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Using a menstrual cup for the first time: Tips to get started

TOTM's size 3 menstrual cup unboxed and lying beside the packaging box on top of pink tiles

Are you curious about using a menstrual cup?

Making a switch from disposables to reusables can be daunting. We’ve put together this beginner’s guide to help you out if you’re of thinking of switching things up on your period. Includes tips from converted cup users!

You’ve probably heard many positive stories from cup users and wondered ‘could I get on with a menstrual cup’?

Truthfully, making the switch from a disposable to a reusable can be unnerving. Making the switch to any period care alternative can feel like a big leap. These are products we depend on and the risk of not getting on with a product and experiencing discomfort or leaks can be a worry.

Where do I even get started with a cup?

When it comes to using a menstrual cup, this can seem like a big jump. Many people might not even be tempted to switch – after all reusables are not for everyone and that’s perfectly fine. It’s important to find what works best for you!

But for the ‘cup curious’ who haven’t yet given a cup a try, it’s common to have questions before you take the plunge and start using a menstrual cup. You’re probably wondering, how it works each month? How do you clean it? Where do you store it? This is all answered below:

Are menstrual cups practical?

Menstrual cups are designed to be reused during your period. They are made from medical grade materials so can be safely sterilised at the end of your cycle and then reused time and time again. It is entirely practical to use on your period. You simply insert, empty on the toilet (every 4-6 hours) and then reinsert.

How do you insert a menstrual cup?

At first glance, a menstrual cup can seem intimidating. A cup (as the name suggests) is designed to hold menstrual blood rather than absorb. It, therefore, has a conical shape which can leave first-time users a bit confused. Good news, cups are made from super soft, flexible material. It folds from the sides, so you can insert, and it also sits lower than a tampon.

Insertion instructions are included in the guide that comes with the cup. It’s advisable to relax and slowly practise insertion so you’re ready to use the cup on your period.

How do I find the right size?

Cups come in different sizes taking into account pelvic floor strength. It’s important to review guidelines to determine which size would work best for you. The right size will ensure you feel comfortable and secure when using the cup. If you are ever unsure when selecting a cup size, always consult with a brand expert who can help you out.

Can the cup ever fall out during use?

Although a cup looks big at first glance (compared to a tampon) it will not fall out on your period. Your pelvic floor muscles will keep it in place (take note of size tips above).

Do I need to use other products alongside the cup?

This again all comes down to preference! When starting out with a cup for the first time some beginners use liners as an extra line of defence (and for peace of mind). But again, this depends on how confident you feel.

We also advise switching to pads at night. This advice also goes for tampon users too! It prevents the risk of keeping a cup/tampon in for too long. With cups, some people (who move around lots in their sleep) use pads at night to also prevent leaks.

Depending on your flow, some people also switch up products on their cycle for several reasons. People with a light flow might want to switch to pads or light tampons towards the end of the cycle when they need lighter protection. Whereas, some people with a super heavy flow use an extra line of defence throughout their cycle. This is not always the case, however, because a cup can hold more than a tampon.

It’s advisable to know your flow and find out what works best for you.

How often do you empty your cup?

Our consultant gynaecologist recommends that with any cup you apply same hygiene practice that you would use with a tampon. That means removing and emptying the cup every 4-6 hours. Keeping anything inside your body for longer than 6 hours is never advisable. Despite sources that claim cups are not associated with TSS this is not true. There has been a reported case of TSS with a menstrual cup. Nothing is ever risk-free, and cups do indeed carry the TSS warning due to the nature of the product.

How do you remove/empty the cup?

To empty your menstrual cup, you need to find a comfortable position – either sitting or squatting on the toilet. You can use the handle/stem to remove or hold the base of the cup. Move side to side to release the cup. If it’s proving difficult, try to relax. If the cup has gone too high you can use your pelvic floor muscles to push the cup lower so it’s easier to remove. When it’s removed carefully empty the contents into the toilet.

How do I clean the menstrual cup on my period?

When using the cup day to day on your period, you can clean it with tap water. After emptying the cup, wash it with clean, warm water and then reinsert.  At the end of every cycle, it’s important to sterilise your cup. You simply need to place the cup in a saucepan, boil for 3-4 minutes and then allow time for it to cool off.

How do I store my cup between cycles?

Most cups, the TOTM cup included, come with storage bags. The TOTM cup comes with an organic cotton drawstring bag! You just need to pop your sterilised cup into the bag, then store in a safe, memorable location ready for your next period.

Can I do sport/go to the gym when using a menstrual cup?

Just like a tampon, the cup does not affect your ability to exercise or participate in sports when on your period.

Can I use a cup with an IUD or diaphragm?

The cup is compatible, however it’s advisable to consult your GP if you have questions or concerns.

Tips from real users

That’s our bit out of the way! To help you out these cup-users have shared their tips on using a menstrual cup:

  • Lucy –

“My advice is to give it a chance. It is totally different to tampons and the like. You’ve got to get in tune with your body – be patient.’

  • Kate –

“When I first used the cup, I found it useful to insert, remove and insert for a few times before using it on my period. It gave me confidence that when I did use it on my actual period for the first time I would be able to insert without a glitch. I didn’t want to practise once and for this to be a fluke!”

  • Natasha –

“I wore a sanitary towel the first 2 times I used the cup and only used it when I was at home…just in case. But I feel completely comfortable with the cup now. Feels like there is nothing there.”

  • Donna Louise –

“Insertion wise, I didn’t find any difference between tampons and a cup. Once you get the hang of the folds, it’s really simple! And a lot easier than you think”

Still got a question about using a menstrual cup? Drop it in the comments below! If you’ve got your eye on a menstrual cup, browse our range of cups here.

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