11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Trying A Menstrual Cup

I’ve been using a menstrual cup for upwards of five years now, and while they’re great, I can tell you with certainty that it’s not all white shorts and period swimming. Some days, it can feel more like the elevator scene from The Shining, just more bloated.

  1. It can feel like vaginal origami. The wide opening has to get inside of you somehow and it’s up to you to figure out which style of folding is best. Once you successfully get it in there, the fun isn’t over—you have to get it to open again while it’s inserted. Some websites suggest twisting and turning it, others suggest running your finger along the edge of the cup while it’s inside. Eventually, you’ll find a way of folding the cup so that it pops open easily when it’s inside of you.
  2. The biggest danger is when it comes back out. It’s easy to just tuck it back into a c-shape and pull it back out, at which point, if you aren’t careful (or prepared with a Dexter kill-room), it’ll pop back open and literally splatter the walls. This has happened to me. At work. In someone’s home. Sometimes it worries me how good I am at getting blood out of things, and I pray that the owners of that house never buy a blacklight.
  3. Rinsing isn’t always an easy option. In my house, the sink is right next to the toilet, so it’s just a short reach to rinse that cup off with the tepid temperature I prefer. It goes without saying that most bathrooms weren’t designed with menstrual cup users in mind. In public restrooms, it’s best to just wipe it as clean as you can with toilet paper. If you’re in a private bathroom with a distant sink that you’re determined to use, be ready to waddle across the floor with your panties at your ankles, trying to move as fast as you can without leaving a trail of your own DNA in your wake.
  4. There will inevitably be a mess left behind. Adjusting the placement of the cup can be deep digging work, and if there’s a way to dig around inside of a bleeding orifice without a hand soak, don’t be selfish with that information. We look out for each other in Menstruation Nation. Otherwise, be prepared to get up close and personal with your shed uterine lining.
  5. They can last for a long time, but that doesn’t mean they will. One reason I love the menstrual cup is that it’s environmentally friendly. Not only that, but I’ve been twice humiliated by little dogs who have dug into the bathroom garbage and dragged my dirty tampons across a crowded room, and a menstrual cup eliminates that option. Now when my period is done, I clean it (more on that later), put it in its pretty little cotton pouch, and put it in my purse until next month.
  6. Shape and size really do matter here. I currently use the Diva Cup model 2 despite it being for people over 30 or who have had babies, and I fit neither of these categories (they actually specify “women,” but I’ve personally known trans men who have had success with it). I’ve also tried the Diva Cup model 1 and the Luna Cup. The Diva Cup Model 1 wasn’t large enough to gather my Niagara Falls first-day flow; you may need to shop around before finding the perfect fit. They make them bigger, smaller, rounder, slimmer, with differently designed stems, and even ones made specifically for those of you with low-sitting cervixes. Some brands offer different colors. The point is, you’ll have to shop around to find the right one for you.
  7. It can leak if not inserted correctly. In order for the cup to be effective, it has to sit below the cervix, which is where the blood comes from. One thing I didn’t know until I started using a menstrual cup is that the cervix is not in a fixed place. Depending on where you might be in your cycle, your cervix moves higher or lower in your vagina. Because of this, some women experience leakage with their menstrual cup despite the cup being empty when they remove it, and this is because the cup straight up missed the cervix. If this happens to you, the Ruby Cup website suggests that you “run your finger around your cup and try to feel if the cervix is outside of it.” Nothing makes a period more fun than having to finger your own cervix.
  8. There are noises involved. Have you ever stepped into really sticky mud with a big boot? You know the squelching sound of wet suction when you pull it out? Yeah, when the cup finally decides to open properly inside you, it may announce your success with that sound. Suddenly the echoing yodels of pad wrappers ripping apart don’t seem so bad…
  9. Cleaning it is… weird. Diva Cup makes a special soap for cleaning it called DivaWash. Some sites suggest just using an unscented soap to scrub it down when your period ends. The Ruby Cup site sells a little cleaning pod that you put in the microwave. Others, including the Diva Cup site, suggest boiling it for about five minutes. If you have the stomach for it, I’d suggest the last. Supposedly it helps with any discoloration that might (read: definitely will) happen. Go to your kitchen, pick one pot to designate as your period pot, and try not to think about how you’re basically making a you-flavored broth.
  10. It can be very discouraging but it’s worth it. Fumbling with your period feels appropriate when you’re in your teens. You’re getting used to your body in a lot of ways. By your twenties, however, you probably feel pretty confident that you’ve got this whole menstrual mess down to an artform. Therefore, trying an entirely new product like this can be frustrating, and it’s a brand of frustration that’s unusual for adults. It can feel childish to not have a grasp on something that’s been happening to you every month for ten years. Stick with it—I promise it’s worth it.
Johanna is a proud longtime resident of the Finger Lakes in Western New York and a gaudy jewelry enthusiast. This ambitious early-thirty-something can often be found declining event invites on Facebook and looking at pictures of her niece while she drinks wine on her couch, accompanied by her beloved dog, Dorothy Barker.