This article was medically fact-checked by Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Shree Datta.
Let’s face it, there is nothing quite as annoying as a leaking menstrual cup. Leaks usually occur to newbies during their first few cycles as they get to know their body and their cup, but they can also happen (on very rare occasions) to us cup veterans too. Thankfully, menstrual cup leaks are super easy to troubleshoot, and once you’ve figured out why they occur and how to fix them – you’re set!
The 2 most common reasons your cup might be leaking are: that it hasn’t opened up properly or that it is positioned incorrectly. Not to fret! There are several practical, easy solutions to get your cup working for you leak-free, every time.
The first step is to get acquainted with your vagina so that you can visualize what you’re doing during insertion. You can check out our article on the female internal anatomy here and a detailed guide to your cervix here. Also make sure you do not have any cuts, infections, or urinary problems while using menstrual cups. Now that you’re all clued up on your lady parts, let’s see why your cup may be leaking…
1. Your cup isn’t fully open:
The most common reason for leaks is that the cup edges are still slightly folded and have not opened fully to form a seal with the vaginal walls. This is especially common with new cup users and generally just takes a little bit of practice to get the perfect insertion method down. If on first insertion your cup hasn’t opened up, here are our top tried and tested tips for getting it to pop…
Keep it Clean
Before your hands go anywhere near your nether regions, be sure to give them a proper washing to avoid introducing bacteria into your vulva and vagina.
Chill out girl!
Relax! A tight, tensed vagina is not going to be the most accommodating space for a menstrual cup and may prevent it from opening up properly. Sit, stand or squat in a position that’s comfortable for you and ideally one that opens up your vagina – one leg up on the tub is a firm fave among seasoned cup users.
Try a different fold
Next, it’s important to try out different cup folding and insertion methods to see which one works best for you (see our top folds here). We generally recommend the “half-v”, aka “punch-down” fold as it makes the cup a) more rigid, b) much smaller, and c) gives it a pointed tip for easier insertion.
Insert your cup higher in the vaginal canal but low enough so that you can still reach the base – you can press your finger (or thumb) on the bottom of the cup to move it higher up. Then, squeeze or press on the body or the rim of the cup a few times to help the cup pop open and form that all important seal.
This is a great little trick for getting even the most stubborn folds to pop open – once you’ve inserted your cup (high) into the vagina, gently pull or wiggle the stem downwards. You may actually feel the cup softly opening up inside as you pull it down. If you pull the cup too far down so that the stem is now sticking out, simply use your finger – or thumb – on the side or rim of the cup to push it back up higher.
To make sure your cup has fully opened, run your finger around the cup’s body to check for any folded edges or bulges. If you pull on the cup and it doesn’t move – your seal has formed and you’re good to go! You can also clench your pelvic floor muscles to ensure the cup is correctly located. You shouldn’t be able to feel if it’s in the right place, even if mentally you keep thinking about how it’s inside of you. You’ll get used to it.
2. Your cup is positioned incorrectly ie. it’s not under your cervix
Contrary to popular belief, the cervix is not necessarily located at the top of our vaginal canal and can actually be positioned at an angle or to the side. It can also move higher and lower in the vaginal canal throughout our menstrual cycle, depending on our levels of estrogen. If the rim of your cup is not below the cervix, menstrual fluid will flow down the sides of your cup and ultimately cause leaks. So, first things first…
Locate your cervix!
As your cervix height can change throughout your cycle, it’s important to check the position during the times you’re going to use your cup – ie. your period. To do so, simply place a clean finger into your vagina and feel for a slightly firmer area of tissue – it should feel a bit like the tip of your nose. Ta da! Say hello to your cervix!
Position your cup under the cervix
Once you’ve determined where your cervix has set up camp for your period, you will know where your cup needs to be. But remember that your cervix may continue to move throughout your period so it’s handy to check its position throughout your cycle your first few times with a cup. You can wear your cup high or low in the vagina – whatever works for you!
Angle your cup
The vaginal canal is not vertical, but angled towards the back of the body. To make sure your cup is positioned correctly, angle it towards your tailbone using your thumb on its base to tilt it in the right direction.
Make sure your cervix is not inside your cup
During your period, estrogen levels cause your cervix to lower and become more firm. If you position your cup so that it is directly on your cervix it can do two things. Firstly, it’s a bit like putting a pebble into a glass of water where the cervix takes up capacity and raises the level of fluid inside which can potentially cause leaks. Secondly, if you have a sensitive cervix the cup’s suction could cause cramping or discomfort – so make sure to try out different positions to find the right one for your body.
3. Other issues
Your menstrual cup is full
This one should be pretty self-explanatory! If your menstrual cup is full – you may experience a little leakage. Most women will not need to change their cup more than once every 8 hours, but if you have a very heavy flow you may want to change it a little more regularly or consider purchasing a higher capacity cup (like Lily Cup for example) for total peace of mind.
Your cup does not fit
When purchasing a menstrual cup it’s important to consider the company’s size guide as a cup that is too small is not going to seal properly and a cup that is too big will be difficult to open up. INTIMINA recommends that women who have not given birth or who have given birth via C-section choose Lily Cup size A and women who have given birth vaginally or who have a weak pelvic floor choose size B. You should also check your cervix height before choosing a cup as some are longer than others.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about why your cup might be leaking and exactly how to fix it. Next time you go to insert your cup, visualize what you are doing and follow some of these useful tips so you form that all-important seal, exactly where it needs to be.
If you have a problem with choosing your new period cup, check this out: Which menstrual cup to choose
Facts checked by:
Dr. Shree Datta
Dr. Shree Datta is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in London, specialising in women’s health including all menstrual problems such as fibroids and endometriosis. Dr. Shree is a keen advocate for patient choice, having written numerous articles and books to promote patient and clinician information. Her vision resonates with INTIMINA, with the common goals of demystifying periods and delivering the best possible care to her patients
Lane Baumeister is an internationally-based Canadian writer with several years’ experience creating educational and entertaining articles that discuss intimate health and sexual well-being. When not waxing profound about menstruation, she devotes herself to enjoying extremely good food and equally bad movies.