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
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Menstrual Cup: How to Use One for a Healthy, Eco-Friendly Period

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. Anna Avatar

    I love menstrual cups, but they’re not safe from the risk of TSS. You need to follow the instructions (including not leaving it in for 12+ hours and not sleeping with it in) to be safe. Please do a bit of research and edit this article.

  2. Kari Avatar

    I just bought a cup yesterday from a local pharmacy, hoping to try it out in a few days. I had never seen one before. I got the size small, but it just looks so big to me. I don’t know how I’m going to manage to get that inside. x.x I can not even find any space to put anything in. Maybe I should have asked if they had another brand that’s smaller.

  3. Lyn Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this information. More people should be aware of their options. Like you, I couldn’t imagine using a cup when I first heard about them. Now I wish I had done it sooner! I also use cloth pads in conjunction with the cup as needed. Before all that, I was spending about $25 a month on sanitary supplies. The reusable versions paid for themselves after just 2 cycles! Plus I love that I’m not creating a ton of garbage.

  4. Cynthia H. Avatar
    Cynthia H.

    Hi Katie,
    I wanted to thank you for sharing your experience using the Diva & Luna cups. I read your posts frequently and love your practical and informed wellness mama style! I have used organic feminine products for 20 years. After reading about how comfortable, non toxic and inexpensive a menstrual cup option can be, I took your advice and purchased a Luna cup set. It actually changed my life! The thing is, I am a pretty healthy mama too…I do not suffer from any of the common complaints, cramping etc. women often have during their period. But between the comfort and ease of using the cup, I almost forget I even have my period! I think after using it for 2 months now, I have also noticed that my cycle seemed to end more quickly. Thank you for your candid blog posts that cover everything from overdoing it as a mom ( I homeschooled for 11 years…it’s hard not to!) to making good elderberry syrup. What you’re sharing is making a difference. Take care

  5. Michele Avatar

    I am new to this so I have a few questions if anyone can help…

    Is the material the Luna cup is made from safe? What about the coloring…is that safe also?

    What does everyone use if you have discharge? Can’t use the cup for that so what is a good alternative to panty liners? I currently use all natural, unbleached ones but wondering if there is something better out there.

  6. kelvin Robinson Avatar
    kelvin Robinson

    I Have been on my self made electronically / earth grounded bed for 3 days. I enjoy it so much that I am offering to do it for all my friends and family for no cost. I am waking up with more energy and less tension and a better mind set / less stress. Even if it is a placebo (which I personally doubt) It is still accomplishing something in my humble opinion. I really Don’t care if the healing is placebo or can be scientifically explained down to the god particle transfer the point is I AM feel better. That’s what is important to me.

  7. Gina Avatar

    Is there anything you can recommend to use as a lubricant for the menstrual cup? Sometimes they’re a bit difficult to insert. When that happens I usually put a bit of aloe vera gel around the rim, but I wanted to know if you had a better suggestion.

  8. Michelle Avatar

    Hi Katie, I’m new to your blog my name is Michelle. I’m a 21-year-old full-time college student & part time Starbucl Barista in SOCAL. Anytime I have question I google & your website always seems to be the first to pop up so I decided to look deeper into it and discovered your blog and website and soon enough I found out you have a podcast which I now listen to on a daily basis. I just wanted to let you know what an inspiration you are. I absolutely love everything that you have to share and all your experiences and thoughts. I’ve only been a follower of yours for 3 days now but I’m so excited to continue to listen to you & read your blogs! Much love, Michelle!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Michelle, thank you so much for your kind note! I am so glad you’re here and that the information here has been valuable to you. Welcome to our community 🙂

  9. Jenna Avatar

    Your midwife is so smart! I’m so glad you shared the tip about turning the cup inside out. I have the Luna also, and have used it for 2 years or more, but it has never been very comfortable. I was actually online looking for reviews for new cups so I could replace it when I came across this post. I cut the stem off long ago, but even that didn’t do the trick. Turning the cup inside out works wonderfully! I can now use it comfortably. Thanks!!!

  10. Jasmine Avatar

    I am new to the Diva Cup. I am 27 and I wish I picked this up when it came out. It really is leak free as long as it is in right. No rotten blood smell, or worring of keeping legs closed, can be bendy like a pipecleaner and no leak. I am so happy with the diva cup so much I will be able to save now, the price of the diva cup versus getting pads every month will have me less stress about finances. I told my boyfriend of my happiness and well it was one sided but being happy with yourself is the most important thing.
    P.S Wellness Mama helped me take the leap to make the investment.

  11. Becki Avatar

    I had chronic yeast infections and complications every period until I switched to the cup. I started with the diva. It’s bigger and easier to remove due to the ridges at the bottom but I like my new colored one by blossom, since they do stain over time. My period has gotten significantly lighter and less painful. The only downside is I do notice I feel the urge to pee more often. And there was about a 3-6 month learning curve in perfect insertion and spotless removal, lol. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything else! I did not like the game sea of the sponges but they did not work for me at all. Hard to retrieve and always leaked.

  12. Pet Avatar

    I have a question. On amazon there are various sizes to purchase. How do I know what I am?

  13. TJ Avatar

    I had not even heard of a menstrual cup until I read this post. I couldn’t wait for my next cycle to try it. I bought th Diva cup at Target. Omg! Changed my life!! I was one of those who have to double up but this all went away with the Diva cup. Easy to use, no spillage, comfortable, convenient, and no smell!!

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Wellness Mama! You are truly a blessing to so many of us!

  14. Domifa Avatar

    I have been really interested in trying the cup out and really endorse all of its advantages BUT the big barrier for me is having public access to a public washroom with the privacy of a sink so that I can empty, wash and reinsert.
    I have a very heavy flow and I doubt I could last 12 hours…maybe if good 8hrs and possibly less.

    Anyone has “tricks” to deal with a not so private public washroom space and still manage to use the cup?


    1. Cara Avatar

      I usually just wipe out the cup with toilet paper and if needed use a flushable wet wipe for my hands.
      You don’t absolutely have to rinse the cup every single time, just do it when you are home or in a private bathroom.

      I’ve also read suggestions to take a bottle of water in your purse, wet a paper towel before you go in the stall, or use wet wipes that are safe for the cup material (if there is such a thing, I don’t know myself; I try to go with the least fuss and expense possible so haven’t looked).

  15. Kathleen Avatar

    Having had my cup runeth over and having to empty in a public restroom, a busy restroom, i did it without the mess you described. Dumped in the toilet and utilized tp and clean toilet water, and reinserted. It is doable. It excessively filling up is not typical.

  16. Jenny Avatar

    The inside-out tip is genius! I was going crazy with that stem hanging out. This is my first menstrual cup. Although I’m only 5’4″ and 106 pounds, I’ve had 9 children so I ordered the large. I don’t know if that’s the problem or what but the tip worked. I’m still working on keeping it from leaking but this is my first try.

  17. teri Avatar

    The cup is all well and good….until you have to empty it when you are not at home or in your hotel room. It is not physically possible to remove it without getting blood on your hands and somehow the idea of having to shuffle to the sink with my panties around my ankles, carrying a bloody cup in my bloody hands is not something I care to do. Never mind the issue of your panties dragging on the dirty bathroom floor and you dripping menses all over yourself and the floor. Yes, I tried it. I immediately recognized the issues and opted for a tampon or pad when I had to leave home. Now, if you KNOW you won’t have to empty the cup before you get home, hooray for you. At the height of my flow I had to empty it every 5 hours or so….not possible if I am going to be away from home for longer than that. And, frankly, even at home I find having menstrual blood all over my hands to not be pleasant nor do I enjoy dripping down my legs and onto my own bathroom floor to be something I enjoy.

  18. Alisa Avatar

    From the suggested options, what’s best for post-pregnancy when “maternity pads” are recommended? I switched to a Diva Cup a while back (though I do experience leaks, somehow) but I’m concerned about what’s best for this upcoming post-pregnancy gush.

  19. Bria Avatar

    Hi Katie, thank you for another great article. I have been using the divacup for over a year now, and still am not completely satisfied with it so I end up using my kid’s old cloth diapers for the majority of my cycle. I will have to try turning the cup inside out as you recommended. I am interested in the progesterone cream and wonder if you could recommend a progesterone oil so I can make my own cream. Thanks again.

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