When I saw a menstrual cup for the first time, I thought, "That looks like one of those things you use to such mucus out of a baby's nose, and there is NO WAY that I am jamming that inside of me." After all, most of my adventures in menstruating seemed to end with my tampon popping out when I pooped, or leaking weird, slimy period water all over my underpants, no matter what absorbency I purchased. If I was having these kind of problems with the basic wads of cotton that everyone else used, how on earth could I figure out how to use a menstrual cup for the first time inside my fickle, persnickety lady flower?
But after a few months of working at a feminist bookstore (and a few months where I improvised a pad from wadded-up toilet paper because I had forgotten to stock up on tampons), I bit the bullet, and used my employee discount to buy a Diva Cup. I read the instructions, apologized in advance to my Jennifer Love Hewitt, and proceeded to jam that menstrual cup up into my vagina.
It took a few tries to get it right, of course — menstrual cups are generally made of flexible silicone, which can slip around in your fingers; and very few of us have experience positioning something inside our vaginas. But I'm glad I took the leap of vag faith — my menstrual cup has been my period companion of choice for the better part of a decade, preventing me from the leakage and strange smells that used to plague me when I surfed the crimson wave. I wouldn't trade it in for all the super-absorbent tampons on earth.
But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't have appreciated a little more guidance during my first, frustrating encounter with the cup. So consider me your menstrual cup fairy godmother. Because today, girl, you and I are getting a menstrual cup up your grandest of canyons.
Note: These tips are drawn from my own vag-xperiences, and are no substitute for expert medical advice, or, you know, reading the instructions that came with your cup.
1. Selecting Your Cup
The great thing about menstrual cups is that they only come in two sizes — one for women who have delivered children, and one for women who have not. There's no guessing about absorbancy, or what "super" means to this particular manufacturer. The only concern is whether the size and shape of your MTV Beach House has been changed by childbirth. So picking the right one is easy.
2. Folding It
Here's the first great news about a menstrual cup: you don't just ram the whole, unfolded thing full-on into your junk, like you're sitting on some kind of rubberized egg cup. Rather, you fold it. And successfully inserting a cup is all about getting the right fold.
In my experience, the ideal fold involves folding the cup in half. Hold the cup with your thumb on one side, and your index and middle finger curved around the other side. Imagine that you are holding a teeny, tiny wine glass. Then, push your thumb in, towards your index and middle fingers, so that the mouth of the cup is pinched, and kind of looks like a creepy clown smile.
Then, using the thumb and forefinger on your other hand, push up the outer edges of the cup up towards each other, until they touch. The mouth of the cup should now look like a "u" (or the creepiest clown smile of all time). Reposition your fingers so that you can maintain this shape with only one hand.
This is my favorite way to fold, but I hear that there are others; you may want to experiment and find the fold that works better for you. Menstrual cup life involves a decent amount of experimentation at beginning, all of which will end up helping you understand your vagina a little better in the end.
There are numerous online resources for learning different menstrual cup folds, so if "the grinning clown" (as I call my method) doesn't work for you, check one of these alternative folds out.
3. Lubricating The Rim
A dry menstrual cup rim can snag on your junk, making you feel all raw and gross, so it is important to grease this sucker up. I use spit, personally (don't judge); the Diva Cup website suggests using water (and insists that you shouldn't use commercial lube on menstrual cups); some other folks on the web claim that water-based lube is OK, and that you just need to stay away from silicone lube (which can degrade the cup).
I'd recommend starting with water, and if you need more lube, trying out your favorite water-based lube — though note that I am not a doctor or an expert; I am merely one woman who is a little too obsessed with her own genitals.
4. Inserting It
(In this section, a toilet paper tube will play the role of your most sacred of lady flowers.)
OK, are you ready to rock? Let's do this thing! Let's put some rounded flexible silicone into your vag!
I personally find the best position for inserting a cup is a kind of "hover" position — the same stance you'd take when trying to pee in a really gross public restroom without making contact with the toilet seat. If you're sitting down on the toilet, you probably won't have enough room to maneuver.
So, once you're hovering, and the top of your cup is all lubed up, pinch that "u" shape as tightly as possible, holding your fingertips right below the rim of the cup. Then, part your labia, place the cup up against the opening of your vagina, and push it in.
You'll have to keep your fingers on your cup (and thus, in your vagina) as you begin to push it in. Point the top of your cup at the back of you, not up towards the top of your vagina — visualize pushing it towards your tailbone. At a certain point, you'll find that cup feels like it is securely inside you — not too much of the tip is hanging out of your vagina now. Now is the time to stop pinching the cup, and let it "pop" open.
Once it has popped, keep pushing it up into your vagina by the bottom of the bulb. I usually push a little bit against the edge of the stem with my fingertip, so that the tip of the stem is about even with the opening of my vagina. If it feels comfortable, and not like the tip of the stem is poking your lady meats every time you move, it's in there right.
Now, gently grab the bottom of the bulb of the cup (not the stem) and twist it gently and slowly. This helps ensure that the cup has opened all the way inside you, and creates proper suction to prevent leaks.
Is your cup twisted? Is the stem in far enough to be comfortable, but not so far inside that you can't reach it? Is no part of the stem jabbing the walls of your vagina? Nothing feels scratchy or uncomfortable? Does the cup feel almost non-existent, and NOT like it is putting pressure on your bladder? Then, you, ma'am, have successfully inserted a menstrual cup.
But if any of those problems do arise, just take it out and start again. I promise, this won't happen every time — once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to pop this puppy in and out like a pro.
This isn't a required step, but I like to do it. I find a few squats ensures that the cup has settled into a comfortable place that won't move or get jostled around while I'm going about my day. There are lots of methods of getting your cup in the right place, but this is my personal favorite.
To pop the menstrual squat: don't squat like you're resting — you want to kind of drop into a buoyant, bouncy squat, like you're dancing or doing butt exercises. I like to drop into a deep squat, where my butt almost touches the floor, and bounce up and down with it a few times. Yes, I usually wait for everyone else to leave the bathroom before I do this. I may look like a jackass, but when I am done, me and my cup are good to go!
6. Getting It Out
OK, first and foremost: menstrual cups pretty much never get stuck inside you. There is no situation where it's just lost up there, and you have to spend the rest of your days with a silicone thingimahoosier up your yodel. So relax about that.
In fact, relaxing is the most important thing you can do when it comes to getting a menstrual cup out. If you're super-tense, the muscles in your vagina can kind of grip the cup, and make getting it out a real struggle. So position yourself over the toilet bowl or squatting, take a deep breath, and tug on the stem of the cup.
Now, I'd suggest wiggling around your Kegel muscles. Push out with them, kind of like you're trying to poop. This will help dislodge the cup a bit, and let you get a better grasp on the stem.
I usually then tug on the stem a little using my thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, until I can get a good grip on it, and then I pinch the very bottom of the bulb of the cup. This breaks the seal the cup has made inside your vagina, and you should be able to remove it pretty easily at this point.
And be careful to empty it over the toilet, and away from any pants/skirts — if you've had it up there for a few hours, it may be full of blood, and can spill a little sometimes.
If you still can't get it out, text me and I will come over and take it out for you (offer void on all days ending in "y").
7. Cleaning It
Pop your special silicone friend out, dump all the blood out into a toilet, and wash the cup with warm water and hand soap. Do this before reinserting, every time you empty out a cup. Pat it dry with a towel, and that sucker is good to go back in.
When your cycle is finished, you'll want to boil your cup in hot water for about five minutes before you store it.
8. Storing It
You don't need to buy anything crazy or special to store your cup when you're not using it. You'll want to store it in the bag it came in, or another breathable container — they sell a lot of cute, personalized homemade menstrual cup bags on Etsy (because of course they do). But no matter what, avoid storing it in plastic baggies or airtight containers — store your menstrual cup in a breathable container, so that the moisture can evaporate.
Hey, look at you! You're now an expert in long-term, reusable menstrual products. Good job! I give your new skill set two vulvas up!