Menstrual Cup: How to Use One for a Healthy, Eco-Friendly Period

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How to use a menstrual cup for a healthier period
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Periods can be a big problem. But not for the reasons TV commercials try to convince us they are.

Sure, some women have uncomfortable and painful periods (see info on that at the bottom of this post), but there are some other big problems with the “norm” when it comes to periods. Mainly:

Risks of Tampons and Pads

Most feminine hygiene options like pads and tampons contain harmful chemicals and pesticides that aren’t good in general. While unhealthy, they are especially problematic for the delicate and highly vascular area like the vagina. With once a month use for all of a woman’s child-bearing years, the chemical exposure builds up!

There are also health concerns like Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from tampons and any absorbative products.

Unhealthy for the Planet

Health ramifications aside, options like pads and tampons aren’t good for the planet. Each woman will use an estimated 16,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime. These products end up in landfills, taking years and years to break down.

Most also contain plastic, which isn’t good for humans, but is also pretty terrible for the environment too.

Let me guess, right now, you may be thinking that you are just one person and you only contribute a small number of pads or tampons to the landfills.

natural feminine hygiene solutions

But did you know:

Each year, more than 12 BILLION sanitary pads and 7 BILLION tampons are dumped into landfills?

An average woman menstruates for over 40 years, leaving hundreds of pounds of disposable products in landfills.

Natural Period & Tampon Alternatives (That Work Better)

Fortunately, there are some great, organic and green alternatives to toxic, plastic containing disposables now. Most women shell out $5-14 per cycle on disposable products, so these options can save a lot of money over time!

If you haven’t already, consider switching to one of these. Not only are they healthier… but all of these options work better and are more comfortable than traditional pads and tampons. Plus you’ll save money too! A win:win for sure! And if you’re just not a menstrual cup person you can try period underwear. 

Menstrual Cups

It took me a while to try these, but I’m so glad I did! Here’s my review of popular brands:

The Diva Cup

As you may gather from its name, the Diva Cup is a silicone cup that is inserted vaginally and it takes the place of tampons and pads during your period. There are two sizes, one for pre-childbearing years and one for after you’ve had a child (or two or three or six…).

Unlike tampons, there is no danger of Toxic Shock Syndrome with the Diva Cup (or any menstrual cup) and it is completely reusable. It can be boiled to sanitize or washed with drinking water. Many women also report that it is much more comfortable, and most only have to change it every 8-12 hours, which is more convenient.

Luna Cup

The Diva Cup was the original, but there are now dozens of great menstrual cup options. Recently I had to purchase another menstrual cup when I was traveling and forgot to pack my Diva Cup. I got this Luna Cup and I have to say I actually like it a little better than the Diva Cup.

I should also put in my personal plug for menstrual cups in general. I’ll admit, when I first found out about them, I thought they were odd and couldn’t imagine using one. Now, I can’t imagine not using one. I’ve worn them overnight, on international flights, while scuba diving, while hiking 20+ miles, and in many other unusual situations. I have never had a leak or a problem and it has never been uncomfortable. Really.

In fact, since my periods are pretty light, I only have to dump the cup once a day, which is super convenient. In many ways, I don’t even notice being on my period now as I can go from gym to swimming to bed without having to change anything.

The first couple of uses it does take a little getting used to, but after that, it really is easier. Give them a try if you haven’t already!

Tips for Using a Menstrual Cup

How to use a menstrual cup like the diva cupHere’s the cheat sheet I wish I’d had on how to use a menstrual cup without the learning curve:

  1. Fold it first. There are dozens of ways to fold a menstrual cup to make it easier to insert. I squeeze mine in half and then fold it into a “C” shape so it easily pops back open once inserted.
  2. Insert like a tampon. Insert the folded cup like a tampon, angling it to the back of the spine. Make sure it fully unfolds to create a light suction. This suction keeps it from leaking. Check this by running your finger along the side to make sure it has unfolded completely. Pull down slightly if needed to make it more comfortable.
  3. Learn how long. How long you can wear a cup depends on how heavy your cycle is. The good news is that many women find their cycles get lighter and easier when they start using a cup. Like I said, I can wear mine for 24 hours, but the average seems to be about 12.
  4. Remove, clean and reuse. Wash your hands really well and pull down on the stem of the menstrual cup to release it. Once you’ve pulled it down slightly, gently push on one side to release the suction and carefully remove. Empty into the toilet and wash well with warm water before reinserting.
  5. When in doubt, turn inside out. This is a tip I learned from my midwife. If it is uncomfortable or you have trouble with leaks, turn the cup inside out. It works like a charm, and is really comfortable this way. It is slightly harder to remove, so just use your pelvic floor muscles to gently push it down to remove it.

Cloth Menstrual Pads

If a menstrual cup is not your thing, there are also a lot of options for cloth menstrual pads. These are more comfortable than plastic based pads! They have a waterproof liner so they don’t leak through clothes and are washable so they are eco-friendly too.

My favorites are these handmade cloth menstrual pads from a local family-owned business  (they can ship them worldwide!). They’re handmade by busy midwives and are great cloth pads that have lasted me for years and years!

Organic Menstrual Pads

If the idea of a menstrual cup or cloth pads isn’t your thing, it is possible to find organic disposable tampons or disposable pads so you can at least avoid the chemicals in the conventional versions.

Sea Sponge Tampons

Another great completely natural option is Sea Sponge tampons. They work similarly to a Diva Cup and collect flow. When removed, they can be easily rinsed out a re-used. These are the ones I’ve tried. I personally found them less comfortable than cloth pads or a cup though.

Natural Period Pain Relief

Tylenol and other acetaminophen-based pain relief options are chemically based and emerging research is finding that they are toxic to your mitochondria (you need those little guys!). Luckily, there are a lot of natural options out that, and you can also address the underlying problem and not just mask the pain.

  • Vitex – A fertility aid that also helps ease menstrual cramps by balancing hormones. It is also used by herbalists for increasing fertility, though it should be discontinued when a woman becomes pregnant. When not pregnant, it can be taken daily in capsule form or tincture form. For a full explanation of vitex and its benefits, see this post.
  • Red Clover – Another herb that is supportive of menstrual health and function. It has been known to ease endometriosis and PCOS and is helpful for cramps. It should also be discontinued when a woman becomes pregnant. When not pregnant, it can be taken daily. I’ve tried this brand.
  • Progesterone Cream – A natural progesterone cream is perhaps the best remedy, long-term for many menstrual problems. I’ve had many clients conceive by adding progesterone to their regimen, and it also helps ease cramps. Many menstrual problems can be caused or exacerbated by too much estrogen in the body, and progesterone helps balance it out. If used, it should only be used in the second half of the cycle (ovulation until start of the period) and applied to the skin of fatty areas of the body like the thighs, buttocks, stomach, breasts and upper arms. I’ve used this brand in the past but recently switched to this one on Dr. Anna Cabeca’s recommendation in this podcast.
  • Magnesium – Taking magnesium regularly may also really help ease cramps (and there are a lot of other benefits to taking magnesium too!) My favorite brand by far is this time-release formula. Read more about magnesium in this post.
  • Homeopathy – Our medical reviewer Dr. Madiha recommends a homeopathic product called Cyclease and uses it herself. If you’re curious, I wrote a whole post about homeopathetic remedies here.

This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Betsy Greenleaf, an ON/GYN and board certified urogynecologist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Do you have any natural tips for dealing with feminine health? Ever used any of the suggestions above? Please let me know below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


262 responses to “Menstrual Cup: How to Use One for a Healthy, Eco-Friendly Period”

  1. Sara Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    Regarding the progesterone cream…
    I have used it for a while and I noticed a few things.

    I got my period on a schedule. Which is a good thing, but it made the cramps much much more painful…
    It also aggravated my mood to an extreme .
    My brother who is very knowledgeable in these things told me to stop…

    I went off it, and still getting bad cramps etc…

    Is this an unusual case?

  2. Allison Avatar

    The Diva Cup does not work for everyone. Mine leaked all the time. I finally took it with me to my gyno appointment to ask her advice. After having 4 kids, she said that I had a bend and that the cup would not work on me. Also tried the sponge. It felt like inserting sand paper! and it also leaks if you have heavy periods. Now I just stick to organic tampons. Just want everyone to know that these natural products don’t work for everyone 🙂

  3. Amber Avatar

    Thank you for the “inside-out” tip! I didn’t even know you could do it that way. I’ve NEVER been able to get them to open fully and have found them extremely uncomfortable. I tried and tried until I was literally raw from it. I may give this a go again. It would definitely save me a bunch of money. I’ve been using L. Organic Tampons — which is the first I’ve used in years that doesn’t give me issues, but they are still pricey. Time to get me another cup to try!

  4. Taylor Avatar

    The menstrual cup, magnesium baths, and regularly eating dates (Lara Bars) have been game. changers. when it comes to cramps (and just making my period so much easier to deal with)! On the rare occasion that I do have cramps, I use a carrier oil with a peppermint, geranium, and frankincense essential oils applied directly to my lower back, lower stomach, and sometimes the bottom of my feet (if you’re familiar with your “gates”, massage those too while you can still smell the combo). Not my favorite aroma, but it has kept me off advil for years! I used to have to take it the whole first day, otherwise I’d have horrible cramps, hot flashes, and dizzy spells. No more! 🙂

    I will say, I was a total skeptic when it came to the cup – thought it was so so gross! And, at the risk of sharing too much, I will say what I wish someone had told me… I am a virgin and it hurt like he** the first couple of times. So sorry – it is not pleasant. But I’m years down the road now and it is oh so worth it! It will stop being excruciating after the first couple of times taking it in/out, and it will stop hurting entirely after a cycle or two!

  5. Sharon Avatar

    I’ve had overflow due to severely heavy flow. I still use it. Had to empty in a public bathroom. Couldn’t take it to the sink, so rinsed it out in clean toilet water. I now use a washable pad as back up.

  6. Crystal Avatar

    So glad to see a great post on menstral cups. I’ve used one for over 10years (and 4 babies). I however have overflowed mine overnight more than a few times. So as heavy flow woman i still find the diva cup the most comfortable and leakproof menstral option. Thank you!

  7. Nicole Avatar

    Can you explain turning your mentrual cup inside out? Doesn’t that make the tip of it inside the cup? How do you get it out then! Do you sort of squeeze the cup to break the seal?

  8. Tanja Avatar

    I have used yampowder, which has really helped me eliminating very painful crampings and extremely high
    blood flow as well as water storage in breasts and legs. The same with yampowder – when wanting to become pregnant, one has to stop using it, because it can prevent pregnancy.
    I had the lady cup before – sports version and normal version – but it leaks several times from the beginning and ruined the seat of my new car. It always almost came to the vagina entry and the little stem of it was squeezed several times to the inside when standing up and sitting down again, so the suction was not there any more and the cup didn’t hold the blood any more. Otherwise it was the best method for me.
    The sea sponge tampons also – because of heavy blood flow – was too fast full of blood and came to the entrance
    of the vagina and made a mess (I even put two in there for the night and it was still too fast full). As the sponge must be put is with the water squeezed out, there was always too much water still inside the sponge and it moved (because of gravity) to the entrace and when urinating – it sucked up the urine and came out full ).

    Thank you for allowing me to share my experiences.

  9. Doreen Avatar

    Hi Katie, My name is Doreen. Our daughter just started her cycle. I read your menstrual cup post and saw the natural cotton pads made by midwives link. You had said you used them. Could not find anywhere on their site for questions from me. We try to do as much all natural as possible for she and her sibs. So I was excited to see your post as they all have significant health issues already and I don’t want to contribute more. How do these attach to the underwear? Are they absorbent enough for a young girls cycle? What size would you suggest? Do-able with school? She is just starting 6th grade and body awareness is one of the difficulties of her disability. Thank you for all you do. I appreciate your info more then you know. God bless, Doreen

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      They have a snap on the wings and snap around the underwear so they stay really well. They are definitely absorbent enough. I’d order a smallish size for someone young. You can get a small wet bag she can bring to school in case she needs to change one during school.

  10. Justine Avatar

    I would like to second Wellness Mama’s (Katie’s) statements on the menstrual cup and reusable pads. These have changed my life, really. I used to change my tampon every 45 minutes and have debilitating cramps accompanied by vomiting, meaning I would miss work. Now I can change my cup every hour and a half to two hours. The pads work wonderfully for spotting when you can’t change the cup that frequently. I love that it can be worn for much longer than a tampon, so it is effective even on light flow days. Plus minimal waste!
    My question for all is how often do you replace your cup?

  11. Tabitha Avatar

    How interesting! I noticed upping my magnesium (magnesium oil mostly) eliminated cramps for me. Doesn’t sugar interfere or block magnesium in your system? I really need to cut sugar out again.

  12. Tabitha Avatar

    You might want to get your hormone levels checked. My cycles were do heavy i filled
    My cup as fast as you. I was making almost no progesterone and had a ton of estrogen. Got those levels adjusted and i have a lighter period to wear cup about 8 hours.

  13. Bridget Avatar

    Hi Everyone,

    I tried the Diva and it was very uncomfortable for me. Switched to the Femallay easy empty and LOVE IT. It’s smaller, and it has a valve. I only have to remove the cup once every 24 hours. Very convenient! Thank you Katie for recommending healthier options for us…I’ll never EVER go back to tampons.

  14. Jamie Avatar

    Have you ever tried Think? They are underwear designed to be work during your period in place of disposable items. They are washable and comfortable! I can’t go without mine.

  15. Karen Avatar

    Raspberry leaf tea is great for menstrual cramps. I drink about 2-3 cups a day during my period. Not only does it help relieve cramps fast, it also lessens the flow and shortens the duration of my period.

  16. Marie Avatar

    How do you manage to empty and rinse out a menstrual cup with kids or in public?!

    1. Taylor Avatar

      I can’t speak to what to do around kids, but I can speak to what I do in public.. I have done this everywhere from airplane bathrooms to in the woods! When I’m out and about, I just pull it out, dump it, and put it straight back in (maybe wipe off the outside, if it’s gotten particularly messy). Some people like to have a pack of wet wipes to clean it, or wet cloths in a waterproof bag, but I got tired of that pretty quickly. In private bathrooms out and about, you could wash it out in the sink (I always think how disgusted others might be though.. 🙂 It’s very rare that you’re in public restrooms for so long a stretch that you have to do that more than once or twice (after the first day, I can leave mine in for up to 24 hours), so you can give it a good rinse whenever you’re back home (or to the hotel, friends house, etc.) I honestly just rinse it throughout my period, then run it through the dishwasher between cycles. I don’t often use soap, though if I do, it’s Dr. Bronners.

  17. Alicia Avatar

    Avoiding sugar is key. I’ve noticed a direct correlation between my level of sugar consumption and menstrual cramps. When I’m not eating sugar, I don’t cramp. In fact, when I’m not eating sugar, I don’t get any PMS symptoms at all. The only way I know I’m starting my period is when I use the toilet and see blood.

  18. Cara Avatar

    I don’t normally comment on blogs, but this is a FANTASTIC summary of the subject! I hope anyone looking at alternatives and natural period help finds your post. I just had to pin it even though I have already found out most of it myself. Due “wacky”periods from the start (I’m in my later 30’s now) I have done a lot of research, and taken Vitex in various forms for many years. It works even better and more gently as homeopathic drops. I did the tampon thing for a few years; better in some ways than just pads, but really added to the issue and never quite did the job. My first introduction to the world of menstrual cups was Reusable Softcups, now discontinued. Those did wonders for my period even though I’m still using store brand liners. At the time in life where my period might be expected to start giving trouble, it’s easier than ever. With my stash almost depleted, after a lot of research I decided on Lena cups for my first true menstrual cups. Looking forward to seeing how they work for me. This sort of cup sounds like a whole new world of ease and freedom beyond Reusable Softcups. I will never go back to tampons as long as there’s a choice, that’s certain!

  19. Lindsey Avatar

    I feel like my question is silly but how do you rinse after each use before re-insertion? My toilet is in a separate “water closet” in our bathroom so it isn’t near the sink and I am afraid that if I get up after dumping the cup in the toilet and go to the sink to rinse it then I will leak everywhere. Should I just keep a bottle of water near the toilet? I read that some change it in the shower but I live in CA and we are experiencing a drought so 2 showers a day to change out my cup would not be ideal.

  20. Lacy Avatar

    Love my DivaCup! Recently, I’ve been seeing adds for THINX ‘period panties’ on FB. (I swear FB even knows my cycle). Scary!

    I’m curious if anyone’s ever used them and if so, what are your thoughts? Are these ‘safety nets’ or can you use them exclusively like a menstrual pad?

    Thanks in advance!

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