I hear you: Menstrual cups are a little…unconventional, to say the least.
Sure, they make much less waste and you can wear them for longer than you can a tampon. But they also require you to get a little friendlier with your vagina. And aren’t they messy?
It’s okay to admit you’re a little clueless about menstrual cups—at least when compared to your other period supplies. But if you’re interested in giving a menstrual cup a try, this primer has you covered.
First up, some menstrual cup basics.
Basically, a menstrual cup is a flexible cup-shaped device that you wear inside your vagina while you’re on your period. It collects your period blood, and you dump it out every eight to 12 hours, according to Planned Parenthood—less than how often you’d change a tampon or pad.
They’re typically made of silicone or rubber, and they come in reusable and disposable options (just make sure to wash out reusable ones in the sink before you pop them back in).
They come in different shapes and sizes—and everyone has a different opinion about which ones are the most comfortable based on their own unique anatomy. You might need to try a few to find one you really like. The most important thing to know is that once your cup is inserted correctly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it.
How exactly do you use a menstrual cup?
Again, you’re going to need to get super up close and personal with your vagina. Any cup you buy will come with lots of instructions about insertion and removal, the care and washing of your cup, and ways to troubleshoot common issues (you’re definitely gonna want to read those).
“Menstrual cup usage has a learning curve, like anything else,” says Jyothi Parapurath, MD, ob-gyn practicing at Caremount Medical Group in New York. She explains that cups are folded and inserted into your vagina, where they seal themselves against the vaginal walls and collect your blood, ideally without any leakage.
So far, so good, right? But what about when it’s time to empty it? You’ll want to sit on the toilet for this part: Dr. Parapurath says to reach into your vagina, pull on the stem of the cup, grip its base, and keep pulling downward to break the suction keeping it in place. Once it slides out, dump the blood right into the toilet, rinse the cup off in the sink, and pop it back in.
As far as maintenance of your cup goes, there’s good news—you’ve already got everything you need to keep it clean and sanitary.
“Make sure the cup is thoroughly cleaned with soap and water at least once a day during the days of usage,” says Dr. Parapurath, who adds that the soap should be free of fragrances. “Clean the soap thoroughly off the cup before re-inserting and be sure to completely dry the menstrual cup before storing it away for next use.”
Other things to consider: It’s important to check in with your doctor if you have an IUD or a history of toxic shock syndrome, per the Mayo Clinic.
All set? Try one of these menstrual cups if you’re ready to ditch your tampons and pads for good.
1. The Diva Cup
The Diva Cup comes in two versions: Model 1 and Model 2. Model 1 is recommended for women under the age of 30 who have never given birth, while Model 2 is recommended for women over 30 or who have given birth.
They’re made of silicone and have you covered for up to 12 hours. And, for the record, women seem to love it. “Even on heavier days, I’ve never had the cup overfill in 12 hours,” one reviewer wrote.
Like The Diva Cup, Lunette has two models: Model 1 is for women with a light to moderate flow, or who are younger, or haven’t had sex yet. Model 2 is for everyone else.
Lunette is made of medical-grade silicone and is safe to wear for up to 12 hours. “This is the best internal protection I’ve ever tried and I’m never going to use anything else,” one person wrote on Amazon.
Worth pointing out: A few reviewers had trouble getting it out. “Come time to take it out, I couldn’t feel it because my vagina basically ate it,” one reviewer wrote. “An hour later of tugging and pulling and yanking, I managed to get it out and I will definitely never be putting it back in.”
Lena gives you two cups in one package: one small, one large. According to LenaCup.com, you use the small cup for normal or light flow days and the large cup for heavier days.
Lena’s reviews are pretty good too: “It doesn’t leak when inserted properly and you can’t feel it at all,” one person wrote. “It takes some trial and error getting it right, but once you get it right, you’ll never want to go back to tampons!”
4. Blossom Cup
Blossom is a lot cheaper than other menstrual cup options, and people rave about how soft it is. Also worth pointing out: It has a money-back guarantee, so if you don’t like it, you can return it (they’ll throw it away, obvi).
Reviewers pointed out that it takes a few tries to get this thing down but many say it’s worth it. “Yes this cup works, yes it is a life-changing event for some women, and yes it can be gross at first,” one woman wrote. “Once you learn how to actually get the hang of using the cup, I guarantee you that it is so much better than using pads.”
If washing out your cup after you use it is just too gross for you, it might be worth looking into Softcup. These little “menstrual discs” can allegedly hold five tampons’ worth of fluid, and you toss ’em when you’re done.
Reviewers also point out that you can comfortably wear these during sex, if having some blood in the mix isn’t your thing. Just note this, per one reviewer: “You must be comfortable in your own skin,” she wrote. “You will have to stick your fingers inside yourself to place this behind your pubic bone and you’ll have to reach a finger in to pull it out. When it comes out, it can be messy.” Otherwise, people seem to love it.
The SckoonCup is one of the most flexible cups out there, making it easier to insert than lots of other brands and easy-peasy for beginner cup-users to master.
Another two-thumbs-up feature of the SckoonCup? Its tapered stem, which is long and skinny but soft and bendy, meaning it helps you find and remove your cup easily when you need to empty it without poking you in the vulva all day long.
One reviewer writes, “I use [the stem] to figure out where the cup is. I tug the stem a little and then work my fingers down the length of the stem until I can get the cup enough to pinch it. The stem has a really nice stretch and really good grips on it, which I love.”
7. Dutchess Cup
More than 2,000 users seem to have had some luck with the Dutchess Cup, which offers all the usual features but might have a slightly bigger learning curve than some other brands.
While leaks are apparently not an issue, some users say they have a tricky time inserting and removing it. “After you insert the cup, you are supposed to twist and tug it slightly to ensure that it unfolds all the way,” says one user. “Twisting it is really hard to do, at least for me. Maybe I’m not doing it right, but I can never seem to grip it hard enough to actually twist it.”
And another user wrote, in all caps, that the cup is “NOT EASY TO TAKE OUT,” also complaining about how hard it is to grip. On the other hand, plenty of people seem to make this cup work for them, so it might be worth a try.
Many of the reviews for the Athena cup compare it to the Diva Cup. The Athena is not only $10 cheaper than the Diva, but many reviewers say it’s more comfortable since it’s made of a more flexible material.
One reviewer thought the softer silicone was problematic, saying it was “too thin and flimsy…to ‘pop’ into place” during insertion, but the overall consensus among reviewers seems to be that you get just as much bang for less of your buck with the Athena.
9. Pixie Cup
Reviewers on Amazon say the Pixie Cup creates a pretty decent leak-proof seal and stays in place during physical activity, just like all the others. Not everyone loves the stem, FYI, but there is one thing about the Pixie that pretty much every user can love: the fact that for every cup purchased, the company donates a cup to a woman in need.
“Bonus, I love the mission,” writes one happy reviewer. “Knowing the struggle that other people [have] dealing with menstruation, I love the buy one, give one program.” If you like your period protection with a side of charitable giving, the Pixie is your best bet.
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