The Vagenda

TMI: The Mooncup

So, periods are things that happen. Once a month (ish), blood and other fun things come hurtling out of your lady area, and you need a way of dealing with it. Enter a choice of two methods: pads or tampons. Until recently I used a combination of these, and in general, they did the job. But they were also frequently uncomfortable, occasionally leaky, costly to keep buying and cumbersome to pack in a holiday suitcase. And what I wish my PSHE teachers had told me (a phrase I use worryingly frequently. Is it just me who thinks there’s some major loopholes in our education system? I know I went to a Catholic school and all, but you would’ve thought we’d have a lesson on contraception before year 11) was that there’s also a happy alternative: a menstrual cup. 
For those who don’t know, a menstrual cup is essentially a silicone container that you shove up your vag to collect the blood and gore. After a few hours you pull it out again, empty it into the loo, rinse it clean and put it back in again. A simple yet brilliant invention.

I’ve been using a Mooncup for my last four periods and I LOVE it. However, the most common reaction I’ve had from friends I’ve mentioned it to is, ‘Ewwww, I could never do that!’ 
Why? Perhaps because it looks far too huge to fit in your vag, or because seeing a cup of your blood is gross, or because it just seems like a weird thing to do. But along with many other misconceptions, I’ve found that none of these things are true. So I’ve summarised my experiences of using it to help you decide whether it might work for you.
Possible Off-Putting Problem Number 1: The Size of the Thing
To tell the truth, my initial thought when I first saw my Mooncup in the flesh (before it went ‘in the flesh’, if you see what I mean…) was, ‘That’s fucking massive, how on earth can I fit that thing inside of me?’ It’s a fair consideration – especially if, like me, you haven’t experimented with putting many particularly large objects up there before.
Learning how to manoeuvre the thing in can indeed be tricky, but once you’ve mastered the art, I can guarantee that your vagina will quite happily accommodate it. The trick is that you fold it to insert, and then it expands once inside. There are several folding methods you can try – I personally prefer the second one shown here. The first few attempts for me were a little painful, as I found it difficult to keep it folded and sometimes it would pop open prematurely. But after practice it’s simple and painless (although sometimes I think it’s opened when it hasn’t, and I feel a surprise ‘pop!’ a few minutes later…any advice from Mooncup pros on this strange little phenomenon very much welcomed!) 
Taking it out can also be something of a challenge initially; you have to break the suction seal it makes with the vaginal walls, and ease it out. There is a stem at the bottom of the cup to help with removal, but you can trim this or cut it off entirely if needed, depending on the length of your vagina (you don’t want the stem to be poking out of you when it’s inserted, as it can rub uncomfortably). I trimmed the stem and worried on first removal that I’d cut off too much, but then had the marvellous realisation that my vagina has muscles that can be used to push things out of it (a friend of mine recently had an equivalent revelation when she accidentally ejected her boyfriend mid-copulation, during a particularly vicious sneeze.)
Possible Off-Putting Problem Number 2: Blood and Mess
Some female (and male) friends I’ve spoken to have found the thought of a cup full of menstrual waste disgusting. True, if you’re squeamish, it might take a bit of getting used to. But you’re going to have to come into contact with your own blood in some form whatever form of sanitary protection you use, and I find it’s fascinating to be able to see exactly how much has been collected each time. There are even little measure markings on the side of the cup. I’m almost disappointed when there’s not much there, and start willing my uterus to squeeze out more gunk so I can beat my personal record. Serious.
Whatever the instruction booklets may tell you, it IS messy to remove, especially for the first couple of times. You will have to get stuck in and get your hands dirty (both very literally), and take your time so that it doesn’t spill anywhere except in the toilet. And you’ll need to have a sink nearby, or at least a bottle of water to rinse it before you put it back in (in particular, you have to unclog the tiny holes that cause the suction).
In general, though, once you get the hang of it I find it’s a lot simpler and cleaner than pads or tampons. Unlike with pads, you won’t get blood all over your external bits and there’s much less danger of exuding unpleasant odours. And unlike with tampons, you don’t have the hassle of that bloody string (dubious pun intended) getting in the way every time you need to pee.
Main Non-Off-Putting Benefits
It’s reusable, again and again and again. Which means it’s cheap (in the long run), and if you’re due your period on holiday you only have to pack one little thing (though I like to take a few pads too, just in case). AND it’s better for the environment (your vag is truly riding its menstrual waves aboard Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior).
It’s also arguably healthier for your vagina than tampons – it doesn’t dry it out and won’t leave fibres stuck up there. And you can leave it in for 8 hours, or possibly more (depending upon whose advice you read). It’s even safe to use it when you’re not on your period, which is great if, say, you’re round a friend’s house and are not sure whether your period will turn up overnight.
There’s plenty more information and reviews across the web if you want to find out more. I’m sure I or fellow cup users will happily answer questions in the comments section. And in case I haven’t yet convinced you to give it a go, let me leave you with a recent discovery of mine: it makes cunnilingus a lot more palatable for your partner. ‘Nuff said.

47 thoughts on “TMI: The Mooncup

  1. First time I removed mine I got blood EVERYWHERE. Now, I just empty it when I shower. Gross perhaps? It all ends up in the same pipes…

  2. I’ve been using the same mooncup for about 8 years now. I love it. Never have to worry about running out of pads or tampons, and to think of the money I have saved over the years. Weee.

  3. I loved my moon cup rip off (the keeper – there are many different brands) right up until the moment my dog ate it… I think that grossed me out more than taking it in or out! They are good to measure how much blood is coming out, for those that like to monitor their periods it does help.
    You do need to clean them properly once your period is over, but that can be as little as submerging in boiling water, easy peasy.
    Anything that allows you to sleep naked in the summer, even with your period is amazing! I am going to buy a new one, and make sure the dog doesn’t get this one!

  4. I’ve been using a menstrual cup for 10 years, starting with the UK Mooncup – – I’d never go back to tampons or pads. No risk of TSS, vaginal infections, increased cramps, increased bleeding, irritation, allergic reaction, or any exposure to dioxin like with tampons – thus wear for 12 hours, with any flow, overnight, before your period, and no need to alternate with pads. Plus tampons aren’t recommended to pre-teens or teens and shouldn’t be worn from menarche – cups are fine from menarche and recommended to younger women.

    Plus many other benefits…environmentally friendly (reducing harmful manufacturing CO2 emissions, and waste), companies are ethical and body-positive, cups can improve your body-literacy, companies are small usually women-run businesses, cups are becoming as popular as they are based on word-of-mouth alone which is a huge testimonial in itself, they are very comfortable, the cheapest sanitary product available, and best of all for those of us with super-heavy flow they hold a lot more plus have light suction so don’t leak like tampons or pads.

    Menstrual cups = awesome!

  5. I’ve been mooncupping for two years now as I love the eco-freedom of not having to buy so many tampons,and it seems more natural not to rely on a series of packaged and disposable sponges.

    However, while I’m really pleased for you guys who find it the perfect seal and the only protection you need, I do have to wear pantyliners as back up – it seems like when I sit down, the cup/my vejay changes shape and breaks the seal, if its more than a quarter full. Does this seriously not happen to other people? I wonder why it does to me.

    Also its awkward if there’s no sink within reach when emptying it, not only to wash the cup but to rinse off the blood dripping down my fingers… the toilet paper option takes much longer and is more stressful than a tampon changeover – especially when people are waiting in line outside a cubicle. So while I do prefer to mooncup, tampons are still the simplest option unless I know I’ll be near bathrooms with sinks, or that my flow’s light enough not to change until I’m home.

    PS a couple of tips someone told me about the seal:
    - When its been folded and inserted, rotating it should pop the rim out if it wasn’t already, and it should form the seal.
    - When you want to bring the cup out, pinching the base of the cup will change the shape of the rim and break the seal.

    I would love to hear some tips on avoiding overflow?!

  6. Thanks for writing this! I have planning to change over to a cup for a little while… Any ladies in the US know where to purchase?

  7. I bought a Mooncup and really really want to use it, but I just can’t get the hang of taking it out – part of the problem I think is if I can’t get it out first time I start to panic a bit and then clench more; last time I tried it took me nearly 20 mins to get it out – I started thinking about embarrassing A&E trips – and because of that I daren’t cut the stem any shorter, but it’s too long and rubs making it very uncomfortable.


  8. It’s not just you – I still have to wear a light pad most days along with the mooncup, and I’ve been using cups about ten years. The reason being that I have ridiculously heavy periods, so it fills quickly and I do get a little leakage. But I’ve gone from getting through about 6 pads and tampons a day to just one pad, so that’s a massive improvement for me – I use cups for the heavy periodness, not environmental reasons tbh.

  9. I totally had a panic trying to get it out the first couple of times and was convinced it would have to stay there forever! Sometimes it is still a bit tricky, but I find if you can pinch the base of the cup and give it a wiggle, rather than just pulling at the stem, it will release the seal and come out easier.

  10. One of those weird things…I was telling the beau just last night how I’m considering changing over to the cup, but not too sure how it would work for me and if I’d be comfortable with it.

    Thanks for the wonderfully informative article… off I go to purchase my first cup!

  11. Yes, depending on which side of 30 you are and whether or not you’ve had kids. I don’t intend to replace this one for a few years yet and I’ll be in the over 30 camp then. It leaks because it fills so quickly, in my case, and it does with a couple of other cup loving friends I have. Don’t get me wrong, this thing is amazing, I just think people should know it can and does happen and it isn’t always due to human error when putting it in place.

  12. Ladies, on the subject, anyone have suggestions on how to use a cup (or honestly tampons do the same thing to me) without it making cramps worse? I have a cup, and I love the idea of it, and I love how well it works when I can manage it, but I just can’t seem to use anything internal without doubling my cramp-load. (And it doesn’t make any damn sense because I have horrible cramps and an almost nonexistent flow, so it doesn’t seem like they’re endometriosis or any of the usual culprits…) I’ve had periods for hmmm wow 20 years now, and it’s not getting better as I get older – it’s getting worse (so it’s not a “puberty ups and downs you’ll straighten yourself out” thing).

    So, any thoughts? I figured the Vagenda is the place where ladies who know cool stuff hang out, y’know?

  13. I have one but as I’ve only used tampons a couple of times, I’m finding it very hard to insert which is depressing because I have to buy extra thick pads for a heavy flow and want to cut down on them. The prices for sanitary stuff is ridiculous. My period came early on a trip away and I had to spend over 10 euros for supplies of inadequate pads GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

  14. I’ve been thinking of changing to a Mooncup for a while, mostly for environmental reasons, but whenever I read anything about objections to it, my main one is never mentioned. I just find the idea of rinsing all that blood out with just water before putting it back inside quite unhygienic. I especially dislike the idea of it sitting around for 3 weeks or so gathering bacteria before being needed again. I’m really susceptible to thrush and wary of anything that might provoke this. Anyone know anything about this?

  15. Interesting: I’ve found that internal solutions also give me bad cramps, and have for, hmmm, 20 years now. I’ve been using a mooncup for the last year, and the cramps are bad on the heaviest two days of my cycle (when I have to empty every two hours, sometimes!). The solution I have worked out so far is (a) frequent emptying at peak flow, (b) pre-emptive painkillers, and (c) telling my body to Get Over It (the female equivalent of Jens Voigt: “Shut Up Uterus!”, if you will).

    You’re not a fellow retroverted uterus, are you?

  16. The vagina is pretty good at self-cleaning. It contains symbiotic bacteria which fight for you, and kill off nasty invading bacteria (which is why chemical/soapy cleaners can be bad, as they kill off the Good bacteria).

    You can boil/Milton your mooncup each month to sterilise it if you feel the need, but I usually only bother every few months. I travelled around India with only extremely dodgy water to rinse my cup (I was worried that the water purification chemicals would damage the silicone), and was absolutely fine!

  17. I’ve been using a mooncup on and off over the last couple of years and loved it mostly, but have had ongoing problems with leakage (not overflow, just a bit of blood sneaking out somehow) – so have gone back to using tampons for my first couple of days. I need to double check which size I have but I thought I’d bought the bigger one. Anyone got tips here? I’ve had very heavy periods lately and even super plus tampons aren’t quite doing the trick so might just go back to my moonie with a pad to back it up.

  18. Great article. I have been considering making the switch for a while now, and I think I have been convinced. In relation to this, I went to the cinema yesterday and on the back of the toilets was an advert for a ‘Femme cup’, which some person had scribbled ‘yuck, disgusting’ all over. But I was heartened to see others had responded with ‘every girl gets them’ , ‘they’re actually quite environmentally friendly’ and even ‘GO FEMME CUP, YOU DO YOUR THANG’.

  19. I’ve always used tampons, for the last 10 years, but over the last two or three months I’ve found that they’ve become unbearably painful and I’ve had to resort to pads. I hate pads, and have considered migrating to the Mooncup. Can someone answer my two questions please:

    -If tampons are causing me problems, will a Mooncup also be an issue?
    -I find the thought of taking it out really disgusting – do your hands get covered, or is it not that bad? My flow is ‘Super’ in tampons.

    Cheers ladies :D

  20. I used to suffer from almost constant thrush (very unpleasant) but it’s almost disappeared completely since using the mooncup! Only get about one bout a year now which is great!

    Obviously I can only speak for myself, and I alone do not constitute a peer-reviewed medical study, but I think the mooncup helped.

  21. I’ve only just switched to the mooncup (partly environmental reasons, partly sick of running out of tampons at inopportune times and then having to pay crazy prices for more!) and have had the same experience- freaking out at size of it, realising folding it is the way to go, freaking out at getting the damn thing out, but now loving it and extra loving never having to buy more sanitary products! (also the non-drying-out thing is awesome.) it took me ages to actually buy one because the logistics of removing and washing it seemed a bit tricky/gross- but I agree with someone above, doing it mid-shower is the easiest!

  22. I have been using Mooncup for maybe 6 years. I recently went away without it and had to use tampons for the first time in aaages. They suck. I was surprised by how uncomfortable I found them, given that I used to use them all the time before Mooncup came into my life.
    One of the problems with tampons is that they absorb everything, even the good stuff. Using a Mooncup is much more comfortable for me because it’s smooth and non-absorbent, so there’s less friction, more natural lubrication.
    As for your other question, the short answer is: it’s not that bad. When I first started using a cup I was surprised by how little blood there seemed to be most of the time. It looks like much more when it’s spread all over sanitary products. (Traditional products seem really gross to me these days). Sure there are times when it doesn’t go to plan but usually the blood stays in the cup, I empty it in the sink, rise, replace. I pretty much only empty my cup in a bathroom where there is a sink so I can wash up in private.
    I probably have a ‘super’ flow too, but there is usually only one day (the first or second) where I need to monitor closely and empty every 4 hours or so, and may need a liner in case of leakage. Charming. At the tail end it’s super easy because you can just empty twice a day, am and pm, until there’s nothing left.
    I love my Mooncup and would never voluntarily go back. Other than PMS and still feeling the cramps, it’s much like not having periods at all. Which I am totally in favour of! :)
    Be brave and good luck!

  23. I love my mooncup, been using it for years now and I would never go back to tampons or pads. I would say though in terms of leaking, if you’re using the smaller cup then try the bigger one. I originally bought the smaller but found it moved too much and leaked quite a bit no matter how I positioned it, so swapped to the bigger one and that was much much better. I know it says that the bigger one is for those over 30 who have had kids but this is only a guide, I was worried getting the bigger one and being under thirty and without kids meant my vagina was abnormally big or something but I got over that and have loved my mooncup ever since!

  24. I’ve been interested in the idea of the mooncup for a while – no more embarrassing tampon falling out of pocket moments would be a bonus! However l have the copper coil fitted and worry about the suction pulling it out. It was painful enough to be fitted in the first place, I don’t want to go through that again too soon.
    What I’m asking from the Vagenda community, is whether anyone has experience (good and bad) or the mooncup and coil?

  25. Push! My mooncup had a delightful tendency to move out of reach, especially after exercise, which caused more than a slight panic the first time. So I took to pushing down to move it closer to the exit before I even tried to reach it. You use the same muscles to push a baby (or mooncup) out as you do to poo. I found lots of small pushes was more successful than one big one and it’ll probably take a couple of attempts to get the hang of it, but on a couple of occasions I’ve managed to nearly completely remove it without touching it :).

    Though I feel like I should point out that after 9 months of pregnancy and 7 months of breast feeding, I haven’t had a period for a while :D so am out of practice and maybe looking though rose tinted spectacles.

  26. Ive used a mooncup with a copper coil for the past two years (maybe for similar reasons as each other actually – both reduce our dependency on big pharma/ disposable gumph). I’ve never noticed any interaction, even after I had a new coil fitted a few months ago. Also, the only time Ive felt any suction is when Ive tried pulling the cup down with the stem instead of pinching the base to break the seal – normally i can already reach the base, and sometimes I have to PUSH it down a bit as suggested above by Lizzie!

    Go for it, if the coil was moving Im sure you’d feel it (*also remembering the pain of its arrival in my life!*). The mooncup FAQs support us, saying we have the same risk of expulsion when using a cup or not – one in twenty apparently, i didnt realise that til now…

  27. I also have a copper coil and use a mooncup.

    I have found since I got my coil that my mooncup doesn’t seem to be as effective but to be honest I think a lot of it might be to do with the increase in blood flow. This is another thing that has been useful, I knew from using my mooncup and monitoring my blood flow that I had period which averaged about 40mls, which is fairly low; after I got my copper coil I could visibly see how much the blood flow had increased and it was really high on a couple of periods, about 90-100mls and that confirmed to me why I was feeling so shit and tired and I discussed it with my doctor.
    It’s also been comforting to know that the blood flow has been decreasing again after a while and I can continue to monitor it.

    in terms of suction, I worried about this too, especially when I tried to change to the bigger cup because I was leaking. The bigger cup is too big for me and the suction is too strong and I really did worry I’d pull the coil out so I stopped using it (that and the fact that I really struggled to get it out at all, producing the same feeling of panic you get when you’re stuck in clothes in a dressing room!)

    I really love my mooncup though, even though it does leak sometimes. I usually just put a bit of toilet roll in my pants to make sure I’m not all leaky on them.

    Also I am almost certain it’s reduced my thrush as well, I used to have really bad problems with thrush even when following a low sugar/yeast diet and I don’t have as many problems now.

    And it’s cheap

    And you don’t have that awkward thing of having to go to your bag to take more tampons out or whatever if you’re going to the toilet, because you just have the mooncup nestled in your vag already and you just need to clean it off.

    I LOVE MY MOONCUP. I’d honestly recommend it to anyone and I used to be so averse to the idea of it, I thought it’d be gross, It’s totally fine :)

  28. Not that I know of – I assume a gyno would have mentioned it, right? I’ve seen several over the years due to relocations.
    In between the time I posted and now, I’ve been diagnosed (finally, the mystery illness is identified) with fibromyalgia, and it occurs to me that it’s related to the “oversensitization of pain-sensing nerves” thing. Hmmm. That doesn’t help you any though…

  29. I am another fellow thrush sufferer but haven’t found any increase from using my mooncup. I boil it in water with vanish powder in it every few months but that is mainly to get the discoloration off as I do find it a bit gross after it has gone brown. I have found however that since getting my new implant fitted my periods are low to nearly non-existent and when I tried using my mooncup this time it did cause a bit of irritation. I think that is because the flow was so low. I ended up taking it out and didn’t need anything more than my knickers int the end. The flow was basically just brown discharge.

    I have had heavier periods in the past when using my mooncup but luckily never too heavy and have usually been able to put it in in the morning and take it out and replaced in the evening before bed. I leave it in for about 12 hours which is a bit longer than recommended but it hasn’t overflowed and hasn’t caused any trouble.

    I do love my mooncup and heartily recommend it. Great to for camping and travelling in developing countries as you only need a bottle of water and don’t need to worry about where to throw away your dirty tampon.

  30. I’ve found that the Jade & Pearl Sea Pearls sponges are the only internal solution that doesn’t cause cramping, for me! You may want to try them!
    I haven’t tried a mooncup yet, but after this article I just might.

  31. I bought mine from Me Luna, they do 4 sizes. I use medium and its hasn’t been over a third full yet (only used for one month!)I also struggle with no sinks nearby so use bottled (tap) water which I usually have on me anyway.

  32. I’ve been using my brown Keeper (the original, not the knock off by the way) since around 2003 and think it’s the best. For real, if you can take ten mins or so to figure it out, you’ll feel liberated. I too love to be a scientist with my menstrual blood, noting the color, thickness and quantity makes me feel, you know, connected to my body!

  33. I have a totally TMI question, but if someone can help that’d be great: so yknow how if you can’t reach it, you push? Well for me that means I have to pre-emptively take out my cup every time I go for a poo to avoid it falling in the loo, which can get kinda inconvenient. Is that just a fact of life or am I inserting wrong? Thanks :) x

  34. I’ve been using a mooncup for around a year and it’s great, but I feel as though it might have widened my vagina walls because of where it sits. Am I wearing it too low? Or just being paranoid? It just feels as though ‘it’ isn’t as tight as before.

  35. Hi Libby don’t worry I’m exactly the same. I have to remove my cup (a Cuplee) when I need a poo. i had to do it with tampons as well. You just have some pretty good muscles that (if and when) you want kids are going to be great! Its the only annoying thing about using a cup for me but as it happens with tampons as well I’m stick with my cup.
    As an extra, all need for lubricants for sex has also ended since using the cup, I’m now back to my teenage slightly damp self!

  36. Hey Katie, I am day one in to the first period where im using a moon cup so longer time members may have other things to say on the subject. My line of thinking is if you can squeeze a baby out of you vag and it goes back to ‘roughly’ the same size I don’t think a wee moon cup is going to have any lasting effect. I have mine very low but I did read that it’s less effective if its inserted to high up and should sit lower than tampons.

    My concern is that if I overflow (at night) does everything in the cup spill out of just the excess. I am happy to wear even a mega pad at night in case I don’t wake up & the cup overflows but if it all goes south then I will be in trouble lol! If anyone has any insight/advice that would be great. On my heaviest night I have to change super plus tampons 2 maybe 3 times

  37. Hi All, so after the first night ever of wearing my mooncup I am somewhat disappointed. One of the reasons for getting my mooncup was to give me more confidence when sleeping over at others houses during my period as I thought the mooncup would mean I wouldn’t be up every few hours and less chance of major leakage. This did not transpire, in fact everytime I got up the cup lost suction, I could feel it ‘bubbling’! Not sure if anyone else had experienced this and can give me some advice, maybe I’m wearing it too low? I also find it quite painful to remove (the lip of the cup is thick and not very flexible). Any advice would be appreciated because I am already losing confidence in the cup and as you know confidence in your menstrual protection is paramount

  38. It can definitely take some getting used to, so try not to lose heart. I adore menstrual cups, but even I’ll admit they’re more work (at first) than other methods and they’re not normally a “quick fix”.

    Did you actually leak with it in? because even after several years of use I sometimes feel a “bubbling” sensation and the odd movement, but I never actually leak so I’m inclined to think it’s normal.

    As for the pain thing on insertion/removal, it’s all about being properly relaxed. You’re probably a bit tense since you’re still getting used to it and finding it a bit difficult. Again, I can only speak from personal experience but I remember struggling a bit at first but now I don’t even think about it and I certainly never feel pain with it. I guess it’s also possible that the cup becomes more flexible with use, but I’m not sure.

    Hope some of that’s reassuring, anyway. Good luck, but obviously don’t panic if it just turns out not to be for you either :)

  39. Hi

    I am very interested in the moon cup.

    Reading comments saying you can leave it in for 8 hours, does that mean you can go to the loo with it in place like you can with a tampon?