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A menstrual cup is a funnel-shaped feminine hygiene product that a person inserts into their vagina. The cup collects menstrual blood, and when it is full, the person removes the cup and tips the blood into a toilet.

Most people use disposable sanitary napkins or tampons during menstruation. However, many individuals are considering menstrual cups as a sustainable alternative to disposable products.

A menstrual cup is a reusable menstrual management product that a person inserts into the vagina to catch and collect menstrual blood. It is a flexible, funnel-shaped device often made of medical-grade silicone, latex, or rubber.

Aside from being affordable and eco-friendly, menstrual cups are also non-toxic. Additionally, a 2019 study affirmed the safety of menstrual cups, making them a preferred alternative to other menstrual products.

Learn more about menstrual cups here.

Menstrual cups provide a convenient and safe way to manage menstrual blood and also benefit the environment.

Personal benefits

Benefits include:

  • Budget-friendly: While buying a menstrual cup may have a higher initial cost, a person can save more in the long term as they do not have to replace the cup frequently.
  • Less leakage: When correctly inserted, menstrual cups produce an airtight seal that prevents leaks.
  • Odor-free: Since menstrual blood has no exposure to air, blood collected in menstrual cups is odor-free.
  • Safety: Napkins may prevent airflow and trap heat, promoting the growth of bacteria and fungus. While rare, a person that uses tampons risks toxic shock syndrome (TTS). However, it is important to note that some women have experienced TSS when using menstrual cups.
  • pH balanced: Unlike tampons, menstrual cups will not dry the vagina and disturb its natural bacterial and pH balance.

Environmental benefits

  • Eco-friendly: A person can use around 11,000 single-use menstrual products in their lifetime. Using a reusable menstrual cup that lasts for several years significantly reduces menstrual cycle-related waste. Additionally, a 2021 study recommends using menstrual cups as an alternative to sanitary napkins to help reduce plastic waste.
  • Long wear-time. A person may only need to empty their menstrual cup every 4–12 hours, depending on their flow rate.
  • Reduced waste: Aside from paper and packaging waste, most napkins contain polyethylene and polypropylene plastic which takes years to degrade. Most menstrual cups are silicone, which degrades back to silica — a non-hazardous compound.
  • Less pollution: Sanitary products can release toxic chemicals, such as dioxins, rayon, and chlorine. These chemicals can pollute both land and air.

When using a menstrual cup for the first time, a person may find insertion a little tricky, and it may take several cycles before they become accustomed to using them. Individuals may consider using a napkin during this time to avoid any unwanted leakage.

Most cups will have detailed instructions on inserting them, and some techniques may differ by product or preference.

Here are the steps an individual may take when inserting their cup:

  1. Wash hands thoroughly.
  2. Clean the cup with water and fragrance-free water-based soap.
  3. Fold the cup with the rim facing up. A person can fold the cup several ways, including punch-down fold, U-fold, C-fold, and 7-fold.
  4. Insert the cup into the vagina with the rim facing up and angled toward the lower back.
  5. Once inserted, the cup should pop open, creating a light vacuum against the vaginal wall.
  6. Rotate the cup by holding it by its base and making a complete turn. Doing this ensures that the rim is open and that the gentle vacuum seal is in place to prevent leaks. Check the seal by gently tugging the cup and looking for slight resistance. The cup will slide if not inserted properly and would need reinserting.

Individuals inserting them for the first time may find using water or water-based lubricant helpful.

It is important to follow the product’s insertion and wear directions to avoid complications. Improper use of menstrual cups may lead to conditions such as uterohydronephrosis, as reported in a 2020 study.

Learn more about menstrual cup cautions here.

Below, we look at some menstrual cups to consider.

All the products listed are BPA- and phthalate-free medical-grade silicone.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Lena Menstrual Cup

This California-made menstrual cup uses medical-grade silicone and dyes. The Lena small accommodates users of all ages and body types and is ideal for those using a cup for the first time. Experienced cup-users who may need a cup with a larger capacity may find the Lena large more suitable for their needs.

  • Small size:
    • Diameter: 41 milimeter (mm)
    • Length: 46 mm
    • Capacity: 0.85 ounces (oz)
  • Large size:
    • Diameter: 45 mm
    • Length: 50.7 mm
    • Capacity: 1.01 oz

At the time of publication, the Lena cups start from $27 on the company website. They are also available online or in stores, such as Walmart, Grove Collaborative, and EcoRoots.

Diva Cup

The Diva Cup is available in three models that vary in volume and diameter. Their Model 2 is ideal for those that have recently given birth or are over 35 years of age. The cups also come with measurement marks, making them a good choice for flow tracking.

  • Model 0 size:
    • Diameter: 38 mm
    • Length: 65 mm
    • Capacity: 0.67 oz
  • Model 1 size:
    • Diameter: 42 mm
    • Length: 66 mm
    • Capacity: 1 oz
  • Model 2 size:
    • Diameter: 45 mm
    • Length: 66 mm
    • Capacity: 1.08 ozA

At the time of publication, the Diva Cup costs around $40 from the Diva Cup website. Other retailers have varying prices and include Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

Intimina Lily Cup One

This collapsible menstrual cup is a petite size suitable for beginners or young adults. It features a double rim and removal loop to ensure ease of use while providing a high capacity.

  • Size:
    • Diameter: 39 mm
    • Length: 47 mm
    • Capacity: 0.73 fl oz

At the time of publication, the Intimina Lily Cup One is available from the company website for around $25.

Saalt

This soft menstrual cup is ideal for people with sensitive vaginal walls who may find firmer cups cause cramping, bladder sensitivity, or general discomfort. There are two sizes that suit first-timers and experienced users, as well as people with either a low or high cervix.

  • Small size:
    • Diameter: 41 mm
    • Length: 70 mm
    • Capacity: 0.8 oz
  • Regular size:
    • Diameter: 46 mm
    • Length: 70 mm
    • Capacity: 1.1 oz

At the time of publication, the Saalt menstrual cup costs around $30 from the company website.

Ruby Cup

This company donates a cup to NGOs for every menstrual cup purchased from them. They have two sizes to accommodate cervix positions and heaviness of flow. They also offer a 120-day refund or change size guarantee

  • Small size:
    • Diameter: 40 mm
    • Length: 46 mm
    • Capacity: 0.7 oz
  • Medium size
    • Diameter: 45 mm
    • Length: 51 mm
    • Capacity: 0.8 oz

The Ruby Cup is available from the company website and various locations all over the world.

At the time of publication, the Ruby Cup is available to purchase online for around $30. The company donates one cup per sale to those that do not have access to safe menstrual products.

Intimina Ziggy Cup

This menstrual cup has an extra-thin, double rim, flat-fit design, allowing it to sit right below the cervix. Individuals can even wear them even during sexual intercourse.

  • Size:
    • Diameter: 76 mm
    • Length: 65 mm
    • Capacity: 2.36 oz

At the time of publication, the Ziggy Cup costs around $30 and is available to purchase online.

Super Jennie Menstrual Cup

This menstrual cup is one of the largest and thickest. Designed with a thick rim but a soft body, this cup suits those with a heavier flow.

Sizes:

  • Small size measurements:
    • Diameter: 47.5 mm
    • Length: 43 mm
    • Capacity: 1.08 oz
  • Large size measurements:
    • Diameter: 52 mm
    • Length: 47 mm
    • Capacity: 1.41 oz

The Super Jennie is available to purchase online for around $40.

Menstrual cups could suit most female bodies, especially those who have active lifestyles. They are also good options for people looking for sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives to single-use menstrual products.

According to a 2019 study, an intrauterine device (IUD) may dislodge when using a menstrual cup, so a person should consider seeking advice from a medical professional if they have an IUD and would like to try a cup.

Some points to consider when considering a menstrual cup include:

  • Menstrual flow: Large sizes of menstrual cups have more capacity to hold moderate to heavy flows.
  • Cervical length: Those with a shorter cervix may find regular-sized cups uncomfortable and may benefit from smaller sizes. Similarly, individuals with a higher cervix may find larger or longer cups easier to remove.
  • Latex or silicone allergies. A person with specific allergies should always check the material of their intended product, as most menstrual cups are silicone or latex.

Here we look at some common questions a person may have about menstrual cups.

How do menstrual cups work?

Menstrual cups work by making an airtight seal on the vaginal wall to catch and collect menstrual blood while preventing leakage.

How do you use a menstrual cup?

After cleaning the hands and the product thoroughly, fold the cup and insert it into the vagina. Once the cup “pops,” move it around and tug it a little to ensure that the menstrual cup is sealed against the vaginal walls.

Most menstrual cups typically come with full instructions.

Are menstrual cups safe?

Yes. Menstrual cups are generally safe to use. However, people with vaginal prolapse, recent birth or gynecological surgery, or those using IUDs should first seek advice from their doctor.

Menstrual cups are eco-friendly and cost-effective alternatives to single-use menstrual products.

A person may initially find it challenging to find the right fit, but as everyone is different, perseverance can help a person find the right product.

Individuals should ask their doctor for the type of menstrual cup that may best suit their needs.