Questions And Answers
I’m sure you have DOZES of questions racing about in your mind, as to what a menstrual cup is all about. Weather or not it is safe. How exactly it is used, and much, much more! So to satisfy that curiosity, I have made this section in my blog for all your questions, and hopefully, I have managed to get most of them in here. If not, feel free to ask me in a private message, or in the comment space below.
Q— How is a menstrual cup inserted or removed?
A— Please see my demonstration video:
Q– If menstrual cups are so wonderful, how come I haven’t heard of them, or seen them on TV?
A— They may be wonderful, but because of their long-lasting nature, they (for obvious reasons) do not pull in as many repeat sales as a disposable product company… So most cup manufacturers stick to just the internet, their websites, and word-of-mouth for sales. Furthermore, menstrual cups cannot be made in large masses, in factories. Most cups have to be made in a sterile, sometimes surgery-quality rooms. So they have to be specially ordered. The companies are also fighting a VERY tough battle– introducing something new and different, to a world full of women who have only known disposable products for nearly 100 years. When a woman purchases a cup, it will last for years and years. They cost around $35 (sometimes as little as $15, if you find a good discount website). But because the cup lasts so long, there will not be a repeat purchase for quite some time. For these reasons, we don’t see much of them, outside of health food stores, or the internet. But still, they are wonderful products!
Q–It looks big! Does it hurt going in or out?
A— If you do it correctly and carefully, it shouldn’t. Virgins may have some discomfort at first, but that goes away. Your vagina can expand to fit the male anatomy or a baby’s head, and the cup is smaller than both of those things. When you put it in, you can wet it with water or water-based vaginal lube, to ease the insertion. When you pull it out, you squeeze the bottom to break the seal, then gently ease it out of your body, keeping it in an upright position as it comes out.
Q— Can it be used as a method of birth control, or STD protection?
A— No it cannot.
Q— Can I have sexual intercourse while wearing the cup?
A–No, not with the traditional, reusable cups. These cups are worn low in the vagina, and will get in the way. However, there is one brand of cup called “Instead” that does allow you to have “clean sex” while you use it, and it has a different design— its more like a diaphragm, with a firm but flexible ring at the top. But none of the other cups can be worn during sex.
Q–Does it leak?
A— Not if you insert it properly, and empty it before it gets too full. After you insert the cup, you need to twist and pull down slightly to make sure it pops open and forms a good seal. It takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you shouldn’t see any leaks. You can also wear a cloth panty liner the first few times you try it, just in case you are not yet confident.
Q–Can you feel the cup while you wear it?
A— Most women cannot feel it if its inserted correctly, especially if they trim the stem away (but only trim as much as is necessary). Others are slightly aware that the cup is there, the same way they are aware that a tampon is in. But the cup is soft and as long as you have a good size for your needs, and its inserted correctly, it should not hurt.
Q— Can you get TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) from the cup?
A— Menstrual cups have not been associated with TSS.
Q–How long does a cup last?
A–It depends on the company. Some companies suggest up to 10 years with proper use and care, and others suggest 1 year as a precaution, due to the nature of the product. And of course the “Instead” brand is disposable. Please refer to the company website of the brand you are considering for more information of product lifespan.
Q— Do I need to remove the cup when I urinate/pee or have a bowel movement?
A— No, the hole you urinate/pee from (the urethra) and the vagina are not the same hole. So the cup will not get in the way, or fall out.
Q— How do I empty and clean my cup in a public restroom?
A— Remove and empty it the same way you would at home, but bring some bottled water and/or a wet paper towel in the stall with you for rinsing/cleaning. Then reinsert it. You can give the cup a good wash after you get home.
Q— I can’t wear tampons, because they don’t stay in me. Will I have the same problem with the cup?
A— You will need to try the cup and see how it works for you. Everyone is different. But some companies will let you return the cup and get a refund, if it does not work out for you. And the returned cups are destroyed. If you are uncertain, be sure to buy direct from he company and ask the company about refund policies before you purchase. But most women who master the cup NEVER go back to disposable products again.
Q–Can I use the cup to collect other types of body liquid?
A— Menstrual cups have been approved for the collection of menstrual fluid only, as directed, and are not recommend for any other use, or collecting any other fluids.
Q— I am allergic / sensitive to latex. Can I still use the cup?
A— Yes, most cups are made of either medical grade silicone, or TPE (the same material used to make catheters in hospitals). The only cup that is made latex is the Keeper. And even their company does have a silicone version as well (the Keeper Moon Cup).
Q–Do I need to sterilize my cup?
A— It is recommended, at least once a month. You should of course wash the cup daily with mild, perfume-free or genital- safe soap (a feminine wash, or cup manufacturer wash works best), and hot water. You can rinse first with cold water just to get the blood off and prevent stains, then wash with hot water and soap. Try to do so each time you empty it. Sterilize as recommended by the manufacturer of your cup (see my pages on “Cleaning And Care”). Do not use unaproved soaps or sanitizing liquids or products, as the residue they leave behind can either damage the silicone (on a microscopic level, making it vulnerable to bacteria growth), or kill the good bacteria that naturally grows in the vagina which protects you from infection.
Q— I live in a culture where boiling a menstrual cup in the kitchen is not allowed. What should I do?
A— A cup really should always be cleaned in the recommended way. If you cannot boil your cup, you can check the company’s website for tips on other methods of cleaning and sterilizing. All companies have different recommendations for this, so be sure to follow their guidelines, as they know best what is safe for the material of their product.
Q–How often do I have to empty the cup?
A— It depends on your flow– all women are different. If you have an average to heavy flow, the cup should sit well for 3 – 10 hours, depending on how heavy it is. Some women with a very light flow (or on a light day) can go as long as 12 hours. Never go longer than 10-12 hours without emptying and washing your cup.
Q— Where should I store my cup, when I’m not using it?
A— After you have cleaned your cup, store it in the cloth pouch it comes in. If you don’t have one, simply store it in a clean cloth sack, which provides air flow. DO NOT store the cup in a plastic container or plastic zip bag, as this can cause mold.
Q–What is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)? Do menstrual cups cause it?
A— Menstrual cups have not been associated with TSS. TSS is a sickness caused by the bacteria that can grow inside absorbent materials, like tampons. It is dangerous, and can be deadly! If you are currently using tampons, you need to be aware of the symptoms of TSS which are: Severe flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and pains, stomach cramps, a headache, or a sore throat. Sudden fever over 39°C (102°F). Vomiting and diarrhea. Signs of shock, including low blood pressure and rapid heartbeat, often with light-headedness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, or restlessness and confusion. A rash that looks like a sunburn. The rash can be over several areas of your body or just in specific places such as the armpits or the groin. Pain at the site of an infection (if a wound or injury to the skin is involved). Redness in the nasal passages and inside the mouth. If you think you may have TSS, please see a doctor, right away. If you have ever had TSS before, speak to your doctor before using any internal products.
Q— If I order a cup, will it come in a discreet package?
A— Most companies understand the sensitive nature of a cup and try very hard to keep the packaging discreet. Although if you order a cup from outside your country, it will need to pass through security / customs, and words such as “sanitary product” may be stamped on by the postal service. But nobody will be able to “see” what it is.
Q— Can I use a menstrual cup if I have and IUD”
A— Some brands recommend it, and some brands do not. It is best to read the F.A.Q. section on the manufacturer’s website of the brand you are interested in, to find out.
Q— How do I know the cup is in the right position, and has popped open?
A— Never insert straight up. The vagina tilts back toward the rectum, or tail bone. So angle that way. You can check to see if it is popped open by giving it a full rotating twist, and tracing a finger around the outside, to see if it feels round. Rotating should be easy, if its open. Some people cannot rotate it, and that’s ok. If it has not popped open yet, use a finger to press the side of the cup in a bit and let some air in.
Q— What cup sizes are available, and which one should I choose?
A— Most companies have 2 sizes: One for women aged 25-30 and up (age depends on the company) or who have given birth vaginally– and women under 25-30 who have never given birth (again, age depends on the company). But there are also a few companies with additional sizes (Naturcup, Meluna).
Q— Can the cup be used along with contraceptives?
A— You really should remove the cup before having sex– unless you are using the “Instead” brand. But with some products like Nuvaring, the pill, the patch, or an IUD– they will not harm your cup. It is usually not recommended to use things like contraceptive gel or foam though (such as Conceptrol) with the cup, because not much is known about the effects of those chemicals on the silicone.
Q— I am pregnant, but sometimes, I still spot. Can I use the cup for times like this?
A— You should not use the cup while you are pregnant. The vaginal canal should always be kept clear during this time, even in early stages, for safety reasons. Also because your ph levels are extremely sensitive due to the chemical changes in your body during this time. Women are very prone to vaginal infections during pregnancy because of this, even if they are not doing anything differently. So wearing something inside the vagina is not best at this time.
Q— Is there a money-back guarantee? Can I return or exchange my cup?
A— Many manufacturers will refund your money upon return of the item (used cups are destroyed) if you are not happy with the cup, or allow you to exchange your cup for a different size. However, you may lose this benefit if you do not order directly from the company’s website (for example, if you purchased from eBay, or a private distributor). Please check the companies policies before purchasing. Private distributors generally are under contract to not accept returns or exchanges (and therefore do not grant refunds).
Q— What happens to cups that are returned?
A— They are destroyed.
Q— Can I wash the cloth pouch that the cup comes with?
A— Yes. The cotton-based pouches can be washed in the machine or by hand. But some other materials such as satin, may need to be only hand-washed.
Q–At work, I can’t wash with perfume-free soap. What should I do?
A— If you are often away from home, you can just rinse very well with plain water. Or you might want to keep a small bottle of water and a bottle of perfume-free soap or feminine wash in your purse. You can also simply wet a paper towel before you go in the stall, and use that to wipe the cup clean. Then give it a proper wash after you get home.
Q— I’m having trouble removing the cup. What should I do?
A— Most women will not have major problems with removal. But if you do, this is normally because the seal has not been broken. First try relaxing as much as possible. If that doesn‘t help, try squatting (which makes the vaginal canal shorter) or bearing down like you are having a bowel movement, to bring the cup closer to your reach. You can also try a longer brand (the DivaCup is the longest). Different cups work differently, but it will always take a little practice to get in and out.
Q— I have long nails. Can I still use a cup?
A— You can, but you may need to be more careful than other women, during insertion and removal. The material is thick enough to where your nails will not damage it, but long nails may hurt the delicate skin in that area, if special care is not taken.
Q— I come from a very poor family/region. We cannot afford multiple cups for multiple women. Can we share our cup, if it is properly sterilized between uses?
A— Surprisingly, this is something that many women attempt in less wealthy areas of the world. But the companies do not recommend this. Especially if you cannot properly sterilize the cup. Even with sterilization, it is still not a good idea. Especially if the other woman could have a medical condition that you both are not not aware of.
Q— What if there is no clean, potable water available to clean my cup with?
A— You can clean it as you would in a public restroom, just wipe it out with toilet paper, and wait until you are home to give it a proper wash. Also, a person will eventually have to get drinking water from somewhere. The water you would drink, is the water you should clean your cup with. If you are a Lunette or Ladycup customer, those companies (and most of their distributors) also sell disinfecting wipes specially for used on silicone cups that will be worn int he vagina. Other types of wipes may not be best, as they could contain things that are not meant to be inside the body.
Q— Can women with both heavy AND light periods use a cup?
A— Yes! Although women with heavier periods may need to empty the cup more often, or choose a larger cup.
Q— Can I take a bath or a shower with the cup in?
A— Yes you can.
Q— Can I use the cup if I have Endometriosis?
A— Many women do, but if you have a medical condition of any kind, you should always check with your doctor before trying new products.
Q— What about being in different positions, like in Yoga, or going on a roller coaster?
A— To prevent leaks, it is recommended that you empty your cup just before doing any such activities. When you are upside-down, the old blood will touch the skin above the opening of the cup. But traces of the same deposits touch your skin inside all day, as menstrual blood is fairly thick.
Q— I’m going through menopause, and my cycles are very unpredictable. Can I still use a cup?
A— Absolutely! You may even find that it makes the uncertainty more bearable. The versatility and comfort of the cup may come as a blessing during this time!
Q— How does the cup stay in place?
A— The cup is held firmly in place by the muscular walls and closed-end of the vagina. It also stays in via a light suction that is formed up inside.
Q— Can I practice putting my cup in and taking it out, before my period starts?
A— Yes, absolutely! In fact, you are encouraged to do so! It’s a great idea to have the techniques mastered before your cycle starts. And it is perfectly safe. You can even wear it ahead of time, while you are expecting your period.
Q— I need to use a lubricant to make inserting a cup easier. Which kind should I use?
A— Any water-based, glycerin-free vaginal lube is ok to use with the menstrual cup, and the bottle should tell you this information. Never use oil-based lubes, as oil is not very bio-compatable with the sensitive tissue environment of the vagina. Simply smear some lube around the outside of the vagina (applying it to the cup can make it slippery), and insertion will be much more comfortable. Lastly, the reason you should avoid glycerin in lubes, is because this is a sugar and may upset your vaginal ph levels, causing infection.
Q— I just had a baby. Can I use a menstrual cup for the postpartum blood?
A— You should not use a cup for postpartum bleeding. Please wait until your doctor tells you it is ok to use internal vaginal products.
Q— Will it spill or make a mess when I remove it?
A— Your first couple of tries may be less than perfect, but with practice, most women are able to get it in and out, with no more mess that a tampon would cause. Or none at all!
Q— I have a tilted uterus. Can I still use a cup?
A— Most people can. You may need to find the angle that works best for you, however. Also, please consult with your doctor before trying a cup.
Q— Can a virgin use the cup?
A— It depends on your personal or religious beliefs. A cup can alter your hymen. So if you (or your family and culture) believe it is important to have an intact hymen until you get married, then you should wait until you are no longer a virgin, before using the cup. Otherwise, it is perfectly fine.
Q–What size cup should I use?
A–Each menstrual cup manufacturer has two sizes to choose from (some have more). In general, they all separate women who are 30 and above and/or have given birth vaginally— from women who are under 30 and have never given birth vaginally. The size you choose will depend what category you fit into. And again, a couple of brands even have a different size for virginal teenagers.
Q–Can the cup get stuck or lost inside me?
A— No, not as long as you properly release the seal before pulling down. The cup is flexible. So as long as you squeeze the cup slightly to break the seal, or tilt it from left to right, your natural moisture will allow you to remove it. And it cannot get lost inside you, because it is trapped by the walls and the closed end of your vagina. You are sort of like a pocket up inside, there is nowhere for a cup, or anything else to go. If you have a long vagina, and you’re having difficulty reaching the cup, simply push down with your muscles, like you are having a bowel movement. This can shorten the vagina temporarily.
Q— Can it be used for both light and heavy flows?
A— Most of them, yes. But some brands will make an extra small size for virgins, or women with a light flow. So be sure to do a little research, and select a good size and brand for your needs. It can even be worn just before your period starts, to make sure you don’t get caught without protection.
Q–Will the cup hurt when I am removing it?
A–Not if you break the seal properly. Again, a virgin may have some discomfort the first few times, but it will lessen with practice. Squeeze the cup gently, to let some air in and break the seal. Inserting a finger alongside the cup also helps this process. Sometimes there are certain vaginal conditions (such as vaginismus) that can cause pain with any kind of insertion, even small objects. There are other conditions that can cause this too. If you suspect that you may have such a condition, please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Never self-diagnose.
Q–Can I wear the cup to bed, or while I swim and play sports?
A–Yes you can. But if you are having a very heavy flow day, you might want to set an alarm in the middle of the night, to empty it at least once.