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Menstrual cups make me nervous, and let me tell you why: Whenever I do a high-stakes activity involving liquids, like bringing a spoonful of hot soup to my mouth without dumping it down my chest or transferring a palm-sized cup of period blood to the nearest receptacle without spilling it all over my pants, my hands begin to shake erratically. Often, this sabotages my success. Emptying even the best menstrual cup seems like it would only be comfortably accomplished in a private, stall-free bathroom. Therefore, I have steered clear of cups (the little rubber or silicone funnels that sit in the vagina and collect blood) out of deference to my wardrobe.
Anecdotal evidence sourced from cup devotees suggests that you might have to try a bunch of models before you find your match, and spending lots of money on products I can’t return sounds somewhat frivolous to me. However, it’s nice to think about a reusable, one-time purchase that could replace the stash of possibly toxic, definitely too-expensive tampons under my sink. Those are two reasons why Dr. Jennifer Conti, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, likes menstrual cups. Unlike tampons, which can contain bleach, chlorine, aluminum, fragrance, alcohol, and other frightening ingredients you probably don’t want in your vagina, reusable cups are typically BPA-free, made from body-safe silicone.
“It is a really great alternative to traditional pads and tampons,” Dr. Conti says. “One, because it’s better for the environment. Two, because for a lot of people, you don’t feel like you’re wearing a diaper or having that product down there collecting odor.”
“Even if you buy an expensive cup, what are you spending, 20 bucks or something?” She adds. Granted, some of the best menstrual cups will be more expensive than that. Plus, compared to the recurring fees associated with pads and tampons, menstrual cups are more cost-effective.
What is the best menstrual cup?
Interested menstrual cup consumers might quickly find themselves drowning in a sea of options. There are myriad takes on the same basic design, none of which are strikingly different from each other. The New York Times’ Wirecutter conducted an extensive, user- and expert-informed review of 18 menstrual cups and named the MeLuna ($25) its winner, based on the brand’s range of sizes and firmness. Diva Cup seems to be the go-to simply by virtue of its wide name recognition, but there are so many different brands out there, Conti says. Don’t despair if the first cup you try doesn’t work.
She recommends taking the website PutACupInIt for a spin before making purchases. Conti calls it the “Goldilocks approach,” because its short quiz helps you find the product that’s just right. Beforehand, though, it helps to know where your cervix sits: high? Low? Somewhere in the middle? This is a question an OB/GYN can answer, so consider asking the next time you’re in the stirrups.
Key factors in cup sizing, according to Conti, are flow volume, childbirth history, and vaginal length. With those in mind, I went through PutACupInIt trial runs to find the best menstrual cup for a wide range of vaginas.
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Best menstrual cup for long vaginas
For the purposes of this test, I set the metrics to a regular flow, middling levels of physical activity, no previous births, no incontinence, no allergies, and no history of cup use. Here’s what I got:
- For teens: A long cup, like the Diva Cup ($33), Lily Cup ($40), Fun Cup ($43), XO Flo ($35), or Super Jennie (L, $30) might do the trick.
- For young adults (18-25): Young adults in this category might check out a Lunette Size 2 ($40) or a Lena L ($25).
- For the late twenties and beyond: Interestingly enough, you have the same set of recommendations as the teens.
Best menstrual cup for short vaginas
Here, I used the same metrics as in the long vagina trial but adjusted for an immediately accessible cervix.
- For teens: PutACupInIt recommends a Meluna Shorty, or a size 1 from Lena Cup, Diva Cup, and Lily Cup.
- For young adults (18-25): Consider a size 1 Lunette or Luna Cup, or a size Small Ruby Cup ($30), or a Super Jennie Cup in Small.
- For late twenties and beyond: Again, same results as the teens!
Best menstrual cup for average-length vaginas
Again, same metrics apply, except for cervix location, which in this case is “knuckle deep.”
- For teens: Recommended products include a Juju Cup ($43), Lunette Cup, Lena Cup, Sckoon Cup ($39), Meluna Classic, or Si-Bell Cup (for people living outside the U.S., it seems) in size small.
- For young adults (18-25): Your best matches are a Lunette Cup (size 2) or Lena Large.
- For late twenties and early thirties: Same as the young adults.
- For 34 and over: Try a Fleur Cup ($25), a Luna Sensitive, or a size Large Si-Bell — something of “fairly average … length and firmness,” according to the quiz.
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Best menstrual cup for previous births
Here, I set the metrics to semi-active, regular flow, no history of incontinence or cup use, no allergies, and uncertain as to cervix position. Regardless of age group, the results came back the same. Try a Fleur Cup, Luna Sensitive, or a Si-Bell in size Large if you’ve given birth before.
Best menstrual cup for a heavy flow
Please note: Here, we’re talking heavy, as in soaks-through-a-super-tampon-in-two-hours heavy. These results also vary based on your vagina length. For the sake of simplicity, this hypothetical heavy flow cup seeker has no idea where their cervix is. They are also semi-active with no history of childbirth. They have not used a menstrual cup before, are not incontinent, and do not have allergies.
- For teens: Again, try a Juju Cup, Lunette Cup, Lena Cup, Sckoon Cup, Meluna Classic, or Si-Bell Cup in size small.
- For young adults (18-25): Consider a size 1 Lunette or Luna Cup, or a size Small Ruby Cup, or a Super Jennie Cup in Small.
- For late twenties and beyond: You’re going to need a big cup. Try a Super Jennie in small or large, a large LaliCup ($37 to $38), a size 2 Yuuki ($17), or potentially a Merula cup ($31, for those of you with low cervixes).
Best menstrual cup for light flow
Once again, I used all the same controls as in heavy flow but selected scant flow. All age groups got the same recommendations: A size 1 Lunette or Luna Cup, or a size Small Ruby Cup, or a Super Jennie Cup in Small. Or maybe even free bleeding, who’s to say!
Best menstrual cup for middling flow
Here, I controlled for all the same variables and set flow to regular. This means someone who changes their tampon every six to eight hours. Here are the results:
- For teens: Once again, you might just be a Juju Cup, Lunette Cup, Lena Cup, Sckoon Cup, Meluna Classic, or Si-Bell Cup in size small.
- For everyone else: Your best fit seems to be the now-familiar size 1 Lunette or Luna Cup, or a size Small Ruby Cup, or a Super Jennie Cup in Small.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Claire Lampen is a lifestyle reporter who covers sex, gender, and reproductive rights. Formerly a Fulbright fellow, she has published work with Vogue, Gizmodo, Refinery29, Teen Vogue, the BBC, Vice, Marie Claire, and more.