Menstrual Cup FAQ

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.

Here at GladRags, we have our own menstrual cup, XO Flo! It comes in two sizes: XO Flo and XO Flo Mini.

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Why use a menstrual cup?

Using a menstrual cup instead of disposable period products is great for your body, your budget, and the environment!

How do menstrual cups work?

 A menstrual cup sits in the vaginal canal to catch menstrual flow. To do this, it’s inserted into the vaginal canal via the vaginal opening and placed beneath the cervix (where menstrual flow comes out).

To insert a menstrual cup, it needs to be folded. Once inserted all the way, it will pop open. The opened rim will form a seal against the vaginal walls, keeping the cup in place and preventing leaks.

Menstrual flow will collect inside the cup. When it’s time to empty the cup, it needs to be removed. Removal involves pinching the cup’s base to break the seal, and then pulling the cup all the way out.

What makes XO Flo different from other cups?

  • XO Flo's patented design features were developed to make insertion, removal, and wear more comfortable. (You can view XO Flo's patents here.)
  • Some menstrual cups feature a thick rim to help hold the cup open once it's been inserted. XO Flo features a slim, comfortable rim and inner support rings which serve the same purpose.
  • XO Flo (38 ml capacity) and XO Flo Mini (31 ml) hold more fluid than most other cups due to their rounded shape and high, angled release holes. A super tampon holds up to just 12 ml of fluid!
  • XO Flo’s soft beaded stem is designed to be both trimmable and comfortable when left untrimmed.

What is XO Flo made of?

XO Flo is made of 100% medical-grade silicone, which is smooth, flexible, and body-safe.

Which XO Flo size should you choose?

Generally those with heavier flow, higher cervix and those who have given birth will prefer XO Flo.

Those with lighter flow, low cervix, a sensitive bladder, or who haven’t given birth will generally prefer XO Flo Mini.

These are general guidelines to help you choose, but we are always happy to answer any other specific questions you may have when it comes to size selection! You can also find exact sizing measurements of both XO Flo and Mini in our Size Chart (if you have prior cup experience, you might find it helpful to compare measurements for the best fit).

How do you get started with XO Flo?

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, and you'll start to learn how often you actually need to empty it. You might be surprised at how little you actually flow!

It's a good idea to try your new cup on a low-pressure day, where you have nothing going on that would interfere with getting the hang of it! 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 do you insert XO Flo?

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. Once the cup has opened fully, the air holes along the rim will allow it to form a seal against the vaginal walls, keeping it in place and preventing leaks.

How long can you wear XO Flo?

XO Flo can be safely worn for up to 12 hours at a time! Menstrual cups are commonly emptied between 2 and 4 times per day. Most periods consist of about 30 ml to 60 ml for the entire cycle: XO Flo holds up to 38 ml and XO Flo Mini holds up to 31 ml. 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 do you remove XO Flo?

Before removal, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. To remove the cup, you’ll need to break the seal by pinching the base of the cup. If you cannot reach the stem or base, try bearing down with the internal muscles to help shorten the vaginal canal and push the cup downward. If you need to use the stem to reach the base of the cup, then the largest bead, closest to the base, is the best one to use to maneuver the cup. Wiggling the cup back and forth gently using the largest bead usually allows enough air along the sides to guide the cup down within easier reach. Then you can squeeze the base with two fingers to fully break the seal. 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.

Can you use a menstrual cup in public?

Absolutely! It's not necessary to wash your menstrual cup when in a public restroom, so no one will see it. Make sure to wash your hands first, before heading into the bathroom stall. Once inside, remove your cup, tip the contents into the toilet, wipe your fingers and cup with toilet paper if needed, and reinsert. Some people like to bring a water bottle into the stall to wet some toilet paper with or to rinse their cup. Another option is to take a damp paper towel in the stall with you to use as a wipe. You’ll learn what works best for you! Be sure to thoroughly wash your cup when you return home, or at least every 12 hours.

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 few hours or at the end of the day, you may find that it moves further up in the 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.

Can a menstrual cup get lost inside you?

Nope! The cup sits in the vaginal canal beneath the cervix. There is only one opening the cup can pass through: the vaginal opening, which is where you insert it. At the other end of the vaginal canal is the cervix, which only has a tiny opening to let your menstrual flow through. This is the same reason a tampon can’t get lost inside you either!

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 minuscule 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 you use a menstrual cup if you 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.

Can you use a menstrual cup if you are 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.

What are some common beginner issues?

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!