These Tips Make Using A Menstrual Cup Way Easier

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
At first, trying to put in a menstrual cup is sort of like putting a square peg into a round hole, only the hole is your bleeding vagina and the peg is a flimsy silicone cup. Sure, the cup usually comes with easy-to-follow directions, but it can be tricky to tell if you're doing it right.
"There is a learning curve to using a menstrual cup," says Nicole Bullock, DO, FACOG, an Ob/Gyn in Abilene, Texas. While it takes practice, the more you use your cup, the easier it will be to insert and remove, she says. According to Dr. Bullock, it's sort of like learning to put in contact lenses. It's normal to have questions at first, especially if you're not sure exactly what's going on in there.
Inserting and removing a menstrual cup is a great way to get to know your own anatomy, Dr. Bullock says. "It's definitely an up-close-and-personal experience, but don't be afraid of your own vagina," she says. It might take some patience, so it's important to relax, says Keri Martin Vrbanac, a physical therapist in Ontario who specializes in the pelvic floor. The vaginal canal is made up of a series of muscles that are meant to contract and relax. "It's much easier to insert and remove when the pelvic floor muscles are relaxed," she says. And your menstrual cup isn't going to get lost inside of you, because there's technically nowhere for it to go.
Once you figure out how to use a menstrual cup, you might find you prefer it to regular old tampons and pads, but it's a personal choice. Whether you're a first-timer or are troubleshooting an issue you have with your menstrual cup, the expert tips ahead will ensure you're using it right.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Just like your sex toys, anything that goes inside of your vagina should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use, but luckily that's easy to do. Before you insert the cup, wash it with a mild, unscented, water-based soap. If you use fragranced or antibacterial soap, there's a chance that it could leave a film on the cup, which is ultimately bad for the silicone. There are also usually a few small holes on the cup, which are hard to see at first, but if you stretch the cup you'll be able to find them. Make sure there's no extra gunk inside of those holes, because they're what keep it suctioned in place. If you feel like your menstrual cup needs a little extra cleaning at the end of your period, you can boil it in hot water for five to 10 minutes to disinfect it.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
There are a few different folds that you can experiment with, when it comes to inserting time, but the two most common ones are the "C" fold and the "7" fold, Dr. Bullock says. Try them both and give yourself plenty of time to find what's comfortable and works for you. Hold the folds together so that the stem is facing the palm of your hand, then separate your labia and push the folded end into your vagina horizontally. While you might be tempted to use lubricants to help slide the menstrual cup in, this should be avoided as they can wear down the silicone.

If you can't feel the cup inside of you, that means it's inserted correctly. "When you first start using a cup, you may be able to feel it inside of you, but it should always be comfortable," Dr. Bullock says. Menstrual cups sit lower in the vagina than a tampon, which can take some getting used to at first, she says. "As long as there's no bleeding from around your cup, and as long as it's comfortable, then you can rest assured that it is in place."
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Once the menstrual cup is inside of your vagina, you're supposed to turn it a full 360 degrees to ensure there are no folds, and that all edges are open and flush against your vagina, Dr. Bullock says. "If there is a fold in the cup, you risk experiencing leakage," she says. Often after you start turning the cup, you'll literally feel it "pop" into place, and that's a sign that you've established the seal. Not sure if you did it right? Run your fingers around the edges so you can feel that it's smooth and symmetrical, she says.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Removing a menstrual cup is slightly more hands-on than just tugging on a tampon string. The most important thing to do when you're removing it is relax, says Vrbanac. "Stress has a direct correlation to tightening of the pelvic muscles, and this will work against removal," she says. Dr. Bullock's "secret success tip" for removal is to "bear down with some abdominal pressure," almost like you're about to poop. This will make it easier to grab the stem of the cup and remove it. Once you can feel the stem, pinch the bottom of the cup, twist, and pull it out.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
If your menstrual cup is in place and comfortable, it's safe to use for up to 12 hours, Dr. Bullock says. Eventually, though, you're going to have to empty it. When you remove the cup, just dump the contents into the toilet. If you have access to a sink, you should wash the menstrual cup ASAP. But if you're using a public restroom, then it's a good idea to bring a paper towel into the stall to wipe off any excess blood before you re-insert the cup. Just don't forget to wash the cup thoroughly when you do have access to a sink.

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