Menstrual Cups: How to Wash, Can You Swim With Them, and More Questions Answered
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All Your Menstrual Cup Questions — Answered

Menstrual cups are having a moment. Growing up, I don’t think I even realized that menstrual cups were a viable period management option. They were brought up from time to time, sure, but never in a way that felt real. At least for me, it very much felt like my options growing up were pads and tampons. Nothing else.


In honor of World Menstrual Hygiene Day — today, May 28! — I’m (finally!) back on here to talk all about menstrual cups. I want to answer commonly-asked questions about menstrual cups because, at one point in time, I had these questions, too. I was Googling every seemingly embarrassing menstrual cup question, so I understand.


Education is such a huge part in raising awareness about period management and I don’t think we talk about it enough. First, I want to go into a bit more detail about my own experience. I was a pad user my entire adult life until I discovered Flex, a tampon alternative known as a “menstrual disc.” Like a cup, Flex catches period blood. But unlike a cup, Flex is single-use. 


I loved using Flex because I couldn’t feel it the way I could feel a tampon. (By the way, 70% of menstruating people use tampons. I’ve always felt super excluded from that statistic.) You can swim with Flex and also have sex with it. But the one caveat to Flex is that it’s single-use. Since I do my best to live a low-impact lifestyle, I wanted to make an eco-conscious decision that wouldn’t contribute to plastic pollution.

{photo credit: @saaltco}


In came the menstrual cup. Menstrual cups were on my radar for a long time before I actually started using one. I tried a few and never had any success getting the cup in. But here’s what I liked about it: menstrual cups are reusable. They can have a shelf-life of up to 10 years. That means you can use four menstrual cups throughout your life in comparison to three thousand tampons. I think it’s obvious which option is better for the environment.


In addition to being reusable, menstrual cups are non-toxic. In this day and age, we really can’t say the same for all pad and tampon brands. Upon being tested, P&G’s Always pads were found to emit chemicals like styrene, chloreoethane, and chloroform. According to the World Health Organization, styrene is classified as a carcinogen. In addition, the CDC says high levels of chloroethane exposure can result in a lack of muscle coordination and unconsciousness.


I know, right?! What the actual f*ck. But the good news about menstrual cups is that in addition to being reusable, they’re also non-toxic, posing no threat to the body and our future health. Menstrual cups are made of silicone and are considered safer than tampons because there is less of a risk of toxic shock syndrome with cups. There is also no risk of chafing or rash like there is with pads. Silicone is chemical and toxin-free and the cup offers up to 12 hours of protection either day or night.


When I came across Saalt, I realized that I had been using the wrong size and using the wrong entry technique. With menstrual cups, it’s really important to do what works for your body. Everyone’s body is different and so things like sizing and entry and removal techniques can be a game changer.


I didn’t want to rule out using menstrual cups, so I kept trying. When I tried the small size in Saalt, I finally found the menstrual cup for me.

{photo credit: @saaltco}


Got questions about menstrual cups? Keep reading for answers to commonly-asked questions about menstrual cups!


How do I insert a menstrual cup?

First thing’s first: A lot of potential cup-users seem to worry about how to get the cup all up in there. And I totally get it. In the beginning, it was my main concern, too. Well, that and getting it out.


There are a few different techniques to inserting a menstrual cup. Below, I’ve screenshotted three of the techniques that Saalt includes on their website. These include the Seven Fold, C Fold, and Punch-Down Fold. I personally use the Punch-Down Fold because it makes the cup the smallest at the entry point. For me and my body, that’s what works.

{photo credit: Saalt User Guide}

I think it’s really important here to highlight that you have to find what works for your particular body. One of the most crucial parts of using a period cup is getting comfortable with your anatomy. After all, what works for one person might not work for everyone. And that’s OK!


Can I swim with a menstrual cup?

Yes, you can swim with a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups work pretty much in a similar way to tampons. They lean up against the vaginal wall, creating a seal, and sit there, collecting blood. Because of this, you can swim with a menstrual cup.


Can I have sex while wearing menstrual cups?

One of the reasons I really enjoyed the Flex menstrual disc is because you can have sex while wearing the disc. With menstrual cups, it’s a bit trickier.


Some sex is fine while wearing a menstrual cup. According to Elite Daily, oral sex while wearing a cup is fair game, but you might not want to try penetrative sex. Menstrual cups are pretty firm, so they could potentially hurt your partner.


Can I poop while wearing a menstrual cup?

Any motion where you are “bearing down” might cause your menstrual cup to fall out. This includes having a bowel movement or doing squats as exercise. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to remove your menstrual cup before having a bowel movement.

{photo credit: @saaltco}


How do I wash menstrual cups?

It’s recommended that you boil a brand new menstrual cup before use. In between cycles, you can continue to boil your cup (but make sure that it doesn’t touch the sides or the bottom) or use a cup rinse like the paraben-free cup wash Saalt makes. It’s formulated without harsh chemicals, parabens, and other nasty irritants. Of course, you can also opt to rinse your cup between uses using mild soap and water.


Do menstrual cups smell?

Don’t worry — no one will be able to smell your menstrual cup! Period blood only has an odor when it reaches the air (some chemical sh*t that happens when it meets oxygen, IDK), so you don’t have to be concerned about an odor if the cup’s inside you.


Also, if you’re worried about the cup just being smelly in general (you know, because it’s reusable for 10 years and all), I can tell you that so far I’ve used mine for several cycles, and it’s not smelly at all. I just clean it regularly. See above for tips on cleaning menstrual cups.


Can a menstrual cup get lost inside my vagina?


Short answer: Nope! That menstrual cup isn’t going anywhere. If you’re having difficulty removing the cup, my best advice is to not panic. It can’t get lost. Like, it literally can’t, so you don’t need to worry about that. I usually take my cup out in the shower just because I feel more comfortable that way and don’t feel as much pressure to take it out in one shot. Here’s another pro tip: Use both hands if you have to and squatting down can also really help.


Do you have additional questions about menstrual cups? Ask in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer!

Steph Osmanski
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