Our menstrual cup FAQ is designed to help answer some of the most common… and obscure (but important and valid!) questions that we hear. Learning to use a menstrual cup can be exciting but also overwhelming; we hope that you find this resource helpful in your journey.
Stated simply, a menstrual cup is a reusable tampon alternative worn inside the vagina that collects flow rather than absorbing it. Cups come in all sizes and shapes to fit the wearer best and are most often made from medical grade silicone (but not always.) They are a safer, healthier, and more comfortable way to manage your period.
YES! Luckily there are all sizes, shapes, and styles of cup. We believe everyone can succeed with a cup as long as they find the right one (with VERY few exceptions).
Not at all! Even when removing the cup you should have little to no blood on your hands- remove while over the toilet or in the shower.
When you have a cup that fits your needs (that’s where our quiz comes in) it should be entirely undetectable (or at least very close!) If you do notice the cup, it is most commonly that the cup is not inserted properly (remove and try again) or the stem that you are feeling (which can be easily trimmed or removed). If neither of these things helps, you may have a cup that will work (catch your flow) but isn’t the best for your shape. If it doesn’t bother you, you can keep on using it. If it does, we recommend trying another cup that is softer than your current cup (we also have a firmness chart).
No. At the end of your vaginal canal is the cervix (the opening to the uterus) and it won’t allow anything past it… except sperm.
If your cup is “lost” and you can’t reach it, again, remember it’s not going anywhere. Use your muscles to work the cup down low enough to reach by bearing down, the same strain you use to poop. Once you can reach it pinch the base to break the seal and remove.
No. The cup has no where to go but “out” and can’t possibly remain inside you or travel farther than the cervix. If you go to remove your cup and it feels stuck the first thing is to remain calm. Panic only worsens removal due to tense vaginal muscles. Be sure you are pinching the base of the cup to break the suction the cup likely has then pull out.
No. As mentioned before, the cervix is an exit only. Your flow cannot go back inside the uterus or other areas of the body.
Only if you tell them.
No. Blood typically only has an odor when it comes into contact with oxygen. That said, if you wear your cup for longer than 12 hours you may notice it has a scent once removed.
The general guideline is as follows: Size 1 (or A, Small, etc per brand) for those who are under 30 years old and who have not given birth. Size 2 (or B, Large, etc) for those over 30 years old or who have given birth either vaginally or by Cesarean.
These guidelines are helpful but it’s important to note that you know your body best. Things such as your activity level may mean a smaller diameter size 1 cup fits you better, even if you land in the “Size 2” area. For this reason we suggest taking our quiz for further guidance.
We do believe that knowing your cervical height is the most important aspect of picking a cup (one based on length) since the vagina can stretch but cannot create more length.
Yes. Cups come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Be sure to check out our menstrual comparison chart (which is sortable by both diameter and length) for help choosing a cup that will work for you.
YES! If it weren’t possible we would not be cup users. Both of us actually chop all stems – no questions. For us, and for many, the stem can be annoying and isn’t required for removal.
That said, be sure that you can reach the cup before the big chop. If you have a high cervix (if when placing a finger fully in, you cannot feel anything but the walls of your vagina) removing the stem will make the cup difficult to reach if the body of the cup is not long enough on its own. Also consider grip rings — if you have a higher cervix and no grip rings, that can also be an issue.
When inserted properly, you should be able to feel around the cup and notice no pronounced puckering. The cup can form to your shape a bit, so not being perfectly round is okay. The cup should be comfortable and not protruding from the vagina. If the stem protrudes, it can be trimmed. If the bottom of the cup protrudes, the cup needs to be placed higher, or is too long for you.
No. Most users wear no back up at all (that’s part of what makes them so amazing and convenient) however, we do recommend wearing backup when you first start wearing a cup for peace of mind and extra protection while you are learning to use the cup.
Every 10-12 hours your cup must be removed and washed. This reflects the experience of someone with an average menstrual cycle (30-60ml total per cycle). If you have a heavier period you will want to remove the cup and empty the contents more frequently. Cups do hold 4-6x more than a single tampon or pad so you will still get to wear it for longer stretches.
It will make a sloshing noise. JUST kidding. Cups can be worn safely for up to 12 hours but we recommend checking it after 4 or so when you first start using a cup. Within a few cycles you’ll have a better understanding of your flow and how often you need to empty it.
Not usually. In some cases removing the cup causes discomfort or even some pain since it’s not folded the way it is on insertion. If this happens try removing the cup (while over a toilet or in the shower) at an angle. The opening of the cup should be diagonal as you remove versus straight up and down. This reduces the overall width at removal.
Fuck yes! Because the cup doesn’t absorb fluids, it is perfectly safe to put in if you think your period could show up. We might argue that this is one of the best things about a cup.
There is no right age to begin using a menstrual cup- it’s completely up to the user’s comfort.
“Breaking your hymen” or “popping your cherry” is a bit of a myth. The hymen is just a piece of skin that can stretch and also heal… so to speak. The hymen can be altered by regular activities and the usage of a cup is no different. See video below for more about the hymen myth.
Yes. As we answered in the question above about hymens you can wear a cup even if you haven’t yet had penetrative sex or even tried penetrative forms of masturbation.
Uhhh… not really but also some people do. Helpful, right? The short answer is no. The cup is not designed to be worn during penetrative sex… however, the vagina is magical and can accommodate quite a lot when aroused.
Oh yes! In fact, we highly encourage it. External clitoral stimulation of all kinds work great (and orgasms relieve cramps we hear). You may find that some internal methods work as well but cups do occupy most of your real estate and were not designed to be worn during penetrative intercourse or toy play.
Play safely friends.
Yes! Cups do not inhibit any normal functions — with exception to sex (as seen above). If you find that your cup moves down from having a bowel movement, it can be nudged up to be back in place. Cups with a firmer base are great for this.
Yes! One of our founders is the proud owner of a retroverted (or tipped/tilted) uterus. So long as the cup can sit below the cervical opening to catch flow, you are all good.
Yes. Depending on how low your cervix is, you will want to choose a cup with a shorter length and possibly a wider diameter to accommodate a cervix that likes to dip into the cup. Our menstrual cup comparison chart is a great tool for this.
Yes. Not sure how this weird rumor got started, but we have heard that cups cannot be work with endometriosis because of menstrual backflow. That is a myth and we’re sad to know it exists because there is anecdotal evidence that cups may actually help relieve some symptoms (perhaps simply by not further irritating the area like other products do).
Most likely, yes, but it may require some patience (and well worth it). We have heard from users that a softer cup in small to medium size works best. Firmer cups may be painful and the muscles may cause them to pucker and leak. When inserting, a silicone safe lubricant will help. For removal, bearing down (like a bowel movement), pinch the base of the cup, and then gently pull down while rocking it back and forth.
It’s worth noting that users who were unable to wear tampons, due to discomfort, have reported being able to successfully use a cup.
Yes, however it is very important that you remain aware of your strings and pinch the base of the cup when removing to break the suction/seal. This should be done for all cup users but it’s especially important for those with an IUD.
Yes. When looking for your cup you may want to consider a cup with a higher capacity to accommodate larger clots.
We don’t know of any studies to support this, but we have heard from lots of happy cup users that their periods have either lightened or shortened in length.
We have heard from cup users that say they experience less painful or no cramps. This would make sense because cups don’t introduce anything that would further irritate the area but we don’t know of any studies to prove this as fact.
Most likely, yes. Cups and tampons are both internal devices, but that’s where the similarities end. Tampons are rough, drying, and irritating – which can be painful when worn and removed. Cups are smooth, do not absorb vaginal moisture, and do not have irritants to leave behind. Many people have told us that they were unable to use tampons but comfortably wear a cup.
NO WAY! Due to internal tearing during labor and delivery any internal device is a risk for infection. Besides…. OUCH.
Absolutely! And because menstrual cups have no strings you can feel confident knowing that nothing is hanging out. Some people do report that water gets into their cups (likely due to the muscles used during their watery exercises pushing the cup enough for some to get in) but this won’t harm anything and can obviously be emptied easily.
We can’t speak from experience, but we have heard from several people who have either taken scuba lessons with their cup in or gone diving (both cases under high pressure) with no issues.
Yes! Running (and any exercise) is great while wearing a cup. If you are very active you may prefer a firmer cup, as these stay in place better against any muscle contractions made while exercising.
A select number of brands are available at pharmacies, grocery stores, and health food stores. Online you will find a wider variety of cups but it can be harder to know which brands are legitimate. If shopping online your best bet is to use our Compare and Shop Tool which also includes discount coupons for some brands.
Compared to the price of a box of tampons, we understand that there can be some sticker shock. Menstrual cups range in price from $15 – $40, making it possible to try a couple of cups for under $50 (if your first one isn’t a winner). Keep in mind your cup lasts several years, which will pay for itself multiple times over. Be sure to take our menstrual cup quiz to reduce your chances of having to buy more than one cup.
You only need one cup at a time. Simply remove, dump contents, wash, and replace.
Generally speaking one cup will work for an entire cycle. In some cases a person will opt to have two cups either because their cervical height changes drastically or their flow is extremely heavy at one point of their cycle.
Absolutely not! If so we wouldn’t exist. Every person’s needs are different and luckily the menstrual cup market has something that will work for just about everyone, which is where our resources come in!
Yes. Be sure that you are aware of the brand and ask the seller to boil the cup before sending (if they haven’t already stated it). Once you receive it, boil again and it’s good to go.
No. Both devices are worn internally and catch flow, but the shape and fit are entirely different. We suggest taking our quiz before purchasing a cup. This will help you narrow down your choices and minimize your financial investment.
No. Softcups and FLEX are menstrual discs. They fit very differently.
Very cheap menstrual cups do exist (Rebel Kate “free for shipping” or cups less than $5 on eBay) but these prices are too good to be true. Those cups are not using FDA cleared silicone and/or are often so flimsy and thin they don’t work as well as better quality brands. We know budgets are real but trust us, stick to reputable cups. Try our Shop and Compare tool.
We do not recommend this as most of these cups are not made with FDA cleared materials and may not be safe (even for short term use). These cups are often thinner and flimsy and therefore do not work as well as better made cups.
Most brands boast that their cups last 10+ years (which is true!) and others suggest you replace yearly. We suggest replacing your cup only when it shows signs of deterioration, like becoming chalky, cracked, or sticky. A stained cup does not need to be replaced simply due to discoloration.
We suggest replacing your cup only when it shows signs of deterioration, like becoming chalky, cracked, or sticky. A stained cup does not need to be replaced simply due to discoloration.
No. You may be familiar with the risk of TSS associated with tampons, which is due to their materials and the environment for bacteria that they can foster. These conditions are not created with cups. TSS is a risk if the bacteria (most commonly Streptococcus pyogenes (group A strep) or Staphylococcus aureus (staph)) can enter the bloodstream. There have been just two reported cases of TSS alongside (not caused by) the use of a cup when a woman scratched the inside of her vagina and the cup was not worn as directed. You can read a lot more about TSS and menstrual cups here.
No, and they may even help alleviate the risk. These conditions can be response to an upset in the vaginal environment. If you do get an infection, be sure to boil your cup to prevent reintroducing the infection.
Yes. Silicone is not a form of rubber or latex and is safe to use for those with a latex allergy. Avoid rubber and latex cups, like The Keeper.
Yes! Because the cup does not absorb or disrupt the vaginal environment it is safe to wear before your period starts — or when you’re having particularly heavy fluid days.
Cups can be safely worn for up to 12 hours. If you do forget and wear it longer, change it as soon as you remember. Cups do not create the toxic environment that tampons can but they still need to be changed as directed.
You may be interested to know that medical grade silicone refers to silicone and dye that has been tested to be safe for implantation in the human body for several weeks. Basically this means that they are thoroughly tested for safety at extreme lengths that you would never intentionally replicate.
This is up to you, but we would like to point out that cadmium levels can vary widely in the foods and beverages we consume daily. According to cadmium.org, “Leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach, and certain staples such as potatoes and grain foods, exhibit relatively high values from 30 to 150 ppb. Peanuts, soybeans and sunflower seeds also exhibit naturally high values of cadmium with seemingly no adverse health effects. Meat and fish normally contain lower cadmium contents, from 5 to 40 ppb.”
The levels reported by one helpful, but sometimes alarmist, website are between 11 ppm and 22 ppm, which are considered low and trace. Silicone is made from stones, where cadmium occurs naturally. If you’re interested in how silicone is made, this video https://youtu.be/YxiNp7oQtuA?t=34s goes into great depth on the subject.
No! The myth that we’ve most often heard is that there is some form of menstrual fluid back-flow caused my menstrual cups that leads to Endometriosis. The exact cause of endometriosis is not known and ‘retrograde menstruation’ is one theory, however it’s not possible for menstrual blood to flow back into the uterus from the menstrual cup. It’s perfectly safe to use a cup and avoiding the toxins in traditional products may actually help and be less aggravating for your whole pelvic region. All of this said, if you have any concerns at all, you should talk to your physician.
Soap and water, that’s it! You should be washing your cup at least once every 10-12 hours (if you empty the cup more often than this you can opt to simply replace the cup without washing but it’s up to you). Use hot water and a vagina friendly soap or look for washes specifically formulated for cups.
No. Boiling cups is not necessary for normal use as long you are properly washing your cup. If you’ve had any sort of infection then you would want to sanitize the cup before using it again.
To boil your cup we suggest placing it inside of a metal whisk and resting that in a boiling pot of water for 1-2 minutes. There is no reason you can’t use the same kitchen utensils you use for food.
Yes, if you would like to sanitize the cup without boiling you can looks for collapsible silicone menstrual cup sanitizers or use the microwavable breast pump part bags. Milton Sterilizing Tablets are also safe to use and affordable. Do not place your menstrual cup in the dishwasher.
Stains may be unsightly but are part of using a menstrual cup. If they bother you, a hydrogen peroxide soak (3% solution as sold in most pharmacies and grocery stores) overnight should remove all traces of any stains. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub any stubborn spots around suction holes and raised grips. Please note many brands recommend against this, but we feel it’s ok to do infrequently.
Not likely. Unless you have a forceful and very heavy flow it’s very unlikely that any blood will be dripping down in the small amount of time it takes to wash your cup. If you do find this is the case you can wear liners as backup and pull your underwear back up during your washing. Other ideas in this video below.
If you find yourself in a public stall without access to your own personal sink you can remove your cup, dump contents, and wipe the cup rim with toilet paper. Wash as usual when you are back home. There are also portable single use cup wipes available to keep in your purse if you choose. If you do have access to a sink in the public bathroom use only water and not the public soap since you won’t know what ingredients are in it that could potentially be too harsh.
No. Standard body scanners only scan through clothing and do not penetrate the body — so no cup or other internal device can be seen.
The consensus is that you should only wash your cup with potable (drinkable) water. If you have enough to spare use bottled water or if you have a way to boil the water, do this first. See this discussion for other ideas and advice.
If the cup is still usable but it’s just not working for you there are swap/for sale groups (PACII Cup Swap) where someone else may want it. If you’re disposing of your cup because it’s old and in need of replacing you can either burn the cup until it’s ashes (totally safe) or look for a place that will recycle it for you (Ruby Cup accepts cups for this purpose).
Most brands include a small cotton pouch to store the cup in. If you are choosing your own bag be sure it’s breathable for long term storage (PUL waterproof bags are ok for short stints in your purse).
No. You can buy and wear a cup at any age. Your body is your own and you get to decide what period protection you want. Hopefully your parents are supportive but if they aren’t just know we are here to help.
Yes. Even though we are not are medical professionals we know more than most OB/GYN’s when it comes to menstrual cups. Together we decades of cup/disc/period experience. We have also collected information from others through years of in person and online classes, appearances, and discussion.
Take all of this advice under consideration but do weigh it against your own good sense. You can also look at other reputable websites (most brands have their own FAQ pages but these reflect their own biases and restrictions) and join menstrual cup groups.
We hear this from time to time, and the answer is simply, no. Your vagina and all of the tissues in and around it are quite elastic. It’s been a long-held myth that sexual activity (among other things) will stretch you out and make your vagina “loose” — we are assuming that is at least part of where this question comes from. The reality is that all vaginas and vulvas are different. Some are more roomy and have more folds than others because it’s how they were made – not because of your choice of menstrual device.