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 tried the soft disc for several days and couldn’t get it to stay tucked behind the pubic bone. I feel like I really got it up there but as soon as I let go and stand up it pushes back down into the canal. Do you think a cup could work for me? I took the quiz and have a low cervix and after 4 kids could probably drive a truck up there. I really want to be able to swim and work out without red water dripping down my leg!

  2. I have tried to use a menstrual cup, but it doesn’t work for me. The suction is very unpleasent and painfull for me. After a while, I just start feeling a pain in my ovarius, or at least that’s the feeling that I get. It is very hard for me to insert it or to take it out and it can also be pretty painfull.
    That’s why I am thinking of trying Nixit as it seems to be much more convenient to use.
    Any advice? Maybe I am doing something wrong there, but I’ve followed the provided steps…

    1. I would like to know that as well… I’ve tried the cup but it leaked, plus the vacuum thing makes me nervous and colicky. I’m thinking about the disc but afraid it may leak too. Anyone can help?

    2. The least leakage is probably with a disc or diaphragm that is fitted to you.
      A disc is essentially a diaphragm without the custom fitting and durable sperm blocking materials.
      Cups work with suction which can leak when the cup is overly fill.
      A diaphragm should nestle behind the pubic bone, where it is more impervious to movement. But if you have a low cervix, then a disc may not fit as well.
      I prefer to wear a disc or diaphragm if I am going to be swimming.
      I prefer a cup on heavier flow days as I find it easier to change. On some nights, the pressure of my cup feels uncomfortable to me (maybe prostaglandins are higher on those days making more sensitive), and I prefer a diaphragm.
      Neither one is likely to leak if you change them before they are full and get one that fits you comfortably.

      1. I can speak from personal experience that fitted diaphragms do not work well as menstrual cups/discs! Some medical professional also caution against using them during periods because of potential risk of TSS.

  3. Hi, do I need a specific pH balanced soap to clean my cup with or will plain old soap and water work?

    1. Using normal soap is not recommended. Most companies sell a cup wash, I personally use Lunette’s Feelbetter Cup Cleaser.

    2. You can boil the cup in water for ten minutes. Same bacteria killing affect without any product 😉

    3. Soap and water has worked fine with mine for years and years. Like most of them, mine is made of medical grade silicone. Boil it if it gets stinky. If it is still stinky, try leaving it in a jar of baking soda and/or coated with baking soda between uses.

  4. Tried menstrual discs for a few days. Nope. Not for me actually. Not really comfortable and it can be messy at times. Menstrual cups definitely win!

  5. Flat menstrual cup? It’s not flat. Menstrual Disc? It’s not a disc. It’s a menstrual DIAPHRAGM. That is the proper description for it. There are diaphragms in stethoscopes. There’s a diaphragm muscle that works your lungs. There are contraceptive diaphragms, too. Those are so similar to menstrual diaphragms that they can be used as menstrual diaphragms.

    1. no its not a diphagram because disks are only meant to hold period blood, not to block sperm. they work in different ways, and you can check the website you bought your disk and it will probably say its not meant to block sperm. they may look similar, but a disk will not block the sperm.

      1. She didn’t say it will block sperm. There is nothing in the word “diaphragm” that says “blocks sperm”. But it is the same shape, so the closest name for it would be “menstrual diaphragm, bla bla not to be used as contraception”.

  6. I’ve been using cups since 2010 (four years with an IUD – so a total of six years with cups), three different brands/models, and they. all. leak. It doesn’t matter what I do. I even got professional advice, and they couldn’t help me. It always crawls up to my cervix, and creates the scene of a slaughterhouse. They don’t overfill. They leak before they’re half full (usually only some two hours), which means the cups are half useless since I always have to stock up on toilet paper and change underwear anyway.

    I’m gonna have to give this thing a try, seems perfect for me.

    1. I’ve found I need to get a bigger cup than my flow indicates, because that also happens to me- half the cup is full of cervix so there is more spilling! Sizing up fixed the problem. Haven’t tried a disc yet but I plan to.

  7. 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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