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Menstrual cups are generally regarded as safe within the medical community.
Although there are some risks, they’re considered minimal and unlikely to occur when the cup is used as recommended. It’s also important to consider that all menstrual products carry some degree of risk.
It ultimately comes down to finding the product and method that you’re most comfortable with.
Here’s what you need to know about using menstrual cups.
Menstrual cups are small, flexible receptacles that are inserted into the vaginal canal to catch menstrual blood. They are an alternative to sanitary pads, period underwear, or tampons during menstruation.
Menstrual cups come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are made of different components. These include:
- natural rubber
- thermoplastic elastomers (TPE)
You’re more likely to experience minor irritation from wearing the wrong cup size than you are to develop a severe complication like toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
Understanding how and why these complications occur can help you reduce your overall risk of adverse effects.
Irritation can happen for a number of reasons, and, for the most part, they’re all preventable. For example, inserting the cup without proper lubrication can cause discomfort.
In many cases, applying a small amount of water-based lube to the outside of the cup can help prevent this. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations on the product packaging for further clarification.
Irritation can also occur if the cup isn’t the right size or if it isn’t cleaned properly between uses. We’ll discuss cup selection and care later in this article.
Infection is a rare complication of menstrual cup use.
If an infection does occur, it’s more likely from the transfer of bacteria on hands to the cup than from the cup itself.
For example, yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis can develop if bacteria in the vagina — and subsequently vaginal pH — becomes imbalanced.
You can reduce your risk by washing your hands thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap before handling the cup.
You should also wash your cup with warm water and a mild, fragrance-free, water-based soap before and after use.
One over-the-counter soap to try is Neutrogena Liquid Soap. Scent-free, oil-free cleansers made for infants are also good alternatives, such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser or Dermeze Soap-Free Wash.
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but serious complication that can result from certain bacterial infections.
It occurs when Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria — which naturally exist on your skin, nose, or mouth — are pushed deeper into the body.
TSS is typically associated with leaving a tampon inserted for longer than recommended or wearing a tampon with a higher-than-needed absorbency.
TSS as a result of tampon use is rare. It’s even rarer when using menstrual cups.
A 2019 review states
You can reduce your risk for TSS by:
- washing your hands thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap before removing or inserting your cup
- cleaning your cup as recommended by the manufacturer, usually with warm water and a mild, fragrance-free, oil-free soap, before insertion
- applying a small amount of water or water-based lube (per manufacturer’s instructions) to the outside of the cup to aid insertion
Menstrual cups are usually safe as long as you insert them with clean hands, remove them carefully, and clean them appropriately. If you aren’t committed to keeping them clean, however, you may wish to use a disposable product, like pads or tampons.
You pay a one-time price for a reusable cup — usually between
Menstrual cups that are designed for reuse cut down on the number of pads or tampons in landfills.
Ease of use
Menstrual cups aren’t as easy to use as pads but can be similar to tampons in terms of insertion. Learning to remove the menstrual cup can take time and practice, but usually gets easier with repeated use.
Menstrual cups can hold varying amounts of blood, but on heavy days, you may have to rinse or change them more frequently than you’re used to.
You may be able to wait up to 12 hours — the max recommended time — before you have to change your cup, whereas you may need to change a pad or tampon every 4 to 6 hours.
All menstrual hygiene products — cups included — are safe to use if you have an IUD. There aren’t many large-scale reviews that report menstrual cup use affects IUD location.
However, one review found seven reports of women who experienced IUD expulsion while using a menstrual cup. Four out of the seven women had their IUDs placed as recently as 6 weeks to 13 months, which could potentially have affected placement.
However, researchers in one older
If you have vaginal sex while wearing a tampon, the tampon may get pushed higher into the body and become stuck. The longer it’s there, the more likely it is to cause complications.
Although menstrual cups won’t get dislodged in the same way as tampons, their position may make penetration uncomfortable.
Some cups may be more comfortable than others. The Ziggy Cup, for example, was designed to accommodate vaginal sex.
The general medical consensus is that menstrual cups are safe to use.
As long as you use the cup as directed, your overall risk for adverse side effects is minimal. Some people like them because they’re reusable and don’t have to be changed as often as other products.
Whether they’re right for you ultimately comes down to your individual comfort level.
If you’ve experienced recurrent vaginal infections and are concerned about increasing your risk, talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional before use.
They can answer any questions you have and may be able to recommend a specific cup or other menstrual product.
Although there aren’t any official guidelines around this — most manufacturers recommend cups for all ages and sizes — cups may not be an option for everyone.
You may find it helpful to talk with a healthcare professional before use if you have:
- vaginismus, which can make vaginal insertion or penetration painful
- uterine fibroids, which can cause heavy periods and pelvic pain
- endometriosis, which can result in painful menstruation and penetration
- variations in uterine position, which can affect cup placement
Having one or more of these conditions doesn’t automatically mean that you can’t use a menstrual cup. It just means that you may experience more discomfort during use.
Your provider can discuss your individual benefits and risks and may be able to guide you on product selection.
Menstrual cups offer several benefits to the user. These include:
- People trying to save money on menstrual products. Because menstrual cups last a long time, you can save money from having to purchase tampons or pads.
- Those looking to minimize menstrual odor. While there’s a learning curve for menstrual cup insertion, an estimated 90 percent of those who use menstrual cups find them easy to use and enjoy the
dryness and less odorcompared to other menstrual management methods. One of the major keys is to ensure a menstrual cup is well-fitting. If the cup leaks or is difficult to remove, these are signs the cup doesn’t fit well.
- People trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Menstrual cups generate less trash and require fewer purchases, making them an environmentally friendly option.
These are just some of the examples of why you may find menstrual cups advantageous compared to other options.
Menstrual cups can come in slightly varied shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s hard to know the best one to purchase. Here are a few tips.
Most manufacturers offer either a “small” or a “large” cup. Although the same language is used across manufacturers, there isn’t a standard for sizing dimensions.
Small cups are usually 35 to 43 millimeters (mm) in diameter at the rim of the cup. Large cup diameters are usually 43 to 48 mm.
As a general rule, select a cup based on your age and history of childbirth rather than your anticipated flow.
Although the volume the cup can hold is important, you want to make sure that the cup is wide enough to stay in place.
A smaller cup may be best if you’ve never had intercourse or typically use absorbency tampons.
If you’ve had a vaginal delivery or have a weak pelvic floor, you may find that a larger cup fits best.
Sometimes, discovering the right size is a matter of trial and error.
Most menstrual cups are made from silicone. However, some are made from rubber or contain rubber components. This means if you’re allergic to latex, the material could cause irritation.
You should always read the product label before use to learn more about the materials in any menstrual product.
Your cup should come with instructions for care and cleaning. Here are some general guidelines:
It’s important to sterilize your menstrual cup before you insert it for the first time.
To do this:
- Submerge the cup completely in a pot of boiling water for 5–10 minutes.
- Empty the pot and allow the cup to return to room temperature.
- Wash your hands with warm water and mild, antibacterial soap.
- Wash the cup with a mild, water-based, oil-free soap and rinse thoroughly.
- Dry the cup with a clean towel.
Always wash your hands before inserting your cup.
You may also consider applying a water-based lube to the outside of the cup. This can reduce friction and make insertion easier. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the product packaging before using lube.
As a general rule, silicone- and oil-based lube may cause certain cups to degrade. Water and water-based lube may be safer alternatives.
When you’re ready to insert, you should:
- Tightly fold the menstrual cup in half, holding it in one hand with the rim facing up.
- Insert the cup, rim up, into your vagina like you would a tampon without an applicator. It should sit a few inches below your cervix.
- Once the cup is in your vagina, rotate it. It will start to expand to create an airtight seal that stops leaks.
- You may find that you have to twist it or reposition it slightly for your comfort, so adjust as needed.
Depending on how heavy your flow is, you may be able to wear your cup for up to 12 hours.
You should always remove your cup by the 12-hour mark. This ensures regular cleaning and helps prevent a buildup of bacteria.
To remove and empty your cup:
- Wash your hands with warm water and mild antibacterial soap.
- Slide your index finger and thumb into your vagina.
- Pinch the base of the menstrual cup and gently pull to remove it. If you pull on the stem, you could have a mess on your hands.
- Once it’s out, empty the cup into the sink or toilet.
- Rinse the cup under tap water, wash it thoroughly, and reinsert.
- Wash your hands after you’re done.
After your period is over, sterilize your cup by putting it in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. This will help prevent contamination during storage.
You shouldn’t store your cup in an airtight container, because this won’t allow moisture to evaporate. Instead, any moisture present can linger and attract bacteria or fungi.
Most manufacturers recommend storing the cup in a cotton pouch or an open bag.
If you go to use your cup and find that it appears damaged or thin, has a foul-smelling odor, or is discolored, throw it out. Using the cup in this state may increase your risk of infection.
Although infection is highly unlikely, it is possible. See a healthcare professional if you begin experiencing:
- unusual vaginal discharge
- vaginal pain or soreness
- burning during urination or intercourse
- foul odor from the vagina
You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience:
- a high fever
- rash, which may resemble sunburn
Can menstrual cups cause internal damage?
Generally speaking, menstrual cups don’t cause significant injury, pain, or discomfort. In a systematic review of
Is it bad to wear a menstrual cup every day?
There aren’t a lot of long-term studies on wearing menstrual cups outside of your menstrual cycle. Some people may choose to wear them to try and reduce discharge.
Generally, if you follow the rules of safe menstrual cup wear, you should be able to safely wear one every day. If you have a significant amount of discharge, though, you may want to rule out an underlying medical condition, such as a yeast infection.
Are menstrual cups gynecologist-recommended?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists lists menstrual cups as a menstrual management option but doesn’t endorse one method over another. Your decision to use a menstrual cup is your preference.
However, if you experience recurrent vaginal infections, you should talk with your doctor about if a menstrual cup is right for you.
(Video) How to use a menstrual cup? Explained by a doctor!
When used correctly, menstrual cups can be a safe, cost- and environmentally-friendly alternative to other menstrual management methods. While using a menstrual cup may involve a learning curve, they offer benefits in comfort when properly inserted. With time and practice, you may find using a menstrual cup is your preferred option.
We identified five women who reported severe pain or vaginal wounds, six reports of allergies or rashes, nine of urinary tract complaints (three with hydronephrosis), and five of toxic shock syndrome after use of the menstrual cup.Can menstrual cups cause internal damage? ›
Even though there have been rumors about it, there is currently no known evidence of menstrual cups damaging your cervix. If your cup is the right size and in the right place, there should be no issues of pain or problems with your cup getting stuck to your cervix.What do gynecologists say about menstrual cups? ›
Dr. Jane says, “Menstrual cups are incredibly safe. When used according to directions, they have not been shown to cause harm to the vagina or the cervix, nor does infection risk increase with the use of a cup, compared to tampons or pads.”Are menstrual cups safer than tampons? ›
However, a new study suggests that the type of tampon may not make any difference to the risk of menstrual-related toxic shock syndrome (TSS) — while menstrual cups, which are believed to be safer than tampons, may pose slightly more danger of the potentially fatal bacterial infection.Does menstrual cup leak when full? ›
It's possible that your cup is leaking because it's overflowing. Although Sustain period cups are meant to hold between 20ml (size 1) to 29ml (size 2) of blood, everyone's flow is different.Why menstrual cups are not popular? ›
There's always the possibility of the cup getting too full and spilling its contents on you. Not fun. The money factor. Since pharmacies and feminine hygiene companies can make a lot more money from consumers buying monthly supplies, they have less incentive to stock or make menstrual cups.Can a menstrual cup pull out your cervix? ›
As for the other run-of-the-mill menstrual cups out there, the expert tells Cosmopolitan UK: "It is not possible" to suck out your cervix using a period product. "Technically the menstrual cup sits in the vagina and not over the cervix.Can menstrual cup get stuck inside? ›
If you've ever wondered: Can you get a menstrual cup stuck? The answer is yes, but you can totally get it out without asking your bestie for help (though many people have used a helper or a doctor to dislodge a stuck cup). While you might have a moment of panic, you're going to be just fine.Can period cups cause vaginal prolapse? ›
Incorrect use of menstrual cups could be resulting in some women suffering pelvic organ prolapse, the Victoria Derbyshire programme has been told. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy wants some manufacturers to include better safety advice.How do you pee with a menstrual cup in? ›
Mirror in hand, explore and look for the urethral opening and vaginal opening. A menstrual cup will insert and sit inside your vaginal canal. This will not block pee because they are two separate holes with different functions.
Can you wear a menstrual cup while swimming? Like tampons, menstrual cups are worn internally and can be worn while swimming in any kind of water.Can you sleep with menstrual cup? ›
Can you sleep with a menstrual cup in? Of course you can. One of the great things about period cups is that you can sleep soundly without having to wake up to change your pad or tampon.How do I know when my menstrual cup is full? ›
Check for Signs That Your Menstrual Cup Is Full
- A “heavy” feeling. ...
- A bubbling sensation. ...
- Light warning leaks. ...
- A slipping cup.
Generally speaking, however, here are some signs and symptoms of heavy menstrual bleeding to watch for: Having to change your pad or tampon every hour or filling a menstrual cup every 2-3 hours. Soaking through your bedclothes, pyjamas, clothing or upholstery.Why can I feel my menstrual cup? ›
Why Can I Feel My Menstrual Cup? If you've just inserted your menstrual cup or disc, and you can feel it, it's most likely a response called “hyper-awareness.” It's human nature to focus on a new experience and take mental notes on how it's going for you.Do menstrual cups make cramps worse? ›
Comfort: Many people report that a menstrual cup is more comfortable than pads or tampons. Cups tend not to cause vaginal dryness, which is a common complaint about tampons. Fewer cramps: There are some anecdotal reports of people having fewer or less painful menstrual cramps while using a cup.How far up should menstrual cup go? ›
The Cup should be fully inside your vagina, with the stem of the Cup within approximately 1/2 inch of your vaginal opening (though this may vary from person to person as every body is different!). Please note that your Cup will sit slightly lower in your vagina than a tampon would.How do you remove a menstrual cup without pain? ›
What should you do if you experience discomfort during cup removal? If you try to pull the menstrual cup out without pinching the base, you may experience some pain or discomfort. That's because the suction seal that was created when you inserted the cup is still there. So try pinching and then pulling down.Can menstrual cups cause UTI? ›
Can menstrual cups cause a UTI? No, menstrual cups themselves do not cause UTIs. However, it is possible for bacteria that causes UTIs to be present on your fingers when inserting your menstrual cup, which may result in a UTI. Always make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before inserting your cup!Can an 11 year old use a menstrual cup? ›
There are no age limits to using a cup. The only thing you need is your period. To find the right-size cup, all you need to know is how heavy your flow is and if you have a low or high cervix.
Menstrual discs don't take up any real estate in your vaginal canal, making it an ideal option for period sex. They sit at the base of your cervix just like a diaphragm, so as long as it's inserted properly, you and your partner shouldn't be able to feel it.Why does it hurt to put my menstrual cup in? ›
menstrual cup pain during wear
Inserting at the wrong angle can cause your cup to sit in an awkward position and lead to discomfort. It's also important to wear your menstrual cup as low as it will comfortably sit, and not to push it all the way up to your cervix.
Bacteria can grow on a menstrual cup that is left in for too long, increasing the risk of infection. The same is true for tampons, the FDA recommends that users change each tampon every 4 to 8 hours.Why does my menstrual cup go up so high? ›
If you have a high cervix, a longer cup is likely to fit you best (we wouldn't recommend using a short cup if you have a high cervix – your cup can move further up your vagina as you move around which means that a short cup might be harder to reach).What's the best menstrual cup for beginners? ›
- Ruby Cup. Comfortable, discrete, and easy to use, Ruby Cup is 100% vegan, and latex- and plastic-free. ...
- Lena Sensitive Cup. ...
- Lunette Cup. ...
- Saalt Teen Cup. ...
- Flex Cup. ...
- Intimina Lily Cup One. ...
- AllMatters (formerly OrganiCup)
Cora Cup. The Cora Cup is Mbaye's pick for first-time users — “it's one of the easiest to fold, insert and remove,” she said.Should you feel a menstrual cup? ›
Just before your period begins, tightly fold the menstrual cup and insert it like a tampon without an applicator. Used correctly, you shouldn't feel it. It's similar to putting a diaphragm or birth control ring in place.Why menstrual cups are better than pads? ›
Compared to sanitary napkins, menstrual cups are eco-friendly, reusable, and durable, which highly reduce the cost one has to bear during menstrual period. Studies conducted suggest that when used properly, the rate of leakage is the same for both.Do menstrual cups weaken pelvic floor muscles? ›
A recent rumor suggests that menstrual cups cause vaginal prolapse or the condition in which the pelvic floor muscles weaken and internal organs protrude into the vaginal space. But the reality is just that there is no evidence that it can not cause prolapse, but it is not likely to do that.Can you wear a menstrual cup when not on period? ›
You can even wear it when you're anticipating your period, or not sure if your period is over (though if you have regular cycles, you could just check Clue!). Menstrual cups might have fewer leaks for you than tampons or pads, and usually have less odor.
If you do accidentally drop your menstrual cup in the toilet, first thing to do is to fish it out - please don't try and flush it, as this can clog pipes and end up in our waterways. If you have some disposable gloves, pop these on and pull it out.Why does my diva cup make me feel like I have to pee? ›
It's no secret, menstrual cups and peeing go side by side, literally, because your urethra runs right alongside your vagina. For some cup users especially with bladder sensitivities, a menstrual cup puts just enough pressure on the urethra to make it trickier to pee.What do female swimmers wear during periods? ›
Use a tampon, sponge, or cup while swimming
If you can't or don't want to use a tampon or alternative product like a sponge or menstrual cup, you have a few options. If your flow is light, you can wear absorbent swimwear or a dark-colored suit to prevent stains.
Although men will not bleed, nor will they experience all of the same symptoms as women, these hormonal shifts can have some pretty notable side effects, especially with mood and irritability. Some call it the “man period” others call it Irritable Male Syndrome, either way, it can be quite similar to a woman's PMS.Can I pee without removing menstrual cup? ›
The bottom line is: yes, you can pee while wearing a menstrual cup. Here's why. A period cup is worn inside the vagina (where you bleed from during your period), whereas urine is passed through the urethra (the tube connected to your bladder).Does a menstrual cup speed up your period? ›
The use of tampons or napkins further complicates the process. When you switch to a cup it may result in a shorter period. So our answer has to be positive. Yes, the menstrual cup has positive effects on the process of the period and often shortens the process itself.How much blood is lost during a period? ›
Usually, menstrual bleeding lasts about 4 to 5 days and the amount of blood lost is small (2 to 3 tablespoons). However, women who have menorrhagia usually bleed for more than 7 days and lose twice as much blood.How much blood do you lose on your period in cups? ›
That is about 2 – 3 tablespoons (of 14ml) or 6 teaspoons (of 5ml). While that is the average, women have given varying reports from just a spot to over two cups (540ml) in one menstruation (1).Do menstrual cups work with clots? ›
That's why Ruby Cup is a great menstrual cup for heavy periods and clots. Tampons and pads absorb blood flow but they can not absorb thick blood or menstrual blood clots, and can cause dryness and irritation.What do gynecologists say about menstrual cups? ›
Dr. Jane says, “Menstrual cups are incredibly safe. When used according to directions, they have not been shown to cause harm to the vagina or the cervix, nor does infection risk increase with the use of a cup, compared to tampons or pads.”
If you've ever wondered: Can you get a menstrual cup stuck? The answer is yes, but you can totally get it out without asking your bestie for help (though many people have used a helper or a doctor to dislodge a stuck cup). While you might have a moment of panic, you're going to be just fine.How do I know when my menstrual cup is full? ›
Check for Signs That Your Menstrual Cup Is Full
- A “heavy” feeling. ...
- A bubbling sensation. ...
- Light warning leaks. ...
- A slipping cup.
Bacteria can grow on a menstrual cup that is left in for too long, increasing the risk of infection. The same is true for tampons, the FDA recommends that users change each tampon every 4 to 8 hours.Can menstrual cups cause UTI? ›
Can menstrual cups cause a UTI? No, menstrual cups themselves do not cause UTIs. However, it is possible for bacteria that causes UTIs to be present on your fingers when inserting your menstrual cup, which may result in a UTI. Always make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before inserting your cup!Can I sleep with menstrual cup? ›
Yes! You can sleep with a menstrual cup in! In fact, compared to bulky pads or tampons, many DivaCup users prefer it. Tampons should never be worn for more than the recommended time (usually between 4 to 8 hours); the DivaCup can be worn for up to 12 hours.How far up does a menstrual cup go? ›
The Cup should be fully inside your vagina, with the stem of the Cup within approximately 1/2 inch of your vaginal opening (though this may vary from person to person as every body is different!). Please note that your Cup will sit slightly lower in your vagina than a tampon would.Should the stem of a menstrual cup stick out? ›
It should sit low in the vagina (lower than a tampon), and ideally, not over the opening of your cervix. The end of the stem should be sitting no more than 1cm from the vaginal opening. Nothing should be sticking out, but it should be only just inside you.Can you go swimming with a menstrual cup? ›
Can you wear a menstrual cup while swimming? Like tampons, menstrual cups are worn internally and can be worn while swimming in any kind of water.How do you empty a menstrual cup in public? ›
Simply empty the contents of the menstrual cup in the toilet, then wipe out the cup with damp or dry toilet paper or a tissue. Be sure you remove any pieces of tissue that may have stuck to the cup before you reinsert it.Why does my menstrual cup only leak at night? ›
Menstrual Cup leaking at night
For some people when they sleep, the seal of the cup loosens due to their muscles relaxing so much which may result in leakage. To avoid this inserting the cup correctly and ensuring it is inserted at the right angle is important.
If you dropped your cup in a public toilet, we would recommend disposing of it - you don't know how frequently (or infrequently) that toilet has been cleaned, so you could be exposing yourself to a myriad of germs and potentially even viruses like hepatitis.How often should I sterilize my menstrual cup? ›
If you don't clean your cup properly, bacteria, odors, stains, and erosion can occur. This could lead to irritation, or, in more rare cases, infection. This also means that your cup will likely need to be replaced more often. That's why it's recommended to keep up with your daily cleaning and monthly sterilization.How do you pee with a menstrual cup in? ›
Mirror in hand, explore and look for the urethral opening and vaginal opening. A menstrual cup will insert and sit inside your vaginal canal. This will not block pee because they are two separate holes with different functions.What soap is safe for menstrual cup? ›
Wash your cup with warm water and mild, oil- and fragrance-free soap. A few brands we like include Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, and Liquid Neutrogena Fragrance-Free Cleanser. Avoid using fragranced dish soaps or hand soap – these can degrade your cup's silicone over time.Why does my menstrual cup hurt? ›
You might feel pain when wearing your menstrual cup if: The cup is too firm and it's exerting force on your vaginal wall.