Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: People have different concerns when it comes to the idea of being a young person and using a menstrual cup. Will it fit? Is it safe? What happens when a menstrual cup meets a hymen? These are all totally valid concerns, so let's address 'em!
Can you use a menstrual cup when you first start your period?
Preferring to hand this one over to the experts, we asked Dr. Jenn & Dr. Erica, two OB/GYN physicians at Stanford University and co-hosts of The V Word Podcast. Here's what they said:
Dr. Jenn: You can absolutely use a menstrual cup when you first start your period. There is no medical or physical reason why a young person wouldn't be able to use a cup with their very first period even.
Dr. Erica: One of the issues that may come up is general comfort with the vulvar area. The cup requires a little more hands-on action, in that you have to feel comfortable touching your vulva and vagina to put it in and take it out, but all of that is learned over time.
Dr. Jenn: Right, just because it feels weird the first time, doesn't mean it will always feel that way. There's sort of a trial and error period the first time you try on a cup, and that's normal.
Dr. Erica: But from a purely physical standpoint, there is no reason why a teen couldn't use one. In other words, your vagina isn't too small and there are a lot of different size cups available.
If you've never put anything in your vagina, are you able to use a menstrual cup?
From a physical standpoint, having already inserted things into your vagina does not “prepare” it to accommodate a menstrual cup. The vagina is very elastic by nature, but at rest, it is closed (the vaginal walls are touching). This means that it will stretch to accommodate something that is being inserted, but will go back to its original closed state when that thing is removed. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether fingers, a tampon, a sex toy, or a penis have been in your vagina or not, since they won’t change its capacity to expand and contract.
What if you have used tampons, and you don't like them?
That depends! If you're simply uncomfortable with the act of inserting something into your vagina, or the feeling/awareness of having something inside of you for a prolonged period of time, then a menstrual cup may not be for you. However, if you dislike tampons because they tend to cause dryness and have to be changed frequently, then a menstrual cup can be a great solution! Because cups are designed to collect your flow rather than absorb it, they aren’t absorbing any moisture from the vaginal canal. Removing your menstrual cup on a light flow day thankfully does not feel the same as pulling out a semi-dry tampon!
Will a menstrual cup affect your hymen if you've never had vaginal sex?
Vaginal sex also does not solely determine the state or existence of your hymen. The hymen is a membrane that’s located at the vaginal entrance, but contrary to popular belief, it does not usually cover the entire opening. Many hymens have a hole to begin with, and while for some people the hole is small enough that it can get stretched in a noticeable way (for example, feeling pain when it happens), for others there won't be a moment where they can conclusively say “Aha! My hymen was just stretched open.” Inserting a menstrual cup as someone who has not had vaginal sex can mean you’ll encounter your hymen, but there’s also the chance that it was stretched in the past by biking, doing sports, inserting fingers or a tampon, etc and won’t even make its presence known.
Are teens really even using cups?
Yep! If you're a young person who's gotten the impression that everyone around you is basically just using tampons, it might just be that the people using other methods aren't very vocal about it. Here's what we heard from some of our friends on Instagram who were more than happy to talk about their cup use as teens:
"I was 19. I remember finding it odd, but I was also excited to try it out & be successful with it. Best decision..."
"Great! Though a little awkward to have to ask my parents for permission to get one."
"It gave me freedom!"
"It was definitely a learning curve. At first I thought 'there is no way this is going inside of me.' But it worked!"
Feeling more confident about trying a cup, or giving one to someone you know? GladRags' smaller-sized menstrual cup, XO Flo Mini, is a great option! XO Flo Mini can be purchased on its own or as a kit, which includes other handy menstrual supplies for first-time users.