Frequently asked questions
A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis in The Lancet affirmed the safety of menstrual cups.
This study was conducted by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University College London, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in the UK, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in India, and the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Kenya. The study was sponsored by the UK Medical Research Council, UK Department for International Development, and the Welcome Trust.
Read the study from The Lancet >
The British National Health Service (NHS) also endorses menstrual cups as a safe option for managing periods.
Read the view from the NHS >
Menstrual cups are not recommended for post-partum bleeding (Lochia).
Single-use period products are the fifth biggest source of plastic on beaches, take over 500 years to decompose, block sewers, fill landfills, and create air pollution if burned. An individual using pads and tampons fills the equivalent of two minibuses with waste in their lifetime. Each disposable menstrual product used, and its wrapping, has a life-cycle environmental impact, from manufacture through to disposal. The primary constituent parts include cotton, paper, wood pulp, and plastics, plus water and fuel, which all have substantial carbon, resource use, and ecological footprints.
Menstrual cups are used all over the world, in big cities, small villages, and everywhere in between. They are used by individuals of many cultures and religions.
Menstruation can have a negative effect on girls’ education, especially if they have no pads or cups. It can affect their ability to participate in daily activities such as school, but also income-generation, social activities, housework, and more. The same goes for adults during their periods. More research is needed.
The environmental impact of a reusable menstrual cup is less than 1.5% of the impact of tampons or pads. Menstrual cups use 16 times less carbon impact than single-use products, saving 7 kg CO2 over a year. Each cup requires only 15 grams of silicone to make, derived from silica sand, an abundant material with minimal environmental impact.
About once a month, blood and cells from a woman’s uterus leave her body through her vagina. Periods are normal and healthy. They last from 2 to 8 days each time, and recur every 21-35 days.
A menstrual cup is shaped like a small bell and it is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. A cup is clean, hygienic, safe and comfortable, and usually produces no smell. You will not feel your cup inside you, and you can remove it easily. Each cup is reusable and lasts about 10 years, so saves the cost of 2,500 single-use disposable pads or tampons.
Each cup holds 20-25 millilitres of blood, about the same as 3 pads or tampons, enough for heavy periods.
The vagina is made from elastic muscle, which can stretch to hold a cup. You do not have to remove your cup to urinate.
Bearing down (like when you are pooing) can push the cup out of your vagina, and it may fall out. That is normal, although unfortunate for your cup. If you notice this happens to you, remove it before pooing. You don’t want to lose your cup in a toilet or latrine.
If you drop the menstrual cup on a clean surface, it can be rinsed with clean water and reinserted. If it falls onto a dirty floor or latrine, do not use it until you have cleaned it with boiled water.
Each person is different. Some people need to empty the cup every 3 hours whilst others can keep it in up to 12 hours. This is the longest recommended time to go without changing it. The time will also change over the course of your period, from heavier to lighter flow days. You can use your cup overnight while you sleep. Empty the cup before going to sleep and then empty it again when you wake.
Remove it as soon as you remember. It is easy to forget your cup because it is comfortable, and the menstrual blood does not come into contact with air, so it does not smell. You can put the cup in the day before you expect your period will start.
Relax, and do not worry. Walk around and try again. Jumping or gravity might help. Try sitting or squatting in a different position. Bear down. For some people, when the cup gets full it will sink a little and be easier to reach.
Remember, the vagina is a closed canal, and at the top you have the cervix. The cup cannot pass through the cervix, so you cannot lose it inside you. Just relax and take time to get it out.
No, the vagina stops at the cervix, which only opens during childbirth.
Using the cup can be messy until you are used to it. After a few periods, you will learn how often you need to empty the cup. Most individuals take a few periods before using a cup is comfortable and easy. Talk to your friends who use them. It is like learning to read, or riding a bicycle – difficult at first, and then suddenly it is easy!
Blood usually only smells when it is in contact with air. There is no air inside you, so there is less or no smell.
Yes. A menstrual cup can be used from an individual’s first period. When the menstrual cup is first inserted into the vagina, it may stretch the hymen, which is the skin around the entrance of the vagina. Before and during puberty, the hymen becomes thinner, more elastic and the opening to the vagina stretches. A stretched or missing hymen does not mean a girl is not a virgin; a girl only stops being a virgin when she has had sexual intercourse.
No. The vagina is made of muscle that expands to accommodate the cup and when you remove the cup, the vagina goes back to the same.
There is no age limit. You can use a menstrual cup from your first period.
Yes, you can use it at home or at school and while swimming, running, dancing, playing netball, cycling, or any other activity.
A cup may leak if it is full, if it has not been put in correctly, if it is too small a size, or if it has not opened up inside you. Take it out and empty it or try again. You could also try a different size or brand.
No, the menstrual cup will not give you vaginal infections. The vagina makes protective secretions that help prevent infections. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups do not absorb your natural secretions, so the vagina remains healthy during your periods. Always rinse your menstrual cup with plenty of clean water, as soap on the cup can irritate the inside of your vagina. Always wash your hands with soap before touching the cup whilst inside your vagina. And sterilise your cup before inserting it at the start of your period.
Menstrual Toxic Shock Syndrome (mTSS) is a rare event that occurs among menstruating girls and women. The symptoms are high fever, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, which can lead to severe illness, coma, and even death. About 3 per 100,000 tampon users suffered from mTSS in the 1980s when they used highly absorbent tampons. Since then, only 5 suspected cases of mTSS have been reported among many millions of cup users. Two of these women also used a contraceptive coil, and one had an auto-immune disease. mTSS is very rare, but be aware of the symptoms. If they occur, immediately remove the cup and seek medical advice.
No, it is for your personal use and must not be shared with anyone else.
Menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone, latex, rubber, or plastic elastomer. Most cups have approval from national regulatory authorities such as the US Federal Drug Agency. Quality silicone cups contain no additives, perfume, or chemicals and are hypo-allergenic, so there are no side effects. A few people are allergic to rubber or latex. If you feel pain, burning, irritation, inﬂammation in the genital area, or discomfort during urination, remove the menstrual cup and visit a clinic.
The holes help the cup make a good seal to prevent leaking. At the end of your period clean the holes with a cloth or an old toothbrush. Do not use a pin or needle as they may damage the cup. If the cup does not have holes, push the base of the cup, to release the ‘seal’.
Some brands of cheap cups are not made from medical-grade silicone but from poor-quality plastic elastomer. They may be stiff to fold and insert easily or too soft and leak. The material may not last ten years. If you look after your cup carefully it should last ten years, so it is worth using a good one.
The tail is only there so that you can feel inside to ensure the cup is there. It should not poke out of your vagina. If the tail pokes out, cut a small piece off with scissors or a knife to make it fit. If it is still uncomfortable, cut a bit more from the tail. Be careful not to cut a hole in the cup!
Cups have many different types of stems – a tail, a ring, a ball or nothing. They all work the same – to catch the menstrual blood.
Yes. The menstrual cup is good for light period flow, as it collects blood without absorbing natural fluids from the vaginal walls.
The menstrual cup does not prevent pregnancy, nor protect from sexually transmitted infections. If you are using a cup, you can engage in sexual activities, but do NOT attempt penetrative vaginal sex. This could hurt you, and if your partner has a penis, it may hurt them.