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).

4 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!

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