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

To remove a menstrual cup, you can pinch the base of it and pull it down. Removing it without pinching may cause discomfort.

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

But removing them can be a little tricky (and messy) at first.

From step-by-step guidance to cleaning tips, here’s everything you need to know about safe and comfortable 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.

Either way, it’ll need to be removed and emptied once full.

The process is pretty quick once you get used to it: when you’re ready to take the cup out, simply pinch the base and gently pull it down.

Don’t forget to wash your hands before.

First, thoroughly wash your hands with soap before inserting your fingers into your vagina.

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

Insert your thumb and index finger until you can feel the base of the menstrual cup.

You may need to gently pull the stem (if your cup has one) in order to reach the base.

Once you can feel the base, pinch it to break the seal.

Then slowly pull down until the cup comes out, continuing to pinch the base to avoid spills and make the process more comfortable.

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

That’s because the suction seal that was created when you inserted the cup is still there.

So try pinching and then pulling down.

If you’re struggling to reach the base, place your finger next to the cup and gently push it against the wall of your vagina. Then, hook your finger over the rim and gently slide it out.

This will likely be messier but can help avoid or reduce discomfort.

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. But you may need to be extra gentle during removal.

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

Once you’ve removed it, empty the blood into a sink or toilet.

Rinse the cup with warm water and wash thoroughly with fragrance-free soap, making sure any small holes are clean. If this isn’t possible, wipe it with toilet paper and clean it when you get somewhere that this is possible.

(Check manufacturer guidance, too, as some will give specific instructions for cleaning.)

If you want to reinsert a reusable cup, then do so and wash your hands after.

But if you’ve come to the end of your period, you can boil the cup for a few minutes after rinsing and store it once it’s clean.

Most manufacturers advise keeping it in a breathable pouch or bag to allow moisture to evaporate.

Does the size of your menstrual cup affect removal?

A menstrual cup that’s too small for your body can be more difficult to remove.

For example, you may have a higher cervix, meaning that a shorter cup will travel further up the vaginal canal and be harder to reach.

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

If you’re not sure which size to go for, manufacturers usually have a size guide for their individual products.

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

You likely have a lower cervix if you can feel it at your first knuckle and a higher one if you’re finding it hard to reach at all.

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.

Of course, it’s 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 ensure that the strings aren’t in the way when you remove it.

Checking to see if your IUD is in place by feeling for the strings once a month after your period can also give you peace of mind.

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.

But just know that your cup can’t get lost inside you. Once it reaches your cervix, it’ll remain below it.

If you’re having trouble getting the cup out, try changing position by squatting further down or lifting a leg up onto a toilet or bathtub.

Try to reach the stem or base again, gently wiggling it. That should help you get a grip on the base so you can break the seal.

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 before removing.

Sometimes, removing the cup at a slight angle can help, too, as more air enters the vagina.

And sometimes, you may need to just wait a little while before trying again. Those pelvic floor muscles need to be as relaxed as possible for the cup to easily come out.

How messy is menstrual cup removal?

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

But the more you practice, the better you’ll get at removing it and the less mess there will be.

To avoid spills on the floor, remove your menstrual cup in the shower, bath, or over the toilet.

And stick to the above removal technique to get a better grip on the cup and reduce the chance of spillages.

Gently tilting the cup so one half of the rim comes out first before tilting the other way can also help.

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.

And if the cup is well and truly stuck, no matter how many positions you try, make an appointment with a healthcare professional who’s familiar with the product for help removing it.

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

Yes, removal can be a bit tricky at first. But practicing breaking the seal and gently pulling the cup out will make things smoother, quicker, and less messy.

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.