They are damn awesome.
I remember being in Spain with a friend a few years ago, and when I needed to pick up tampons from the shops and wondered if the hostels we were staying at had sanitary bins, she was completely indifferent when her period arrived. . She had jumped on the menstrual cup bandwagon long before anyone I knew, so the idea of getting her period in the middle of the holidays didn’t bother her.
Yet even after seeing how easy life could be with a menstrual cup, I was hesitant to start using one myself. Sure, I knew it had great benefits for the environment – and I loved the idea of being able to keep it on for up to twelve hours – but the thought of having it inside me was terrifying.
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In all honesty, I found it very difficult (mind the pun) to insert the cup the first few times, so I can sympathize with anyone who has tried and struggled. Even still, I can have days where I just don’t feel it, so I opt for something else, like period underwear.
But I don’t think I’ve met anyone (myself included) who has used the menstrual cup and doesn’t swear by it. Besides the fact that you can’t smell it once it’s in and there’s no leaking, using a cup can save you time and money that would otherwise be spent on disposable pads and tampons (which, as we know, are terrible for the environment).
Through my own series of trials and tribulations, I have discovered the best tips and tricks that have made inserting a menstrual cup an uneventful and stress-free experience. Below, I’ve put together a guide for my bleeding colleagues who want to make the switch.
Know what to buy
Although everyone’s body is different and what may work for one person may not necessarily work for another, most companies make menstrual cups based on their size. Some are designed for heavier flows, others for people who have given birth vaginally, and others for beginners.
It’s good to venture into a lot of prepared things, especially when you’re going to insert it inside yourself, so I recommend reading which cups will suit your body best before adding it to the basket.
Wash before use
Before using the cup for the first time, you’ll need to sanitize it and let it sit in boiled water for five to 10 minutes (but be sure to read the specific instructions on your own cup before doing so). Then wash your hands, pull down your pants and get ready.
Enter the area
For me, the hardest part of using a menstrual cup was more psychological than physical. The thought of using it scared me, and I found my body stressed and tense in response, so I found doing breathing exercises helped me relax and unwind.
I also realized that this was the first time I was so close to my own body. Feeling a sense of injustice that my boyfriend was more familiar with my own vagina than I was motivated me to get more used to my body. Turning the menstrual cup experience into an opportunity for exploration, rather than a burden, was key to changing my mindset.
Open the lubricant
If I can only give one piece of advice, it’s to not be afraid to use lube. Putting it on the edge of the cup or your vaginal opening can be a game-changer when you try to slip it inside yourself. My first time was without using lube, and let me tell you, that almost made me give up on the cup completely.
Although you should use a water-based lube, some brands will differ in what they say is okay to use, so spit or tap water should also suffice.
One of the most common methods is the ‘U-fold’. To do this, you squeeze each side of the cup together and fold it in half to create a “U” shape before inserting it. Another popular technique is the “punchdown” pleat, where you press down one side of the cup to create a narrower, pointier edge.
There are several different bending techniques, so if one doesn’t immediately work for you or the type of mug you’re using, you can keep experimenting until you find something you’re comfortable with. .
Once your cup is greased and folded, get into a squat position and try to relax your muscles.
Like a tampon, tilt the cup towards your tailbone and insert it so that it is completely inside your vagina. Once it’s in place, lightly squeeze the base to open it up inside your body and create a seal so there’s no leakage. If you are unsure if the seal has formed, you can run your fingers along the side of the cup to check and help it open, twist it slightly, or pull it down a bit.
Most brands will have guides and diagrams on how best to insert their specific product, so it can be handy to have a visual on your phone as well.
Take it out
Again, every cup is different, but most brands will say you can leave it on for up to twelve hours depending on how intense your flow is (meaning you can usually wear it overnight). Once you’re ready to take it off, be sure to wash your hands and get into a slightly squat position. It can be convenient to do this over the toilet or under the shower in case of leaks.
Then relax your body, grab the rod or loop and slowly pull down. The more you do this the more you will understand what exactly works for you, but I have found that once the cup is down it is good to squeeze the base to remove the seal. Once you’ve done that, take your time and swirl the cup down.
When you’re done, empty the cup into the toilet, sink, or shower, wash it with mild, unscented soap, reinsert it, and never look back.
For frequently asked questions about menstrual cups, head here.