Unfortunately there is no “one fits all” menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are worn internally and held in place by the vaginal wall and surrounding muscles. Since our bodies come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, it makes sense that cups should too. Let’s take a look at the different menstrual cups shapes offered and what they bring to the market!
Bell Shaped Menstrual Cups (aka. Bullet) Standard since 1930.
The original period cup design hasn’t changed much, good is good—plain and simple. We love this sustainable alternative to tampons for many reasons. Since it works very well for most people, new design attempts are often focused on accommodating small fit changes, but generally do not venture far from the traditional bell shape.
Traditionally shaped cups offer the widest range of options since so many brands offer them. Need a firmer cup? Larger size? No problem. Other potential variations might include rim thickness, grips, diameter, stem designs, colors, and overall product length.
Also, as with all cup shapes you may find them in silicone (most common), TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), or natural rubber. All of these materials are bpa-free, approved for use in medical devices, and proven to be just as safe as other products in terms of bacteria like TSS (toxic shock syndrome).
Ball Shaped Menstrual Cups (aka. Round)
This shape can be a game changer for those who had trouble with traditional cups, it makes the whole cup-going experience suddenly “click.” On the other hand, people who hate it tend to reeeeally hate it.
Pros of the Ball Shaped Menstrual Cups:
- Some find the round, smooth, rimless shape to be more comfortable
- No protruding rim may be better for those with a sensitive bladder
- Funnel designs (Femmycycle and Formoonsa) make these cups leak-free when properly inserted
- Can be easier to pop open
Cons of the Ball Shaped Menstrual Cups:
- Can form a very snug fit/seal on the cervix that’s difficult to remove (especially for the funnel types which do not have suction holes like most regular cups)
- note: If this happens, there’s no reason to panic! We see this a lot in the support group. It’s not literally stuck there forever, it physically can’t be. Stay calm, deep breath, maybe get ready to workout your core and back muscles as you bend over and slide your finger as far up to the rim as possible and press to remove the seal.
- Since they are round, it can turn. Sideways, backwards, upside down. Seriously, it can pull stunts that rival an olympic gymnast. Keeping the stem helps prevent this from happening. It’s not infallible, but certainly helps, and the longer the stem design the better. The funnel styles have no-spill rims to help prevent leaks from these little stunt masters.
- To be fair – a traditional bullet type can rotate in the vaginal canal too, but it’s way less capable and highly unlikely.
Ergonomic Menstrual Cups (aka. Tapered or Slanted)
These cups are “ergonomically” designed to follow your body’s natural form. The vaginal canal is not a straight tube (but I swear that’s what it looked like in my textbook diagrams). These curvy cups are meant to sit in there juuuust right!
Pros of the Ergonomic Shaped Menstrual Cups:
- Shouldn’t move much, it sits snuggled into your natural curvature
- Variety of stem choices (no stem, long stem, or attached/non-removable)
- No protruding rim, less bladder pressure
- Soft cup versions may be ideal for those with sensitivities
Cons of the Ergonomic Shaped Menstrual Cups:
- Not well suited for a low cervix
- Two of the most popular brands have inflexible stem options being that one has no stem (Funcup) and the other has a stem type that really cannot be removed (Lily Cup) – yes, I also listed this as a “pro,” it really depends on your perspective!
- For some people’s anatomy, it might be a tiny bit more difficult to get in place, open and seal if your vaginal walls don’t want to cooperate or if you have a tilted uterus that is positioned in such a way that it interferes with the specific way these cups need to open and sit in the vaginal canal
Menstrual Discs (Diaphragm shaped)
If none of these cup shapes suit you, don’t abandon your reusable menstrual dreams just yet! Menstrual discs are especially great for those with a high cervix but many brands now offer different sizes to accommodate various needs.
Pros of Menstrual Discs:
- May be easier insertion and removal for those who haven’t found success with cups
- More comfortable than a cup in some cases
- Auto-dumping – if you have a very heavy flow, auto-dumping that occurs while using the restroom can be useful and help you get through the whole 12 hours of wear without having to go through the process of remove-dump-rinse-reinsert
Cons of Menstrual Discs:
- Messy! Compared to cups, the chances are much higher that you’ll come into contact with blood, and must be more careful not to drip/drop/fling (Unless you’re a menstrual Jackson Pollock, I mean, sure, go for it?)
- Due to the potential mess, using these in a public stall may be less than ideal
- Auto-dumping – a “pro” for some, however it can be a bit precarious if this happens unintentionally. There are definitely ways to mitigate or protect from this, and even get a “feel” for avoiding it with experience.
If you need a more we have a the most comprehensive look at menstrual cups vs menstrual discs!