We recently had Kim Rosas from Period Nirvana take over our Instagram Stories to answer some frequently asked questions about menstrual cups! Here's a recap, just in case you missed it. If you'd like to watch the videos to see visual examples of what she's describing, head to our Cup 101 highlight on our Instagram!
What’s the best reason to switch to a cup?
This biggest reason to switch to a menstrual cup, I always say, is comfort and convenience. And while that may be hard for some people to process because tampons seem so convenient, you just throw them away, and pack them and go, the convenience of not having to change anything for up to twelve hours is huge. You can go morning to night without having to think about locating bathrooms during your day or packing extra products for the day. In addition to that, menstrual cups are just so comfortable because they warm to your body’s temperature. They don’t rub, they’re not rigid, they’re not dry, and they don’t dry you out. In the end, you just have a far more comfortable period with a menstrual cup than you do with tampons.
Can a menstrual cup get stuck?
Sometimes it might worry you that your menstrual cup can be stuck, but this is really not possible. If you feel like the cup is stuck, know that you can remove it! You just need to break the suction. To do this, reach inside and pinch the cup to break the seal. You can either just pinch the base, or reach all the way up to the rim to give it a good squeeze. And then just gently pull down once the suction or that seal is broken.
Tips for less painful cup removal?
So I think I actually got this tip from Lunapads, now Aisle, when we were talking about cups at an event and so I’m happy to share the tip that they gave to me that I’ve passed along numerous times. The pain or discomfort you feel when pulling the cup out is usually because you’re pulling it out unfolded when it went in folded. So it does make sense that you might have some discomfort. What I recommend is, instead of pulling straight down, you actually tilt the cup as you remove it, because that reduces the overall diameter as it exits. Of course, this might be a little messier, so make sure you’re over the toilet or do it in the shower, but that will definitely help.
What about cups and IUDs?
I want to preface everything I’m going to say in this segment with the fact that I am not a trained medical care provider or a doctor. But, I have spoken with and worked with care providers who have that training to get an understanding of how safe it is to use a menstrual cup with an IUD. And my assurance has always been that it is safe, you can use a menstrual cup with an IUD. What you need to do is always break the suction, the seal that the menstrual cup has, as a safety, just, even though from what I’ve been told it’s not enough to expel and remove an IUD based on the suction alone, it’s just good practice. And on top of that you want to be aware of where your strings are. Those will be shortened to the length that your care provider has cut. Make sure you’re not grabbing those when you do remove your menstrual cup.
What are the pros and cons of soft cups vs firmer cups?
Firmness is very subjective but what I will say is that softer cups are usually ones that more experienced cup users prefer because they are more comfortable, especially when it comes to outward pressure that can sometimes cause bladder pressure, or the urge to urinate, or even restrict urine. They are harder to get open when you fold them because they just need a little more assistance. I call them fiddle cups, sometimes you have to give them a hand. Something that’s firmer can be better for a first time user because firmer cups want to pop open and seal so there’s less chance of a leak, but, and they’re also better if you are very active and might have a strong pelvic floor that pushes against the cup, but then you have the issue of pressure. So you have to decide what’s going to work best for you and sometimes it’s trial and error.
Can they be messy or leak?
I was very worried about the mess when I considered switching to a menstrual cup, which was eight years ago. And that’s still one of the biggest worries people have but I like to reassure everyone that it’s not a massacre or a scene from Carrie, it’s really not bad at all. What will happen is: you remove the cup, whether it’s full to the brim or just a little. As you pull it down, of course breaking the seal, you pull it down and it stays upright, everything stays inside of the cup. So when it’s removed, it’s still upright, and then you dump it out. My biggest tip if you’re brand new to cups and worried about the mess, is to remove it for the first time on your period in the shower. This is basically like a big splash zone for you so you don’t have to be worried about the mess. You’ll find that you’ll have little to no blood on your hands when you remove it straight down.
As for the leak part of that question, menstrual cups can leak, and it often takes between one and three cycles to troubleshoot and get the cup working for you. If it continues to leak, it could mean it’s not the right cup for you, it could also mean you need to do more troubleshooting. Those are things that take time and, if you do need help, reach out to the manufacturer of your cup. They often have a way to help you, and they will message with you. You can also reach out to me @periodnirvana or there’s a group that I have on Facebook called Period Nirvana Community where you can do some troubleshooting amongst your peers.
Can you dispel this myth regarding cup and body size that says fat people always need to size up?
When you are deciding on a menstrual cup size, size large or size small, it has nothing to do with body weight, or body size, or height, or any of those attributes. It is truly determined by your pelvic floor muscle tone and health. And those do somewhat align with other things that you might see in guided recommendations in age and pregnancy history. But again, it’s not a rule, it’s a guideline to just give you some reference for what size might be best for you. The more you know about your body, the better when it comes to picking the right size. So, under 30 and/or have not given birth tends to be the smaller size, due to the muscle tone-ness. Age tends to relax those pelvic floor muscles, unless you are continuing to exercise in a way that would strengthen them, or having had a pregnancy has loosened those muscles, so they say the larger size. And when I say size I’m always referring to diameter, and that is how menstrual cup brands will size their cups. It’s not about length.
So the other thing you want to think about, completely outside of diameter is cervix height. So you will want to measure your cervix on your period, by basically reaching in with a finger (if you’re doing it yourself), finding your cervix, determining if it’s high, average, or low, and also making your choice based on that. Because a cup that’s too long and will not fit because you have a lower cervix is not going to work at all. So that is also as important, if not more important, than the diameter because diameter, if you just size up, vaginas are meant to accommodate and stretch. Typically I say just go ahead and size up if you’re on the fence, it should work out.
Is it just me or does the cup slip down a bit during the day? Is there a reason for this?
It’s not just you! Here’s my number 1 tip to keep it in place. I have given this tip, probably a thousand times, but it is my first line of defense when people tell me that their cups are slipping down during wear. One of the reasons could be that it’s too small of a diameter, one of the reasons could be that they need a firmer cup. But before you look at other cups and decide you need to spend more money, try this tip. As you are inserting your cup, bear down with your muscles like you’re having a bowel movement. So you’re basically pushing against the cup with your muscles as you insert. When you get it nice and high, release those muscles, and when you release them, it pulls the cup up and that can give you a very nice, secure fit, hopefully, that doesn’t walk down during the day, to the extent that you are birthing your cup.
What’s your favourite cup tip that helps many but often gets forgotten or overlooked?
So I just shared my favourite tip for fit, but one thing I do like to share is, when it comes to cleaning your cup, something that not everyone thinks of. So I like to fill my cup with soapy water, with a cup-safe wash, and then put my hand over it, flip it, and squeeze. And what this does is expel any of the gunk that tends to accumulate in the small suction holes. It’s my favourite way to wash the cup.
That’s it for me and this takeover! If this was helpful and you need more menstrual cup help, I couldn’t get to every single question, so you can always find me @periodnirvana on Instagram. And I also post tons of informational content on the Period Nirvana Youtube and on periodnirvana.com