April 7, 2021

How to Use a Menstrual Cup

Looking for an alternative to tampons? The pros, cons, and logistics of menstrual cups explored.

What is a menstrual cup exactly and how do I use one? 

A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product that can be used as an alternative to tampons during your period. Menstrual cups are typically made of silicone or rubber, are flexible, and are inserted into the vaginal canal to collect blood during menses. Unlike tampons, these cups collect blood rather than absorb it and therefore are less likely to cause infection.

Another benefit to the menstrual cup is that it can hold more blood than a tampon can absorb, and therefore needs to be changed less frequently. Most cups can be worn for up to 12 hours, if your flow allows. This eco and financially friendly option is what draws many people to the menstrual cup. However, learning how to use the cup may be a deterrent for some women.

The learning curve…

Insertion and removal of the cup can be challenging for some, and removing the menstrual cup to empty it can be messy. It may also be difficult to find the right fit as each cup is slightly different. Most menstrual cup brands have small and large cup sizes. Small sizes are typically recommended for women who are less than 30 years of age and have not delivered vaginally. Large sizes are recommended for women who have delivered vaginally and are over the age of 30. If you have specific sizing concerns, or have concerns about your appropriateness for the use of a menstrual cup, it is recommended you consult your OB before use.

Ok, I’m going to try it. Just how do I put this thing in anyway?

In order to insert the cup, you’ll first need to wash your hands thoroughly and wet the rim of the cup with water. Wetting the rim will reduce friction with insertion and make application more comfortable. Once you’ve done this, fold the menstrual cup in half. With the rim facing upward, insert the cup into your vagina. Once the cup is inserted fully, release the cup. The cup should form a seal via suction that will prevent any leakage, and collect any menstrual blood. If the cup has been inserted correctly, you should not feel it. You should also be able to perform daily activities, and move freely without discomfort or leakage.

To remove the cup, insert your index finger and thumb into your vaginal canal. Pinch the cylinder of the cup to fold it in half again to release the suction seal. Once out, empty the cup into the toilet. You should then rinse the cup with soap and warm water before re-inserting into the vaginal canal.

Looking for more period tips from a pt?
Check out our 90-minute Menstrual Health Course

So what are the pros and cons of the cup?

Some of the pros include: 

  • cost effectiveness

  • longer usage compared to tampons

  • reusable cups can last 6-10 years when cared for appropriately

Some cons include: 

  • difficulty finding the right fit

  • insertion and removal can be messy

  • vaginal irritation.

Ultimately, this might not be the right feminine hygiene product for you. However, it can be a good option for clients who are looking for other options besides tampons.

We are here for all your pelvic floor needs


Emily McElrath PT, DPT, MTC, CIDN is an orthopedic and pelvic health physical therapist with a passion for helping women achieve optimal sports performance. She is an avid runner and Crossfitter and has personal experience modifying these activities during pregnancy and postpartum. She is certified in manual therapy and dry needling. When not working, Emily enjoys time with her husband and two kids.

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