How to Use a Menstrual Cup: A quick start guide

A menstrual cup might seem like a big change from disposable period protection, but it’s not as complicated as it looks (and it has way more benefits!). Just like the first time you used a tampon, it just takes a bit of practice and then you’ll be a pro in no time.

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a flexible, medical-grade silicone cup that is worn inside the vagina and collects your flow during your period. There are many compelling reasons to make the switch to the cup – and once you do you’ll never go back to pads and tampons.

Inserting Your Cup

  • Start at home

Inserting your cup for the first time can be a bit of an adventure– one you probably don’t want to have in a public restroom or your boyfriend’s house. So the first few times you might want to stay closer to home – both for comfort’s sake and in case you need to make adjustments throughout the day.

  • Clean Up

Before you handle your cup or touch your genitals at all, be sure to wash your hands. You don’t want to introduce new bacteria into your vagina – it has its own healthy balance to maintain. It’s a good idea to boil your cup for about 5 minutes before each period, just to be sure it’s completely clean and hygienic. (Check out our article on menstrual cup cleaning and care for lots more information about looking after your cup.)

  • Assume the position

Most women find it helpful to sit on the toilet with their legs apart – similar to when you insert a tampon. You can also squat down in a shower or tub, or put one leg up on the edge of the tub – it all depends on what’s comfortable for you. Just take your time to find the right position – we’ve all done it so don’t worry about looking silly the first few times. You’re the only one who’ll see it!

  • Relax

The most important thing to remember is to RELAX. If you’re too nervous then your vaginal muscles will tighten, making it uncomfortable or even impossible to insert your cup. It might help to take a little time to get to know your body. Find your vaginal opening and insert a finger to locate your cervix (where your vagina ends and your uterus begins, it feels like the tip of your nose). Knowing your anatomy will make it easier to position the cup correctly – and getting comfortable with your body is generally important to help you recognize possible health issues early on.

  • Try out the folds

There’s more than one way to fold a menstrual cup – and each woman has her own preferences. Depending on the style of cup you have and your own anatomy it might take a few tests to find the best one for you, but there are a lot of different options.

  • Insert at an angle

Once you have your cup folded, hold it with one hand (with the stem pointing down), and insert it towards the small of your back, not straight up.

  • Make sure it’s open

You can squeeze the base (not the stem!) and pull down lightly or rotate the cup 360 degrees – which can both help open the cup and create a seal that keeps the cup from leaking. You can also run your finger around between the cup and the wall of your vagina, making sure that the cup is not still folded.

  • Check the stem

The stem of your cup should not stick out from the vulva and once you insert it you shouldn’t be able to feel it at all. If it pokes you, take the cup out and try another fold or insert it at a different angle. If you’re still uncomfortable, it might be a good idea to trim the stem down – just be careful to leave enough to help you out during removal!

  • Enjoy your day!

You can leave your cup in for up to 12 hours depending upon your flow (much longer than tampons).

16 thoughts on “How to Use a Menstrual Cup: A quick start guide

  • I bought the lily cup in the size for women who have not had vaginal births. It seems too long. I have trimmed the bottom as suggested, but it is still poking out. If I sit down wrong, it pokes and pinches at the skin of my vaginal opening. If I trim any more, there may not be a stem left. Is that alright?

    • Hi Amy!
      You can completely trim the stem off your cup if you’re very very careful not to create a hole in the cup. (We created these instructions to help!) But, to clarify: did you purchase a Lily Cup Classic or Compact? The Lily Cup Compact also comes in two sizes based on pregnancy history, is slightly shorter – as is Lily Cup One.

  • Hi, I am a beginner with cups and bought a lily cup B as I had a baby already. Even after following every step the cup still moves down and pokes out to the point that the rubbing causes irritation so I cut the stem and the cup still slides down. I think my problem might be doing the sealing? Any tips Will be welcome. Thanks.

    • Hi DJ! Sealing may indeed be the culprit here. The best way to check is to insert your cup, and try to create a seal. Then, when you think you’ve got it right, give the step a gentle tug. It if move easily, then the seal hasn’t been created properly. This problem can be compounded by pelvic floor weakness caused by pregnancy. You can read more about testing whether your pelvic floor is weak and what to do about it here!

  • Hi,
    I have a massive problem with removing the cup. I have a high cervix and the cup seems to lock onto it and is almost impossible to remove this happens every time. I have tried putting my finger up and releasing the suction but my vaginal canal is too long and the cups seal won’t release unless I can reach the top of it. Dragging the cup down using the stem is very uncomfortable and I can feel all my pelvic organs being dragged down. I feel like I am damaging my pelvic muscles by pulling on my cervix. The cup latching onto my cervix also caused cramping.
    I would really like some advise on how to break the seal as the lily cup original doesn’t have holes???? Would pinching my own holes with a leather punch help?
    I am also wondering if I’m inserting it wrong? I use the punch down fold and insert to the stalk where the cup pops open, I don’t push it up high it just seems to go that way through the day. Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Lucy! Let’s see if I can offer some useful solutions. I would not recommend pulling on the bottom of the cup before you have broken the seal. If it’s hard to reach the top rim of the cup because it’s too high within you, is it possible to break the seal by squeezing the body? Almost like trying to put the cup back into ‘punch down fold’ shape while it’s within you by getting your finger as high as you can and using it to push inward and down on one side of the cup. Let me know if that works for you!

    • Hi Lucy! Let’s see if I can offer some useful solutions. I would not recommend pulling on the bottom of the cup before you have broken the seal. If it’s hard to reach the top rim of the cup because it’s too high within you, is it possible to break the seal by squeezing the body? Almost like trying to put the cup back into ‘punch down fold’ shape while it’s within you by getting your finger as high as you can and using it to push inward and down on one side of the cup. Let me know if that works for you!

      • Hi i bought the lily cup one for the for the first time yesterday i just wanted to check wether it is ok to sleep in then clean then use again all day as im worried i was a tampon user but found out about these from family and wanted to go them a try. So far i love it but i guess with the inserting and removal im struggling a little maybe that is because of my acrylic nails aha but any tips for a first time user to help me get better at inserting and removal thanks

        • Hi Ellie! First, congrats on your new menstrual cup! It can definitely take a bit of adjustment if you’ve primarily been a tampon user. Now, as to your questions: Yes, you can absolutely wear your cup to sleep in. You can wear your cup for up to 12 hours at a time, then give it a quick rinse and wipe before reinserting. Then, between your cycles you can give it a more thorough cleaning.

          In terms of removing your cup with with acrylic nails, this video from Put a Cup In It (or others on YouTube) may help with finger positioning. I would also say you may want to invest in nitrile gloves to protect your nails while changing your cup!

  • I’m a virgin and got the Lily Cup One. I’m having trouble getting it up there, due to pain and going in sideways. I usually try the ‘punch down fold.’ any tips?

    • Hi Chase! Does the cup seem sideways when you try to remove it or does it turn that way when you try to insert? It is normal for the cup to shift while inside you because our uteruses aren’t going to be perfectly straight, so if it’s sealing then it’s no problem. In terms of discomfort while inserting, a water-based lubricant can help, as well as switching up the position (ie trying standing with a leg on the tub instead of sitting or vice versa). Let me know if that helps!

  • I’m a 21 year old virgin .I’ve always used menstrual pads. As a result I’ve never inserted anything into my vagina. I bought the smallest cup I could find and I’ve tried different folds but I can’t seem to get my cup in. It hurts too much. Please help!

    • Hi LC! I’m sorry to hear you’re having a bit of trouble and I hope I can help you out! Firstly – and I know it’s difficult – but the key is to relax. Try deep, yoga-like breaths throughout the insertion process. Additionally, it might help to use a bit of water-based lubricant can help, as well as switching up the position (ie trying standing with a leg on the tub instead of sitting or vice versa). I hope that helps!

      • I have to mention that I was trying to insert it during my non period days. I did use a lubricant, but had no success. However on the first day of my period, I decided to try again. It slipped in so easily. I was so excited!! I tried the same position and fold as before so I don’t know what was different this time around.

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