Put A Cup In It

Menstrual Cups vs Menstrual Discs | The Differences

“I tried menstrual cups. They didn’t work for me?”

We’ve heard that so many times that it’s almost a reflex to ask, “What brand did you try?” and we can almost guarantee that the answer will be “Softcup” or “Diva Cup” — both of which are available on store shelves. We can direct people to a cup that will work for them with the help of our menstrual cup quiz and other resources, but if that person used a disc we have to first explain why their experience with with a cup likely won’t be the same.

The Terminology

Let’s go ahead and address the tiny, but important, elephant in the room. There has been a little talk lately about what defines a cup and what defines a disc. One brand even backed their choice to call their disc a cup by saying the definition of a menstrual cup is “a product that is inserted into the vagina during menstruation.” They say that their product meets those conditions… and that may be true, but it could also describe a tampon or sponge — and isn’t the whole point of labels to eliminate confusion by creating clarity?

Cups and discs are very different, which we will get more into, but the biggest difference is how they are worn. A cup sits in the vaginal canal below the cervix. A disc fits back into the vaginal fornix behind and below the cervix. The sizing, shape, insertion, and removal are also very clearly different.

To us, it’s easy to see why using the best possible descriptive terminology is important for people hoping to find the right menstrual product for their needs — and why confusing the two can create a barrier to finding proper information and support. For these reasons we will always refer to a cups as cups and discs as discs. [steps down from soap box]

Menstrual Cups vs Menstrual Discs

Menstrual Cups vs Menstrual Discs : The Similarities

Cups and disc do have some functional similarities, both:

  • Collect menstrual blood & fluids rather than absorbing it
  • Are made from medical grade materials
  • Can be safely worn for up to 12 hours
  • Both are safe to put in place before your period starts – following the same 12 hour rule for safety
  • Both can safely collect menstrual blood, vaginal fluids, and even clots — though the flexible portion of discs may be an advantage to those with extremely large clots
  • Both cups and discs create a seal with the vaginal walls

Menstrual Cups vs Menstrual Discs : The Differences

While they have a few similarities, the differences are vast:

  • Cups sit in the vaginal canal below the cervix
  • Discs sit lengthwise to fit into the vaginal fornix behind the cervix and then tucked behind the pubic bone
  • Cups can be folded a number of ways (link video) to find the most comfortable insertion and fit
  • Discs are inserted by squeezing the sides together so it can be inserted lengthwise
  • Their measurements are incomparable. Cups have a much narrower rim, while Discs have a large rim
  • Cups have a structured body to collect flow
  • Discs have a flexible body (or ‘catch’) to collect flow
  • Cups can create a bit of suction when trying to remove them (this is why you pinch the base of the cup when you remove it)
  • Discs do not create suction but still need to be dislodged for removal (this can be done by bearing down or hooking the rim with your finger)
  • Cups are easier to tip out for mess free removal
  • Discs are a bit harder to remove without some level of mess
  • Cups are always reusable
  • Discs have traditionally been made from plastic, which are single use and disposable. They are now also offered in silicone, which is reusable, by some brands
  • Cups are not meant to be in place while having sex, though it may be possible (we’ve done it)
  • Discs are often recommended for mess-free period sex, though it is best to empty it beforehand to be sure

While we don’t try to hide that we love cups, we know that others may feel differently and both of these options are a great choice and alternative to traditional tampons and pads. What’s important is a decision based solely on your lifestyle, needs, and preferences.

If you’d like to compare cups, we suggest checking out our quiz and menstrual cup comparison chart.

Think discs may be more your speed? Check out our menstrual disc comparison chart.

You can see both side-by-side on our shop and compare page.

27 Responses

  1. I cannot get the disposable discs to stay in place behind my public bone no matter how I try, had the same issue with the NuvaRing, when I was on the method, even when the doctor placed it in the correct position it would work itself out from its position within a day. I’ve switched to period underwear, but I need a bit more coverage when I’m out of the house at work or working out and the last time I used tampons my body straight up reacted with pain and irritation for days afterward. Clearly options that rely on tucking something behind my public bone don’t work for whatever reason, do you think the cup might be an option?

    1. Not an expert by any means, but from my experience, if the discomfort you feel from tampons is to do with dryness/tissue irritation, a cup will eliminate that, because it doesn’t mess with the natural moisture and general ‘environment’ of the vagina much, and silicone is smooth and doesn’t cause friction. You also don’t have to take it out and reinsert as much, which makes a difference too. If your discomfort is from pressure, it won’t really be any different. And if you can keep a tampon in without it dislodging, a cup should be just as secure, if not even more so because of the suction. Speaking of suction, if you’ve never tried a cup before, beware of the super suction-y ones without holes! Some people swear by them, but the extreme suction on those can cause its own kind of discomfort and you can hurt yourself trying to remove them if you don’t know what you’re doing.

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