Who ever thought the day would come when we’d actually look forward to the arrival of our period. Well that’s the effect reusable menstrual products have on us. Our periods can never get here fast enough so we can finally see the cup in action!
How Soon Can You Insert Your Menstrual Cup?
It’s safe to use your menstrual cup at the first sign of your impending period. As soon as you begin to feel those tell-tale cramps you can insert your menstrual cup and safely leave it in place for 10-12 hours. Even if your period didn’t begin that day, simply remove the cup, clean it and re-insert it if you still feel like your period is on its way.
Some women chose to wear a panty liner throughout the day, then insert the cup after the first visible sign that their period has started.
Personally I like to stay one step ahead with the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). By charting my temperature, I never have to guess when my period will begin, I know exactly when I need to have my cup in place.
Your Period Has Fully Started, What Now?
Ideally, it’s best to test using a menstrual cup in the comfort of your home, especially on the heaviest days of your cycle. You’ve probably watched hours upon hours of how-to videos, but every woman’s body is different. Now is the time when you get to learn what methods do and don’t work for you. With experience, over time you will build confidence in your insertion, sealing and removal techniques.
If you already practiced a dry run, then it’s easy...
Starting with a clean cup, apply a water-based lubricant to your vaginal opening, rinse any excess lubricant from your fingers, then fold and insert the cup as practiced earlier. Special thanks to Snuggles, the volunteer vagina below 🙂
Punch down fold
** Tip: Don’t apply lubricant directly to the cup, it will become very slippery and almost impossible to grip.
After inserting the cup there are two things you need to do:
1.) Make sure the cup is fully opened: Run your finger around the rim of the cup, if this feels uncomfortable, you can also check around the middle or base of the cup. If the cup isn’t fully opened, you’ll feel it dent into itself.
The cup is fully opened when you run a finger around the rim and/or base and feel a continuous circle.
2.) Check the seal: After confirming the cup is fully opened, check that it has made a nice seal. Pinch the end of the stem and gently pull down on the cup. You should feel a slight resistance as you pull on the cup. If the cup slides easily, re-visit the previous step.
Follow Your Usual Routine
After your menstrual cup is in all that’s left to do is to go about your day as usual. Now you get to put that 10-12 hour window to the test and see how well the cup can stand up to your flow. For peace of mind, it’s a good idea to wear a pantyliner as back-up protection.
Emptying Your Menstrual Cup
Hopefully you just experienced 10-12 hours of a gloriously dry feeling on what used to be a wet, uncomfortable, hot mess. If you were lucky the first time around and made it for 12 hours without leaks, then congrats! Now it’s time to deal with the part I dreaded the most… emptying and cleaning the cup.
This is the least fun part of using a menstrual cup, not because it’s unpleasant but mainly because we’re not used to seeing our menstrual flow in this form. Tampons and pads have already absorbed the blood, so it’s like staring at a piece of red-dyed cotton (or plastic in the case of pads).
With menstrual cups, there’s no hiding or camouflage, it’s just all there. On the plus side, after emptying the cup a few times you’ll become accustomed to the new norm. So let’s get to it:
How To Empty Your Menstrual Cup
Where you choose to empty your cup is up to personal preference. Whether sitting on the toilet or standing in the shower, the steps are basically the same. Always start with clean hands. Before pulling the cup down, we need to squeeze it’s base to break the suction. If you have a low-medium cervix the base of your cup should be within easy reach.
Cup position with low cervix
Cup position with high cervix
You may have a reach a bit higher if you have a high cervix.
Pinch the base with 2-3 fingers to break the suction of the menstrual cup. While pinching the base, slide the cup from side to side as you gently pull it down.
Before removing the cup, pinch it in half to make the rim smaller for easier removal.
Keep the cup upright while removing it, then empty the contents into the toilet or down the drain. Wipe out any remaining blood with a piece of toilet paper.
Tip: Instead of tipping the blood directly into the toilet, you can reduce the ‘grossness’ factor by placing a piece of toilet paper over the cup, tip the blood onto the tissue, then drop the tissue into the toilet.
You may need a take an extra step if you have a high cervix. If you can’t easily reach the base of your cup, don’t panic! The cup is still there, I promise. Use your vaginal muscles to push the cup down, it’s the same pushing technique we use while having a bowel movement or giving birth. With a finger or two inserted, try to push the cup down until you can feel the stem. Use the stem to help you pull the cup as you push it down. Once you can feel the base of the cup, pinch it firmly and use the same steps above to remove and empty it.
Re-insert the cup
After emptying the menstrual cup, rinse it with water then clean it with your product of choice before re-inserting. I recommend using a water-based lubricant every time you insert your cup, it just makes things 10x easier.
What If My Cup Leaks?
The instructions above cover the basic information you would need in the perfect world, where everything goes right all the time. But let’s face it, in reality things don’t always go this smoothly. My first time using a menstrual cup was a partial fail, the cup caught most of my flow, but it still leaked. Luckily I figured out why.
Before tossing your cup aside, learn some of the most common reasons why your cup may leaking and the simple steps you can take to experience a leak-free period.