How to stop menstrual cup leaks

I had a question from a reader a few weeks ago about menstrual cup leaks.  This reader was discouraged from using her menstrual cup because she was experiencing frequent leaks, particularly when she wore her cup on the heaviest days of her period.  The potential for leaks is one of the main deterrents from trying a menstrual cup.  However, during my experience I’ve found leaks to be very uncommon, provided that you’ve chosen the correct cup for your body and you’ve inserted it correctly.  To help you out if you’re experiencing leaks with your cup, I’ve created a little troubleshooting guide for you to run through.

 

Are you sure your cup is actually leaking?

I’ve had moments when I’ve thought that my menstrual cup has leaked, but it was a false alarm.  Sometimes, if you’ve removed the cup, emptied it, and then reinserted it, or if you’ve inserted the cup after a period of not wearing it, there can be traces of blood left on the walls of the vagina that wind up on the outside of the cup after it’s inserted.  If this is the case, you might get a small amount of blood in your underwear even though you’re wearing the cup.  If you notice a little bit of blood on your underwear, this is probably what’s happened.  However, if there is a lot of blood or the amount of blood increases throughout the day, you might have a leak that needs to be addressed.

 

Has your cup opened fully after you’ve inserted it?

One of the main reasons a cup will leak is that it is not inserted properly.  If the cup hasn’t popped open fully after insertion, it won’t create the seal it needs to work effectively.

 

If you’re not certain if your cup is properly opened, it’s very easy to check.  Once you’ve inserted the cup, insert a finger into your vagina alongside the cup.  Gently feel all the way around the cup.  If it is open, it should feel smooth and round.  If you feel any puckers, folds or dips, then the cup has not opened up fully.

 

Another way to check is to very gently pull on the base of the cup, being careful not to pinch the cup (which will break the seal).  If there is resistance, then the cup is properly sealed in position.  If you can easily move the cup, then it’s not properly inserted and you need to take it out and try again.

 

There are certain cup folds that make it easier for your cup to pop open.  Every body is different and some people find that certain folds work best with their bodies.  I personally find that the often-used C-fold makes it harder for my cup to pop open.  I have three favourite folds that work best for me:

The Punch Down fold is achieved by pushing one edge of the cup down inside the cup and then pinching the two edges closed to hold the punched-down edge inside.  This fold pops open the most easily once inserted.

The 7 fold is where you flatten the cup and fold one of the upper corners down diagonally to meet the opposite lower corner.

The Labia or Diamond fold is achieved by taking hold of the rim on one side and bending it to meet the lower edge of the cup.  Then pinch the two outer corners of the cup to fold the cup in half vertically.  This one is a tricky fold to master, but it’s one of the best because it gives you a really narrow width to insert.

 

Both the Labia and 7 folds have the added advantage of having the rim of the cup folded downwards.  This makes it really easy to feel if the cup hasn’t opened, because you’ll feel that ridge with your finger.  And if it hasn’t opened, you can just nudge that rim up with your finger to open the cup.

 

This fantastic video gives really clear instructions to help you find a fold that works for you.

 

 

 

Is your cervix inside your cup once it’s inserted?

Your cervix is the point where your vagina opens into your uterus. It’s the opening where menstrual blood comes out during your period. In order for the cup to catch all your menstrual fluid, your cervix must be contained completely within the cup.  Before you insert your cup, it’s worthwhile checking the position of your cervix.  To do this, insert a finger into your vagina and feel for the top of your vagina.  Your cervix feels like a little dimple, and has some resistance to it.  Feel for something that has roughly the same resistance as the tip of your nose. This is your cervix.

 

You might notice that your cervix is off to one side, or tilted back rather than dead centre.  That’s ok and totally normal.  But you will need to take this into account and angle your cup accordingly to make sure that your cervix is inside the cup once it’s inserted.

Is your cup large enough for your body?

Most menstrual cup brands make their cups in two different sizes.  This is done to accommodate variations in cervix size and vaginal depth.  Generally, it’s advisable to purchase the larger of the two sizes if you have given birth.  The reason for this is that after giving birth, the cervix tends to be softer and wider, and the vaginal canal may also be wider.  This is true even if you didn’t have a vaginal birth, because the muscle contractions experienced during labour still dilate the cervix, even you didn’t end up pushing a baby through that opening.

 

Even if you haven’t given birth you may want to try a larger sized cup.  This will help you to make sure that your cervix is fully contained inside the cup. Additionally, if you know that you have a heavier flow, a larger cup will accommodate that and make leaks less likely.

 

Is your cup firm enough for your body?

One thing a lot of people don’t really consider when shopping for a menstrual cup is how firm the cup is.  Although all cups are made of silicone, silicone can range in texture from very soft to quite rigid, and cups come in a variety of levels of firmness.  Many people prefer to buy a softer cup, because they believe it will be the most comfortable, but softer cups can be tricky to insert as well as being more prone to leaks.

 

If you have strong pelvic floor muscles, it’s really important that you choose a firmer cup to avoid leaks.  During activities where your pelvic floor is engaged, such as during yoga, pilates, weightlifting or using the bathroom, your kegel muscles can squeeze your cup.  If the cup is too soft, this squeezing might break the seal of the cup, and cause a leak.  So if you know you have strong kegels, or you are very active and enjoy sports like yoga or pilates, a firmer cup might be a good choice.

 

It can be tricky to know how firm a cup is without feeling it.  This is especially hard when you’re shopping online for cups.  Luckily, the awesome folks at Put a Cup in It have created this fantastic table comparing the firmness of most of the popular cup brands.

 

 

Have you left the cup in for too long?

It’s perfectly safe to leave a menstrual cup in for up to eight hours.  However, if you know that your flow is on the heavy side, you’re going to want to empty it much more frequently than that.  Once you use your cup more, you’ll get to know how often you need to empty it in order to prevent leaks.  But if you are leaking, then you might want to try emptying your cup more often.

 

Hopefully once you’ve run through all these tips, you’ll be able to put a stop to menstrual cup leaks.  If you choose the right cup and use it correctly, leaks are very rare.

 

Do you have any further menstrual cup questions that you’d like answered?  If you do, leave a comment down below.  Also, if you have any other tips for preventing leaks, I’d love to hear them.

 

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Cloth pads vs. Menstrual cups.

Although there is some variety in the kinds of reusable menstrual products available, there are two that stand out as the most common: the cloth pad and the menstrual cup.  While some women who choose reusable products use a combination of these two methods, some are devoted to just one or the other.  I’m often asked by people which of these products I’d recommend, and I would suggest that they are both great.  While they both have some downfalls, each has a distinct set of advantages as well.  There are certain situations where I prefer one over the other.  So today I thought it might be fun to give you a low-down on the pros and cons of my two favourite menstrual products.

Cloth pads

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Pros

– You can make your own if you are handy with a sewing machine, which will really cut costs.

– Last for a long time.  Generally pads will last several years.

– Easy to clean and care for.  Just pop them in the washing machine and air dry.

– Simple to use.  You just clip or slide them into your underpants as you would a disposable pad.

– Comfortable and discreet.

– Little or no smell.  With cloth pads you don’t get that gross “period” smell that disposable pads produce.  That smell is caused by the blood reacting with the chemicals in the disposable pads as well as sweat that gets trapped by the plastic backing of the pad.

– Completely painless.

-It’s pretty easy to pick the right pad for you.  Although shapes and thickness vary, it’s hard to go wrong when selecting pads for the first time.

Cons

– It can be tricky to guess how many you will need, and you run the risk of running out if your cycle is heavier or longer than expected or you don’t plan ahead with your laundry.

– Not as discreet as a cup.  If you need to change a pad at school or at work, you still have to carry the pad to the bathroom, and then carry the soiled one in your bag.  This can be awkward or embarrassing for some people.

– Can be uncomfortable when worn during sports.

– Needs to be changed several times a day.

– Leaks do happen from time to time, particularly if wearing overnight.

– Can’t be worn to go swimming.

– Can be slightly uncomfortable in hot weather.

Menstrual Cup

Pros

– Very discreet.  It’s small and easy to slip into your handbag.  Plus, it’s safe to wear when you don’t have your period.  So if you know your period is due, you can pop it in before you leave the house for the day and you’ll be covered in case you start bleeding.

– Is washed and used again, so you’ll never run out.

– Very economical.  One cup can last 5 years or longer.

– Very hygienic.  Cups are made from medical grade silicone and can be sterilized. As they don’t absorb and hold the blood against your skin there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome.  You also don’t get any odour using the cup.

– Once you’ve learned to use the cup properly the risk of leaks is extremely low.

– Can be worn for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow), so you can wear it all day without having to empty it at work or school.

– Very easy to clean.

– Is very comfortable and can be worn for high-impact sports and in water.

Cons

– It can be tricky to learn how to use the cup properly.  It usually doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, but the first few times may be awkward and potentially messy.

– Not as readily available as cloth pads.

– More expensive than cloth pads (although in the long run a cup works out cheaper).

– You have to be very hands-on with your body to use a cup.  You will have to put your fingers right into your vagina.  You will see your menstrual blood in the cup.  You may get blood on your hands.

– Although a cup is safe to use if you haven’t had vaginal intercourse, it might be difficult.  I know that a lot of women, myself included, struggled to use internal menstrual protection until after they had sex for the first time.  But this varies from body to body.

– Can be difficult to choose the right cup the first time.  You need to do a bit of research and be very familiar with your body to pick the right cup for you.

– Removing the cup can be a bit painful until you’ve learned how to do it properly.

– Unlike a pad, you can’t see when your cup needs emptying.

Overall, I prefer the cup to pads, but they both have their advantages.  The cup is great if you very active or travelling and it’s definitely the more discreet of the two. However the cloth pads are simpler to use and a better choice if you are squeamish about blood or touching your vagina.

If you have any questions about reusable menstrual products I would be happy to answer them.

Do you use cloth pads or a menstrual cup?  If you do, which do you prefer and why?