Menstrual Cups 101

12:56 PM

MeLuna Cups
I was having a conversation this weekend with some girlfriends about using menstrual cups.  There were too many questions to answer in a public setting so it occurred to me that this might be a good topic for my blog.

I'll give you the scoop on my experience - you can decide for yourself.

WHY use a cup?
The bottom line for me is that it is convenient, easy and green.  I know that you're not supposed to flush tampons, so at my house they end up wrapped in toilet paper and tossed into the trash - YUCK!  (I confess that I used to flush them when out in public. I don't like the messiness/wetness of pads.  Plus I hated shuffling off to the ladies room with a bag in tow when mother nature calls.  Finally, i'm a tree-huggy kind of person.  We use as much reusable everything as we can at home.  Using a cups is in line with my efforts to reduce waste.

Is is MESSY?
No, not for me.  NOW - if you're a beginner you could make some mistakes that might make it messy.  For example I turned on the water full blast to rinse my cup.  That sent dirty water spraying all over the sink.  Not my smartest moment!  Other than that, it's not messy.  On your heaviest days you may get blood on your hands, but that's pretty similar to tampon use.

Is it HARD to use?
There is a learning curve but it's not hard to use.  Once you've found an insertion fold that works for you it's easy peasy!

How do you LEARN?
I talked to my cup wearing friends and I watched YouTube video's by a girl names Bree Farmer.  Bree is the cup guru!  She's only about 16 years old but she knows EVERYTHING about cups.  Bree was truly a godsend when I was trying to figure this all out.  Find Bree on her Precious Stars Pads channel.  I'll post a few of her video's below in this blog.

Will a cup WORK FOR ME?
Probably, yes.  But there a few factors to consider so I don't know.  I have friends who can't get the cup to fit correctly.  They're fine for most women and i've never had any problems, but I can't promise that a cup will work for everyone.

HOW does the cup work?
The cup goes into the vagina just like a tampon.  Instead of absorbing the flow it catches it.  A couple of times a day you remove the cup, dump it into the toilet and reinsert.  Because a cup holds more than a tampon you typically spend MUCH LESS time in the ladies room than with pads or tampons.

Will it LEAK?
When properly inserted no.  The cup will leak if it's not put in right or when it is full. 

How Do I know when the cup is full?
For this you'll have to learn your body and your cycle.  For my first cycle I checked the cup a lot.  These days I know what to expect.  To check and see if the cup if full, simply wipe.  If there is staining on the toilet paper it's time to empty the cup.  Cups typically hold 2x the amount of a super plus tampon, so even on your heaviest day you'll only need to check/empty 1-2 times during work/school the day.

Where can you BUY a cup?
In the US, Diva cups are available at Target and other major drug stores.  A greater variety is available online. sells several varieties at good prices.

How EXPENSIVE is a cup?
There are SUPER cheap cups available on and other sites.  These cups likely work well but may not last very long.  Expect to pay between $25-$50 for a good quality cup.  Expect it to last approx 8 years (maybe longer).

How MANY cups do I need?
You could totally get away with having just 1 cup.  I have 3.  Most people I know have 2.  One stays in my purse at all times (never know when you'll need it).  The second is usually in my bathroom.  It's my regular use cup. (The 3rd cup was a cheapo cup that I never liked or used).   

How is it REMOVED?
Just like a tampon has a string, menstrual cups have a stem or ball.  You'll need to trim the stem to fit your needs and your body.  Some people remove the stem entirely.  To remove the cup pull the stem just like you would a tampon string.

Does it HURT to put in?
No.  If it hurts you're probably doing something wrong.  If you're a virgin or a first time cup user you might want to put a drop of lube on the edge of the cup to get it inserted the first time.  Also, DO NOT try a dry run.  Wait until you have you period to try it out.  The natural lube of the flow with make insertion MUCH easier!

WHICH CUP is right for me?
There are SO MANY cups available that it can seem overwhelming to figure out which one will work best for you.  I say buy whatever is easily available and affordable to you.  Some cups have sizing.  Follow the manufacturer's directions re: sizing.  There are sometimes different sized depending on age, if you've had a baby and other factors. 

MY FIRST TIME using a menstrual cup
The biggest question I had when I first started using a cup was "what is it like?"  Like with anything it's different for different people.  I'll explain (in detail) what it was like for me.

5am  I woke up in the morning with my period.  I went to the bathroom washed my hands and my cup with soap and water.  I used the punch down fold to insert my Moon Cup.  (More on folds later) My first day is typically a medium/heavy flow day.  Also, when my period starts there is usually significant clotting the first few hours.  Because a clot can fill the cup quickly I knew that I would need to empty the cup in about 2-3 hours.

Approx 7:30am.  I entered a public restroom and washed my hands with soap and water.  In the stall I  peed, removed the cup, dumped out the clots and blood and reinserted the cup.  I washed my hands and left the bathroom.

Approx 10:30am.  I had to pee so I washed my hands and used the bathroom.  I used my finger to gently press the side of the cup to see if it was full.  There was no staining when I wiped so I left the cup in place.  Washed my hands and left the ladies room.

Approx 1pm (lunch time).  Washed my hands and Peed.  I removed/emptied/reinserted the cup.  Washed my hands and left the ladies room.

Approx 5pm.  (time to leave work).  I entered the ladies room and washed my hands.  Removed/emptied/reinserted the cup.  Washed my hands again and left the restroom.

9:00pm (relax/bed time).  I wash my hands and removed/emptied the cup.  Washed the cup with soap and water and reinsert it for the night.  Because i'll be wearing it over night i'll use a panty liner in case of leaks.

5am:  First thing in the morning I washed my hands remove/empty and wash the cup.  I reinserted it for the day.

TYPICAL DAY using the cup
On a regular day I only remove the cup when I get up and when I go to bed.  I don't have to bother it during the day.  Also, I only wash the cup when i'm at home.  It's not something that I want to deal with in a public restroom.

At the end of the cycle, wash the cup with soap and water and put it away until next time.  Some women boil the cup or rinse with peroxide to prevent staining.

Things I wish I'd known
In every new situation there are things that I wish i'd known.  I can't say what those things will be for you, but here are the things I wished I'd known.

- Trust the cup.  As a beginner I kept thinking "I don't feel anything, maybe it's not filling, maybe something is wrong."  I kept taking the cup out to check it.  Like 5-6 times a day.  Taking the cup in and out so much left me sore.  I wish i'd known to trust that everything was working fine.  You'll know if something is off.

- There is a learning curve.  I assumed that the learning curve was for everyone else, but not for me.  It took me a few trys to get the cup out without causing myself pain.  I had to figure out techniques that worked for me.  For example, I can only git it in using the punch down fold.  I like the stem trimmed to about 1/4" and I have to press down the front of the cup to remove it.  It took me 2-3 cycles to learn all of that.

- Don't obsess.  I'm not much but i'm all I think about. :)  I kind of obsess about everything.  My cup was no different.  In the beginning I wanted a cup in every color, every softness and I had to know absolutely everything about every cup ever made.  In the end i'm a middle of the road girl.  A standard cup works best for me.  (not too hard, not too soft).  I really only need 1-2 (but I own 3).  Having glitter on a cup doesn't make it any better or worse.  In the end, all of this is lovely, personal and really not such a big deal.

- Reactions of others may vary.  When I find something new I'm excited to talk about it to anyone who will listen.  There are people in my life who are TOTALLY grossed about by cup use.  There are those too who are fascinated.  Because I'm comfortable with my body and cup use I assumed that other women would feel the same.  There are plenty of women for whom the idea of blood, cup use and even tampon use are 100% taboo and totally disgusting.

- Wear a pad for backup.  On heavy days or when I sleep, I wear a pad for backup.  On normal flow days or light nights it's 100% unnecessary.  You can make cloth pads if you like.  A complete tutorial is here.

- You can put the cup in early.  If you're expecting your period you can put the cup in.  Because it does not absorb it won't dry out your vagina like a tampon would.

More information:

Live Journal has a GREAT page

FOLDing techniques.

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