hand holding a pink menstrual cup by the stem at the base of the cup
Photography by Eloisa Ramos/Stocksy United

Thanks to being reusable and often more affordable, menstrual cups are popular period products.

It can be difficult to remove them at first.

Here are everything you need to know about menstrual cup removal.

Depending on how heavy your flow is, you may be able to keep a menstrual cup in for up to 12 hours.

It will need to be emptied once full.

Once you get used to it, you can pull the cup down with a pinch of the base.

“Don’t forget to wash your hands.”

Before you put your fingers into your vagina, you should wash your hands.

When they’re clean, get into a comfortable position. This may involve squatting or sitting on the toilet.

You can feel the base of the menstrual cup by touching your thumb and index finger.

If your cup has one, you may need to gently pull the stem to reach the base.

Pinch the base to break the seal.

Pull down until the cup comes out, pinch the base to make the process more comfortable, and then slowly pull down until the cup comes out.

If you try to pull the cup out without pinching the base, you may experience some pain.

The cup has a seal that is still there.

Try pinching and pulling down.

“If you can’t reach the base, place your finger next to the cup and push it against the wall. Then, gently pull out the rim with your finger.”

This will likely be messy but can help reduce or avoid pain.

People who experience vaginismus or who have a uterus that changes position may find menstrual cups a little more uncomfortable than others.

“That doesn’t mean you can’t use them. You may need to be more gentle during removal.”

Your menstrual cup will need to be emptied and cleaned if it’s reusable or thrown away if it’s disposable.

You can empty the blood into a sink or toilet after you have removed it.

“Make sure the small holes are clean by rinsing the cup with warm water and washing it with soap. If this isn’t possible, wipe it with toilet paper and clean it when you get to where this is possible.”

Some will give specific instructions for cleaning.

If you want to re-use a cup, wash your hands after.

If you have come to the end of your period, you can boil the cup for a few minutes after rinsing and storing it.

Most manufacturers advise keeping it in a bag or pouch to keep it moist.

Does the size of your menstrual cup affect removal?

It can be difficult to remove a menstrual cup that is too small.

A shorter cup will travel further up the vaginal canal if you have a higher cervix.

Bigger cups tend to be longer, so you may need to try one of these instead.

“If you don’t know which size to buy, manufacturers usually have a size guide for their individual products.”

You can measure your cervix height by placing one or two fingers into your vagina and finding the part that feels like the tip of your nose.

If you can feel it at your first knuckle, you are probably going to have a lower cervix.

Remember that your cervix position changes throughout your menstrual cycle so it’s a good idea to check on or just before the first day of your period.

Does having an IUD affect menstrual cup removal?

It’s a bit of a myth that you can’t use menstrual cups if you have an IUD. The former sits in the vagina and the latter is in the uterus.

While there is guidance from some to wait 6 weeks after IUD insertion before using a cup, there’s also conflicting evidence over the risk that menstrual cups may pose.

A study published in 2012 found no evidence of a higher risk of early IUD expulsion in people who used menstrual cups.

And although a 2019 review found a small number of reports of IUDs dislodging in menstrual cup users, there was no evidence that the cups caused IUD issues.

However, a 2020 study found higher than expected rates of IUD expulsion in menstrual cup users.

Additionally, a series of small case studies published in 2019 found that 7 people had accidentally pulled their IUD strings while removing the cup, leading to the IUD falling out.

“It is always sensible to be careful when removing a menstrual cup. If you have a lower cervix, your cup may sit closer to your IUD strings so that they don’t interfere with your removal.”

If you feel the strings once a month after your period, you can be sure that your IUD is in place.

Can a menstrual cup get stuck?

Removal may take some getting used to. And there have been reports of people needing professional help to remove their menstrual cups.

“You know that your cup can’t get lost inside you. It will remain below your cervix once it reaches it.”

“If you can’t get the cup out, try squatting further down or lifting a leg up onto a toilet or bathtub.”

Try to reach the base again. That will help you break the seal on the base.

“If the seal isn’t breaking as easily as you thought, try pinching it for a few seconds or locate the cup’s rim and gently push it in. Wait for the sound of air being released.”

“As more air enters the vagina, it’s possible to remove the cup at a slight angle.”

Sometimes, you need to just wait a little while before trying again. The cup needs to come out easily if the muscles on the floor are relaxed.

How messy is menstrual cup removal?

Prepare yourself for there will likely be some blood on your hands.

The more you practice, the better you will be at removing it and the less mess there will be.

If you want to avoid spills on the floor, you should remove your menstrual cup in the shower, bath, or over the toilet.

The removal technique above will give you a better grip on the cup and reduce the chance of spills.

If you tilt the cup gently, one half of the rim will come out first.

When should you consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional?

If you’re not sure whether menstrual cups are for you —because, for example, you have a medical condition that may make insertion and removal difficult —speak with a healthcare professional before using them.

If the cup is stuck, you should make an appointment with a healthcare professional who knows the product for help removing it.

If you get used to them, menstrual cups can be a great way to manage your period.

It can be difficult to remove at first. It is possible to break the seal and gently pull the cup out.

Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.