This article was medically fact-checked by Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Shree Datta.
With so many women saying “enough is enough” to pads and tampons, you may have found yourself in possession of a shiny new menstrual cup! Armed with INTIMINA’s quick start guide and your new cup, you’re almost ready to go… Now all you need is the nitty-gritty on what to expect when using a menstrual cup for the very first time. Gathered from sage cup-veterans, the pros on the INTIMINA team and Lily Cup user experiences, this is menstrual cup real talk like you’ve never read before…
1. You’re going to get intimate, real intimate
Yes, you do have to insert your menstrual cup and yes, it’s a little different from even non-applicator tampons since you have to position it as well. Don’t forget to wash your hands each time you’re about to insert or remove your cup. Also make sure you don’t have any cuts or infections while using the cup. Having an open mind and fearless fingers (sans sharp nails please) is a requirement but we assure you it pays off BIG TIME. From being more attuned to your health downstairs to actually improving your sex life, getting acquainted with your vajayjay is awesome!
2. Patience is a virtue
While many women take to using a menstrual cup like ducks to water, there are just as many of us who find the first few times quite the fumble – and that’s totally fine. Try inserting and removing your cup in the shower your first few times as the water can act as a lubricant and if you’re still a little nervous, being all squeaky clean should make you that much more comfortable!
3. Every body is different
Different cup folds work for different women, so if one is just not working for you, try another. You can check out our top cup folding techniques here. We always recommend inserting your cup higher up in the vaginal canal than it needs to be at first so you have more room to move it around and get it to pop open. Rotating your cup or pulling it down ever so slightly can help stubborn little folds to open up and form that seal. Chill. Relax. A tense, freaked out vagina is a friend to no one.
4. Leaks can happen – but you’ll get it down fast
Many first-timers will have no mess, no fuss – but if you experience leakage the first few times you use a cup don’t fret! Just like with any new protection method, it’s useful to have some back up panty liners on hand just in case. As you get to know your body and how to use your cup, you’ll be a pro in no time. There are also different sized cups to fit different anatomies, so make sure to read up on the details before you purchase.
5. Once it’s in, you can’t feel it
Switching from pads and tampons to a menstrual cup is like graduating from diapers to normal underwear – seriously. Once inside, you can’t feel it at all, which is why so many cup users say they forget they’re even on their period. This is because most cups are made with medical grade silicone, which doesn’t absorb menstrual flow (or your natural moisture) like pads and tampons do, so they don’t cause irritation or that oh-so familiar dryness. Yay!
6. You’re gonna wanna remove it over the toilet or in the shower…
…Not squatting over a new pair of jeans – at least the first few times! One of the big concerns women have about removing their cup is that it will spill its crimsony contents all over the place. But this won’t happen providing you remove your cup correctly! Find a quiet place and allocate some time to learn the process. Use your vaginal muscles to push your cup downwards and with clean hands, squeeze the base of the cup to break its seal and pull out gently. Ta da! Easy peasy.
7. There’s really not that much blood!
While pads and tampons often look and feel completely saturated, inspecting your menstrual cup after removal is likely to leave you totally flabbergasted. On average we lose only 80ml or 5.5 tablespoons of blood each period – so your cup might look pretty empty even after 8 hours of wear. For those with very heavy flows, there are cups with larger capacities such as the classic Lily Cup to give you total peace of mind!
8. Period blood is not like normal blood
You’ve probably had your suspicions from experiences with other menstrual products, but menstrual cups allow you to see your menstrual flow in all its gloopy glory. Period blood is not just blood – it’s also uterine tissue, cells from the lining of the vagina, red blood cells and proteins. This may sound gross, but monitoring your flow, it’s clots and color can tell you a lot about your overall health and some of us actually kinda like looking at it… Be proud of what you create eh!
9. Be gentle with your tap
A gentle rinse in any temperature water you have available, is enough to get your cup ready for reinsertion. While soap isn’t necessary, if you do decide to use it, be sure that it’s pH-balanced, to avoid any irritation or infections.
A word from the wise; when cleaning your cup, turning the tap on full blast with your cup pointing upwards will fill the cup rapidly and send watery period blood in skyward trajectory towards your mirror and surrounding bathroom. Avoid. Keep the stream light at first and gently clean the cup. Again, don’t forget to wash your hands before removal!
10. You’re going to want to talk about it… with everyone
Experiencing a disposable-free period is a thing of great majesty, but maybe Brian from the office doesn’t have to know about it. Then again, maybe he does? We get it, when you start to use a menstrual cup you quickly realize the many ways your period – and your life – are about to change for the better.
The final thing you learn is that it’s weird not throwing something in the trash. So weird, so amazing and so liberating. While it’s unlikely you’re going to be a menstrual cup pro from the get-go and no beginner’s cycle is complete without a few hiccups here and there, this is truly the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Here is a personal review of Lily Cup One from one of Intimina fans
As someone who can easily go through a regular tampon every 1.5 hours during the first 2 days of her period, you’d think that my first time using a menstrual cup would have been a revelation.
Well, in some ways it was! When I first tried a Lily Cup Classic, I wisely decided to do so at night – with a pad on, just in case of leaks. When I woke up the next morning to a full cup and zero leaks, I was ecstatic and ready to donate all my assorted liners to my roommate.
But, it seemed I had spoken too soon. For some reason, my ability to reliably open my cup has never surpassed a success rate of 70%, which is not quite high enough for someone as paranoid as me. (I do much better when I wear one to bed, so perhaps my tossing and turning somehow rolls it open – further study required – but I’m particularly bad at the mid-day office empty and reinsert.) And so, as much as it pained my inner environmentalist, I only wore my cup at night.
That Is, Until I Tried Lily Cup One For The First Time.
This little cup has a thick, stiff rim which ensures that it opens and seals like an absolute dream! I used a C-fold to insert my cup, no problem – at any time of day, I might add! The Lily Cup One has been a total game-changer in terms of making me a confident cup changer whether I’m at work, the gym, or trying to balance in particularly sketchy bar facilities.
Now, Lily Cup One is the smallest sized cup – but its bubble shape actually lets it hold a little more than a Lily Cup Compact Size A, meaning that it won’t make for too many more extra changes throughout the day (and, like I said, it’s so easy to use it doesn’t really matter). If you have a particularly high cervix though – as I do – you will also be taking full advantage of its removal ring.
All in all, I highly recommend Lily Cup One for those who are new to cups or find themselves having a little extra trouble with opening their cups – because Lily Cup One makes it all so incredibly easy!
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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