How to use a menstrual cup

Three women holding a menstrual cup
© Nancy Durrell McKenna

A menstrual cup is shaped like a small bell, it is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. A cup is clean, hygienic, safe and comfortable, and produces no smell. Each cup is reusable and lasts 10 years, so saves the cost of 2,500 sanitary pads or tampons. You will not feel your cup inside you, and you can remove it easily.

How to insert the menstrual cup:

Give yourself time and stay calm. Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

Steps 1, 2, 3

1. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. You may wet the cup or put it in hot, clean water to soften it.

2. Sit, squat, or lie on your back with your legs apart. Or put one leg up on a chair or the toilet. Every woman is different, find a position that works for you.

3. Relax and breathe.

Steps 4, 5, 6

4. Fold the cup and hold your labia apart, so that you can feel your vagina.
5. Gently push the cup up into your vagina, pushing towards your back, until it is all the way in. Let go and the cup will open, creating a seal between the cup and the sides of your vagina. If it is difficult to insert, relax and try again.
6. Check the cup is in the correct position in the vagina:

  • Run your finger around the side of the cup to ensure it is open
  • Pinch the base of the cup (not the tail) and move the Menstrual cup around.

You may need to use a cup for one or two periods before it is easy.

How to remove the menstrual cup:

1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
2. Relax and breathe.
3. Sit or squat with your legs apart. Or put one leg up on a chair or the toilet. Push down with your stomach muscles. Using your thumb and two fingers feel inside you for the base of your cup. Squeeze the base to release the suction and detach the cup from the walls of the vagina. Or insert a finger around the cup to release the suction. If you cannot feel the cup breathe and push down with your inner muscles.

4. Do not pull the tail or stem. Gently and slowly pull the cup out. Don’t worry if it makes a noise when you remove it, this is normal. When the base of the cup is almost out, use your finger to push the cup on one side to remove half of the rim then the other half will come out easily. This ensures the cup slides out while remaining upright to avoid spilling the content.
5. Empty the cup into a toilet or latrine.
6. Wash the cup with clean water or wipe it with tissue. You can reinsert it without washing, as it only has your own body fluids on the cup. Fold the cup as before and reinsert back into your vagina.

7. Empty your cup every 4 to 12 hours, depending on your menstrual flow. If you have a small cup, and it leaks, then you may need a larger size cup.

How to clean the menstrual cup:

© Ruby Cups

Only use clean or drinking water to wash your cup. Do not use soap or bleach on your menstrual cup because it will cause irritation inside your vagina. When your period is finished, wash the cup and then boil it in water for 3 minutes, make sure the water covers it. Let it dry in the air and keep it in a cotton bag for next time, away from rats or insects. Do not keep it in an airtight or plastic bag or box.

How to fold the cup

Before it is inserted, the cup is folded to make it smaller. Practice folding the cup as small as possible.

Push-down fold: with one finger, push the rim of the cup down into the base of the cup. Pinch the sides of the cup together, making a triangle shape, hold the cup at the base and insert.

C Fold: fold the cup in half into a ‘c’ shape, hold the cup at the base and insert.
How does the cup stay inside? The vagina is made from elastic muscle, which can stretch wide open and also hold the cup tightly. You do not have to remove your cup to urinate. Sometimes when you defecate the cup falls out of place, then just remove it and reinsert.
What do I do if I drop my cup? If the menstrual cup falls on a clean surface it can be rinsed with clean water and reinserted. If it falls onto a dirty floor or latrine it must not be used again until it has cleaned with boiled water to kill any bacteria.

See ‘FAQ’ page for more information.

The Menstrual Cup Coalition supports the safe use of affordable menstrual cups by sharing knowledge and good practice globally.

All photos © World Menstrual Network unless otherwise stated.