Tired of dragging yourself to the drugstore because you got your period in the middle of the night? Or maybe you’re at work and dreading having to ask your coworker for a tampon. Or you might even be stuck in a bathroom with no trashcan and nowhere to dispose of your pad.
If any of these situations sound familiar, here is our suggestion: try a menstrual cup to help make your next period a little easier.
You’ve probably already seen tons of content on social media about menstrual cups, whether it is during your daily scroll through Instagram or in a trending hashtag on Twitter. For users looking to make the switch from pads or tampons, reusable period cups have become one of the most talked-about products.
While there can be a small learning curve for first-time users, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t make the switch sooner!
Over 90% of menstrual cup users never go back to conventional pads and tampons because they find menstrual cups to be much more comfortable, convenient, and cost-effective. Users love tat quality period cups are non-toxic - just make sure you purchase a menstrual cup from a reputable brand that is registered with the FDA and using 100% medical-grade silicone, like VOXAPOD menstrual cup.
If you struggle with dryness and irritation or hate the inconvenience of changing a pad or tampon every few hours to reduce the risk of infections, trying a menstrual cup could be life-changing – at least for one week of every month, which adds up to about 10 years of your life! Most menstrual cups can be worn for up to 8-12 hours at a time – which means you can change it once in the morning and again in the evening – maybe an extra time on your heavy days if needed.
Menstrual cups are also very affordable, ranging from $25-40, on average, for a safe, quality brand. This price point is especially attractive when considering a menstrual cup can last up to ten years - saving you the monthly cost burden of disposables - making it well worth the investment. They are washable and reusable - that means no more emergency sprints to the store when caught short of ‘period supplies’ and they produce a lot less waste, making them a more environmentally friendly option over tampons orsanitary napkins.
Now that you know what all of the menstrual cup rage is about, you might be wondering, “What should I know before using a menstrual cup for the first time?” and “What are the best tips and tricks when using a menstrual cup as a first timer?”
Before we get into the best tips and tricks, we know trying out a menstrual cup can be intimidating at first - it’s pretty normal to have fears or apprehensions. And, while it can be a bit unnerving at first, don't forget over 90% of menstrual cup users never go back to pads or tampons - so, it’s worth giving it a shot. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself while you learn how to use a menstrual cup for the first time.
We’ll share ourbest menstrual cup hacks that will ease the learning curve and make your next cycle a breeze!
1. Find the Best Fit For You - Take Menstrual Cup Quiz
Before you get your hands on a menstrual cup, get to know your body a little bit more and do some research on what menstrual cup size will work best for you.
Your best fit may depend on your period flow, pelvic floor strength, height of your cervix, and general physique. Every brand is different, but for first-time users, or those with a lighter flow and a lower-sitting cervix, we generally suggest smaller sizes. And for those with heavier flows, higher-sitting cervix, and people who have carried a pregnancy to full-term, a bigger option might work better for you.
When inserted correctly, you should not be able to feel your menstrual cup at all. So if you know your cup is in the right position but you’re still feeling discomfort, you might want to try out a different size.
Still not sure what’s the best size for you? Try our menstrual cup sizing quiz!
2. Start with the Punch-down Fold or C Fold
You may be looking at your cup and then looking down at your body, and wondering “How is this thing supposed to fit inside of me?” Well, here’s the big secret: fold it!
Take the time to try different folds to find which one works best for you. Keep in mind that different folds equal slightly different cup positions after insertion.
After choosing a fold, the process of insertion will be the same: hold the folded cup firmly and with the cup’s opening facing upward, and the flattest part of the fold facing the back of the vagina, slowly guide the cup into the opening of your vagina angled back towards your tailbone (not straight up).
3. Trim or Remove Menstrual Cup Stem
If you’ve previously been using tampons, remember that a menstrual cup is not the same as a tampon, and should not be used the same way. Where a tampon usually sits higher in the vaginal canal, the menstrual cup should sit just inside of your vagina. The stem should be all the way inside of your vagina, unless you prefer otherwise. If after a couple of cycles with your new menstrual cup, you find the stem is too long or not needed, you can trim the stem to your desired length or remove it altogether when not wearing it. (if a bit of the stem of the cup is on the outside, just give it a quick trim before insertion).
4. Bear down slightly after insertion using your Kegel Muscles
Please don't scroll past this section thinking we’re asking you to work out. I mean - it technically is exercise - but it’s a lot easier than you think! Once you get the hang of it, we have no doubt that Kegel exercises can come in handy for you.
To get the best results from your menstrual cup, it is important for your cup to be settled in the correct spot. To help get your cup there, try contracting your pelvic floor muscles, moving in an upwards motion a few times, as if you're holding back your pee. Ideally, this will help move your cup into the right position without you having to reach inside to adjust it. Once you are ready to remove your cup, follow the same procedure in the opposite direction.
If your menstrual cup moves slightly higher when in use, don’t worry! It’s completely normal for this to happen, especially during months where you have a lighter flow. First, reach for the stem at the base of the period cup to help you locate the menstrual cup. Gently pull the stem while bearing down (like when you’re pooping) until you’re able to reach and pinch the base of the cup to release the seal for removal. You can also try removing your cup in the shower, if you’re at home, or try getting into a comfortable squat or one-leg-raised position with one foot up on the bathtub or toilet.
Remember to always relax your vaginal muscles when trying to insert or remove your menstrual cup and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the hang of it right away. It takes an average of 3 cycles before most users feel like they really get the hang of it and learn what fold and position works best for them. Take breaks when you need them and be patient with yourself. It will get easier with practice.
5. Make sure the cup seals
Most think after inserting the menstrual cup into their vagina, they’re done! There’s one small (but important) step they miss: making sure the cup fully opens and seals. You can do this a few different ways.
Give it a twirl
Reach for the base of the cup and spin it until you feel the cup fully open to form a seal with your vaginal wall. Giving it a slight twirl will help your cup pop open and create a necessary gentle suction to keep it in the right position and prevent leaks throughout the day.
Gently Bear Down
Once your cup has been inserted into the vagina, place one finger on the base of the cup to keep it from sliding downward, while gently bearing down to help pump air into the cup so it will open fully and form the seal.
Wiggle it just a little bit
Once your cup has been inserted into the vagina, place one finger on the base of the cup to keep it from sliding downward, while gently bearing down to help pump air into the cup so it will open fully and form the seal. After placing cup inside, sightly pinch the base, gently wiggling it back and forth until you feel it fully open and seal.
Bend forward or squat
Okay, now you might really think we’re asking you to exercise, but moving around or doing squats is a greathack for helping menstrual cups to open up and form a secure seal! After inserting your period cup, try bending forward as if you’re going to touch your toes or squatting once or twice. The movement of your body can help the cup open fully and situate itself comfortably in the vagina so you can make sure it feels good before leaving the bathroom.
6. Rinse with Cold Water First
Some discoloration of your menstrual cup is normal after regular use – even when washing between uses and sterililzing between periods. That being said, you can reduce staining by rinsing your cup first in cold water before washing it more thoroughly in warm or hot water to fight bacteria and other germs. This will help prevent stains from setting into the silicone. This new care routine for your menstrual cup will make all the difference.
7. Make sure to break the seal before removing
Always make sure to break the seal (what keeps your cup gently suctioned in place inside of your vaginal canal) of your menstrual cup by pinching the base of the cup before removing it. Never pull at the stem alone to remove your menstrual cup. Instead, use the stem to help locate the cup or bring the cup within reach so you can pinch the base of the cup. If you can’t reach the base of the cup, gently pull the stem while using your pelvic floor muscles to bear down (like when you’re pooping) to push the cup towards the opening of your vagina until you can reach the base of the cup to break the seal.
Be patient and avoid trying to fight the suction or remove the cup without breaking the seal. This can lead to unnecessary discomfort in the vaginal area and potential spillage of your cup’s contents.
To properly break the seal of your menstrual cup, squeeze the base of the cup. Once you feel the suction release, gently glide the cup out at an angle to avoid spilling.
8. Keep a backup menstrual cup
Nothing is worse than your period showing up unexpectedly when you’re not at home. So, be kind to your future-self and try to always have a spare on hand!
Throwing an extra menstrual cup in your car, gym bag, or purse can save you from plans ruined by period stains or an emergency sprint to the store for pads or tampons.
Owning a spare can also make your cleaning routine much easier because you will always have a spare that is clean and ready to go, especially if you don’t have access to clean water!
9. Try a Collapsible Menstrual Cup + Disc Sterilizer for Rinsing and Cleaning
While it’s pretty rare to have to change your menstrual cup in a public bathroom because it can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time, which means most users change it once in the morning and again in the evening in the comfort of their own home. However, if you have a really heavy flow or you’re traveling and need to rinse your cup in a public bathroom, try one of these handy collapsible menstrual cup sterilizers as a portable sink to rinse your period cup in the stall before reinserting - it makes the process so much easier and the inside of the lid gives you a place to set your cup down while you’re take care of yourself.
Simply fill the container with water from the sink before going into the stall. Remove your menstrual cup and empty it into the toilet before placing into the container of water. Securely place the lid onto the container and gently shake to rinse your cup. Remove the cup from the water and place on the inside of the lid to keep it from touching any surfaces in the stall. Dump the water into the toilet and reinsert your clean cup. Wash the container at the sink or clean everything more thoroughly when you get back home.
It can also be used to sterilize your cup in boiling water between periods - either in the microwave or by pouring boiling water into the container for 5 minutes. Now you don’t have to use your cooking pans for the task ever again!
It’s small enough to fit in your back pocket or bag, but big enough to fit most reusable period products and makes long workdays, travel, camping, and public bathroom trips so much easier!
10. Practice in the shower
Your vagina is a muscular tube, so relaxing those muscles when trying to insert and remove your menstrual cup is critical. If your muscles are contracted, it will make the process ore difficult. Practicing in the shower can help you (and your vaginal muscles) relax, while also keeping your labia (outer skin around your vagina) wet to make the process more comfortable. The shower is not only a super relaxing environment where you can enjoy some warm water to help soothe cramps, but it eliminates the worry of making a potential bloody mess or dropping your period cup in the toilet while you’re first learning how to insert and remove it.
When removing your cup, you can easily pour the cup’s contents down the drain, wash and re-insert your cup, or set the cup off the side to clean later, and enjoy the rest of your shower!
11. Use water-based lube or wet cup before inserting
This may sound contradictory, but your body produces the least amount of lubrication during your period, which can make inserting or removing any period product more uncomfortable.
To make the process more comfortable, try running your menstrual cup under warm water to wet your cup or use a little water-based lubricant before inserting it! If using a water-based lube, simply apply the product to the lip of your period cup and gently glide the cup into your vagina. It’s always okay to use a little extra help!
12. Make sure to relax
Do your best to keep yourself as relaxed as possible when inserting your menstrual cup. We know the process can be intimidating at first, but if you’re feeling nervous or anxious, your body will respond to these feelings and tense up, causing your pelvic floor muscles to contract and make your downstairs opening much smaller.
Before your next period, practice inserting your cup in a low-stress environment. Take a few deep breaths, make your favorite drink, and give it a go when you feel relaxed! You can even do a dry run (but not literally - get your cup wet before inserting to help it glide in) and try inserting your cup on a day when you don’t have your period. When inserted correctly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it once it settles into place. Once it’s in, walk and move around a bit to see how it feels and adjust or reinsert if needed.
When it's finally go time, you’ll feel much more prepared and confident about getting your cup in correctly. You got this!
13. Public Bathroom Pro
Emptying and cleaning your menstrual cup in a public bathroom can be intimidating at first, but sometimes you don’t have a choice - whether your cup is full, you’ve reached the 12-hour recommended time limit, or you just want to take it out and don’t have time to head home. We’ve all been there! Here’s what you can do:
If you can, find a private or single-user bathroom with a sink inside the room. The process becomes pretty similar to what you would do at home: wash your hands, remove the cup, rinse it under water at the sink, and reinsert the cup.
If there is no private bathroom in sight, and you have to rely on a public bathroom stall, don’t worry, the process is still pretty straightforward! You can use a collapsible sterilizer cup for menstrual cups, like the one mentioned in hack number 9 to make the process easy peasy or follow these steps for a stress-free experience:
- Before entering the stall, wash your hands and grab a wet paper towel
- Once inside the stall, remove your menstrual cup and dump the contents into the toilet
- Use the wet paper towel (or a water bottle to rinse cup over the toilet if you have one) and wipe the cup to remove anything left on the cup
- Reinsert the cup, wash your hands, and you’re all done!
Note: If you don’t have access to clean water, simply reinsert the cup directly after dumping out the contents or wipe it down first with a clean tissue or toilet paper. Make sure to rinse the cup properly as soon as you can.
Whether you end up in a private or public bathroom, always make sure to clean your cup properly once you get home, scrubbing any hard-to-remove stains or debris that might require additional attention.
Still have some questions or want to learn more? Check out our detailed blog on how to change and clean your menstrual cup in a public bathroom.
14. Keep It Sparkly Clean
This point cannot be emphasized enough: keep your menstrual cup clean. A clean cup can help prevent odors and unnecessary infections. If you are looking into pre-made cleaning solutions, always check the ingredient list first. Ideally, you want something without parabens, toxins, artificial dyes, oils, or fragrances. Your vagina has its own natural pH, so you don’t want to buy products that will throw it off balance.
But, if you are looking for a homemade menstrual cup cleaning solution, try using vinegar! Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent, free of chemicals and harmful materials that some menstrual cup cleaning solutions have. Combine one part vinegar with ten part water to make a diluted cleaning solution. Once you have your mixture ready, use it to rinse your menstrual cup thoroughly. It's that easy!
You can damage the cup if you don't wash it with the right type of cleaning solution, and not cleaning your menstrual cup properly can lead to more stains, foul odors, or a potential vaginal infection. You should always follow the care instructions in your user manual provided when you purchased your menstrual cup.
You might notice some teeny-tiny holes beneath the rim of the menstrual cup. Though easy to overlook, these holes serve an important purpose! They are essential in creating the cup's suction and creating a seal inside of your vagina to help prevent spills and leakage. With repeated use, these holes can become discolored and get clogged. If this happens, fill the cup with warm water and cover the top with a hand or flat object. Then, turn the cup upside down and squeeze out the water stuck in the cup through the suction holes. If your cup still has some debris, try using a toothbrush or other smaller cleaning tool to gently scrub off unwanted debris and discoloration.
At the end of each cycle, sterilize your menstrual cup. The most common way to do this is the boiling method:
Step 1: Rinse the cup in cold water to reduce discoloration or staining
Step 2: Place the period cup inside a metal whisk (if using pot on stovetop) and boil it in hot water for 5-7 minutes
After the time is up, make sure your menstrual cup fully dries before storing it away in a breathable container.
15. Have a backup plan while getting the hang of things
For first-time users, mastering the menstrual cup may come with a learning curve. As with any period product, mystery leaks are bound to happen from time to time, and it’s okay to wear period underwear, pads, or panty liners as a backup until you really get the hang of what a good seal feels like with your menstrual cup. This will take some of the pressure off and give you total peace of mind while you’re in the learning curve.
If you’re new to menstrual cups, you may have done all your homework, read all the instructions, taken professional consultation, and still experience slight leaks from time to time when using a period cup. You can only control the crimson wave up to a certain extent. After that, the wave might just wash over you, staining your clothes. So, be mindful of that before going to bed.
This is no revelation, though; it can happen when using any product for your period. As a backup when sleeping, wear period underwear along with your menstrual cup to avoid waking up to stained bottoms or sheets.
16. Give Your Cup a Sunbath to Remove Stains
As we hinted at earlier, a bit of discoloration with repeated use of your period cup is inevitable. No need to stress about this! If you’re not a fan of cleaning solutions or scrubs, another simple way to help remove stains from your menstrual cup is to expose it to natural sunlight. Make sure to place your cup in a spot where it won’t receive direct sunlight for an extended period of time. Otherwise, your menstrual cup may run the risk of melting or warping in shape, depending on the quality of the material used. Windowsills are great options for trying out this hack!
We hope some of these tips make your life and switching to a period cup easier.
If you’re new to cups, be patient with yourself in the beginning - soon you’ll be a pro and wondering why you didn’t make the switch sooner!
Do you have a tip we didn't mention here? Drop it in the comments below.
Analiese Terrazas is a California native that loves spending time in the sunshine and hiking in the Oregon wilderness where she currently resides to study Civic Communications, Media, and Studio Arts. Inspired by two of her favorite authors, Bell Hooks and Cherrie Moraga, Analiese is an avid reader and compassionate writer. As a first-generation college student, she’s passionate about building equity for underprivileged and underserved communities in creative spaces.