[ + concerned parents and caregivers ]
Menstrual cups (and discs, which are similar in function) are a menstrual care option that often needs a bit of explaining. After all, it’s not like most of us heard about them in health class. Whether you are considering a cup for the first time or a parent here looking for information, we’ve got you.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a reusable, generally somewhat bell-shaped internal device made from medical grade silicone, natural rubber, or TPE (thermoplastic elastomer). They average approximately 2 inches in length and 1.5 inches in diameter, though sizes do vary from brand to brand and size to size (more on this later). Some cups are available in different shapes as well. You can read more on our article “What Is A Menstrual Cup“.
Are menstrual cups safe?
Yes, a 2019 menstrual cup study by The Lancet shows that menstrual cups are every bit as safe and effective as other menstrual care options.
How do menstrual cups work?
Basically menstrual cups (and discs) work by being worn internally and collecting menstrual fluids. Other products, like pads and tampons, absorb fluids rather than collect. On average, menstrual cups hold roughly 5x more than a standard tampon and, due to their non-absorbent materials, are safe to wear for up to 12 hours. They can even be safely worn in anticipation of your period, unlike tampons. Think your period is coming and don’t want to risk a mid-class surprise? Put your cup in! Just be sure to remove and rinse/wash it at least once every 12 hours.
Is it safe for people who have never used a tampon?
Yes. Just like any other form of period protection, there is no age limit. It’s all about what you are comfortable with and what works for your lifestyle and body.
Can a cup take my virginity?
For the purpose of this question we are going to assume that the question being asked is about the heteronormative definition of virginity and relate to penetrative sex. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about the hymen and how it relates to virginity.
In short, the answer is no. Your choice of period protection does not impact virginity, nor does the status of your hymen but that’s a whole conversation on its own.
How do you wash it?
Because cups are made of non-absorptive materials, menstrual cups can be safely washed and reused. Cup manufacturers often make specialty washes, but any non-toxic and unscented soap will do. Simply wash, rinse well, and insert. Between washes, the cup can be sanitized by boiling or steaming if you choose.
Do you change a menstrual cup in a public restroom? How?
Periods are inconvenient. They just are. Depending on our cup and flow, you may have to empty your cup while away from home. Menstrual cups and discs are safe to wear for up to 12 hours, so there is a good chance that you won’t have to change it while you’re at school or out with friends. Keep in mind that cups hold roughly 5x that of regular tampons, so even if you have to empty it, it will be less often than you would need to change a tampon. And, if you do have to empty your cup, we have tips to help you.
For this, we are going to assume that the restroom you’ll be using has stalls and that you do not have access to a private sink to wash your cup. If you have access to a single stall or private restroom, you can more or less wash your cup as usual.
- Wash your hands before entering the stall.
- While in the stall, prepare something to wipe your cups with
- This could be an intimate wipe (as seen & linked above), piece of toilet tissue, or damp paper towel from the dispenser
- Remove & empty your cup as usual
- Use your wipe/tissue/etc to wipe the rim of your cup (be sure no shreds are left behind) and throw the wipe away (never flush, even if they say they are flushable)
- Reinsert as usual
- Wash when you are home or able to use a private sink – or one where you feel comfortable washing it
- Fill the cup with water before entering the stall
- Remove & empty your cup as usual
- Place the cup in the cup, place the lid on top and give it a good shake
- Empty the dirty water into the toilet (this cup has a hole in the lid to make that easy!)
- Remove your freshly rinsed cup from its bath and insert as usual
- You can rinse the shaker cup in the sink, collapse it, and place it back into your bag. Be sure you wash it when you get home.
How do you use a menstrual cup?
As with anything new, give yourself some grace to get it all figured out. Some people will get it right away and others won’t — and that’s okay. It’s all about what works for you and in your own time. Give it a few cycles to get comfortable with insertion, removal, and cleaning. You might want to consider wearing a liner or period underwear for backup protection until you feel confident with your cup. We also have a menstrual cup support group if you find that you need help or reassurance.
To insert the cup, wash it, flick off the excess water, fold it (we have a list of menstrual cup folds here, but the Punchdown, 7 / Triangle, & Half Diamond folds are particularly great for being smaller overall), insert and give it a turn to be sure that the cup is fully open. If the cup isn’t fully open, you can turn it more or run a finger alongside it to help it open. Once you get the hang of insertion, it really is a quick process.
If you need the cup to go higher, you may be able to give it a gentle push upward, perhaps bearing down a bit as well. If you find that the stem is bothersome, you can simply trim it or cut it off. The cup works with or without the stem.
To remove the cup, bear down gently (don’t strain), grab the bottom of the cup (the stem can be helpful to coax the cup down if you have a high cervix), and then slowly remove it, being careful not to spill the contents. (I find that tipping it out works well. (as seen in the gif below)) Once it is out, just dump it into the toilet, wash, and reinsert.
Can you feel it inside you? Does it hurt?
No and no. Your menstrual cup should not be noticeable and certainly not painful. If insertion is uncomfortable or painful you might try a different fold and possibly use a little bit of lubricant on the rim (just be careful not to go overboard and make the cup to slippery to hold.) If you find that your cup is consistently causing discomfort, you may need a smaller cup.
Can it slide or slip out?
The body is pretty great at naturally holding the cup in place. If you have a low cervix or a cup that is much too small, it is possible that it will move down. In this case you will want to consider a cup with a wider diameter (check our chart to help with that). But generally speaking, your cup should stay put.
Does it smell?
Can anyone tell I’m wearing one? No! Menstrual fluid only begins to have an odor when it meets oxygen. Worn internally, no one, not even you, should detect any odors. Others have asked if you can hear the blood “sloshing” inside — no! Unlike tampons, there are no strings either. Not a soul will know you’re wearing one but you.
Can I swim / run / play sports in a cup?
Yes! You can do anything you’d normally do, including swimming with a menstrual cup. If you are doing anything super strenuous it can’t hurt to empty it before you begin the activity (like lifting, for example).
What cups are best for teens?
You can always compare all cups and their sizes on our menstrual cup comparison chart, but there are several cups that are more petite and may be better suited for young bodies (as seen above).
- bfree — XS / 0 or Small / 1
- Bloody Buddy — Teen [ use code PACII for 10% off ]
- Claricup — Small
- Cora — Small
- Formoonsa — Teen/Trainer or Small
- Hello — XS [ use code PUTACUPINIT for 15% off ]
- Kind Cup — Small
- Lily Cup One — [ use code CUPIT19 for 15% off ]
- Lumma Cup — M+, SB, or S [ use code putacupinit for 10% off ]
- Lumma Disc — Small [ use code putacupinit for 10% off ]
- MeLuna — Small [ use code putacupinit for 10% off ]
- MonthlyCup — Small [ use code Monthly for 10% off ]
- MyCup — XS
- Nüdie — Small
- AllMatters (OrganiCup) — Mini
- Saalt — Teen [ use code saaltpacii for 10% off ]
- Selena — Small
You can always find coupons for other brands on our menstrual cup coupons page as well (along with other period products).
Where do I buy a cup, and what one do I choose?
Cups are available immediately at some stores, like Whole Foods, Target, and CVS — though there is a much wider range available online (and you may find better prices!). Our menstrual cup comparison chart is a great way to explore all of the options and our menstrual cup quiz can help you narrow down the choices to find a cup that will work best for you.
For Parents & Caregivers: Is my child old enough to use a menstrual cup?
Yes, no, maybe? That is up to your child. We are big believers in education about our bodies, choice, and autonomy. As for readiness, your child is old enough to use whatever menstrual care option that they are comfortable with. We have heard from parents and siblings of of kids as young as 9 and 10 who successfully use cups and love them. That said, not every person is the same and their comfort level with any period product will vary.
And how do I bring it up?
My advice as a parent, if you want it, is to talk to your child about all of the options available to them, including cups, and let them choose what they want to try. And, if budget allows, also let them know that if at any time they’d like to try a cup, it is an option available to them.
Encouraging feedback from parents and teens in our community:
- “She likes how clean it feels opposed to pads and that she can’t even feel it after a few minutes. She loves it already!”
- “I started my cycle at 9, I hated pads and hated tampons. But my flow was so heavy I had to double up on a super plus tampon and a night time pad to get me through 1.5-2 hours. I WISH I had a cup that young. I started using a cup at 12 or 13, and it was the best thing I ever did!”
- “I started using mine at 16. I’m not sure just how comfortable I would have been at that age (8) BUT, if she’s receptive to it, I’d tell her to give it a try.”
- “I’m 14 (15 next month yay) and … I really like it.”
- “Hey! Teen here. I’ve used my cup for two cycles and it still hurts a bit when inserting but I find it a lot easier to do now.”
- “I’ve had my organicup since I was 16, I use a size B because I have a heavy flow and high cervix but they do have a mini which is much less intimidating. I love my hello cup xs and s now but when I first started I hated firm cups, the organicup was perfect.”
Where can I learn more?
We have a wealth of information here at Put A Cup In It. Here’s a good list to get you started!
- Menstrual Cup Support Community (Facebook)
- Menstrual Cup FAQ
- Menstrual Cup Reviews
- Menstrual Cup Cleaners
- How to Clean a Menstrual Cup (Surprisingly Easy!)
- How to Find & Measure Your Cervix (Knowing how high your cervix sits can help you choose a cup that fits!)
- Can I Use a Cup If I Couldn’t Use Tampons?
- How to Insert a Cup
- How to Remove a Cup
- How Often to Empty Your Menstrual Cup
- How to Fold Your Cup (Menstrual Cup Folds)
- Menstrual Disc Comparison Chart
- Menstrual Disc Reviews
- Menstrual Discs vs Menstrual Cups