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Menstrual Cup Myths and Facts: Read Before Using

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jun 14, 2021

    Menstrual Cup Myths and Facts: Read Before Using

    Lately, you may have seen women online ranting and raving about these small, flexible cups. What are they for? The answer: for periods. You may be curious as to what these cups are all about and if it’s suitable for you. Before you make the switch, it’s best to understand the menstrual cup myths and facts.

    #1: Menstrual cups are a new invention


    This fact may surprise most people, but the menstrual cup was first patented in the United States in 1867. At the time, the device was intended to act as a menstruum collector, barrier contraception, and uterine supporter. Factors that may have hindered its early popularity were the design and sizes. 

    Additionally, there is some stigma surrounding feminine hygiene products that require insertion into the vagina (like tampons). This is especially true in more conservative countries, where issues of virginity and use of any vaginal contraption may arise. Fortunately, as people learn about the benefits of other feminine hygiene products, they become more open to the idea of menstrual cups.

    #2: The cups are one-size-fits-all


    This is incorrect. Modern menstrual cups are available in various sizes, with the most common being small, medium, and large. The sizing depends on the brand and manufacturer. The sizes of menstrual cups are dependent on the diameter and volume of the cup.

    A small cup holds about 20 to 25 milliliters of fluid, while large cups hold about 30 milliliters or more. Smaller cups are suitable for younger women or those with lighter flows. Larger cups are better if you have heavy flows. Many women opt to purchase more than one size as their flow may vary with each cycle.

    #3: You can’t use it if you have heavy periods


    Again, this is another menstrual cup myth, not fact. Because the cups are available in different sizes, they can accommodate even heavy flows. If you have heavy flows, you will probably just need to empty your cup more frequently.

    The benefit of the cup is that it is less likely to leak (as compared to a pad). If you are a new user worried about leaks, you can use a liner or thin pad while using your cup. Another good idea is to carry more than one cup to make replacement easier, especially in public restrooms.

    #4: Virgins should not use a menstrual cup


    This is one of the major menstrual cup myths. Products like tampons and menstrual cups require insertion into the vagina to work. If your hymen is still intact, it may be difficult or uncomfortable to insert these. However, it is still possible to use a menstrual cup if you are a virgin.

    Experts recommend young women and virgins to start with the smallest size cup. A bit of water-based lubricant can be applied to make insertion quicker and easier. Using a cup or tampon will not take away your virginity—only engaging in penetrative sex will do that. If you are not comfortable or familiar with your body yet, menstrual cups may not be the best option for you.

    #5: Menstrual cups can be worn for a long time


    Yes, menstrual cups are designed to stay in place for several more hours than traditional pads and tampons. Depending on the heaviness of your flow, you can keep the cup in for up to 12 hours.

    This is significantly longer than the maximum time for a tampon or pad. Tampons are only recommended for up to 8 hours and should be of the lowest absorbency needed for your menstrual flow. Pads or napkins usually need to be changed every 3 to 4 hours. For this reason, menstrual cups are ideal for women with active, busy lifestyles. As an added bonus, menstrual cups are reusable, which reduces both waste and cost. 

    #6: You can swim and exercise while wearing a menstrual cup


    Just like tampons, menstrual cups allow you to move freely, both in and out of the water. Because it is inserted and is not made of absorbent material, it will not pick up outside water or sweat.

    Menstrual cups have an advantage over pads as it is completely discreet and less likely to leak. The material used in pads may also irritate the skin, more so with movement during activities.

    #7: Menstrual cups will make you sick


    If you continue to practice proper hygiene, a menstrual cup will not make you sick. The risk of yeast infections increases if you use feminine wash aggressively and wear pads or tampons for a long time. These alter the normal pH of the vagina and retain moisture, thus allowing bacteria and fungi to thrive.

    Most menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone, which is inert and free of chemicals. This makes them less likely to disturb the pH balance and normal flora. The material itself does not harbor germs since it does not absorb any fluid.

    Infections are still possible while using a menstrual cup, but this would likely be due to the introduction of bacteria from your fingers, leaving the cup inside for too long, or a generally lowered immunity. Avoid menstrual cups that contain latex if you are allergic.

    #8: Menstrual cups will make you “loose”


    This is another one of the big menstrual cup myths. Because the vagina and uterus are muscular organs, they can stretch and tighten. Stretching is an important quality for these organs to accommodate a fetus during pregnancy and delivery. These muscles have the capacity to return to normal after giving birth to a child. Therefore, an object as small as a menstrual cup will not cause your vaginal canal to become loose.

    The widening or weakening of the vaginal walls and floor is mainly due to the laxity of muscle tone. Like other muscles of the body, tone is lost with age or disuse. Kegel exercises strengthen pelvic muscle tone, which can improve vaginal “tightness.’

    menstrual cup myths

    #9: Menstrual cups can be used as birth control


    While the original menstrual cups were sometimes used as a form of birth control, don’t do it.

    After all, the cups are called “menstrual” cups for a reason.

    In theory, yes, wearing a cup while having intercourse would block some of the semen from entering the vagina and uterus. However, this would likely be uncomfortable for both you and your partner. The stem of some menstrual cups could potentially injure a penis and pressing the cup can cause leaks and spills.

    There are special menstrual “cups” available that have a flat dish shape. These allow couples to engage in intercourse during menstruation; however, they are not approved as a form of contraception.

    #10: Menstrual cups are environmentally friendly


    Because the cups are reusable and can hold higher volumes of fluid, they produce virtually zero waste. Menstrual cups should be rinsed with clean water in between replacements. They should be sterilized with boiling water between insertions or before storage.

    Aside from saving water and materials, menstrual cups are cheaper in the long run as compared to napkins and tampons. Depending on the brand, one cup is good for at least one year and prices generally range from P800 to P2,500.

    Key Takeaways

    After reading about the menstrual cup myths and facts, it’s up to you if you would like to give menstrual cups a shot. Before purchasing any cup, it is important to do more research on the product and to learn about your own body. It may take a few attempts to adjust to the menstrual cup, but the benefits are definitely worth it!


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


    Updated Jun 14, 2021

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