Many women are switching from single-use period products to menstrual cups. There are plenty of reasons to switch: 12-hour usage, environmental concerns, and getting to know your cycle, to name a few.
In our Menstrual Cup “How To” Guide, we introduced the period cup to total beginners. If you’re looking for more menstrual cup tips and tricks for mastering your menstrual cup, read on.
Your Menstrual Cup FAQs
Isn’t a period cup messy? What if it hurts? Is it weird to bleed into a cup? Do they actually work?
When it comes to menstrual care, many questions come up when someone:
Considers using a menstrual cup for the first time (and wants to know all the details).
Begins using a menstrual cup but is still learning as they go.
We’re answering all your questions below— there’s no such thing as “too embarrassing”.
Are menstrual cups safe?
Yes. Menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone or latex, so you can use them safely— as long as you practice sanitary period care and hygiene.
If you’re allergic to latex or rubber, ask your doctor before using a menstrual cup.
Where should a menstrual cup sit?
Your menstrual cup should sit securely and comfortably inside your vagina, right below the opening of your cervix to catch menses. The base or stem of the cup should be about ½ inch to one inch from your vaginal opening, depending on your body.
What to do if my menstrual cup slides down?
If your menstrual cup slides down or falls out, it’s probably not sealed correctly between your vaginal walls. You have to insert your cup and then rotate it a few times with your fingers until you feel a “pop” or suction. That means your cup is airtight and will stay in place.
My menstrual cup leaks! Why?
Your menstrual cup might be leaking because:
It’s inserted incorrectly (see above)
The cup size is too small for you
Your cup is full and needs to be changed
It’s overflowing from a heavy period
Your cup is too high or became tilted, causing blood to flow alongside the cup instead of into it
Bowel movements contracted your muscles temporarily and caused a leak in the bathroom
Leaks are normal when learning how to use a menstrual cup. Until you get the hang of it, wear a pad or some period underwear for backup protection.
Can you have sex with a menstrual cup inserted?
Rubber menstrual cups are slightly firm and have a small stem at the end for easy removal. It’s typically advised you avoid sexual penetration with a menstrual cup inside. But for clean period sex, you can use male condoms, lots of towels/blankets, or a flexible menstrual disc.
How do you clean a menstrual cup in public bathrooms?
It’s not always possible to enter the bathroom, wash your hands, get situated in a stall, empty your full cup into the toilet, flush, pull your pants back up, wash your cup in the public sink, go back into the stall and… you get the rest of the story.
Although that ordeal sometimes works if you have total privacy, it’s not the most convenient thing ever. Especially if someone can walk in at any moment.
When you need to change your menstrual cup in a crowded public restroom, wash your hands and then do everything else in the stall. You can do a temporary “clean” using:
Wet wipes. Carry cleansing wipes with you in your bag. Simply wipe the contents out of your period cup until it’s clean enough to reinsert.
Water bottle. If you carry a water bottle, you can bring “the sink” to you. Remove your cup and rinse it with filtered water over the toilet. Avoid doing this if there are additives to your water, like flavors or vitamins.
Toilet paper or paper towels. For times when you’re caught off guard, you can wipe out your cup with paper towels or TP.
A backup cup. Some women have multiple period cups and take an extra pre-cleaned one with them in public. Empty the used cup, seal it in a baggie or water-safe container to take home, and insert the new cup.
When you’ve finished cleaning everything, remember to wash your hands again. You can complete a full cup wash with soap and water later when possible.
How to sterilize a menstrual cup
In addition to daily cleaning with soap and water, you should sterilize your cup at the end of every period. If your cup is silicone, you can safely sterilize it in clean, boiling water for 2-3 minutes to kill off germs. Most cup brands come with instructions on how and when to sterilize your cup.
How do you clean the holes in a menstrual cup?
To clean those tiny air holes at the rim of your menstrual cup, you can:
Fill your cup with warm water, suction the rim to your hand, and squeeze. Water will squirt out of the small holes, clearing them of clogs.
Use a sterilized needle or toothpick to clear the holes, then clean as usual.
Boil your cup at the end of every period to prevent buildup in the holes.
Do menstrual cups work with a tilted cervix or uterus?
An estimated 25% of women have a tilted or “retroverted” uterus, which is when the uterus tips back toward the spine instead of resting forward toward the abdominal wall.
A tilted uterus or cervix can cause painful intercourse, period complications, and pelvic pain in some women.
Most women can still use a menstrual cup with a tilted uterus. It may take some time to find the right one for you. Softer, more flexible cups are ideal, and you can try different folding methods for comfortable insertion. Always ask your OB/GYN before trying something new or if your tilted uterus causes pain.
How do you know where to buy a menstrual cup?
Because period awareness and menstrual cups are becoming more popular, they’re more accessible than ever.
Menstrual cups are sold:
At health stores
In convenience stores (Target, CVS, etc.)
Through some adult toy stores
Before buying a cup, learn about sizes, brands, and your cervix position.
Can you pee with a menstrual cup in?
Yes. A menstrual cup sits inside your vagina. Your urethral opening is in between your vaginal opening and your clitoris. Your menstrual cup won’t affect your ability to go to the bathroom.
Can you get TSS from a menstrual cup?
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) has been correlated with tampon use. Although far more rare, menstrual cups can still pose a small risk for TSS. To avoid this risk, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands and clean your cup after each use (up to 12 hours maximum).
Do menstrual cups help with cramps?
Some women experience relief from pelvic pain when switching from tampons to a period cup. But everyone’s body, cervix position, and menstrual conditions vary, so consult with a professional healthcare provider if you struggle with period pain.
Are there menstrual cups for people allergic to silicone?
There are menstrual cups that are made from non-silicone materials. However, you should consult with your doctor about menstrual options before trying a menstrual cup— even one that says it’s silicone-free.
Can a menstrual cup get stuck inside my vagina?
Sometimes your cup might feel stuck, but there’s no way it could get lost inside of you. The opening of your cervix is too small for a period cup (or even a tampon!) to enter through.
If you can’t feel the stem of your period cup for removal, use your fingers and do some searching until you find the base of the cup. Relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, gently pull down on either side of the cup until that suction-like vaginal seal releases. This makes it much easier to remove completely.
Do menstrual cups smell bad?
As long as you maintain healthy hygiene and routine cup cleaning, your menstrual cup shouldn’t smell bad. Some women notice a general smell of blood during their period or a mildly metallic odor, which is normal. Talk to your doctor about any strange vaginal smells.
Learn More: Menstrual Cups and Your Period
Want to learn more menstrual cup tips for beginners? Make sure you read Part 1 and learn all your can about how your body works.
Stay up to date on period care discoveries and women’s reproductive health. Check out all the menstrual cycle episodes on Fempower Health, which include interviews with medical experts and women’s health researchers on all things period care.