I’m sure you have DOZES of questions racing about in your mind, as to what a menstrual cup is all about. Weather or not it is safe. How exactly it is used, and much, much more! So to satisfy that curiosity, I have made this section in my blog for all your questions, and hopefully, I have managed to get most of them in here. If not, feel free to ask me in a private message.
Q– How is a menstrual cup inserted or removed?
A– Please see the following video, by YouTube member “scottishboomerang”:
Q– If menstrual cups are so wonderful, how come I haven’t heard of them, or seen them on TV?
A– They may be wonderful, but because of their long-lasting nature, they (for obvious reasons) do not pull in as many repeat sales as a disposable product company… So most cup manufacturers stick to just the internet, their websites, and word-of-mouth for sales. Furthermore, menstrual cups cannot be made in large masses, in factories. Most cups have to be made in a sterile, sometimes surgery-quality rooms. So they have to be specially ordered. The companies are also fighting a VERY tough battle– introducing something new and different, to a world full of women who have only known disposable products for nearly 100 years. When a woman purchases a cup, it will last for years and years. They cost around $35 (sometimes as little as $15, if you find a good discount website). But because the cup lasts so long, there will not be a repeat purchase for quite some time. For these reasons, we don’t see much of them, outside of health food stores, or the internet. But still, they are wonderful products!
Q–It looks big! Does it hurt going in or out?
A– If you do it correctly and carefully, it shouldn’t. Virgins may have some discomfort at first, but that goes away. Your vagina can expand to fit a penis or a baby’s head, and the cup is smaller than both of those things. When you put it in, you can wet it with water or water-based vaginal lube, to ease the insertion. When you pull it out, you squeeze the bottom to break the seal, then gently ease it out of your body, keeping it in an upright position as it comes out.
Q– Can it be used as a method of birth control, or STD protection?
A– No it cannot.
Q– Can I have sexual intercourse while wearing the cup?
A–No, not with most cups. Cups are worn low in the vagina, and will get in the way. The penis (or whatever) will crush the cup and push it out of place, causing spilling. However, there is one brand of cup called “Instead” that does allow you to have “clean sex” while you use it, and it has a different design— its more like a 2-inch condom, with a firm rubber ring at the top, and is inserted much like a diaphragm, up by the cervix. But none of the other cups can be worn during sex.
Q–Does it leak?
A– Not if you insert it properly, and empty it before it gets too full. After you insert the cup, you need to twist and pull down slightly to make sure it pops open and forms a good seal. It takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you shouldn’t see any leaks. You can also wear a cloth panty liner the first few times you try it, just in case you are not yet confident.
Q–Can you feel the cup while you wear it?
A– Most women cannot feel it, especially if they trim the stem away. Others are slightly aware that the cup is there, the same way they are aware that a tampon is in. But the cup is soft and as long as you have a good size and brand for your needs, and its inserted correctly, it should not hurt.
Q– Can you get toxic shock syndrome, or any other diseases from the cup?
A– No, not if you follow the cleaning, care, and storage instructions.
Q–How long does a cup last?
A–Most companies say that the cup lasts ten years. Although theoretically, it can last a lifetime, because its made of is the same silicone that is implanted as artificial body parts in heart patients, during surgery. A few companies have gone from saying that a cup last 10 years, to saying that you should replace it every year. You can do this if you want to support the company, but most people believe that is purely a financial move on a company’s part. The only cups that may actually need to be replaced, are the “Instead” cups, because they are disposable.
Q– Do I need to remove the cup when I urinate/pee or have a bowel movement?
A– No, the hole you urinate/pee from and the vagina are not the same hole. So the cup will not get in the way. But you may find that the cup gets pushed down a little bit when you have a bowel movement. In that case, simply remove it, clean it out, and re-insert it.
Q– How do I empty and clean my cup in a public restroom?
A– Remove and empty it the same way you would at home, but bring some bottled water and/or a wet paper towel in the stall with you for rinsing/cleaning. Then reinsert it. You can give the cup a good wash after you get home.
Q– I can’t wear tampons, because they don’t stay in me. Will I have the same problem with the cup?
A– You will need to try the cup and see how it works for you. Everyone is different. But some companies will let you return the cup and get a refund, if it does not work out for you. And the returned cups are destroyed. If you are uncertain, be sure to buy direct from he company and ask the company about refund policies before you purchase. But most women who master the cup NEVER go back to disposable products again.
Q–Can I use the cup to collect other types of liquid?
A– The FDA has approved silicone menstrual cups for menstrual use only, and does not recommend using it to collect any other fluids.
Q– I am allergic / sensitive to latex. Can I still use the cup?
A– Yes. The only cup that is made latex is the Keeper. And even their company does have a silicone version as well. All the other cup brands are made of medical grade silicone– not latex.
Q–Do I need to sterilize my cup?
A– It is recommended. You should of course wash the cup daily with mild, perfume-free or genital- safe soap (a feminine wash works best), and warm water. Either each time you empty it, or at the very least, 1 – 3 three times a day. Many feminine hygiene companies (including some cup manufacturers) make these soaps. Some local store-bought examples would be: Vagisil, Monistat, etc. Then of course, at the end of your period, you will need to boil the cup for 20 minutes in plain water. Do not use other types of soaps or sanitizing liquids or products, as the residue they leave behind can either damage the silicone (on a microscopic level, making it vulnerable to bacteria growth), or kill the good bacteria that naturally grows in the vagina which protects you from infection.
Q– I live in a culture where boiling a menstrual cup in the kitchen is not allowed. What should I do?
A– A cup really should be sterilized either just before, or just after your period. If you boil, don’t go longer than 5 minutes. But if you cannot boil it, you can sterilize the cup with some rubbing alcohol or “surgical spirit”. Simply wet some cotton with the alcohol, and rub it all over the cup. Then let it dry completely (alcohol must be allowed to evaporate in order to be safe on silicone). But NEVER use other chemicals like bleach, peroxide, antibacterial liquids, etc. These can damage the material of the cup at a microscopic level, over time. You may not see it, but the damage will be there. If the material is damaged, bacteria may be able to absorb in the silicone, or grow on it. So you want to keep your cup preserved and safe.
Q–How often do I have to empty the cup?
A– It depends on your flow– all women are different. If you have an average to heavy flow, the cup should sit well for 3 – 10 hours. Some women with a very light flow (or on a light day) can go as long as 12 hours. On heavier days, you may need to empty your cup more often. If you have already tried a large-size cup and you have to change more frequently than 3 hours, it means you have an exceptionally heavy flow. That’s not necessarily anything to be worried about, but you may want to speak to your doctor about it. There are treatments today that can help to reduce a heavy flow.
Q– Where should I store my cup, when I’m not using it?
A– After you have cleaned and sterilized your cup, store it in a clean cloth sack, which provides air flow. Most cups come with one. DO NOT store the cup in a plastic container or bag, as this can cause mold.
Q–What is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)? Do menstrual cups cause it?
A– Menstrual cups DO NOT cause TSS. However, tampons do! TSS is a sickness caused by the bacteria that can grow inside absorbent materials, like tampons. It is dangerous, and can be deadly! If you are currently using tampons, you need to be aware of the symptoms of TSS which are: Severe flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and pains, stomach cramps, a headache, or a sore throat. Sudden fever over 39°C (102°F). Vomiting and diarrhea. Signs of shock, including low blood pressure and rapid heartbeat, often with light-headedness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, or restlessness and confusion. A rash that looks like a sunburn. The rash can be over several areas of your body or just in specific places such as the armpits or the groin. Pain at the site of an infection (if a wound or injury to the skin is involved). Redness in the nasal passages and inside the mouth.
Q– If I order a cup, will it come in a discreet package?
A– Yes it will. Although if you order a cup from outside your country, it will need to pass through security / customs, and words such as “sanitary product” may be stamped on by the postal service. But nobody will be able to “see” what it is.
Q– Can I use a menstrual cup if I have and IUD”
A– Yes, but some brands are better with IUD’s than others. Read the manufacturer’s F.A.Q. to find out. Be careful to make sure that you do not insert the cup high enough to interfere with the coil or string of the IUD.
Q– How do I know the cup is in the right position, and has popped open?
A– Never insert straight up. The vagina tilts back toward the rectum, or tail bone. So angle that way. You can check to see if it is popped open by giving it a full rotating twist, and tracing a finger around the edge, to see if it feels round. Rotating should be easy, if its open. If it has not popped open yet, use a finger to let some air into the cup, or push the cup up and down slightly a few times.
Q– What cup sizes are available, and which one should I choose?
A– Most companies have 2 sizes: One for women aged 30 and up or who have given birth vaginally, and women under 30 who have never given birth. But there are also a few companies that have extra sizes in between, like for virginal teenagers, or women who are built larger and have had many children.
Q– Can the cup be used along with contraceptives?
A– You really should remove the cup before having sex– unless you are using the “Instead” brand. But with some products like Nuvaring, the pill, the patch, or an IUD– they will not harm your cup. It is not recommended to use things like contraceptive gel or foam though (such as Conceptrol) with the cup, because not much is known about the effects of those chemicals on the silicone.
Q– I am pregnant, but sometimes, I still spot. Can I use the cup for times like this?
A– You should not use the cup while you are pregnant. The vaginal canal should always be kept clear during this time, even in early stages, for safety reasons.
Q– Is there a money-back guarantee? Can I return or exchange my cup?
A– Many companies will refund your money if you are not happy with the cup, or allow you to exchange your cup for a different size. However, you may lose this benefit if you do not order directly from the company’s website (for example, if you purchased from eBay, or a private distributor).
Q– What happens to cups that are returned?
A– They are destroyed.
Q– Can I wash the cloth pouch that the cup comes with?
A– Yes. The cotton-based pouches can be washed in the machine or by hand. But some other materials such as satin, may need to be only hand-washed.
Q–At work, I can’t wash with perfume-free soap. What should I do?
A– If you are often away from home, you can just rinse with plain water. Or you might want to keep a small bottle of water and a bottle of perfume-free soap or feminine wash in your purse. You can also simply wet a paper towel before you go in the stall, and use that to wipe the cup clean. Then give it a proper wash after you get home.
Q– I’m having trouble removing the cup. What should I do?
A– Most women will not have major problems with removal. But if you do, this is normally because the seal has not been broken. First try relaxing as much as possible. If that doesn‘t help, try squatting (which makes the vaginal canal shorter) or bearing down like you are having a bowel movement, to bring the cup closer to your reach. You can also try a longer brand (the DivaCup is the longest). But if you cannot seem to get the cup out without spilling it, don‘t be afraid to climb into the shower and just completely flatten and crush the wall of the cup to get it out. Many women are more concerned about removing it with little or no mess, than actually removing it. However, getting it out is really top priority. Different cups work differently, but it will always take a little practice to get in and out. Its pretty rare that someone has to have a cup removed at a clinic.
Q– I have long nails. Can I still use a cup?
A– You can, but you may need to be more careful than other women, during insertion and removal. The silicone is thick enough to where your nails will not damage it, but long nails may hurt the delicate skin in that area, if special care is not taken.
Q– I come from a very poor family/region. We cannot afford multiple cups for multiple women. Can we share our cup, if it is properly sterilized between uses?
A– Surprisingly, this is something that many women attempt in less wealthy areas of the world. But the companies do not recommend this. Especially if you cannot properly sterilize the cup. Even with sterilization, it is just too much of a risk. Especially if the other woman could have a medical condition that you and she are not aware of.
Q– What if there is no clean, potable water available to clean my cup with?
A– You can clean it as you would in a public restroom, just wipe it out with toilet paper, and wait until you are home to give it a proper wash. A person will eventually have to get drinking water from somewhere. The water you would drink, is the water you should clean your cup with.
Q– Can women with both heavy AND light periods use a cup?
A– Yes! Although women with heavier periods may need to empty the cup more often, or choose a larger cup.
Q– Can I take a bath or a shower with the cup in?
A– Yes you can.
Q– Can I use the cup if I have Endometriosis?
A– Yes, it is perfectly safe to use in this condition. There are arguments that cups may be associated with this condition, but there has never been any solid proof. Thus far, there has only been speculation. Furthermore, endometriosis is caused by menstrual blood flowing back up through the cervix and uterus (backflow). however, it takes a lot of muscles contractions for the uterus to squeeze the blood through the tiny cervix hole– it is not an easy task. Also, in order to backflow, the blood would have to work against gravity (flow up instead of down). And there is no force or muscle that would be pushing it back the other way through the cervix. So with this in mind, it is not very likely that a cup could cause endometriosis.
Q– What about being in different positions, like in Yoga, or going on a roller coaster?
A– For health and sanitary reasons, it is recommended that you empty your cup just before doing any such activities. When you are upside-down, the old blood will touch the skin above the opening of the cup. So you don’t want the blood to have been sitting too long in that case. For this reason, you should also empty it just before you go to bed.
Q– I’m going through menopause, and my cycles are very unpredictable. Can I still use a cup?
A– Absolutely! You may even find that it makes the uncertainty more bearable. Some women going through menopause get bad cramps. Their flows may increase or decrease. The verticality and comfort of the cup, and its relief on cramps for many women, may come as a blessing during this time!
Q– How does the cup stay in place?
A– The cup is held firmly in place by the muscular walls and closed-end of the vagina. IT also stays in via a light suction that is formed up inside.
Q– Can I practice putting my cup in and taking it out, before my period starts?
A– Yes, absolutely! In fact, you are encouraged to do so! It’s a great idea to have the techniques mastered before your cycle starts. And it is perfectly safe to do so.
Q– I need to use a lubricant to make inserting a cup easier. Which kind should I use?
A– Any water-based vaginal lube is ok to use with the menstrual cup, and the bottle should tell you weather or not it is water-based. Never use oil-based lubes, as this can damage the silicone. Another clue that a lube is water-based, is if it says “safe to use with condoms”. Because condoms also cannot be used with any other kind. Simply smear some around the outer edges of the cup, and insertion will be much more comfortable. Lastly, avoid lubricants that contain glycerine, as this is a sugar and can upset your vaginal ph levels, causing infection.
Q– I just had a baby. Can I use a menstrual cup?
A– You should not use a cup for post-natal bleeding. Please wait at least 6 weeks after the birth, before trying a cup.
Q– Will it spill or make a mess when I remove it?
A– Your first couple of tries may be less than perfect, but with practice, most women are able to get it in and out, with no more mess that a tampon would cause.
Q– I have a tilted uterus. Can I still use a cup?
A– Yes you can! You may need to find the angle that works best for you, however.
Q– Can a virgin use the cup?
A– It depends on your personal or religious beliefs. A cup WILL alter your hymen. So if you (or your family and culture) believe it is important to have an intact hymen until you get married, then you should wait until you are no longer a virgin, before using the cup. Otherwise, it is perfectly fine.
Q–What size cup should I use?
A–Each menstrual cup manufacturer has two sizes to choose from (some have more). In general, they all separate women who are 30 and above and/or have given birth vaginally— from women who are under 30 and have never given birth vaginally. The size you choose will depend what category you fit into. And again, a couple of brands even have a different size for virginal teenagers.
Q–Can the cup get stuck or lost inside me?
A– No, not as long as you properly release the seal before pulling down. The cup is flexible. So as long as you squeeze the cup slightly to break the seal, or tilt it from left to right, your natural moisture will allow you to remove it. And it cannot get lost inside you, because it is trapped by the walls and the closed end of your vagina. You are sort of like a pocket up there. And when the vagina is relaxed, it is only about 3 to 6 inches long, depending how low your cervix is riding at the time (it changes places). With most women, if they were to reach as far as they can, they could actually touch the end of the vagina. There is nowhere for a cup, or anything else to go. If you have a long vagina, and you’re having difficulty reaching the cup, simply push down with your muscles, like you are having a bowel movement. This will shorten the vagina.
Q– Can it be used for both light and heavy flows?
A– Most of them, yes. But some brands will make an extra small size for virgins, or women with a light flow. So be sure to do a little research, and select a good size and brand for your needs. It can even be worn just before your period starts, to make sure you don’t get caught without protection.
Q–Will the cup hurt when I am removing it?
A–Not if you break the seal properly. Again, a virgin may have some discomfort the first few times, but it will lessen with practice. Squeeze the cup gently, to let some air in and break the seal. Inserting a finger alongside the cup also helps this process.
Q–Can I wear the cup to bed, or while I swim and play sports?
A–Yes you can. But if you are having a very heavy flow day, you might want to set an alarm in the middle of the night, to empty it at least once.