Monday, August 12, 2013

Menstrual Cupapalooza! Frequently Asked Questions about Menstrual Cups

Welcome to my Menstrual Cupapalooza!  This is the first post in my series all about menstrual cups.  Here, I'll answer all the frequently and not so frequently asked questions about menstrual cups.  Stay tuned to learn even more about menstrual cups, read some reviews, and even enter in some giveaways later in the month!

Warning:  Every post in this series is going to talk about cups, periods, blood and vaginas.  While there are no graphic, vulgar or 'unsafe for work' pictures, I do clearly talk about all of the things mentioned above.  If this makes you uncomfortable, you may not want to read this series.

EW!  Cups are disgusting!  That's gross, unsanitary, weird, etc.
First of all, that isn't a question.  Second, yes.  Cups are gross.  Everything about bleeding from a uterus is gross.  Periods aren't fun.  But cups are no more gross than pads or tampons.  At least if you are using a cup, you clean it yourself so you KNOW that they are clean, unlike tampons and disposable pads.

Do cups cause discomfort?
In most cases, no, a cup will not cause the wearer discomfort.  The first few times you wear your cup, you may have a slight ‘awareness’ of your cup, but this should go away with time, usually during the first time you wear it.  If you are experiencing discomfort when using your cup, you should check to see if your cup has been able to expand fully.  A cup that has not completely opened might feel strange and can’t function properly.  If you are still experiencing discomfort and your cup has opened completely, you should try to identify the cause of the discomfort.  Is the stem too long?  If so, you can trim it to your comfort level.  If the cup itself is too long, you may want to try a shorter cup or try turning the cup inside out.  You also might try pushing the cup up slightly or pulling it down slightly.  If you are using a disposable cup, you might want to try a reusable cup instead.

Why doesn’t the cup fall out?
That depends on what kind of cup you have.  The Softcup is held in place by your vaginal walls and pubic bone.  A traditional menstrual cup is held in place by your vaginal walls also, but mainly by suction.  There are small holes under the rim of traditional menstrual cups, which pull up air to form a suction that holds your menstrual cup in place.

How do I know what cup is best for me?
The first step in knowing what cup you should buy is to know your body.  Do you have a high or low cervix?  You can tell by inserting a finger into your vagina while you are menstruating.  If you can easily reach your cervix, you have a low cervix.  If you cannot or can barely reach your cervix, it is high.  This is how you will determine how long of a cup you will need.  Next, you should look at your age and whether you have had children or not.  Generally, women over the age of 25-30 OR women who have had one or more children should use a larger sized menstrual cup.  Women under 25-30 and without children will generally use a smaller cup.  While these are general guidelines, there are exceptions.  If you are younger and childless but do not have strong pubic muscles, you may want a larger cup.  If you are older or have a child but are especially small with strong muscles, you may want a smaller cup.  The good news is, most women can use most cups.  If you do have a cup that is too big or small for you, don't be afraid to buy another is a different size.  There are so many to choose from, there is a cup out there for every women.  Do your research and try to find the best cup for you, don't just buy whatever cup you hear about first or the cheapest one.

How often do you have to empty the cup?  
How often you empty your cup will depend on the capacity of your cup and how heavy your flow is.  A small cup will need to be emptied much more often if you have a heavy flow.  The general rule is to not go more than 12 hours without emptying your cup.  The first few times you use your cup, check it about every four hours.  If your cup was not full, you can go longer next time.  If your cup begins to leak even though it was inserted properly, it was probably too full and you should empty it sooner next time.  You can expect to have to empty your cup more often when you flow is heavy and less often as your period progresses and your flow lightens.  Personally, I never have to empty my cup more than twice a day.  Once in the morning, and once at night.

What if I have to empty my cup in public?
 Because most women are able to wear their cups for much longer than a tampon, it's unlikely you will have to empty your cup in public.  Just empty your cup before you leave your house.  However, if you do find yourself needing to empty your cup in a public restroom, don't worry.  It's very easy.  Remove your cup and dump the contents into the toilet as usual.  Instead of washing you cup in the sink, you can either use a moist wipe intended for bathroom use or menstrual cups, or you can use toilet paper to wipe your cup clean.  Another option is to carry a small bottle of water with you and use it to rinse your cup over the toilet.  Some women choose to use disposable cups when they are out of the house instead.

How do I clean the cup/ the holes?
If your cup is disposable, there is no reason to clean your cup.  Just dump the contents into the toilet and throw it away.  If you are using a reusable menstrual cup, the cleaning process is quick and easy.  Remove your menstrual cup and dump the contents into the toilet.  If you are home or have easy access to a sink, take your cup to the sink and give it a rinse and a wash with a gentle unscented soap or a soap made for menstrual cups.  To clean the holes, you can simply stretch the holes slightly and allow clean water to run through them, or you can fill the cup with water and hold your hand over the opening while squeezing the cup until water shoots out of the holes.  When you cup is clean, simply rinse it and reinsert it.

What about staining?
Your cup may stain.  It’s normal. Some women find their cup never stains or fades, but some do.  A colored cup may help disguise staining if it really bothers you, or you can try putting your cup in the sun for a while to fade stains.  Some manufactures of silicone cups may allow the use of 3% peroxide to remove stains from cups; always check with your cup’s manufacturer before using peroxide on your cup. I don’t worry about stains.  They’re just that; stains.  Stains don’t mean your cup is dirty.  

How long do resusable cups last?
‘Traditional’ menstrual cups, like the Divacup, Lunette or Keeper may last for 10 years if they are properly cared for.  You may want to replace them more frequently, but many people find they will last for years and years.  Some menstrual cups, like the FemmyCycle, recommend replacing your cup every year.  The ‘reusable’ Softcup can only be used for one cycle before it should be replaced.

Can you have sex with the cup in?
If you are using the disposable or ‘reusable’  Instead Softcup, then the answer is yes!  The Softcup is made of a very thin material and sits in the body in such a way that does allow you to have sex with it in.  If you are using any other reusable menstrual cup, you cannot have sex with it in place.  No matter what menstrual cup you are using, NEVER use it as a birth control method.

Why do some women have more than one cup?
There are many reasons a woman may choose to have more than one menstrual cup.  Some women will find that their cervix sits high during one part of their period and low during another.  They might want to have a longer cup for days when their cervix is high, and a shorter cup for days when their cervix is low.  Some women might also want a cup with a higher capacity for heavier days.  Having more than one cup may make some women more comfortable with emptying their cup in public, because they can put in a clean cup and tuck the dirty cup away to clean at home.  A firmer cup may be more comfortable for some times and activities, while a softer cup might be more comfortable for night time.  Another reason some menstrual cup enthusiasts may chose to have more than one cup is to support the companies who make them.  Making menstrual cups is not a highly profitable business.  Most women will only buy one cup every several (up to 10 in some cases) years.  This does not make for a company that turns out a lot of product.   Collecting many cups over time helps keep these businesses going.  It is important to remember that while some women may choose to have two or more cups, MOST (I don’t dare say ‘all’, although I really lean towards that word) women do NOT need more than one menstrual cup at a time to make the switch from tampons to a cup.

At what age can a child or teenager start using a menstrual cup?
There is no specific age that a child can start using a menstrual cup during her period.  If your child has an interest in using cups or you would like her to use cups, I suggest sitting down with her and talking to her about it.  A very small cup like the Small MeLuna Mini might be a good choice for young girls.  Show her how to fold it (a small fold like the punch down fold might be a good choice) and educate her on how it is used and cleaned.  If your daughter, or the child in question, is uncomfortable using the cup, put it away and try again in a few months or years.  Some girls will get the hang of a cup much younger than others.  As a general rule, if the child is not responsible enough to remove the cup every 12 hours or sooner, clean the cup and keep track of it, then she should not be using a cup.  Cloth pads are a good alternative for girls who are not responsible enough or too small for cups.

Do you still have a question that has gone unanswered?  Ask in the comments!
Stay tuned for the next Menstrual Cupapalooza post next Monday!  We have some fun reviews and giveaways headed your way.


  1. Great post! And, honestly, I find cups less gross than pads and tampons. With a cup, I have to think about my period only after 12 hours. With other products, I have to always be thinking about my period and usually have to change every two hours!

    1. I LOVE being able to go so long without emptying my cup! It lets me forget I'm on my period for a while.

  2. I just haven't really considered using menstral cups, but I hope your series changes my mind about giving them a try.

  3. I recently started using menstrual cups and wish that I started using them since day one! They are soooo convenient and save money.

    The only question I have is what soaps are safe to wash the cups with...I have been using my homemade foam handsoap, but I guess castile soap is a no-no. I just cannot bring myself to spend $10 on a cup solution.

    1. You don't have to buy soap especially for cups. Anything gentle and fragrance-free is alright. Baby soap is popular, and you can also use vinegar. You can get more specific instructions from the manufacturer of your cup.

  4. Thanks for the info!

  5. Do you have to order online or can you find them in pharmacies, walmart, etc?

    1. Some drug stores and Walmarts carry Softcups. I have heard of people rarely finding a Diva cup at their local Walmart, but that's it. Personally I do recommend buying online from a reputable retailer.

  6. I've never seen such a good guide on menstrual cups. I've had the diva cup and the instead disposables... my cervix definitely changes and while sometimes one cup would work really well it might not the next day so it's nice to know I may need more than one type of cup. I got my insteads from Kroger a chain grocery store. I've also seen them for a much higher mark-up in either the CVS or Walgreen's drug store.

  7. Very interesting. A lot of great information. I had no idea you could have sex with the cups in! I still don't have my period back after giving birth because I'm nursing, but when I do, I am definitely considering using this!

  8. Thanks for your nice informative post on the menstrual cup. I am confused about one thing and asking for your advice. I found many eco-friendly menstrual cups but are those really eco-friendly?? Hope to see more post on it. I have found another article on the menstrual cup. In this article, I found eco-friendly menstrual cups review. After reading the review the question comes to my mind. Please advise if possible. You can check it for more information: