The thought of using a menstrual cup for the first time can be intimidating. What size cup do I buy? White is nice, but will it stain? Will it fit? What if I can’t get it out?! Despite all of this uncertainty circling around in your head, the benefits of using a menstrual cup are worth it, I can assure you. These silicone cups are more environmentally friendly, cost-effective, better for your health, and surprisingly, require less effort to use (in my opinion) than other sanitary products. I consider using a menstrual cup as a form of self care.
How do I choose the right cup for me?
Choosing the right cup is tricky – but it can be done. I have used the same cup that I bought over 2 years ago, and it works perfectly for me. To work out what size / flexibility will work best for you, you need to figure out a few details first. These usually include the heaviness of your flow, the height of your cervix, whether you have given birth, and your level of physical activity during your period.
For reference, I use the saalt cup, and I found the right one by using their quiz (most companies can help you find your fit). Although I have never had children, my cervix is high, so it made sense to go with the slightly larger cup to ensure that it would not get lost in the infinite realm that is my vagina – yikes. Your physical activity level will determine the thickness and flexibility of your menstrual cup. The harder and less flexible the silicone, the easier it will be for it to open up inside and hold its shape (ideal for those who carry out higher intensity exercise).
So, you’ve bought a cup and now you need to know how to actually get it up there. I know, I know, it looks way too big. Don’t let the size intimidate you – all you have to do is fold it. There are a few ways you can do this, and you can test which works best for you, but I use the 7 fold method. Squeeze the cup until it’s flat, then fold the corner diagonally toward the bottom to create a “7” shape. I find it easier to wet the cup a little bit to help ease it in. Before inserting your cup, make sure you wash your hands. Then, make your fold, and insert in the most comfortable position (squats work well), while pushing the cup towards your tailbone.
Once it’s in all the way, release it and then feel to see if it has popped open. You can do this by running your finger over the base of the cup to feel for creases. If your cup hasn’t opened correctly, this is when leaks can happen. For the first few times of use, I would recommend wearing a liner as well, just in case. The length of time you can leave it in for varies depending on the cup, but most allow for 8 – 12 hours before needing to be changed. It can actually be super easy to forget you even have it in there! Changing it once when you wake up and then again before bed is ideal. Though, if you do have a heavier flow on your first few days, I would recommend changing it one more time.
Removing your cup in the shower is the easiest and cleanest way, so I would encourage beginners to start with this. I still take mine out in the shower for the first day or so, when my flow is at its heaviest, to avoid looking like I have just murdered someone. Otherwise, removing your cup while squatting on the toilet is fine too.
Again, first make sure you wash your hands. Then, insert your fingers in and gently squeeze both sides of the cup in order to release the seal. If your cup feels too high to reach (don’t stress!), what you can do is tense your pelvic muscles slightly to bring it lower. Try not to be tempted to pull it out from the stem – the suction will prevent you from removing it this way. Once the seal has broken, slowly pull the cup out, keeping it upright. There may be some spillage at this stage (especially if you have a heavier flow), but it just happens sometimes, and you move on. Empty the contents of the cup into the sink / drain / toilet and rinse thoroughly using cold running water. Then you’re good to reinsert.
If you find yourself needing to change your cup in a public bathroom, remember to bring a reusable water bottle with you so you can rinse and clean your cup in the toilet stall.
How to care for your cup
Because the cup is made of medical grade silicone, all that is needed to ensure safe use is boiling water. Before your first use, and every month after your period flow has stopped, sterilise your cup in boiling water for around 3 minutes. Sterilisation is very important to prevent infection. Try to avoid using any washes or cleaning agents, as not to throw off the delicate pH levels of your vagina.
If you find that the small holes in your cup become blocked during your period (this can happen quite often), then all you have to do is fill your cup to the brim with water, completely cover the top of the cup with your palm and squeeze it with the other hand, allowing the water to flow out through these holes.
After your period, store your menstrual cup in the container / bag that may be provided upon purchase of your cup, or another breathable container (avoid using plastic or airtight containers). Please be aware that the cup can become stained over time – this is normal! Enjoy!
Cover photo by cottonbro studio