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Introduction to Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are one of the most convenient and economical forms of menstrual protection around! If you're just beginning to learn about menstrual cups, this is a great place to start.


Getting Started with a Menstrual Cup

Just like your first time using a tampon, your first time using a menstrual cup might not go 100% smoothly. And that's okay! While some lucky folks get the hang of using a cup right away, lots of us take two or three cycles to catch on.

We recommend wearing a pantyliner as backup during your first cycle with XO Flo, and checking frequently for leaks. You can take your cup out every few hours to see how full it is, so you'll start to learn about how often you actually need to change it. You might be surprised at how little you actually flow!

For your peace of mind, it's always nice to try a new menstrual product on a low-stakes day--that is, not your wedding day or the day you wear your new white bikini to the beach! This will help you relax, which is the most important thing to do when using your new cup! Tense muscles will work against you when it comes to inserting and removing the cup, so take some deep breaths if you're feeling stressed.


How to Use a Menstrual Cup

Inserting a Menstrual Cup

Before using your XO Flo for the first time, thoroughly wash your hands and the cup in warm water with a mild, body-safe soap.To insert XO Flo, press the "x" sides of the cup together to fold the cup in half, then fold in half again. The rim of the cup will now be held in a "C" shape. Gently insert the cup rim-first into the vagina, angled gently toward the tailbone, and slowly guide it to where it feels comfortable. The length of the cup is worn within the body, though the stem may remain outside of the body. Release your fingers to open the cup. If you would prefer the cup to open a bit more slowly, start by pressing the "o" sides of the cup together, then fold in half again.

Wearing a Menstrual Cup

XO Flo can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time. Menstrual cups are commonly emptied between 2 and 4 times per day. XO Flo holds up to 38 ml, and most periods consist of about 30 ml to 60 ml for the entire cycle. You will learn how frequently to empty your cup depending on the heaviness of your menstrual flow.  When your flow is heavy, empty the cup frequently to avoid leaking -- every 2-4 hours. After a month or two, you'll become familiar with your own menstrual flow pattern. You can wear a menstrual cup at night or during physical activity such as running, swimming, or yoga.

How to Remove a Menstrual Cup

Before removal, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Tug gently on the stem, then squeeze the base of the cup between your thumb and forefinger to break the seal. If you cannot reach the stem or base of cup, bear down with your internal muscles to help push the cup downward. Gently pull the cup downward at an angle, holding it carefully to avoid spills. Empty the contents of the cup into the toilet. It is not necessary to remove the cup before urination or bowel movements.
 
Finding it tricky to break the seal? Extend a finger along the length of the cup on the back wall of the vagina, then press into the cup to introduce air. Once the seal is broken, squeeze the base of the cup with two fingers and remove.
 
 

Using a Menstrual Cup in Public

"How do I clean my menstrual cup in a public restroom?" This is one of the most common questions we hear from people who are considering switching to a menstrual cup. Fortunately, it's easy to discreetly use a menstrual cup in a public restroom--you don't even need to leave the stall! Simply tip the contents of your menstrual cup into the toilet, wipe your fingers and cup with toilet paper, and reinsert before leaving the stall. No one will be the wiser! You might also carry a little bottle of water with you to use to rinse it out over the toilet before you reinsert it. Another option is to take a damp paper towel in the stall with you to use as a wipe. It's not necessary to wash your menstrual cup when in a public restroom.


Your Anatomy

Your menstrual cup is inserted into the vagina, which is the canal that leads from the uterus to the vaginal opening. The cervix is actually a canal that connects your uterus and vagina, but you probably know it as the small bulge at the "end" of the vagina. Unless you are giving birth, your cervix acts as a barrier between the uterus and the vagina--so there's no way your menstrual cup could get lost inside you.

The urethra transports urine from your bladder to the external urethral opening. This opening is located between the vagina and the clitoris. Because urine exits the body from a different place altogether than your menstrual flow, you can safely urinate while using a menstrual cup.

Of course, this is a very simplified description of the female reproductive system to help you understand how using a menstrual cup works. Learning about your body can be fascinating, and we encourage you to do more research on your own! 


Anatomy of a Menstrual Cup

Menstrual cups consist of a few main parts: the rim, the airholes, the body of the cup, and the stem. XO Flo also features patent-pending inner support rings.

The rim is the top edge of the cup. Some menstrual cups feature a thick rim to help hold the cup open once its been inserted. XO Flo features a slim, comfortable rim and inner support rings which serve the same purpose.

The airholes allow you to release the suction when you pinch the body of the cup to remove it. You'll want to keep these airholes clean, but even a gentle washing with warm soapy water will clear them out. XO Flo has two slanted airholes for easy release and maximum capacity.

The body of the cup holds your menstrual flow, and capacity refers to how much the cup can hold. It's important to note that most people flow a lot less than they imagine! The average menstrual cycle produces only about 30 to 60 ml over three to five days. XO Flo holds about 38 ml.

The stem of the cup will help you remove the cup. You should not remove the cup by yanking on the stem; the stem is there to help you move the body of the cup close enough to the vaginal opening that you can pinch the base of it. XO Flo's beaded stem is designed to be comfortable and flexible enough to leave untrimmed. However, you may choose to trim the stem. A word of caution: wait to trim the stem until you've tried the cup for at least a few days. Often, the initial placement of your cup is not where it ends up--you may find that once you get your positioning down, the cup will find its most comfortable place farther up the vaginal canal than you intended! You'll want to make sure you haven't trimmed your stem too far, or you may have difficulty reaching it.


FAQs about Menstrual Cups

Can I use a menstrual cup if I have an IUD?

Always consult your gynecologist or primary care provider if you have any concerns before using your menstrual cup. Many people with IUDs are able to successfully use a menstrual cup. We recommend becoming familiar with your body and using extra caution when using an IUD. Additionally, a 2012 study conducted in Canada concluded that menstrual cups do not significantly increase the risk of IUD expulsion.

Are menstrual cups comfortable?

Some folks don't feel the cup at all and rave about how comfortable it is. Others find that the stem may bother them or at least they are aware of it. It is important to try the menstrual cup for a few cycles before deciding what is or isn't comfortable. Sometimes you may think the cup will sit lower inside your body but after a day of hard work you may find that it travels further up in your vaginal canal. If after a few cycles with your cup you find that the stem still sticks out and irritates you, you may trim the stem of your XO Flo. We recommend leaving at least half intact.

Are menstrual cups safer than tampons?

The vaginal canal is one of the most porous parts of our body, which makes the absorption of any residual chemicals found in tampons a possibility. TSS is caused by normally harmless bacteria found on our skin or in other parts of our body. If the bacteria get into the bloodstream, the toxins released can cause serious and even fatal disease. It is a rare disease and has been associated with tampon use -- especially high-absorbency tampons, as they can dry out the vaginal canal by absorbing the vagina's natural moisture, creating the opportunity for miniscule tears to occur and increasing the chance of TSS. If you have ever had TSS, you should consult your doctor before using any cup or tampon.

Can I use a menstrual cup if I am a virgin?

It is your body and your choice. If you have never had vaginal sex, you may still choose to use a menstrual cup. When you first use a menstrual cup, you will probably stretch the hymen if it is still intact (hymens do not typically "break" but rather stretch), and experience some initial discomfort. You may experience less discomfort if you've already used tampons or other internal methods.


Troubleshooting

Please keep in mind that it often takes some practice to become comfortable with a menstrual cup. Don't feel discouraged if it doesn't immediately work perfectly for you! Below you'll find some common causes of menstrual cup leakage or discomfort, and how to address them.

Your menstrual cup did not pop open all the way, or it pops open too soon to form a seal. A method to assist with getting it inserted and placed correctly is to pull it in with your pelvic muscles (as if you were doing Kegel exercises) while simultaneously pulling lightly on base of the cup or the top of the stem. This can also help to make sure it's popped open. Running your finger around the rim of the cup can help make sure that it’s fully popped open. Another good tip is to turn your cup by twisting it from the base (not the stem). Some cup users are able to give it a full turn, while others manage just a slight twist, so don’t worry if you find this step to be difficult or not the right fit for you. 

Your menstrual cup is not placed in the proper position for your body. This can happen if the cup gets positioned past your cervix. Another possibility is that your cervix hangs into the cup, making its capacity much lower since the cup's room is being taken up by the cervix! If your cup is tilting to the side it's possible that your anatomy is simply built that way, which is 100% normal! It's common to have a cervix that is, say, more to the left. However, If this is the case and you insert the cup straight, then it will leak as your flow won’t be landing in the cup. No matter what the issue is, finding where your cervix is situated during your cycle can greatly help you to better place your cup so that it is settling beneath it to collect your flow.

You are having trouble breaking the seal. Use the beads to find and grip the base of the cup. Remember that XO Flo’s smallest bead should be helping you find the stem rather than being the anchor you pull. The smooth outer body of the cup is great for comfort, but you might need dry fingers to get a solid grip (have TP ready in your free hand!). If you pinch the base and don't feel the seal break, seek the assistance of the anti-suction holes; turn your fingers a half-turn to reach them (there are 2 under the rim). If you can reach farther up, try angling your gripping fingers so that one reaches up alongside the body of the cup and another is at the base; press the furthest finger into the body of the cup like you're trying to make it C-shaped again, as this will allow air alongside the cup to break the seal.  No matter your method, it can help to rock the cup gently back and forth when removing to allow air alongside it - this helps if you're having trouble keeping the seal broken (we call this "walking the cup"!).

Pressure against the vaginal wall due to constipation or a full bladder has pushed the cup out of its proper position. It also may be time to empty your cup. Try emptying your cup each time you have a bowel movement or emptying your cup more frequently.

We are all shaped differently and have different flows. If you find that it works well for the most part, with only minor leaking, you may want to wear a GladRags Pantyliner with it as extra protection. You may also get in touch with us for more personalized assistance -- we are here to help!

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