menstrual cup with peony flower

Using a menstrual cup- FAQ and troubleshooting

Wondering how to use a menstrual cup?

If you’re just starting out, make sure you’ve caught up on Part 1! That’s where I go over everything you need to know to get started- putting it in, washing your cup, and the (crazy awesome) benefits of using a menstrual cup!

Part 2 will go over some common (and not so common) menstrual cups questions, and I’ll help troubleshoot some of the problems people have when they first start using menstrual cups.

Woman with flowers in the background with text overlay- answers to all your menstrual cup questions

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Menstrual cup FAQ

Here are a couple menstrual cup questions that I hear regularly.

Towards the end of the Q&A, there are also a few questions that are less regular… But interesting nonetheless. If you have a menstrual cup question but don’t see it listed here, feel free to comment below or contact me– I’d love to help you out!

Where do I get a menstrual cup, and what kind do I get?

I personally love the Diva Cup, and I’ve been using mine for over two years. You can get one here. There are two sizes- model one is for pre-childbirth, and model two is for women over 30 or women who have had a vaginal or C-section birth.

They’re non-toxic, reduce waste, and can help reduce your chance of getting a UTI! (Click here for what you do when you get one) For more of the awesome perks and benefits of a menstrual cup, see Part 1.

You can also find menstrual cups at some health stores. If the Diva Cup doesn’t work for you for some reason, you can always try a different one! There are lots of other brands but I’ve only had experience with the Diva Cup.

Will my cup get lost?

This is a common fear, but don’t worry, there’s no way for your menstrual cup to get lost in your vagina. There’s a dead end and your vagina is only about 3-6 inches long.

Your cup might migrate north a little as you’re wearing it (and move down slightly when it’s full) but it will never be out of reach.

Sometimes it can be a little tough to get two fingers up to where you can pinch the cup to take it out. If so, just bear down with your pooping muscles a little to help get the cup in a lower position!

Help- I can’t get it in right!

I had a lot of trouble figuring out my cup the first few months I used it. One thing I did wrong was only trying things one way- I folded it a certain way, inserted it a certain way, and didn’t change too much. It was frustrating.

If you’re having trouble getting it in right, just try different methods! We’re all made beautifully differently, and what works for me might not work for you. Try folding it differently, or just put it in with the fold facing the other direction.

Some people also recommend turning the cup around while it’s inside you to make sure it’s opened completely, but that’s never worked for me. Try pushing it up higher, or moving your fingers around it differently to make sure the seal is there.

For example, I discovered that with how I’m shaped, my cup only goes in correctly if I put it high enough to get past my pubic bone before it opens. I also usually need to kind of pull down the skin at the back end of my cup to get it to suction in there.

To do this, I just put my pointer finger in at the back end of the cup, and pull backwards and down on the skin behind the cup. This helps it fit much better for me.

Sometimes I also need to push at the base of my cup after it’s in, in order to get it high enough to where it sits without leaking.

Just remember that we’re all created differently, and keep trying different tactics until you find what works for you!

How often should I replace my cup?

I’ve been using my cup for over two years, and it hardly looks different from when I bought it!

Some companies recommend that you replace your cup every five years, but in reality they should last for about 10 years.

If something happens to your cup before then, like the dog chews it up or something, then yeah… replace it. =)

One other time you might have to get a new cup is after vaginal childbirth- having a baby changes the size and shape of the vagina somewhat. Diva Cup has two sizes of menstrual cups, model one is for women who haven’t had children, and model two for women who have.

Can I swim with a menstrual cup?

Yes! Going to the pool or dipping in the ocean is all totally fine with a menstrual cup in.

There’s no need to fear sharks during your shark week. The suction of the cup keeps everything out of sight and smell. And unlike tampons, there’s no tail that might be visible!

Even if your cup leaks a tiny bit, it’s minuscule amounts and won’t be noticeable in water. I sometimes have a leaky cup but still feel fine going swimming with it in.

If you find that your cup leaks regularly, there are a few ways you can try fixing it- see the next point!

My cup leaks!

First off, your cup might just not be in right. Try different methods (as mentioned above) or wear it higher. You might even want to try a different brand of a menstrual cup if things aren’t working.

The problem might not be with the cup, though. For me, when my hormones aren’t balanced, my period is longer, heavier, and more watery. This makes leaks happen occasionally. I just wear a reusable pad while I’m on my period.

If you’d like to know more about naturally balancing hormones, check out this post!

Can I use it if my vagina is short/long/etc?

Probably! I’ve actually never heard of someone whose shape didn’t work for a menstrual cup. Some brands are more shallow than others. If you have a shorter vagina and your cup isn’t working, try a different brand!

For me personally, I have a tilted uterus and that doesn’t affect it one bit.

We’re all created differently, but since menstrual cups are flexible they work for everyone!

But I’m squeamish about blood…

Well… You’re a woman. Blood is just part of our lives, sorry! Fears, on the other hand, are mostly a learned reaction (other than the fears of falling and loud noises) and blood is something you can learn to handle.

Remind yourself that your period is a normal thing. It’s not shameful. Learn to be thankful for your body’s natural abilities and how it’s created, and you’ll eventually come to see your blood as something beautiful and life-giving!

What about sex?

It’s great. Oh, sex and menstrual cups? Take the cup out first. Menstrual cups sit too low in the vagina for there to be room for much else.

Sex can actually shorten your period and orgasms are said to help with period cramping! Put down a good dark-colored towel like this one and you’re good to go.

What should I do in public bathrooms?

Thankfully, menstrual cups hold so much liquid that you can usually go the whole day without having to empty it. Eventually, though, you’ll find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to change out your cup in a public bathroom.

Sometimes you can find a family bathroom or single stall bathroom where there’s a private sink available. But not always.

So this is another place where most conventional advice only says one thing: take your cup out in the stall, pour it out, and wipe it with toilet paper before leaving the bathroom to wash it out, then go back to the stall to put it back in.

If this way works for you, then great!

I have a few problems with this advice, though- one, it’s tough to pull up pants with one hand, and I don’t want to put the cup down anywhere (gross) to use both hands. And two, toilet paper can sometimes stick to the cup. Overall it’s a pretty messy experience.

Instead, I just bring my water bottle into the stall with me. (Make sure to wash your hands first).

I take out my cup, dump it, wipe myself so I won’t drip at all, then turn around so I can pour water into the cup and rinse my hand at the same time.

Once it’s clean, just stick it back in and go on your merry way! Much easier than having to use toilet paper and take your cup and sticky hands to the sink. Although that might be a good conversation starter!

When do I have to empty my cup?

It depends! All of us have different flows. Wear a reusable pad along with your cup the first few months until you figure it out.

One great thing about using a menstrual cup is that it can make your period more predictable! Use a menstrual cup for a few cycles and you’ll start to notice exactly when to expect your heaviest days.

You’ll find out which days (if any) you need to change out your cup during the day.

And unlike using just pads and tampons, I’ve noticed that if my cup overflows at all during the night, I can feel it and my body will wake me up. There’s much less of a risk of leakage -day or night- with menstrual cups, which is great!

What about yoga, being upside down, and other activities?

Even though my cup leaks a bit sometimes because of my watery period due to hormonal imbalance, being active has never been a problem for me. You can swim, do handstands, jump, or anything you’d like and your cup should stay put! If it doesn’t, it might not be in correctly.

I do yoga, inversions, and exercise like normal while I’m on my period too. Your cervix is a one-way door, and turning upside down isn’t dangerous at all.

Light exercise and walking can even reduce pain from cramps!

But listen to your body. We aren’t made to go full-throttle all month long. Energy levels change throughout your cycle, and you might need more rest during your period.

Love yourself and give yourself the self-care you need! (You can read more about some quick and easy ways to do self-care here. And yes- eating chocolate is in there.)

Can I cut off the cup’s tail?

Yes! If the end handle thingy is poking or bugging you, just snip it off with scissors.

However, I’d recommend you not do what I do… I thought I would cut it off before I even tried using it once.

That wasn’t a good idea because I didn’t know how to use my muscles to push the cup down and get it out yet. But I learned quick! (It was either that or have a cup stuck inside me for eternity). So yeah.

Get comfortable with removing your cup before you cut off the tail.

What about menstrual cups and IUDs?

I had been using my cup for about half a year when I was looking at getting married and decided I’d get a copper IUD (called the Paraguard) for non-hormonal, non-toxic birth control.

I was worried that the suction from removing my Diva Cup would pull out the IUD. Thankfully, the suction is very weak and nowhere near strong enough to displace your IUD!

In fact, I think menstrual cups and IUDs are a great combination. Both reduce your waste- no more tampons or condoms or plastic packaging! (For more on reducing plastic you can visit this post)

IUDs can give you a heavier period, especially if it’s a non-hormonal IUD like the Paraguard. And menstrual cups help by holding more! I’d recommend a menstrual cup for anyone experiencing a heavier period because of birth control.

Can I use the blood?

That’s a weird question. JK. You totally can!

If you’re going to be more in touch with your period you might as well get more in touch with the earth too, right? Well, period blood can be used as fertilizer!

It’s the same as any other fertilizer, except, you know, free with a monthly subscription…

To make fertilizer, first just reserve the contents of your cup each time you go to empty it. Pour your cup in a jar instead of down the sink, and store it in the fridge. Add lots of water to dilute it (at least 10 times as much water to blood), and use the liquid to fertilize your garden or houseplants!

Pour it straight into the dirt around the base of the plant so you don’t turn your plants pink.

Period blood has lots of nutrients that plants need, including nitrogen. It’s especially useful for heavy nitrogen feeders, such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, cabbage, squash, roses, and corn.

Use it within a week. If it sits all month and you forget about it, it will smell awful. (Speaking from experience here!)

You can also apparently get functional stem cells from menstrual blood. Who knew? Haven’t had any experience with that, though.

What about water conservation?

You’ve heard of “if it’s yellow, let it mellow”, right? It’s common for people trying to conserve water to flush the toilet only when it’s #2.

But what about when it’s red?

Period blood can have a slight odor when left in the toilet, but the bigger issue is the possible pink tinge left in the toilet bowl. It’s easy to clean, but there’s an easier way to avoid any coloring!

Just pour your cup into the sink if you don’t want to flush. It’s fine if there’s a little bit of blood left in the toilet- as long as you’re pouring out most of it in the sink, you can continue to conserve water like normal! Just make sure everyone in your household is on board.

Oh, and if your cup is full, put a hand underneath when you’re bringing it over to the sink. And don’t sneeze unless you want to reenact Carrie.

 

Have I answered your menstrual cup questions? If you have problems or anything else you’d like to know about menstrual cups, feel free to comment below or email me at rachel@hopefulholistic.com – I promise your questions won’t be too TMI for me!

I’d love to help you out if you’re having any problems at all.

I’ve had just about every experience possible when it comes to menstrual cups… Including one time in Mexico when I got blood all over the wall of a public bathroom, oops… And I want everyone to know how to do this thing well! (Hint- to avoid a catastrophe like that, it involves remembering to bring your water bottle into the stall. Learn from my mistakes.)

I wish you all a very happy period!

Menstrual cup, tampons, and flowers in the background with text overlay- common menstrual cup problems and how to fix them

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