cervix.” It’s now unsurprising to me that the bottom of the tutorial called for physics experts to contribute to other WikiHow articles. I suddenly regretted not taking anything past chemistry in high school.
I decided to just wait until Aaron and I were about to have sex before inserting the damn thing. (Aaron, a far more willing participant in this whole farce than I, lamented the fact that without a semi-full Softcup in, he wouldn’t get to see if our modified period sex “felt squishy.” I am perfectly fine living my life without this knowledge.) The hooking procedure wasn’t nearly as horrid as it sounded, and off we went, to our carefully pre-planned sexual encounter.
Honestly? It wasn’t so bad. Like the DivaCup, the Softcup is partially made of silicone, which conforms to your body as it heats up. Despite being significantly smaller than the Diva, the Softcup was oddly less comfortable — though between all that tilting and hooking, it stands to reason that I fucked it up. Other than that, however, it functioned as advertised: We definitely had some mess-free period sex.
To be fair, I was so paranoid about menstrual carnal relations (I have white sheets!), I was far more cognizant of realllllly wiping the last time I went to the bathroom before inserting the Softcup, which may have played a part in its being far cleaner than either of us expected. But in the name of journalism (and the name of journalism, alone), we left it in throughout the night and went for a few more rounds, just to see if it held up. I eventually got out of my head and forgot it was in there, which made the entire situation far more pleasurable. Aaron was finally able to report back, “It’s not so much that it’s squishy, it’s just that when I hit the little plastic bag, I feel like Nemo’s dad when he’s swimming through all the jellyfish with Dory in Finding Nemo.”
In the morning, I pulled out the Softcup, and one look was enough to ensure that I would never be using a Softcup again. While DivaCups retain their shape and are made for about a year of use, the disposable Softcup looked like what would be left behind if a pit bull chewed through a plastic bag. Did it do what it advertised? Absolutely. Was the period sex fun and not messy? For sure. Is my lack of willingness to partake again simply a sign of my emotional immaturity and not a fault of the product itself? You bet.
While I would happily recommend a Softcup to a friend who was looking for a way to make period sex a little neater, I don’t see myself using it again — despite the entirely pleasant and civilized evening I spent wearing one. Aaron and I only ended up lasting a few months past our Softcup experiment, and while I don’t blame period sex, I had no hesitation giving away the remainder of the package to a friend far more comfortable with her body than I.
I suspect that my misgivings about period sex stem from my general feelings about singledom. Finding someone to hook up with when single, and maintaining a façade of casualness while admitting to yourself that it’s not at all casual for you — the type of girl whose heart lives in her vagina alongside all the other things she’s shoved up there — is already a hard enough balancing act without in the addition of period sex. And while I’d like to think that being in a relationship would help me grow the pair of balls I so desperately need to be okay with ovarian function, single me just assumes that wifed-up me will be having so much regular sex (the only benefit I can see to being in a relationship, currently), that four days on the bench will be nothing but a drop in the menstrual-blood-filled bucket.
Why Your Menstrual Cup is Leaking [+ Prevention]
By Sarah D’Andrea March 28, 2018
Menstrual Cup Leaks – Oh No!
You’ve finally made the decision to leave tampons and cloth pads behind you in favor of an eco-friendly, clean alternative. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, the blissfully leak-free experience you anticipated doesn’t appear to be in the cards for you – perhaps your period is even messier than it was during your tampon and pad days, and your trusty Ruby Cup or Sckoon is still ruining your favorite underwear.
This is far from uncommon among women new to the cup experience. In fact, many menstrual cup instructions provide disclaimers that it often takes more than a few times to really nail down the insertion process and avoid pesky leaking.
Before abandoning your menstrual cup altogether, figure out why you’re leaking so that you can find your personal, leak-free solution.
Four Reasons your menstrual cup is leaking
Reason 1: Your cup isn’t inserted properly
This is by far the most common cause for menstrual cup leaking. Quite simply, menstrual cups take some serious getting used to. For women accustomed to tampons, their insertion practice is usually relegated to a haphazard one-finger shove up the vaginal canal; menstrual cup insertion, on the other hand, requires much more finesse and care, especially for novices.
In many cases, improper insertion occurs when the menstrual cup isn’t landing in the correct spot. This confusion can be alleviated by a simple anatomy lesson: the vaginal canal links the uterus to the vaginal opening, and the cervix is essentially a barrier between the uterus and vagina. During the period, blood flows through a tiny hole and into the vaginal canal, and the location of the cervix ensures that your menstrual cup, or any other menstrual item of choice, can’t get “lost.”
The Cup vs. The Tampon
Let’s compare the cup to one of the most common products on the period market: the tampon. The menstrual cup sits under the cervix so that it can collect your blood when you menstruate (and in an ideal scenario, prevent pesky leaks).
The cervix typically sits fairly high in the vagina, with some exceptions (see Reason #3), so the menstrual cup usually pops open beneath this barrier.
Tampons, on the other hand, typically sit much closer to this barrier, hence some of the discomfort often associated with that insertion process.
One of the simplest ways to prevent leakage and improve your cup experience is to simply get to know your body. Do some research on female reproductive anatomy, look at diagrams and pictures, watch YouTube videos – anything to help you visualize how your menstrual cup sits in the body, and by extension, why it’s leaking.
Reason 2: It isn’t “popping” open
The “pop” is a descriptor for that magical moment when a menstrual cup finds it sweet spot beneath the cervix and flowers open. Visually, this process makes sense. Fold the cup so that it’s small enough to fit inside your vaginal walls, then let go and wait for the pop.
There are numerous ways to fold the cup, however, and they’re all perfectly valid – for different women. Everyone’s muscle tone is unique, so certain folds may not allow for that desired pop, leading to icky menstrual cup leaking.
The only solution here is to just keep practicing and try a different fold. Here’s a brief breakdown of the pros and cons of two of the more popular folding methods:
- The C Fold: This is one of the simplest options. All it involves is folding your cup in half, forming the titular C shape. Unlike other options, however, the C fold isn’t very economical when it comes to space: it’s fairly wide, which can make inserting it into the vagina somewhat uncomfortable.
- The punch-down fold: This essentially involves pushing down one side of the rim of the cup, then squeezing the sides together. Unlike the C fold, this option makes for a very narrow end-product, so insertion may feel much easier. The potential downside to this option is that it can be harder to pop open completely, due to how compact the folding process is.
Still Not Working?
If you’ve cycled through these options and still haven’t found your perfect fold, you may need to do some simple adjusting.
One simple way to achieve that desired pop is to rotate the menstrual cup and wiggle it from left and right while tugging the base of the cup lightly downward. Once it’s properly inserted, you should be able to feel pressure from the suction when you try to pull it downward. You can also run your finger around the outside of the menstrual cup: if you feel a slight crease, it’s likely preventing the formation of a vacuum, so you’ll need to remove and reinsert.
Reason 3: Your cervix is low
Every woman’s anatomy is unique, so if the many tips and tricks you’ve played with aren’t leading to results, your body may simply be built differently. Most cup instructions are written for women with high cervixes, but if yours lies low, you’ll likely encounter more of a learning curve with your cup, subsequently leading to unnecessary leaking. Cervix height and swelling can also change during different parts of the cycle, so what works one day may not work the next.
If you have a low or hanging cervix, your menstrual cup may be too long, making it very easy to push rim of the cup into the side rather around the cervix itself. Alternatively, the cervix may end up sitting inside the cup itself. If you suspect this to be a problem, simply run your finger around the cup’s rim to see if you’ve missed the cervix, in which case simply pinch the base of the cup and pull until it’s below the cervix. Then angle the cup towards your cervix and do another finger check to ensure that everything is sitting properly.
What Else Does This Mean?
A high cervix also means you may need to simply empty your product more frequently or consider a larger size, as the cervix is dipping into the cup and taking away valuable room for blood.
Reason 4: Your cup is the wrong size
For the most part, standard-sized menstrual cups provide ample room to collect all your menstrual fluid within a 12-hour period. For some women, however, a heavy flow means that the menstrual cup doesn’t have the necessary capacity.
There are two simple solutions if you believe this to be the case. First, try emptying your menstrual cup more frequently during your heavy days. This adjustment means that you’ll probably need to resort to occasionally having to rinse your cup in a public restroom, however. If this sounds unappealing, or if you have such a heavy flow that this tip doesn’t do the trick, consider buying a higher capacity cup. The average menstrual cup holds around 20 ml of blood, while larger sizes can hold anything from 37 to 42 ml – much greater than a tampon or pad’s capacity. Finally, you may need a backup option for these particularly heavy days, such as a pantyliner or period underwear.
I’m still leaking!
If you’ve poked and prodded, wiggled and tugged and tried every menstrual cup option on the market, but leaks are still resulting in a messy period, you may need to consider another option.
Say you like the idea of an eco-friendly product that’s light on leaks but heavy on comfort, but the menstrual cup continues to let you down and you don’t want to return to pads.
Enter the menstrual disc.
Unlike a menstrual cup, discs like FLEX sit in the vaginal fornix, the widest part of the canal. Menstrual cups which use suction to stay in place (and require pinching the bottom of the cup to remove), whereas discs work with your natural anatomy to stay in place behind your pubic bone.
Discs are not only less complicated when it comes to placement, but also require far less trial and error. Say farewell to testing fold after fold to find your perfect method. With a disc, simply pinch and insert.
What’s So Great About A Menstrual Disc?
Although the benefits of menstrual discs are many, three stand out: cleaning, sex, and cramps. Menstrual cups regular emptying and cleaning, as well as the occasional boiling in water to prevent bacterial buildup and infection. This makes for some awkward bathroom experiences and a fairly messy process overall; even though the product is reusable, you’ll end up using plenty of toilet paper to make up for the pads you’re replacing.
Discs are disposable, so there’s no need for disinfecting or upkeep. And, because they last for 12 hours, discs produce 60% less waste than tampons and pads do.
Leaks at a glance
Discs vs. Cups
Menstrual cups also sit low enough that they need to be removed for vaginal intercourse. Alternatively, the placement of discs allows for no-mess, no-leak sex, and by extension, no mood-dampening runs to the bathroom or awkward towel sex. Finally, discs are comfortable, with no additional discomfort after insertion.
Discs vs. Tampons
Tampons, in contrast, are stiff and don’t mesh with your body’s natural movements; discs often eliminate unnecessary cramping, leading to a comfortable experience, even on your heavy days.
Discs vs. Gravity
These perks are all fine and good, but what about the holy grail of menstrual product needs: protection from leakage? Menstrual discs, provided they’re inserted properly, do not overflow or leak.
Discs require far less trial and error than menstrual cups do, so you won’t notice any spotting during your first few cycles with the product.
There’s no need to shop around for the proper size; discs hold blood up to five times that of tampons, so even with a heavy flow, there’s no need to worry about leaks.
The Bottom Line on Menstrual Cup Leaks
Every woman’s body and menstruation is different, so it takes some research to determine which product is perfect for you. Despite what health classes and TV ads may imply, tampons and cloth pads are far from the only options on the market. If you’re looking for a product that results in little to no leaking, we guarantee it’s out there – but it might not be in the form of a Super Jennie or LENA Cup. Quite simply, menstrual cups leak, and sometimes even diligent practice can’t eliminate the problem.
The Flex Company offers a great alternative, with many of the same benefits: they are odor-free, eco-friendly, and perfect for women with heavy periods. It also, however, has plenty of perks that you won’t find with reusable products — most notably, a leak-free, comfortable cycle.
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Public toilets – some are nice and clean, others…not so much. But if your time’s up, you’re nowhere near home, and your menstrual cup really needs emptying and cleaning (remember, most of the time you won’t need to change your cup during the day), it’s a case of simply making the best of what you’ve got.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to run to the sink that’s on the other side of the bathroom stall and hope no one sees you clean your cup, that would be…awkward.
Look at the positives
In an ideal world, you’ll have access to water, cleanser, cup wipes and a degree of privacy.
If that’s the case (and it probably isn’t), wash your hands with the cleanser and water to sanitize your hands before they touch the cup. Remove the cup, empty it, clean it with the cleanser and running water and reinsert. Wash your hands again.
If you don’t have water, you can use the cup wipes to clean your hands and the cup. Remove, empty, wipe and reinsert.
If you have water (bottled or tap), use it to wash your hands and the cup.
If your water is limited, use what you have to wash your hands and use toilet paper to clean out the cup. When water is available again, wash the cup well.
It’s very important that the cup is cleaned properly as soon as you’re able to. Read our ‘How to clean’ article for more detail. You may find, after a while, that your cup develops a fusty smell. If that’s the case, don’t worry. We have an article on ‘How to remove menstrual cup smell’ too.
Beware the myths
Be careful whose advice you take about cleaning your period cup. Here are two myths we’ve come across, and the truth behind them:
MYTH: The water from the toilet can be used to wash the menstrual cup.
TRUTH: No! Although water from the toilet is considered “clean”, millions of bacteria live in and around the toilet seat. If you don’t have access to a sink or you don’t have cup wipes, you can wipe the cup with clean toilet paper. Cup wipes are not only very convenient at festivals or on the road, but they’re biodegradable too and can be thrown into the compost.
MYTH: Menstrual cups can be washed with any soap. The main thing is that it is washed.
TRUTH: Not quite. If you wash your menstrual cup with unsuitable products, you can damage the cup and your health. The pH levels of soap you should use for your cup should be at 3.5 to 5.5 because the vagina has a low pH level. Basic soaps disturb the natural acidity of the vagina. The pH level of commercial dishwashing detergents and detergents are, for example, 7-10, i.e., much higher than the value of the vagina. Also, all oily detergents are banned because they can attach themselves to the surface of the cup forming a film that gathers the smell and color of the menstrual flow in itself.
In addition, irritation of the mucous membranes of the vagina can be caused which may induce itching, burning and even inflammation. Over time, oils make the silicone material also brittle. Lunette’s liquid cleanser has been developed and tested in collaboration with experts to fit perfectly to clean the silicone cup. The components of the cleanser wash the cup effectively, gently, and is safe for your body.
Curious about how to use your menstrual cup in a busy public bathroom? It’s easy. Menstrual cups are a healthy and convenient period product that gives you the freedom to go anywhere and do anything.
They are the perfect menstrual solution for people with active lifestyles and can be used whether you are in your office bathroom or out hiking in the woods.
In a public bathroom
Menstrual cups have a much larger capacity than pads and tampons, and can be worn for up to 12 hours – so you may not have to empty your cup when you are out and about, but in case you do, try these simple steps.
3 Tips for emptying your menstrual cup in a public bathroom:
- Always wash your hands before removing and emptying your Ruby Cup as usual.
- If the sink is out of reach, simply wipe the Ruby Cup clean with dry or damp tissue, and reinsert.
- Some people like to take a small bottle of water with them to rinse the cup over the toilet, do what feels best for you.
You can simply wash and rinse your Ruby Cup with water the next time you have a sink at hand or in the comfort of your own bathroom.
Out in nature
If you are hiking in the woods or camping out in the wild, menstrual cups can be the best menstrual health product to manage your period.
Your Ruby Cup holds three times more than a super tampon or a pad, meaning less toilet stops along the way. They are also reusable, so you won’t ever run out of stock and can save valuable room in your rucksack.
Tips for emptying your cup in nature:
Keep some water with you to clean your hands before and after emptying your menstrual cup. Find a quiet spot to remove and empty. After emptying your Ruby Cup, wipe with tissue, rinse with bottled water or simply reinsert straight-away. Cups are reusable, so you leave behind no waste.
5 Top reasons to travel with a menstrual cup
A menstrual cup is the essential travel companion. Here’s why:
1. Pack light
No need to fill your bag with pads and tampons, giving you more space in your luggage for the things you need! Cups are lightweight and you only need to pack one.
2. Save money
Menstrual health products are sometimes more expensive or maybe even not as easy available abroad. No need to stock up on bulky toiletries before you leave.
3. Move freely
You can wear your cup for up to 12 hours, so you can relax on long journeys, plane rides, hikes and bike rides.
4. Don’t panic
Finding sanitary products while travelling in remote areas can be difficult. With a cup you will never be caught out. You can also wear it before you start your period, so no worries if your period arrives when you are ascending a mountain peak!
5. No waste
Menstrual cups are reusable, so you don’t need to find garbage disposal or leave sanitary waste behind. Protect the environment and respect your surroundings.
The Perils of Using a Menstrual Cup at Work
It’s the middle of the day at work, and I’m on my period. I make my way to the bathroom, congratulating myself. Instead of using a tampon, I’m using a menstrual cup. I’m honorably doing my part for the environment, reducing the amount of trash I produce by way of my own vagina. I am basically a menstruating Mother Earth.
I work in a large office building, and the bathroom is often crowded. I wait my turn, and head into the stall. I remove my menstrual cup carefully, ready to do what the instructions advise: dump contents of cup into the toilet, flush, leave the stall, rinse out the cup in the sink, dry it off, return to the stall, put the cup back where it belongs.
It all seems straightforward enough.
I remove the cup, but my period is heavy. Blood…gets places. It smells just like you think it would. I hold the cup in one hand and pull up my pants with the other. I briefly think about resting the cup on the back of the toilet, but decide that is repulsive. There’s blood on my fingers, of course — I wipe it away and put the cup in a wad of toilet paper. I exit the stall, only to immediately run into a colleague. I make small talk while trying to conceal the fact that I’m carefully holding what is essentially a chalice stained with the dregs of my own blood. I go to the sink. A stranger next to me looks over and has a low-key reaction to the realization that, yes, those are indeed the remains of my period being washed down the sink. They say nothing, but I feel exposed and panicky. I turn around to hurry back to the safety of the stall, only to realize that it’s been taken. I accidentally drop my cup on the ground, and it bounces under the sink. I have to get on the floor and find it, and then wash it again. I head to the back of the short line of women waiting their turn, holding my cup, bleeding into my jeans. I have no idea how I got here, but I kind of wished I’d just used a tampon.
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Don’t get me wrong; I am very keenly aware of the amount of trash that tampons and pads produce. In one lifetime, the average person with a period will use between 12,000 and 15,000 tampons, pads, and pantyliners. Globally every year, approximately 45 billion feminine hygiene products are disposed of. That is a nearly inconceivable volume of non-recyclable trash — and all of the packaging, applicators, and used product ends up in waterways and landfills. I want to successfully navigate my menstrual cup for a lower-impact period, but I haven’t been able to use it without anxiety. Without access to a private bathroom at work (or at bars and restaurants, or really any other establishment outside of my home), the cup feels like a lot to contend with and sometimes, fumbling around with it just feels gross. Perhaps some people with periods feel totally comfortable ceremoniously dumping and cleansing a silicon goblet containing their own uterine lining, but I’m just not — especially when there are other people around to watch.
And therein lies my constant struggle: wanting to use a menstrual cup and reduce the amount of trash I produce, but absolutely loathing the process. Without access to a private bathroom and a birthing doula-level of comfort with uterine blood, it feels like a gruesome chore, which is the last thing I want to deal with during an already trying time of the month.
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After last month’s hellish menstrual cup fail, I talked to friends and colleagues and realized that I’m not alone. The notion of using a menstrual cup is daunting for many of us, despite cup evangelists relentlessly singing its praises. I’ve heard stories about full cups falling onto the ground and splattering, blood splashing on clothes, and strangers in the bathroom making commentary about “not wanting to see that.” Yep: if handling a collection of your own period blood didn’t make you feel gross or stressed out enough, Susan from marketing is there to remind you that you are, indeed, disgusting.
I talked to Carinne Chambers-Saini, CEO of Diva International Inc, the company that makes DivaCup, to see if there are any practical steps to make using a menstrual cup in a public restroom a more private experience.
“One of the most important tips to remember is that it takes many people a few cycles to feel truly comfortable with inserting and removing the cup,’ Chambers-Saini tells me. “If you’re unable to wash it after removal (when using a public restroom), wash your hands before entering the stall, empty the contents in the toilet and simply use a dry or damp tissue to clean the cup. If you find you need more than tissue, bringing a water bottle in the stall with you can be used to moisten the toilet paper and help you rinse the cup as well.”
So DivaCup says the answer is that simple: Bringing water into the stall to wash your cup alone, hovering over a toilet. Lunette, another menstrual cup brand, suggests on their website to wipe the cup down with one of their prepackaged cup wipes if you don’t have access to water or don’t want to leave the stall. On menstrual cup forums, people weigh the pros and cons of simply dumping the contents of the cup and reinserting without rinsing it at all. Pro: You don’t need to leave the stall, and the cup spends less time outside of your body and exposed to germs. Con: By the end of the day, it’s going to be pretty damn gross.
All solid advice, depending on your comfort levels, but it doesn’t totally solve the problem — in fact, bringing a water bottle or additional cup-specific wipe into the stall with you introduces yet another variable to the process that could potentially go wrong. There’s also no insight on what to do if things do go wrong (which they sometimes will, because life). Perhaps I’d feel more guided in my use of a menstrual cup if the websites would tell me what to do when I inevitably spill my period onto my white sneakers.
On the one hand, there’s simply no denying that the choice to use a menstrual cup is one that will significantly reduce the amount of waste you produce. However, it’s also an imperfect option. Menstrual cups are the reusable straws of our vaginal canals. We know that we should probably use them, but if you spend a lot of time in public, not being able to use a tampon — or plastic straw — feels like something devised to test our patience. So if you’re out there, bleeding into a tiny silicon cup that will eventually inspire the type of hyper-specific anxiety that comes with public displays of period management, I want you to know that I see you — except if we’re in the bathroom and you’re cleaning out your menstrual cup, and then I’ll pretend I don’t.