Now found on drugstore shelves alongside tampons and pads, menstrual cups are becoming popular alternatives to single-use period products thanks to their bevy of benefits. Not only do they reduce the plastic waste going to landfills, a reusable menstrual cup only needs to be removed twice a day, will be leak-free with the right fit, will last five to 10 years overall and will save you money in the long run (plus, many are FSA-eligible).
“The initial start-up cost can cause sticker shock — $25 to $45 for a quality brand — but they save users money in the long term after just a few months of no longer needing to buy tampons or pads,” explains Kim Rosas, founder of Period.Shop and Period Nirvana, where visitors can take a survey to be matched with the best period care products.
With the world of menstrual cups expanding, there are plenty of products to explore. Here, we consult obstetrician/gynecologists (OB-GYNs) and women’s health experts about the best ones for every period type, and what to know about menstrual cups before trying them.
How do menstrual cups work?
“The menstrual cup is a small, flexible cup that is usually made of silicone or latex rubber,” says Dr. Navya Mysore, national program medical director of sexual and reproductive health at OneMedical. “During your period it catches and collects your flow as opposed to absorbing it, which is what pads or tampons do. The menstrual cup is placed inside the vagina and sits right below the cervix.”
While the shape of the cups can look complex, most are made from flexible, medical-grade silicone (like the ones in the roundup below, unless otherwise noted) that can’t even be felt when inserted correctly.
“Menstrual cups have a rim that forms a seal between the cup and the vaginal wall,” explains Dr. Lesley Sweeney, OB-GYN and telehealth physician for Hims and Hers. “This suction prevents leaks and holds the cup in place.”
While the mechanics of different menstrual cups are essentially the same, there’s a lot of variety out there, with differences in size, material, shape and more. Picking the right menstrual cup also requires some knowledge of the anatomy you’re working with — cervix height, pelvic floor strength, flow volume — so a visit to your gynecologist could help you determine these factors if you’re unsure how to examine yourself. “The vagina is a space that changes, it’s dynamic space,” says Dr. Jill Rabin, vice chair, OB-GYN at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital. “So an exam and getting an opinion from your gynecologist would be a really good idea.” Your age and whether you’ve given birth vaginally can also affect what type of menstrual product is the best fit.
How to use a menstrual cup
“The learning curve for a new menstrual cup user is one to three cycles,” says Rosas. The other experts also agreed some patience is required when getting used to the insertion and removal process. While it seems obvious, Sweeney stresses that it’s important to read the instructions that come with your cup before trying to place it. “There are some differences between the cups in regards to shape, size and flexibility, so reading the instructions can be very helpful,” she says.
When you’re ready to start the insertion process, the experts say that the first step is to always wash your hands. Then, the second thing is to remember to relax. “It is much harder to insert a menstrual cup when the muscles of the pelvic floor are tense,” Sweeney explains.
As for technique, there are a variety of folding methods, as advised in different cup instructions and online, so try them out until you find one that works for you. For example, Emory Ship, Tia’s Soho medical director and certified nurse midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner, prefers the “punch down fold” because it “creates the smallest diameter for inserting.” Here’s her step-by-step guide to the “punch down fold” technique:
- Holding the cup in one hand, use your pointer finger to push one side of the cup rim down into the cup.
- Pinch the sides of the cup together.
- Once folded, hold the cup at the base to insert it into your vagina.
“If the cup is not completely open at the rim, a simple twist of the cup from the base should help it pop open fully,” Ship says. “A well-fitted cup should not be noticeable or felt at all while inside!”
Some other tips from the experts include angling the cup towards your back (not straight up, like a tampon), trying to insert the cup when standing up (it can also help to have one foot elevated on your toilet seat or tub), using a water-based lubricant if you’re having trouble sliding it in and practicing placing and removing your cup before your period begins. “Inserting and removing cups will get easier and easier with practice,” Rosas assures. “Soon you will be as fast as a Nascar pit crew for your changes.”
How to remove a menstrual cup
Along with the amazing feeling of not being able to feel your menstrual cup at all, some may have trouble locating their cup or pulling it out when it comes time to remove it. Most cups come with a stem to help you locate the bottom of the cup, but you don’t want to yank on this like you would a tampon string.
“The stem is just a guide to find the base of the cup,” says Sweeney. “You must break the suction before trying to remove the cup.” This is because pulling directly on the cup “can be irritating to the vaginal lining and especially if you have an IUD you want to be careful,” warns Mysore. “If you pull directly on the cup and do not break the suction you can risk pulling out your IUD.”
In order to break the seal, you have to pinch the bottom of the cup itself. “If your cup’s base is hard to reach, use the stem to wiggle it lower by moving the stem side to side,” says Rosas. “Once reachable, pinch the cup’s base then gently guide it down and out.” She also recommends removing the cup for the first time in the shower, just in case things get messy.
If you’re really struggling to locate or remove your cup, don’t panic — as Rosas puts it, “You are a dead end!” Sweeney also reassures that the cup can’t get lost in your vagina. “Worst-case scenario, you can’t remove it, but you can always go to your doctor for help,” Sweeney says. “As an OB-GYN I have had patients come in many times because they couldn’t remove a tampon, diaphragm, pessary or menstrual cup. No judgment.”
How to clean a menstrual cup
“Cleaning and storage is really important,” says Rabin. The experts, and most menstrual cup instructions, say to boil your cup for five to 10 minutes to sterilize it before using it for the first time (if it’s made from silicone). Then, you should empty and wash your cup with clean water at least twice a day, every 12 hours, during your cycle. For this daily maintenance, Mysore says it’s optional to use soap, but if you do, “make sure the soap is mild, oil- and fragrance-free.”
When your period is complete, the experts say rinse it off, and then boil and sterilize it again for a few minutes. Then you can dry it off and store it in a cool, dry place.
Sweeney notes that your cup may stain, but “this doesn’t mean that it is dirty.” The OB-GYN says stains can be cleaned by scrubbing the cup with soap and water and then boiling, or “you can also soak the cup in lemon juice for an hour, then scrub and boil to remove the stains.”
Now with the basics laid out, read on to find the experts’ picks for the best menstrual cups and discs for various cervix heights, flow volumes and more.
Best menstrual cups for beginners
The Saalt cup was the most highly recommended beginner-friendly cup from the experts we consulted. Rosas says the Saalt cup fits a large percentage of people because of its length and average firmness. It comes in small and regular sizes, is made for a normal to heavy flow, can be worn for up to 12 hours and holds as much as three to four tampons, which means you don't need to worry about emptying it throughout the day.
Sweeney and Ship agree it's a great beginner cup and recommend the teen model. "Saalt Teen Cup is a smaller cup so it is a good choice for teenagers and smaller adults," Sweeney says.
"Cora's Easy-Does-It Cup has a flat area on the side to make folding it easier and the bottom narrows making removal less difficult," says Sweeney. Reviewers also note its user-friendliness, but with one caveat: the soft silicone it's made with might not create a strong enough seal for those with a heavier flow, so you may want to start out with size 2.
Rosas recommends the AllMatters cup (formerly OrganiCup) because it comes in three sizes that will be a fit for most. The Mini size is great for teens, size A is best for those who have never given birth vaginally and size B is slightly larger and made for those who have given birth vaginally. While most menstrual cups are sustainable in their reusable nature, AllMatters takes it a step further with eco-friendly packaging.
According to Sweeney, beginners should check out MeLuna, which offers multiple cup sizes, heights, firmnesses and handles. "Their website has size charts, a 'cup fairy' for recommendations and a calculator for patients with special needs such as prior pelvic surgery," Sweeney says. The standard height cup works for those with average cervix heights, classic firmness is comfortable for most users and the ring handle is beginner-friendly and makes it easy to reach and remove the cup.
Ship recommends the Bloody Buddy Cup's Teen size for adolescents searching for a menstrual cup. It functions similarly to others on the market, with medical-grade silicone and a handle to help locate and remove the cup, but its opaque black color sets it apart and gives it some attitude. Bloody Buddy Cup also offers mixed packs, so you can try two sizes to find the perfect fit.
If you're prone to period cramps or a sensitive bladder, Lena was made for you. "[It] is made from softer silicone making it more flexible and comfortable," Sweeney says. "It puts less pressure on the bladder." The brand recommends everyone first try the small size regardless of flow volume as the large is made for experienced users who have super-heavy flows. That said, Sweeney also says the Lena cup is a good choice for those with a wide vagina, thanks to its bell shape.
"Flex Cup comes in a Slim [Size 01] which is good for beginners or patients with a light menstrual bleeding," Sweeney says. She also highlights that "it has a pull tab that gently breaks the seal around the cervix," which makes removal stress-free and similar to removing a tampon. Ship and Rosas also picked the Flex Cup as a top pick for those with high cervixes, thanks to its adjustable stem length. As an added bonus, the Flex Cup comes with two disposable Flex Discs to try, too.
Best period cups for low cervixes
Rosas and Ship named this cup as one of their favorites for those with low cervixes. It features a shorter body for a comfortable fit and doesn't have a toggle at the base, which may be exposed for those with a low cervix and shorter vaginal canal. The cup is also silicone- and BPA-free, made out of medical-grade thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). It comes in two sizes, both designed for low cervixes.
"Many with low cervixes will find that menstrual discs overall are more comfortable than cups as they are shallower and do not have stems," says Ship. Unlike menstrual cups, discs sit wedged behind the cervix and pubic bone. "Discs have a flat fit and can be worn during intercourse for a mess-free experience," Rosas says, adding that they are "also suction-free making them a popular choice for anyone with an IUD in place." She and Ship both recommend the Diva Disc (from the creators of the DivaCup), which is also a great period care option for working out.
Another pick from Rosas, the Juju cup can be worn up to eight hours and is made to support an active lifestyle. Model 4 is designed for those with low cervixes or a short vaginal canal and thus features a far shorter toggle for a comfortable fit. It's made from medical-grade silicone, but errs on the firmer side so it might be too stiff for those with bladder sensitivity or cramps.
Ship recommends the Hevea Loop Cup for its shorter fit. It is made from natural, biodegradable rubber, which reviewers say gives a super-easy and comfortable fit, and lasts up to two years.
Sweeney says the Lily Cup One also has a shorter cup, so it's compatible with low cervixes. It features a firmer rim to prevent leaks, a collapsible design and a convenient removal loop.
Best period cups for high cervixes
It's one of the best-known menstrual cups on the market and approved by experts; Sweeney, Ship and Rabin all say the DivaCup is a reliable option. It's one of the larger cups out there, and because "it is a longer cup, [it] works well with a high cervix," according to Sweeney.
As one of the more popular choices, buyers should be aware of copycats and white-labeled products. "White-label menstrual cups and discs are sold under various brand names on websites," says Rosas. "In many cases, these products are inferior copies of existing brands made with flimsier silicone — they are more likely not to properly seal and leak for this reason." The official DivaCup boxes feature a QR code that you can scan to verify that it's a genuine DivaCup product.
The Kind Cup has a unique, patented ergonomic shape and features a long, "easier-to-reach" stem, according to Rosas, which can be helpful for those with high cervixes. A number of reviewers who identify as having high cervixes confirm this, noting that the long stem takes away any worry of "losing" or not being able to reach the cup for removal.
This cup is available in three sizes for different cervix heights, but Rosas recommends the high option for those with a longer vaginal canal. It has a long silicone string to make removal easy, and it comes in fun marbled colors.
Rosas says Best, Periodt cup's size 2 is a match for those with regular to high cervixes. As a larger model, it's appropriate for those who have given vaginal birth, are over 30 years old and/or have a heavy flow. Compared to other cups, Best, Periodt's size 2 holds as much as eight pads or tampons. Plus, it comes with a protective case that's great for travel.
Best period cups for “wide” vaginas
First off, a "wide" vagina is a misconception. Vaginas stretch and may become looser from childbirth or a weakened pelvic floor, but categorically there is no such thing as a wide vagina. That said, those who find that standard cups are too small and don't create a seal may need a wider menstrual cup. "The Tampax Cup has the widest diameter of any menstrual cup and was designed to stay in place against slippage and muscle movement," Rosas says. The cup, which was also recommended by Ship, is made for those who typically use a super-plus-sized tampon or larger.
"Since menstrual discs are wider than cups, they may be preferred for some who require a wider fit," says Ship. "In general, a menstrual disc would be the preferred option for anyone experiencing significant vaginal laxity or loss of muscle tone." Rosas also recommends menstrual discs for users with any pelvic floor issues that make using cups difficult. "The Hello Disc is a great beginner option and is 'one size fit's most,'" Rosas shares.
Ship recommends Super Jennie's large menstrual cup that has a 47-millimeter diameter. It's a top-rated choice for users with heavy flows or who have given birth. One reviewer shares, "I have used menstrual cups for 16 years and had four children in that time. Each time I had a baby my period got heavier (not necessarily more total, just all in the first two days instead of spread out over five). I really struggled because often my cervix would end up in the cup, and the capacity would be greatly reduced. Super Jennie was such a help to me — its super large size helped it stay put, it couldn't go beside my cervix (perhaps because it is too big?) and even if my cervix ends up in it, it still has enough capacity so I can go two hours."
Best period cups for heavy flows
Rosas, Ship and Sweeney agree that the Merula XL is one of the best choices for those with a heavy flow. It has a whopping 50-milliliter capacity — the biggest of any menstrual cup on the market, according to Period.Shop — and is made for medium to high cervix heights and for all pelvic muscle strengths. Rosas says it's important to keep fit in mind over flow, however. While it seems logical to pair a heavy flow with a higher capacity menstrual cup, if the product doesn't fit correctly it won't do its job in the first place, leaving you vulnerable to leaks.
Tieutcup's cup has a bell-shaped bottom which gives it a higher capacity," Sweeney says. Furthermore, Rosas explains, "The average menstrual cup in size large holds 30 milliliters, so I consider any cup in size large that holds more than 37 milliliters to be a higher capacity option." Tieutcup's large size holds 42 milliliters, so those with heavy flows can wear it without worry.
This highly rated cup is another recommendation from Ship. Developed from user feedback, the Venus cup has a rounded body to maximize its capacity. The large size also features a slightly thicker reinforced rim for an effective, leak-free seal.
"For very heavy flows, menstrual discs will hold the largest capacity than any menstrual cup will," Ship says. Rosas also recommends menstrual discs for those with heavy flows, citing the aforementioned Hello. Disc (50 milliliters capacity), Cora Disc (47.5 milliliters capacity) and the Flex Reusable Disc, which holds 70 milliliters. It has a thicker rim for a secure fit with a soft, silicone body, and is one of the more popular reusable disc models.
One reviewer raves, "I have had incredibly heavy periods my entire life — the fill up a super plus tampon in one hour kind of periods with cramps of terror...When I first tried the disc I was out of town and very scared and skeptical...the disk would automatically empty?!...would I be dealing with a mess in a public bathroom? My experience has been the exact opposite. The disc was painless and simple to put in, easier than a tampon and without the dryness."
Best disposable menstrual discs
While disposable menstrual cups haven't been around since Tassaway stopped production in the '70s, according to Rosas, disposable menstrual discs provide a convenient alternative to reusable menstrual cups and discs. They function essentially the same as reusable menstrual discs — they collect blood at the base of the cervix and you can empty them without removal — but instead of silicone, they are made from medical-grade polymer with a firmer ring and a thin, flexible cup. Even though they are designed for single use, they can be worn up to 12 hours and still minimize the amount of waste in a period cycle compared to pads and tampons. They also provide a budget-friendly entry point (even cheaper than some tampons!) into menstrual discs if you're looking to try out the concept before committing to a reusable one. The Softdisc and Flex Menstrual Disc are the leading models (both are owned by The Flex Company and Rosas says they "are essentially the same product") , but Softdisc has higher ratings overall.