After spending 25 hours on research and testing 18 different cups from nine different manufacturers, we found that the MeLuna Classic is the best cup for first-time users. It’s the cup that comes in the biggest variety of sizes to accommodate people of different heights, athletic backgrounds, or vaginal birth histories. The MeLuna is also available in a firmer version and with different handles. Its design can be folded the most ways, yet it popped open easily, so it was the easiest to insert, remove, and clean.
A lot of people in menstrual-cup land talk about finding your “Goldilocks cup,” the one that fits you just right. We think the MeLuna is the perfect place to start your search because it falls into the middle of the pack when it comes to firmness, size, and shape, so it’s easy to fold for insertion, but also pops open easily and stays open inside of you. Though all the cups we tested came in at least two sizes, MeLuna has more options when it comes to customizing the size, shape, and firmness of your cup. What that means is that you can change just one variable at a time when you’re trying to figure out what works best for you, instead of starting all over again with a new cup if this one isn’t perfect.
The Lena cup is a bit wider and a lot smoother than many of the cups on the market. The Lena feels great; the silicone it’s made out of is really smooth and makes it a breeze to insert and remove. Its wider design also helps prevent leaks for those who have a wider vagina, and the solid stem doesn’t collect any blood or gunk so it’s easier to clean than some of the cups with hollow stems.
People with low cervixes often have the hardest time finding a menstrual cup that fits, because most cups are too long (more on how to figure this out in the Our pick section). The MeLuna Shorty is one of the few cups designed specifically for short cervixes, and compared with the other short-cervix cups we tested, this one was far easier to fold, insert, remove and clean. With a short-cervix cup you do sacrifice volume—because the cup is smaller it can hold less blood—but comfort is more important than having to change the cup a bit more frequently.
The DivaCup is the cup most people start with, but we think it’s actually not a great starter cup because it’s one of the longest cups we tested. Which means that anybody who has a medium or short cervix might find it uncomfortable. But if you have a high cervix, the DivaCup works really well, is smooth and comfortable, and holds a lot of blood. It does have a hollow stem, which can collect blood and gunk easier than those with solid stems, but we don’t think that’s a dealbreaker.
The best menstrual cup for you will probably depend on what your internal vagina shape is like. But we’ve learned a lot in our tests about what makes a good menstrual cup aside from sizing, like material and shape; there are a lot of good ones available. In this guide, we’ll also help you try to find the cup that matches your anatomy best.
For this guide, we talked to Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB-GYN; Jackie Bolen, a woman who runs a menstrual cup review site; and 15 different people who use menstrual cups. We also watched a whole lot of YouTube reviews of the cups we tested, and read through a stack of scientific papers on how people use cups, how cups compare with tampons, how they can be cleaned properly in all kinds of settings, and more.
There is a very vocal community of menstrual cup users, and as part of our research we read through several very comprehensive blogs and websites that reviewed and discussed the ins and outs of every menstrual cup model we could find. We also read through hundreds of reviews on Amazon for over 20 different cup models, including ones we didn’t wind up testing. And because using a standard medical-model vagina wouldn’t really simulate the stretchiness and hug of the real thing, we invested nearly 12 hours in trying to build the most functionally realistic model possible.
The Sweethome has a number of cup users on staff, and we were eager to solve some of the mysteries surrounding menstrual cups. If you’ve never tried a cup before and have a lot of questions about how they work or what you can or can’t do with them (do they work with an IUD, for instance?), we have an extensive FAQ below.
If you are a person who gets a period, you can probably use a menstrual cup. Unlike products that absorb your flow, you insert a menstrual cup into your vagina to hold all the blood, and empty it a few times a day. Like most things that are period-related, this will all come down to your own personal comfort. Die-hard cup lovers love the eco-friendly and wallet-friendly aspects of the cup. But cups do come with a learning curve, and not everybody wants to go through all that.
The most convincing argument in favor of switching to a menstrual cup is the fact that it’s reusable. That’s a plus for your wallet, and for the environment. The average person who menstruates spends between $40 and $70 a year on pads or tampons, and those pads and tampons often wind up in landfills. (Before you feel any additional and unnecessary period shame, know that in the grand scheme of your personal waste, menstrual products are just a small sliver.) Menstrual cups can be used again and again for years, eliminating that waste and ultimately saving you money.
An additional advantage of the menstrual cup over pads and tampons is that you need to carry only one with you, not a handful. This makes cups popular among backpackers and other travelers who worry about carrying too much weight. Instead of having to keep a handful of pads and tampons around, you need just one cup. Plus, menstrual cups can hold up to an ounce of fluid at a time, which means they can handle far more than even the heaviest-duty tampons.
Lots of menstrual cup advocates also claim that using a cup eliminates the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. That is not true, and there was at least one confirmed case of TSS in a woman using a menstrual cup. But it’s nearly impossible to study the true risk of menstrual cups because they are still used by a relatively tiny slice of people and TSS is so rare. “There’s no reason to think that the risk would be lower or higher than with tampons, and unless we get a lot of case reports we’ll never know,” said Dr. Gunter. Think about it this way: Less than one percent of people use a menstrual cup. And the chances of getting TSS is less than one in 100,000. Which means that trying to study TSS in menstrual cup use is incredibly hard because you’re trying to study something that could show up only in a tiny sliver of the population. So if you’re switching to cups purely out of fear of TSS, don’t. That said, just like with a tampon, it’s important not to leave a menstrual cup in for too long. You shouldn’t leave any cup in for more than eight hours.
The dealbreaker for most people when it comes to menstrual cups is the learning curve. “The first few times you change it you might want to do that where you don’t worry about leaving it like there was a serial killer in there,” said Dr. Gunter. “I’m good at taking things in and out of vaginas, and the first time it was like WHOA!” It takes a while to get used to inserting and removing the cups, and even for pros, using a cup involves handling your menses more than pads or tampons. The cup catches and contains menstrual fluid, so using it means removing the cup and pouring out the fluid, then washing the cup. Some women I talked to said they came to really appreciate and enjoy this part as a way to better understand their own bodies, but that might not be something you’re into. So if the idea of closely interacting with your own menses grosses you out, the menstrual cup isn’t for you.
If you’re comfortable with blood and inserting things into your vagina by hand, and you’re willing to put in some work to get used to using something, and you’d like to save money and reduce your impact on the environment, a menstrual cup is a good choice.
One of the challenges of finding the right menstrual cup for you is that not all vaginas are shaped the same way. You might already know what your vagina is shaped like, but chances are you don’t. Which means you might not know which cup shape is the best for your particular vagina shape. Later, we’ll try to guide you through figuring this out as best we can, but ultimately cup fitting is often a matter of trial and error before you find what menstrual cup bloggers call “the Goldilocks cup.” And we know this isn’t trivial, because most cups range from $20 to $40 and aren’t returnable. The main reason our pick, the MeLuna, won out is it comes in a variety of sizes and in a couple of different firmnesses.
Different cups are different sizes and shapes, as are different vaginas. Again, most people don’t really know the shape of their vagina, and thus don’t know which menstrual cup will sit inside them the best (you should not be able to feel a cup inside you very much, and it definitely should not hurt). And it can be hard to guess what shape your vagina is, even for doctors. “We can see a five foot tall woman who is 90 pounds and has a short vagina, and you can see another one [of the same size] who has the longest vagina ever and delivered an 8 pound baby with no difficulty,” said Dr. Gunter. We’ll try to guide you through picking the right size as best we can, and for the guide we picked for a variety of vagina dimensions.
In general, menstrual cups come in two main sizes: large and small (often coded as A and B). Different companies call these sizes different things, but in general the larger one is for people who’ve given birth and the smaller version is for people who haven’t. The larger size also holds more blood, but most folks who haven’t given vaginal birth will find them uncomfortably large. Unless you already know that you’ve got an unusually large or small vagina, you should go by that divide and pick the one that applies to you. (Some guides draw the line between large and small at age 30. That is nonsense. Go by childbirth or no childbirth if you’re choosing between A and B.) Our pick, the MeLuna, has a size calculator that accounts for your body size, whether you play sports, and whether you’ve had a vaginal birth, among other things.
One thing to think about when it comes to picking a size for your cup: It’s more important to find a cup that fits you properly than to try to find a cup that you can wear for the maximum amount of time, or that holds the most blood. Some people will go into their search for a menstrual cup looking for something that they won’t have to change even on their heaviest days. But that cup might wind up being really uncomfortable to wear. Sadly, the heaviness of your flow and the size of your vagina aren’t correlated, so you may have a small vagina and a heavy flow. Instead of looking at the volume a cup can hold, you should try to pick based on which cup will fit you most comfortably.
The first variable you’ll want to figure out about your vagina is how long it is. To tell whether you’ve got a high, medium, or low cervix, simply insert a finger into your vagina. If your cervix is hard to reach and you can’t feel it at the end of your finger, your cervix sits high. If you can touch your cervix by inserting some of your finger, you’ve got an average vagina length. And if it takes only a tiny bit of your finger to reach your cervix, you’ve got a low one. It’s best to do this test when you’re actually menstruating, because your cervix actually changes position during that time of the month.
If you suspect you might have an unusually large or small vagina, you can ask your OB-GYN next time you go in. When you get a pap smear, the speculum they use can come in a few different sizes. Most people simply get the standard middle-sized speculum, but some might need the large or small versions. Ask your gynecologist which size they use on you. If it’s the biggest one possible, you probably want to opt for the larger cups. If it’s the smallest one possible, you probably want to opt for the smaller sizes, or even the “teen” versions.
Another way to gather data on your vagina shape is to think about what else you’ve comfortably fit in there. If you’re a person who has vaginal intercourse, or if you use penetrative sex toys, you probably know what angles are most comfortable for you. If you don’t like penetration to be straight on, you probably don’t want a long thin cup. If you don’t like penetration to be at an angle, where something is hitting your vaginal walls, you probably don’t want a wider, shorter cup.
These are all just general guides, and remember that vaginas are inherently stretchy (they are designed to fit a baby through them, after all). Unfortunately, with things like menstrual cups it does take some trial and error. Yes, this means you might have to spend an extra $30, but remember, if you find one you like, you’re still saving money in the long run.
Aside from size, there is one other main distinction between different cups: firmness. Some cups are made of sturdier silicone than others. This matters because to insert a cup you fold it up, and once it’s inside, you need it to pop back open. For some people with really strong or tight vaginal walls, the thinner, more bendy cups just aren’t strong enough to pop open again. For other people, the thicker, more sturdy cups are uncomfortable to insert and wear. This, too, is a matter of personal comfort and preference that requires some trial and error to figure out. We recommend starting with a medium-firm cup and figuring things out from there, but if you’re an athlete or someone who is really into Kegel exercises, you might want to opt for a firmer cup. People with very muscular vaginal walls (which correlates with overall body musculature) often find that the average cups aren’t strong enough to push against their muscle walls and open up.
Like tampons, menstrual cups should be easy to insert and remove and reliably keep the blood in instead of all over your clothing. They should also be easy to clean and store, and last for years without getting smelly or breaking down. (A quick note: In this guide we use the term “blood” colloquially to refer to the stuff that the cup is catching. In reality, cups hold menstrual fluid, which is made up of blood, vaginal secretions, cervical mucus, and tissue from the endometrium.)
Some other, less important choices you’ll wind up making about your menstrual cup are things like color, texture, and the shape of the stem. Mostly, these things don’t matter all that much. A lighter-colored cup will be stained more easily by blood, and cups that have a lot of ridges, bumps, holes, or raised text on them can be a tiny bit harder to clean (although we didn’t find this to be a dealbreaker for any of the cups we tried).
Most menstrual cups are designed to have a long skinny stem. But some models, including our pick the MeLuna, come with other options. Along with the regular stem, there’s a ball design and a loop design. The argument for ball and loop stems is that they can make the cups easier to remove: They give you something bigger to grab onto, or you can even slip a finger into the loop to pull the cup out. In our tests however, we found that the shape of the stem didn’t really change how easy or hard it was to remove the cups. In fact, trying to remove a cup by hooking your finger into the loop and pulling is a recipe for spillage. The same goes for pulling on the ball. When we tried removing cups that way, we wound up spilling a lot of blood all over the place.
Most people remove their cups by inserting two fingers and gently squeezing the cup, and then sliding it out. (More on how to insert and remove cups later.) A ball or loop won’t get in the way of doing it that way, so they’re not dealbreakers; they just aren’t really going to help you much either. Ball and loop designs are slightly bigger too, and some people find that they can irritate the vaginal canal more than a stem might.
The other thing to think about with ball, loop, or stem designs is whether you’re going to wind up modifying the cup. Most cups come with relatively long stems that many people will trim down. The stem should never irritate your vaginal canal, and it definitely shouldn’t stick out of your vagina. If you end up trimming off the ball or loop design, you’re essentially defeating the purpose of that whole setup.
All this is to say that the stem you pick isn’t all that important, and we didn’t find that ball or loop designs make the cups easier to remove at all.
Almost all menstrual cups are made out of medical-grade silicone, but there is one cup made out of rubber, the Keeper. It’s the only cup made of rubber I could find (menstrual-cup reviewer Bolen confirmed she didn’t know of any others, either), and we discuss it in the Competition section below.
There is also a disposable menstrual cup on the market called the Softcup made by Instead. We didn’t test these, because they’re quite different from the reusable cups in many ways. Disposable cups eliminate the main advantage of the menstrual cup, which is that it’s reusable. Softcups also tend to be slightly larger in diameter, which some people found harder to use than the smaller reusable cups. You might be tempted to try a Softcup before you try a menstrual cup, to see how it goes, but insertion and removal with it is actually quite different than with reusable cups. We don’t think it offers a good practice run for the reusable cups.
The one advantage that Softcup has going for it is that you can have penetrative sex with one in, which you definitely can’t do with a reusable menstrual cup (we did hear one horror story about someone who tried this). So if you’re looking for a product that will keep your period sex a little less messy, the Softcup could be a good solution.
(As an aside, you can find people online saying that they wash out and reuse their Softcups several times instead of throwing them away. The manufacturer doesn’t recommend this, and we don’t either. The plastic involved in the Softcup is thin and not made to withstand multiple uses and washing. Softcup does make a cup that you can use throughout your period and throw away at the end of your cycle, which is a little bit sturdier, which might be a good compromise. But you’re still losing the main advantage of the menstrual cup: the fact that you can use it for years.)
In the end, we put all our cups to the same set of tests, and then separated our picks into vague vagina shapes.
A note on price: You can go on Amazon and find menstrual cups that are really cheap, but menstrual cup reviewer Bolen says to steer clear. A handful of companies advertise $3.99 or even $1 menstrual cups, but these are sometimes not made of medical-grade silicone, and in most cases it’s unclear what specifically they’re made out of. I found several reviewers who said that when they boiled these cheaper cups to sterilize them between uses (we’ll get to that later), the material deteriorated quickly. If you’re going with a menstrual cup, it’s worth the money to get one that will hold up. Remember, when you think about it as a replacement for all the pads and tampons you buy, it will pay itself off within two years.
Overall we tested 18 different cups from nine different manufacturers. We didn’t always test both the A and B size for each model, but in general the design and pitfalls of a cup will be present in both sizes.
First, we tested how easy it was to fold each cup for insertion. There are a bunch of folding methods you can use to insert your cup, and we encourage you to try them all until you find the one that works best for you and your cup. The key is to get the cup small enough that it’s comfortable to insert, but not fold it so intricately that it can’t pop open once it’s inside. We tried to fold every cup into five different folds. Some cups were easy to fold into all the various shapes, others were a little more tricky. The FemmyCycle cups, which have a much more rounded, bulbous shape, were harder to fold up. The same goes for the Intimina collapsible cup — because the cup is so soft and, well, collapsible, it couldn’t keep its folded shape without popping back open in our hands.
Then, we tested how easy each cup was to clean (we’ll address how to clean them further down). Most cups have little air holes in them, but those holes can be difficult to clean. And many cups come with either little volume labels or logos etched into them, all of which can accumulate blood in their nooks and crannies. For this test, we used pig’s blood mixed with some egg whites to get as close to the consistency and staining power of actual menstrual fluid as possible. (As an aside, explaining to a butcher that you’re going to use the blood they special order for you to test menstrual cups is a very fun way to spend 15 minutes.)
The MeLuna got points in this test for coming with a little cleaning brush, but all the cups we tested were easy to clean. Those with writing on them did require a bit more scrubbing and attention to detail to make sure that nothing lingered in those crevices, but it didn’t seem like a dealbreaker for us. And the Keeper, because it’s dark brown, was harder to inspect visually to make sure that it was actually clean. But a bright light (even the light from your cell phone flashlight) helps, and we didn’t feel like any of them were hard enough to clean that we could eliminate them.
We then tested how easy each cup was to insert and remove. To do this, we had to figure out a way to simulate a vagina. There are plenty medical models you can buy that show you the anatomy of the vagina, but they’re all made of rigid plastic. A medical model can do a good job of showing how a cup works, but because it’s a single set size many cups won’t even open up inside a medical model because it can’t stretch to accommodate them. Menstrual cups work because the vaginal canal stretches around them—it’s that hugging that makes a cup work, and keeps it from leaking.
The vagina is a pretty incredible thing: It’s soft and stretchy but also firm, and it returns to its original shape after you stretch it. Simulating that, it turns out, is actually pretty difficult, and I will now take a small detour to tell you how difficult it is.
My first stop was Home Depot, where I bought a variety of silicone tubes. But they were all either too narrow or too rigid to really work as a vagina.
Then I looked to sex toys, because there are plenty of masturbatory aids on the market that purport to simulate real vaginas. The challenge here is that most of them are encased in some kind of rigid and opaque plastic for the user to hold onto, which means that I wouldn’t really be able to tell if the cup had opened inside, because I couldn’t see what was going on in there.
So I then turned to the wild world of DIY masturbators , and let me tell you there are a lot of YouTube videos about this (generally SFW). But many of them had the same problem that the commercial versions did: It was impossible to see what was going on inside the various tubes. But I did try to re-create a few: Instead of a Pringles can and sponges, I used a clear water bottle and bubble wrap. The way most of these videos and online guides describe this setup, I have to say, seems extremely untenable for masturbation. Unless you glue the sponges (or, in my case, bubble wrap) to the sides of the canister (or water bottle) you can’t reliably get things in and out without everything coming undone. And in my case, gluing plastic to plastic is actually a lot harder than you might imagine. Even with special plastic epoxies, the bubble wrap was constantly coming undone from the water bottle after a few insertions and removals. So that method was out.
Then I tried a DIY masturbator that involved either one bag of water, or several bags of water tied together. This did simulate the stretchiness of the vagina pretty well, but the water moved around enough inside the bags that I could never actually get the cups in and out without incident. Several times my homemade vagina exploded water all over my kitchen.
After the third or fourth water bomb went off, I decided to change tactics. (As an aside, I will say that I’m not fully convinced that anybody can successfully masturbate using many of these DIY toys that I tried to re-create.) Maybe I was too focused on the stretchiness aspect, and I should’ve just found something that could simulate the shape and lined that with something soft like bubble wrap. There are some videos online that use a champagne flute type of glass to simulate the vagina, so I went to the local thrift store to buy a whole bunch of different flute-shaped glasses. It turns out finding one that is the right width and shape is very hard. None of the glasses I bought worked.
Eventually, I was desperate enough that I wandered around Target with a couple of menstrual cups in my pocket, trying to subtly fit them into things. Thankfully, no one called security, for which I really wouldn’t have blamed them. Then I came across my ultimate solution. In the end, it was the travel-size section that came to my rescue. There, I found some reusable silicone tubes that I cut the bottom off of and turned into my make-shift vaginas. These were stretchy enough to simulate a vagina, returned to their original shape, were soft and easy to work with, and could fit all the cups I had to test.
Here’s an image of some of the failed vagina materials.
This is all to say that the vagina is an incredible thing that is very hard to replicate. I used a little bit of water-based lubricant to get the cups in and out of the travel-size-container vaginas, and once they were inserted put a bit of colored water into each cup to see how easy it was to remove them without a spill.
This test confirmed that cups we had trouble folding in the earlier test (like the FemmyCycle and the Intimina collapsible) were indeed hard to insert and remove in this test. Some of the cups have a smoother silicone than others, and we found that the cups with the very plasticky silicone, like the Luna and Yuuki cups, required more lube going in and out of the tube. I spilled the most trying to remove the Luna cup, as it would catch on the silicone and I had to yank a bit more to get it out.
But most cups were easy to insert and remove, opened up without much trouble, and performed well overall. Which makes our job a lot harder here. Lots of cups are good, and it will probably take you one or two tries to find your so-called “Goldilocks cup.” With all that in mind, here are the cups that stood out to us.
We really liked the MeLuna cups in general, because they are so customizable. Unlike most cups that come in only two sizes, MeLuna cups come in a whole bunch of sizes and styles. You can build your perfect cup, picking between two different firmness levels, three handles (stem, loop, and ball), eight sizes (the company even has a size calculator if you’re not sure what to get), and two colors. We tested a handful of combinations of firmnesses, handles, and sizes, and they were all easy to insert and remove because we could fold them in all sorts of ways thanks to them hitting a sweet spot of firmness and thickness. They were also easy to clean. In our tests the MeLuna didn’t leak at all, although all cups can leak depending on your vagina shape and how they’re inserted.
The MeLuna Classic is a great first cup because it falls into the middle of the size range we tested. There are wider and narrower, deeper and shorter cups, but if you’re just trying to figure out what works for you, the MeLuna generally falls right down the middle. So it might work for you, or it might be too big or small, but because you’re starting in the middle you can then work your way in either direction depending on how your MeLuna fits. Unlike most menstrual cups, which are made of medical-grade silicone, the MeLuna is made of medical-grade thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). The material is manufactured in Germany, where it must comply with standards that allow it to be used in products like baby pacifiers.
You can get the MeLuna Classic in a number of sizes, from small to extra-large. The small cup holds between 15 and 23 milliliters, and the extra-large holds between 30 and 42 milliliters. But remember, it’s better to pick a size that is comfortable but that you might have to change more frequently, than one that has a big volume but is really uncomfortable to wear.
The MeLuna Classic is also right in the middle of the pack when it comes to firmness. And because MeLuna offers a firmer option (the MeLuna Sport), if you find that the Classic fits okay but doesn’t always pop open against your vaginal canal, you can switch to that model without having to gamble on whether the new cup’s shape is right for you.
If you know you’ve got a very low cervix—meaning when you’re on your period, you can reach your cervix by inserting your finger just past the first knuckle—the MeLuna Shorty might work for you. The MeLuna offers the shortest cup we could find, with an entire Shorty line of cups for those who have a very low cervix. The Shorty is shorter than most tampons, so if you’ve ever had trouble inserting tampons, and felt like they were too long or large, this could work for you.
If you know you have a long vagina per the finger test we mentioned earlier, go with the DivaCup; it’s the longest cup available. The caveat here is that if you also have a narrow vagina, the DivaCup might be uncomfortable to wear because it is relatively wide. If you have a long but narrow vagina, go with the MeLuna.
In the United States, the DivaCup is probably the most commonly used cup. In fact, some of the people we spoke with who use cups didn’t even realize there were other options. But we wanted to point out that the DivaCup is actually one of the largest, longest cups you can buy (the MeLuna Classic Medium is 48 millimeters long, and the DivaCup is 57 millimeters long). So if you’ve tried a DivaCup and found it uncomfortable, but still like the idea of a menstrual cup, we encourage you to try again with a smaller cup.
If you know that you have a wide vagina, you’re going to want a cup that can ensure you don’t leak. The Lena cup is a good choice here. It’s wider and more bell shaped than most of the cups we tested, but still easy to insert and remove, fold up, and clean. The silicone on the Lena is really nice and smooth, but no less firm than the MeLuna or DivaCup, and of the wide cups we tested it was the easiest one to handle without spillage.
Almost all the cups we tested worked pretty well. We could eliminate a couple, but the majority of them did exactly what they should do: fold up, hold blood, and clean easily. So if you’ve tried our picks already and didn’t like them, or can find only one cup brand near you, it’s worth trying almost any of these.
|Name||Size||Capacity (ml)||Width (mm)||Length (mm)||Stem (mm)||Total length (mm)||Stem style|
|Keeper and Mooncup (US)
|Keeper and Mooncup (US)
|Lily Cup Compact||Small||16||43||50||11||61||–|
|Lunette||Small||25||41||47||25||72||solid, flat tab|
|Lunette||Large||30||46||52||20||72||solid, flat tab|
|Lena||Small||25||41||46||25||71||solid, flat tab|
|Lena||Large||30||45||50.7||19.7||70.4||solid, flad tab|
Lunette: The Lunette cup is a great cup. It’s soft and smooth, easy to fold, grip, and clean. It’s a bit wider and shorter than the MeLuna, so if you’re feeling like the MeLuna is too narrow for you, the Lunette could be a good choice.
Lily Cup: The Lily Cup, made by Intimina, is a really interesting design. This cup is the smoothest and feels the best of all the cups we tested; the silicone is incredibly soft. But the cup itself is pretty big, and the design makes it a little bit harder for first-timers. The cup itself is asymmetrical, which means it takes a bit more practice to get insertion just right. But it comes with a no-spill lip that did help cut down on messes in our tests. It’s a pretty long cup, so if you have a short vagina this one probably won’t work for you.
Yuuki: Yuuki cups are one of the other ones that come with firmness options. You can get the Yuuki Soft or the Yuuki Classic. The Yuuki Classic is on the firmer end of the cups we tested (although not as firm as the MeLuna Sport) so if you feel you need a wider and firmer cup, the Yuuki is a good choice for you.
FemmyCycle: The FemmyCycle cups are by far the most unique cups we tested, but ultimately we don’t recommend them. They feature an internal funnel-like lip to keep the cup from spilling, and they’re far wider and more bulbous than anything else we could find. Because they have that extra internal layer, they’re much harder to fold into a compact shape for insertion. Plus, the silicone they’re made of is very plasticky, and we found it would catch on skin and made insertion even more difficult.
Lily Cup Compact: This cup seems like a really cool idea: It collapses down into this really compact little disk. But in our tests, that feature introduced some flaws, too. Because the body of the cup has to be able to fold down, we had a really hard time folding the cup to insert. This is also the cup with the least resistant silicone that we tested, so if you have a strong vaginal canal you’ll crush this cup before it can open up. In the end, we didn’t feel that the collapsibility was really worth the other trade-offs. It’s not like menstrual cups are gigantic, they’re pretty easy to store in a purse, even in an uncollapsed state.
Mooncup UK (MCUK): This cup is very similar to the cup known as the Mooncup US (MCUS). The lip on the two Mooncups is almost identical, but the MCUS has a rounder and fuller shape, whereas the MCUK is narrower and more tapered, like the MeLuna. The MCUK is made of a pearlized material similar to the MeLuna, and the MCUS is translucent. Overall the MCUK is more soft and pliable than the MeLuna, which we liked for its firmness sweet spot: soft enough to be comfortable and to pop open once inside, but firm enough to prevent leaking. If you need a softer cup, the MCUK may be a good option.
Mooncup US (MCUS): This cup is similar to the MCUK, but it’s made by a different company called The Keeper, Inc. If you know you like the Mooncup and it fits you, but you can’t find it anymore, the MeLuna Medium is the closest alternative we tested. It’s not a perfect replacement—the MeLuna’s defining characteristic is a very prominent rim—and it’s a narrower cup than most others. You can actually figure out a specific size of the MeLuna by using its size calculator, but the size closest to the MCUS is the large, which is 51 millimeters long (the Mooncup is 50 millimeters long).
Keeper: The Keeper is the same shape as the Mooncup (US), but just a little firmer. I couldn’t find a single other menstrual cup made of rubber, and I asked a handful of menstrual-cup bloggers if they knew of any, and they said no. We think medical-grade silicone cups are the best for most people, but if you’d like to try another material this cup is your best option. If you’re just looking for a firmer cup, try the MeLuna Sport.
During our first round of testing in early 2017, a spokesperson for GladRags told us that the company would no longer distribute the Mooncup US and the Keeper. Although both models tested really well, they did not perform as effectively as our current picks, and our concerns about availability made both cups clear dismissals. Both cups are currently available from The Keeper, Inc., however, and you can purchase them directly from the website.
Even though menstrual cups have been around for as long as tampons, they seem to be having a moment right now. There are more brands and styles to choose from than ever before, and that increasing variety will likely continue.
Even tech tried to get in on the menstrual cup trend—in 2015 something called the “Loon” that was branded as “the world’s first SMART menstrual cup” became a very successful Kickstarter. The cup had a little Bluetooth antenna in the stem that allowed it to talk to an app on your smartphone. But there are a lot of reasons to be wary of this cup. First, the Bluetooth antenna has to be poking out of your vagina to communicate to the app, which sounds quite uncomfortable. Second, the idea that people need to quantify things like the color of their menstrual blood is silly. Third, even if they did, they wouldn’t need a fancy cup for that. In the end, it might not even matter, because the Looncup folks will have to get the cup specially approved by the FDA, which can take many years.
That said, “quantified self” is definitely coming to vaginas, and it will likely come to cups too. So if you’re the kind of person who really wants to track biological information about yourself, you might be able to get a cup like this in the future.
Our staff will test the picks that match their body types and we will update this guide with long-term test notes.
Because menstrual cups are less common, and this might be your first one, we wanted to include some tips for you.
The learning curve
Every person I talked to who uses a menstrual cup told me that it definitely involves a learning curve. Jackie Bolen, a menstrual cup reviewer, said that her biggest frustration with menstrual cups is that “people give up too soon. Just keep trying and wear a pad while you’re experimenting with it, after 5 or 6 months if it’s really not working, try a different cup.” The learning curve here includes everything from figuring out the best way to insert and remove the cup without spilling blood everywhere, figuring out if the cup is actually open inside you, and knowing when it’s time to take the cup out. Overall, cup evangelists say it’s worth a few messes, and that anybody who’s considering switching from pads and tampons should stick with it for at least four cycles before giving up.
Folding your cup
There are tons of different ways to fold up a menstrual cup. You can see a video of some of them here. We found that the punch-down fold and the 7 fold were the easiest to use. They make the cup the smallest, yet still give us a spot to grip where the cup wouldn’t open up before we let go.
Insertion and removal
This is the hardest part. Let’s start with insertion. You fold the cup and insert it into your vagina. Then you want to release the cup, and it should pop open inside of you. Figuring out if it’s fully opened can be tough. Some cups you can feel pop open, but depending on your musculature and how forceful that opening is, sometimes you can’t tell. Once you’ve inserted the cup, you can reposition it by inserting a finger and moving the cup around a bit. Another good trick to making sure the cup is open and positioned right is to grab the bottom and twist the cup gently. Some people like to squat or jump up and down a little bit after they insert the cup, just to make sure that the cup is secure and isn’t going to move around.
When it comes to removal, this is a little easier overall but failure can be more, let’s say, dramatic. We recommend squatting over the toilet for this part, especially for the first few times, just in case. It’s important to relax before you try to get the cup out; if you’re tense, your vaginal muscles will be squeezing the cup, which makes it way harder to get out.
There are several techniques for removing a cup, but usually it doesn’t work to just grab onto the stem and yank. Instead, pinch the bottom of the cup. Then slowly remove. Sometimes you’ll read about “breaking the seal” of a menstrual cup, as if the cup is creating some kind of vacuum seal when it opens up and you have to break that seal to remove it. That’s not really true, there’s no vacuum seal being created down there. But just like you had to fold the cup a bit to get it in, you’ll need to fold it a bit to get it out too.
This is an argument for not letting the cup get too full, because you’re going to have to squeeze it a bit to get it out. We do not recommend just pulling on the stem, whatever design, to get the cup out. When we tested the cups this way it was a disaster every time. Pulling the cup that way requires using a lot more force to get the cup out, and you’re holding the cup only at the very end with two fingers, which means that when it does come out it’s hard to control what happens. For us, what happened was a lot of blood all over the place.
If you’re just starting to use a cup, try to time your removals when you’re home and in a comfortable space, and not in a work or public bathroom.
How to know if a cup fits/How it should feel
Once the cup is properly positioned, it should feel the same way a tampon does inside of you. If you think about it, you can feel it there. But it shouldn’t be uncomfortable or constantly at the forefront of your mind. It shouldn’t be pressing on your bladder, and you shouldn’t be able to feel the stem at all; if you can and it’s irritating you, try cutting it shorter.
Before assuming the sizing is wrong, try removing and inserting the cup a couple of times over a couple of cycles. It’s hard to isolate the variables here—a cup might be the right size but is sitting awkwardly because it’s not in deep enough, or it’s at a weird angle. Dr. Gunter said that if a cup is very painful to use you might want to consult your OB-GYN to find out why.
If you’ve trimmed the stem and are sure the cup is in as far as it’s going to go, but the cup is still poking out of your vagina or rubbing uncomfortably, you need a smaller cup.
If the cup migrates up your vagina and you’re having to dig around to fish it out, you need a bigger cup.
If the cup makes you feel like you need to pee all the time, or is causing pain to your urethra, you might need a smaller or a softer cup. The cup might be the right size, but it might just be too firm and pushing too hard on your vaginal walls. Or it might be too big. If the stem is poking you, trim it.
How do you know when the cup is full?
This takes a bit of learning, but you can help yourself out by comparing how much your cup can hold with how much your usual tampons hold. Some people like to wear a thin pantyliner while they’re learning their cup schedule, just in case.
What happens if/when it leaks?
It’s easy to find horror stories about cups online but a leaking cup is pretty much the same as a leaking tampon or pad. If the cup hasn’t sealed properly or fully opened in your vagina, it won’t catch the blood, and that blood will wind up on your underwear or whatever else you’re wearing. Lots of people recommend wearing a thin panty liner while wearing a menstrual cup for the first few cycles, as you get the hang of it.
Can you use lube to insert the cup?
Some people like to use lubricant to insert their menstrual cups, and this is totally fine as long as you use a lubricant that plays nicely with silicone (avoid silicone-based lubricants).
Some people get a little obsessed menstrual cup cleaning, and our advice is to relax a bit. You should wash your cup, of course, but a good guide for how to think about cleaning your menstrual cup is “clean as cutlery.” You don’t bleach the forks and knives in your kitchen before putting them in your mouth again, and you don’t need to bleach your menstrual cup before putting it back in your vagina. A good hot wash or boil is totally fine.
Before cleaning your cup, you should always read the instruction manual that comes with it. For example, some cups can be boiled, others can’t. You should follow the rules for your cup, with one exception: Many companies that make menstrual cups also sell special soaps and cleaning wipes along with them, and might even recommend them in their manuals. These will certainly clean your cup, but there’s no reason to spend extra money on special cup-cleaning soaps. Any hand soap will work just fine.
In general, there are two types of menstrual cup cleaning: the cleaning you do in between insertions (during your cycle) and the cleaning you do in between cycles.
During cycle: On the days you’re using the cup, you’ll wind up emptying it throughout the day. Depending on what your flow is like, how often that emptying should be will change. But inevitably all menstrual cup users find themselves in some public bathroom stall dumping menstrual blood down the toilet. In some bathrooms (at home, or single-person bathrooms for example), you can wash the cup off in the sink with mild soap before reinserting, though not every bathroom provides that luxury. For these scenarios, many users carry baby wipes around with them to wipe out the cup before reinserting it.
In between cycles: Many people like to sterilize their cup once their cycle is over, with a bit more of a deep clean than they might do just between wears. There are lots of ways you can do this. Many people boil their cups (again, check the info on your cup to see whether it warns against boiling or not) for about three to five minutes. Others use sterilization tablets like these. Lots of menstrual cup fan sites advise using either hydrogen peroxide or bleach to sterilize the cups, but we would advise against that, because both chemicals can eat the silicone that your cup is made out of, and cause all kinds of problems.
Storage: Don’t store your cup in a sealed container with no airflow. Most cups come with some kind of little fabric pouch or baggie to use, and though you don’t have to use those, you shouldn’t opt for something that’s airtight. Sealing the cup like that makes it impossible for the moisture on the cup to go anywhere, and it can get stinky.
Are menstrual cups FDA approved?
Menstrual cups are considered a Class II medical device, just like pads and tampons. What that doesn’t mean is that the FDA tests every cup design. It does not. Instead, cup manufacturers have to file a form that basically says “this cup works and performs just like other cups that are already on the market.” As long as a cup doesn’t have any big design changes, and manufacturers can reasonably argue that there’s nothing about this new cup that would pose a threat not already posed by the ones already available, they can get FDA approval. That said, not all the cups we reviewed for this list are technically FDA approved (the Yuuki Cup, for example, is not), but all of our top picks are. This is a coincidence, and you are free to import a non-FDA approved cup to the United States for personal use whenever you please.
… you have an IUD?
Yes, the cup should not interfere with your IUD. There’s only one study that looked into this, but they found that menstrual cups don’t increase IUD expulsion rates at all.
… you use the NuvaRing?
Yes, however, you generally don’t want to wear both the NuvaRing and the menstrual cup at the same time. In theory, you take out the NuvaRing to get your period, so you would just replace the ring with the cup. But some people do find that they need to put the ring back in when they aren’t quite done with their period. We heard from at least one woman who does this, and says that it works fine. The challenge here may be that the cup can’t sit against your cervix the way it might without the ring in place (there is, after all, only so much space in your vagina) and that might make the seal less reliable. Tl;dr, you can try to wear both at once, but it might leak a bit.
… you are exercising heavily (e.g., hot yoga, biking)?
Yes, with the caveat that you might want to give yourself some practice with the cup first before you do any really strenuous biking. Once you’re confident that you’ve got insertion down, and that the cup is open and in the right place, you can definitely do all your normal activities from hot yoga to football practice. But in the learning period it’s a little more likely that you might have a mishap and leak a bit. Which isn’t the end of the world! If you’re someone who does a lot of exercising, you might want to try a firmer cup, because it’s likely that your vaginal walls are a bit stronger than the average person’s.
… you have a heavy flow?
A note about flow: It might seem like you bleed a lot during your period. But the average person who menstruates usually loses 35 to 50 milliliters of menstrual blood for the three- to five-day period. The smaller menstrual cups can usually hold around 25 milliliters of fluid, and the larger ones around 30 milliliters. And remember, you’re not asking the cup to catch your entire period at once. About 10 percent of people who menstruate do have heavy periods, something doctors call menorrhagia. Those with menorrhagia lose more than 80 milliliters of blood during their periods. But that just means changing the cup more often, just like you might change a pad or tampon more often with a heavy flow.
Anyway, this is all to say that the answer here is probably yes. Menstrual cups hold a lot more fluid than tampons do, so if you’re currently using tampons you should be able to use cups. But if you’ve got concerns, talk to your OB-GYN about them, and they can give you guidance for your specific body.
… you have a lot of blood clots during your flow?
Yes. In fact, some users like the cups exactly for this reason. Tampons and pads are very good at absorbing liquids, but not so good at absorbing solids. The cup doesn’t discriminate, it just catches whatever comes out of that cervix. So if you’ve ever pulled out a tampon and found a nice clot sticking to the side of it, the cup might be a better solution.
… you have a tilted uterus?
Yes, because the opening of the cup surrounds the cervix, even if your flow tends to wind up on one side of your vagina, the cup will catch it.
… you are a virgin?
Yes, just like you can use tampons if you’re a virgin, you can use a cup. But you might want to opt for a smaller, softer cup, because your vagina isn’t used to having things inside of it yet.
(Photos by Rose Eveleth.)