Auto-dumping is arguably one of the best benefits of using a menstrual disc over a menstrual cup.
Because unlike when you’re using a menstrual cup, where you have to manually empty it, a menstrual disc may allow you to empty some of your menstrual blood without removing it. Which if you have a heavier flow, also allows you to go longer between manual changes.
What is a Menstrual Disc?
If you’re here, you are probably plenty familiar with what a disc is and the differences between menstrual discs and menstrual cups, but if not here is a quick primer!
Menstrual discs are period products that collect menstrual fluid. They are made from medical grade silicone or bpa-free polymers. Some discs are reusable (like those from Cora, Lumma, & Saalt) while others are disposable (like the Flex disc and Softdisc).
They hold quite a bit (some claim upwards of nearly 80 milliliters) and are great for heavier flows. The disc is also easily reached and removed with an index finger, making it a good options for those who aren’t as comfortable feeling around for their cervix (which is an important part of choosing a cup).
Menstrual discs and cups have a lot in common in terms of the general functionality — they are both worn internally (placed inside of the vagina) and collect blood rather than absorb it. Both are safe to wear with an IUD though menstrual discs may have an edge here. Discs do tend to be a little less friendly to empty in a public bathroom (think blood drawer). Disposable menstrual discs do help alleviate this, but they also produce more trash.
What is Auto-Dumping?
The cool phenomenon that is auto-dumping, or self-emptying, is when you go to the restroom and find that your disc has released some of your menstrual fluid into the toilet. This happens because the same pelvic muscles you use to go to use the restroom also press in on the rim of your menstrual disc, allowing it to tip just enough to release some of the blood. While some may find that auto-dumping is a natural bonus of using the bathroom with a menstrual disc, others might find that with a little extra push or small squeeze of their muscles, they can receive the same results.
However, if the rim of the disc fits just perfectly between your pubic bone and vaginal fornix (as if it was measured exactly), you likely won’t be able to experience auto-dumping. And if you can’t auto-dump by adding a little extra squeeze, then we absolutely don’t recommend bearing down with effort as that could negatively impact your pelvic floor muscles.
It’s a funny thing, because of course you want your menstrual disc to fit perfectly, and as one or two sizes often fit most, you might think an exactly perfect fit happens more often than not. So if you find that your current disc fits just snug enough to prevent auto-dumping, and that’s something you want to experience, remember that you can always check the size of your disc and try out one that’s just a little smaller.
It’s also important to note that auto-dumping may or may not require an extra step on your part. Although not always, sometimes you might find that you need to give your disc a little nudge to tuck it back above your pubic bone once you’re done. Other times, your menstrual disc may pop itself snugly back into place all on its own. It’s all dependent on your anatomy, the disc you’re using, and plain ol’ luck.
What If I Need to Do More Than Pee?
If you’ve ever struggled with accidentally pushing out a tampon during a bowel movement, pushing out a menstrual cup or disc is a perfectly legitimate fear. Especially if your muscles don’t need much of an extra push to start the auto-dumping process.
Although you’re less likely to push out a menstrual disc than a cup thanks to its position being higher up in your body, it can still happen if you forcibly push. Which is why we recommend you don’t! Healthy bowel movements don’t take a lot of work and shouldn’t affect your disc at all, but if you’re still worried, you can use a clean finger to hold the disc in place or take it out altogether and replace it afterwards.
How Do I Know If My Menstrual Disc is Auto-Dumping or Leaking?
Auto-dumping generally only occurs on the toilet because it’s a product of both your position and how your muscles squeeze when you go to the bathroom. So if you experience “dumping” as you’re going about your day, that’s actually leaking. It may also be an indicator that you need to try a larger menstrual disc or change and clean your current disc more frequently. As with any new product, there is a learning curve so give yourself a little time to figure it out before deciding to invest in a new disc — backup (like pads or period underwear) during this time is also a great idea!
Just keep in mind that that auto-dumping should only happen when you use the restroom, and any other kind of outflow from your menstrual disc is a signal that you might need a different size or product type.
If I’m Auto-Dumping, Does That Mean I Can Go Longer Between Changing and Cleaning My Menstrual Disc?
Yes! And no!
If you experience a heavy flow, then auto-dumping with menstrual discs can definitely help you go longer, or even experience the full 12 hours of use in between manual dumping and cleaning.
That being said, while auto-dumping definitely gives you the freedom to spend your cycle as you like without worry that you’ll suddenly need to change and wash your disc every few hours, you should still be careful not to go more than 12 hours between changing. No matter how comfortable and efficient auto-dumping may be, PACII still recommends that you change and clean your cup regularly in order to prevent any sort of discomfort. While cups and discs don’t create the same environment [as tampons] to harbor the bacteria that causes TSS (toxic shock syndrome) it’s still very important to follow best practices for how often to empty & wash them.
Can I Auto-Dump With a Menstrual Cup?
Thanks to the seal/light suction formed between a menstrual cup and your vaginal canal (as well as the general shape and design of menstrual cups) your muscles can’t break and replace the seal. If you were to auto-dump with a menstrual cup, that would mean that your seal broke and the cup tipped sideways while still inside you.
So if you experience leakage when using a menstrual cup, remember that that is a sign you may not have gotten a full seal, you have a heavier flow and need to empty more often, or you might need to try out a different size for a more reliable fit.
Still have questions about auto-dumping with a menstrual disc or looking for more general information about discs? Feel free to browse through our frequently asked questions page or check out our blog for other resources and guides to sustainable period products.