How to Use a Menstrual Cup: Insertion, Removal and Cleaning

Advice and reminders for beginners

Menstrual cups are rubber (silicone), bell-shaped devices put in the vagina to collect blood during menstruation. Menstrual cups are used as a replacement for tampons or pads. Menstrual cups come in several shapes and sizes and are cost-effective and eco-friendly.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about menstrual cups, including their benefits and risks, how to pick the right size, and tips for cleaning them.

A close up of a yellow menstrual cup being held by a person with long brown hair who is blurred in the background.

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How to Use a Menstrual Cup

Learning how to use a menstrual cup takes time and practice. You will need to research to find the right one for your body. Menstrual cups are not one size fits all devices. The position of your cervix (e.g., high or low), the elasticity of your vagina, your childbirth history, and your blood flow are key factors in determining the best shape, size, and firmness of a menstrual cup.

Get into a comfortable position as you prepare to put in your menstrual cup (insertion). For example, sitting on the toilet, standing with one leg on the toilet, or squatting can make insertion easier. Lubricating the menstrual cup with water or water-based lubrication can make insertion more comfortable.

Insertion Steps and Folding Methods

As a beginner, putting in a menstrual cup can be intimidating. It will get easier with practice. Before you place a menstrual cup, make sure to prepare.

Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling and inserting the menstrual cup. Experiment with folding the cup until you find what's most comfortable. Here are some folding techniques you can try:

  • C or U fold: Flatten the cup between your fingers, fold it in half to form a C or U shape, then insert.
  • Punch down fold: Use the index finger to push the cup's front rim down toward the base, fold length-wise, and insert.
  • Sevenfold: Flatten the cup, fold one side over and down (forming the number 7), and gently insert.
  • Tampon roll: Flatten and roll the cup length-wise, then grip the middle of the roll as you insert.

Once the cup has been inserted into your vagina, it will open. Rotate the cup sideways to create an airtight seal. The cup should not sit too high in your vagina. The bottom of the cup should be about half a finger length from the opening of your vagina. If the cup's stem is too long, you can trim it by cutting it a little until it's comfortable.

A menstrual cup should not cause discomfort. Some menstrual cups can stay in place for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow. If you are experiencing continued leaking, you likely need a bigger or more firm cup. Follow the instructions provided by the product's manufacturer.


Before taking out the menstrual cup, wash your hands with soap and water. Here are some menstrual cup removal tips to keep in mind:

  • Get into a comfortable position.
  • Bear down gently as if you're having a bowel movement.
  • Use the cup's stem to help guide you to the bottom of the device. Pulling on the stem can cause pain and does not release the cup's seal.
  • Once you find the bottom of the cup, pinch it with your finger and thumb to break the suction.
  • Use a side-to-side rocking motion and gently pull the cup down and out.
  • Empty it into the toilet once it's out.

For some people, standing over the toilet may provide a more natural exit. Removing a menstrual cup can be messy at first, but you'll get better the more you do it.

What If the Cup Feels Stuck?

When a menstrual cup unfolds in the vagina, it creates a firm seal to keep it from dislodging. During removal, this seal can make the cup feel stuck. Pinching the base of the cup before removing it releases the suction and allows the cup to exit.

Rinsing and Sterilizing

Rinse and wash the menstrual cup before placing it back in your vagina. Proper care of a menstrual cup will help it last longer. Some menstrual cups can last up to 10 years if cared for properly. Use pH-neutral soap that is free from fragrance and perfume. After your cycle, do not store the cup in an air-tight container because it can promote bacterial growth.

In Public

If you need to empty a menstrual cup in public, wash your hands with soap and water before going into the bathroom stall. Taking the cup out with toilet paper or using an approved sanitizing wipe is OK. Some people bring a bottle of water into the restroom with them to rinse the cup before reinsertion.

At Home

Use cold water to rinse the menstrual cup to help reduce staining and prevent odor. Then, use warm soapy water to disinfect it. You only need to sterilize the cup once per menstrual cycle—either at the end or beginning. Sterilization can sometimes be done by boiling the menstrual cup in water for several minutes; however, follow the instructions provided by the product's manufacturer.

Benefits vs. Risks of Menstrual Cups

There are benefits and risks to using a menstrual cup. This device isn't for everyone but can be a safe option if used correctly. The benefits of using a menstrual cup include:

  • Affordability
  • Eco-friendly
  • Can be worn for up to 12 hours in some cases
  • Collects blood instead of absorbing blood
  • Safe to use if cleaned and stored properly
  • Holds more blood than a pad or tampon
  • Is invisible
  • Option for people who do not have access to pads or tampons

Challenges to using a menstrual cup include:

  • Can be messy
  • You must be familiar with and comfortable touching your own body
  • Finding the right fit may be difficult
  • You may have an allergy to the product
  • Certain vaginal or pelvic disorders may prevent the use of a menstrual cup
  • Reports of vaginal wounds have been made

Conditions That Make Wearing a Menstrual Cup Painful

Conditions such as pelvic floor dysfunction, vaginismus, or endometriosis can make using a menstrual cup painful or even impossible. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure a menstrual cup is safe for you to use.

Cost and Sizing

Menstrual cup prices range from $12 to $50 and are made by several companies. Your healthcare provider might be able to recommend a size. If not, you can check your cervix height using these steps:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Insert an index finger into your vagina.
  3. Keep going until you feel a structure that is the same firmness as your nose.
  4. If you can feel your cervix before your knuckle enters the vagina, you likely have a low cervix.

Checking your cervix height at different times during your menstrual cycle is key to making sure you buy the correct menstrual cup size. For example, a firm cup might be best if your vagina is soft and more elastic. Many menstrual cups come with a sizing chart that helps you figure out the right size for your body.


A menstrual cup is a silicone device that's placed in the vagina to collect blood during menstruation. Using a menstrual cup is a safe and cost-effective replacement for pads and tampons. Figuring out which product fits best is important for comfort. Although challenging at first, beginners often find that time and practice make inserting and removing a menstrual cup easier.

A Word From Verywell

A menstrual cup could be a good option if you have limited resources or want to live a more eco-friendly life. Become familiar with your vagina before purchasing a cup. Being comfortable touching yourself will make the insertion and removal of the cup much easier. If you've had certain health conditions like chronic vaginal infections, check with your healthcare provider before using a menstrual cup.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When would a menstrual cup be painful?

    It can be painful if the menstrual cup is placed too high in the vagina or is the incorrect size. Conditions such as pelvic floor dysfunction, endometriosis, and vaginismus can make wearing a menstrual cup painful.

  • Is it okay to sleep with a period cup in?

    Sleeping with a period cup is safe if you empty it before falling asleep and upon waking. Most menstrual cups should not stay in for longer than 12 hours.

  • What do you do if a menstrual cup is stuck inside of you?

    Try removing the cup in a different position. For example, straddle the toilet, lie on the floor or squat, and bear down like having a bowel movement. Next, pinch the bottom of the cup with your finger and thumb to release the seal. Finally, try gently rocking the cup side-to-side as you pull it down and out. If you are still unable to remove the cup, call your healthcare provider.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Menstrual Cup Coalition. How to Use a Menstrual Cup.

  2. Manley H, Hunt JA, Santos L, Breedon P. Comparison Between Menstrual Cups: First Step to Categorization and Improved SafetyWomens Health (Lond). 2021;17:17455065211058553. doi:10.1177/17455065211058553

  3. van Eijk AM, Zulaika G, Lenchner M, et al. Menstrual Cup Use, Leakage, Acceptability, Safety, and Availability: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2019;4(8):e376-e393. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(19)30111-2

  4. Planned Parenthood. Cervical Health 101.

By Serenity Mirabito RN, OCN
Serenity Mirabito, MSN, RN, OCN, advocates for well-being, even in the midst of illness. She believes in arming her readers with the most current and trustworthy information leading to fully informed decision making.