Ever since switching from pads and tampons to period cups two years ago, I have preached the wonders of my new sustainable menstrual lifestyle far and wide. Reusable silicone cups are better for the environment (so much less waste!), way more convenient (you can leave them in for up to 12 hours, instead of four to eight), and skip the issue of irritating synthetics or harmful ingredients infiltrating your body. I am on board in every single way, except for one: Even after a couple of years of using them, sometimes I still experience leakage. And there's nothing that ruins your day quite like a leaky period cup, you know?
According to Amandine Pranlas-Descours, global brand director of Swedish period health brand Intimina, leakage with period cups aren't common, but they can happen, especially with new users. "For many, their cups pop open immediately, and they never have an issue. For others, it takes a bit of practice to find the right fold or position," she says. "Just like when we started with pads or tampons, we all have to find the right positioning for our particular body and comfort. But as soon as you get the hang of it, your life has changed forever."
If a leaky menstrual cup is the difference between a life of frustrating periods and a life of relatively easy ones for you, you've come to the right place. Read on to discover how to put the kibosh on leaky period cups for good.
Why Your Period Cup Is Leaking
Period health experts agree that there are two main culprits for a leaky period cup: choosing the wrong size or not inserting it quite right. "Selection of the cup depends on the amount of bleeding you experience during your period," explains Neha Singh Rathod, an online ob-gyn at iCliniq.com. If you're new to menstrual cups but tend to have heavier periods, you might mistakenly pick up a small when you need to size up to prevent overflow. Luckily, that's a pretty straightforward problem to solve, since most period cup brands, including Lena Cup (which is what I use), Intimina, and Lunette all come in more than one size.
The other, slightly trickier common cause of leakage is insertion technique, specifically if it didn't fully open up in your vagina, meaning it didn't form a leakproof seal. There are several different folding techniques for insertion, and Pranlas-Descours says it's important to try them all out to see which one works best for your body. "Our 'How to Use' video can help a lot with figuring out the best folds and methods for getting the cup in," she advises. "Just relax and give yourself time to find out what works for you."
How to Fix It
The positive thing about a leaky period cup (as opposed to a leaky tampon) is that the fix is easy: You can just pop it out and reinsert. "Since they're made of medical-grade silicone, you can just rinse them off and try out a different fold or position," says Pranlas-Descours.
Don't know where to start with insertion methods? Pranlas-Descours swears by the "half-V" fold. "It makes the cup smaller and more rigid, and the pointed tip makes it easier to insert," she says. You might also try sitting or standing in different positions while popping that sucker in there. "What works well for many women is to sit on the toilet with their knees quite far apart (this opens the vagina up a bit more). Or you can try inserting it in the shower while standing up or with one leg on the edge of the tub—the water can also make help the cup slide into place easier," says Pranlas-Descours.
Also, try placing your cup a bit higher, or further into your vagina, than it needs to be at first. Then, squeeze the body of the cup a few times, at the topmost part of it if you can reach, to try to get the rim to pop open and form a seal. "If the cup still doesn't open, you can slide your finger up to the rim of the cup and press inward," Pranlas-Descours suggests. "Then you can use the base of the cup to pull it down to a position you prefer, which can help more stubborn folds to open fully and form a seal."
How can you tell if you've inserted correctly? Just circle your finger around the body of the cup inside your vagina to check for any folds or bulges. If you can pull on the base of the cup and it doesn't budge, then you're sealed and good to go.
This whole process might sound like it involves a lot of, well, touching yourself. And it does. But that doesn't mean it's gross. It is your body, after all. "The cool thing about menstrual cups is that they really help you get to know your body a bit more," says Pranlas-Descours. "Find your cervix at different points during your cycle … understand where your pelvic floor muscles are … that way you can visualize what you're doing while you're inserting your cup."