Updated on November 6, 2018
Menstrual Cup 101 with the LENA Cup (+Coupon Code)
I received this item in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
This post is about menstruation. I will be talking candidly about periods and getting into the hands on details of using a menstrual cup. You may think it’s TMI, but I think it’s valuable information for any menstruator. Don’t be shy! Read along and feel free to ask me anything menstrual cup related in the comments.
I first learned about menstrual cups over eight years ago. It was long before I had kids, and long before the thought of cloth diapering even entered my mind. You see, a lot of the women I know who use menstrual cups got into re-usable menstrual products (RUMPs) after using cloth diapers on their babies. But that’s not my story! I found out about menstrual cups thanks to a group of women on the internet. Someone asked if everyone preferred pads or tampons, and to my surprise more than half the women replied that they preferred a cup! I quickly found myself googling the heck out of menstrual cups, dashing off to the drug store, buying a cup, and patiently waiting for my next period. From that moment back in 2008, I was pretty dedicated to using a menstrual cup. After The Heir was born, I needed to move up to the next size of cup, but life just sort of got in the way and I never got around to it. After Petit Prince was born and my period returned, I started thinking about going back to a menstrual cup. The cup that captured my attention was the LENA cup, and it is amazing! Whether you’re completely new to the world of menstrual cups and RUMPs, or have been using a cup for YEARS, the LENA cup is one you definitely want to check out.
What is the LENA cup?
The LENA cup is a bell shaped menstrual cup made of medical-grade silicone used to collect menstrual fluid. The rim of the LENA cup is flared and smooth. There are four small air holes near the rim of the LENA cup. These holes are angled and the openings are completely smooth/flush with the outside and inside of the cup. There’s a stem at the base of the LENA cup to assist with removal, and three ridges at the base of the cup to assist with gripping the cup even if your hands are wet. The LENA cup stem has four ridges on it to assist with getting a good grip, and the stem itself has some stretch to it. The LENA cup is inserted into the vagina like a tampon, but instead of absorbing menstrual blood (and all moisture), it just collects the blood. Though a menstrual cup might look like a pretty large device to be inserting, there are a variety of folds you can use to make insertion easier. Once inserted, the cup pops open and creates a vacuum seal that prevents leaks. A menstrual cup can be worn for up to twelve hours, so you don’t need to remove it to empty it as frequently as you would need to change a pad or tampon.
Like most menstrual cups, the LENA cup is available in two sizes. The small size is meant for those with a light or normal flow, and the large size is meant for those with a heavy flow. You may have heard that giving birth (vaginally or via c-section) or reaching a certain age automatically means you need to be using a larger sized menstrual cup, but that’s not always true. It’s best to choose your menstrual cup size based on your menstrual flow. The small cup holds up to 25ml and the large cup holds up to 30ml.
How do you fold the LENA cup for insertion?
LENA has three recommended folds, but a little google searching will bring up many more than just three folds for menstrual cups. Of course, you can use any fold you can dream up or find for the LENA cup provided that it works for you and the cup pops open and forms a good seal once it’s inside your vagina. I’m only going to cover the three recommended folds for the sake of brevity! The first fold that I’d say is the classic menstrual cup fold is the “C fold”. With the “C fold”, you’re taking the top rim of the cup and flattening it, then folding it in half to make a C shape with the rim. It doesn’t make the smallest point for insertion, but it does pop open well. The second fold is the “7 fold”. With the “7 fold”, you’re flattening the rim of the cup and then folding it together at a downward angle. The rim of the cup ends up making the shape of the number 7. This fold gets a narrower point for insertion than the “C fold”, but I find it a little hit and miss for popping open easily for me. The third fold, and my preferred fold, is the “punch down” fold. With this fold you are going to press down on the open rim of the cup, effectively punching it down into the cup. Then you’ll hold the cup on the sides pressing the punched down part together. I find that the “punch down” fold gives you the narrowest point for insertion, and it pops open really well for me once I have it in place.
How do you insert the LENA cup?
Well, once you’ve decided on a fold the first thing you want to do is relax. You can insert your menstrual cup while sitting on the toilet, standing with one foot on the toilet, or standing with your knees slightly bent. You can even do this while you’re in the shower if you like! My go to in the standing with knees slightly bent method, but you can (and should) try a few different positions to figure out what is most comfortable for you. Now you are going to be getting up close and personal with your vagina to insert a menstrual cup. As someone who used tampons without an applicator for years and years, this didn’t really phase me. Once you’ve chosen your preferred position and fold, you want to angle the cup back towards your tailbone and insert it. You’ll want to make sure you hold onto it as you walk it up and back so it doesn’t pop open too early. I find that a menstrual cup needs to go up a little higher in the vagina than where you’d place a tampon. Once it’s up there, it should pop open. If it isn’t popping open easily, you can pinch the base of the cup with your fingers to encourage it to open, or tilt it back towards your tail bone a bit to see if that will do the trick. Once it has opened you want to grip the base of the cup and give it a twist (clockwise or counter-clockwise, doesn’t matter!). If it is open and in correctly, it should do a full spin fairly easily. I also always check that the cup is fully open because sometimes it might pop open, but remain kind of squished on one side. To check this you will take one finger and run it along the outside of the cup. It should feel rounded and not flat all the way around. If while doing this you hit upon a firm-ish fleshy bit, that’s likely your cervix. This happens when you’ve placed the cup to the side of your cervix (believe it or not, your cervix doesn’t sit perfectly centred all the time). If you feel that firm-ish fleshy lump, you’ll need to remove the cup and try again (or as you get a little more familiar with your cup you can pull it down a bit and then push it back up). When your cup has opened and made a good seal, a gentle tug on the stem won’t be able to move the cup down. You shouldn’t be able to feel the cup once it’s in position, and the stem of the cup should not be sticking out of you. If you can’t feel the cup, but the stem is sticking out a bit or bothering you, you can trim the stem down to your desired length. Remember to remove the cup before you attempt to trim the stem.
How do you remove the LENA cup?
If tugging gently on the stem doesn’t move a properly positioned cup down, how on earth are you supposed to get it out? First of all, you can’t lose a menstrual cup. There’s no where but within your vagina for your menstrual cup to go, so if you reach in and don’t feel it, don’t panic! You can bear down your muscles (much like you would if you were having a bowel movement), and this will move the cup lower in your vagina. Then you should be able to feel the stem and the base of the cup. Before trying to just pull it out, you want to pinch the base of the cup. This will release the seal and make it much easier to remove the cup. Empty the contents of the cup in the toilet, and give it a rinse in the sink before reinserting. If you are emptying your cup in a public restroom, you can wipe it out with toilet paper and then reinsert. You’ll want to be sure to give it a good rinse the next time you empty it out at home.
How do you know when the LENA cup is full?
This is something that comes with experience. You can safely wear a LENA cup for up to 12 hours, so you only need to empty it at least twice a day. Many women find that emptying first thing in the morning and then right before going to bed is sufficient. When starting out with a menstrual cup for the first time, or trying a new cup, it’s a good idea to empty it more frequently than just every twelve hours. If you have a particularly heavy flow, you can start by emptying it every 4-6 hours to see how much menstrual fluid has been collected. In doing this you should be able to create a mental note about how much was collected over twelve hours to give yourself a good indication of how long you can leave your cup in without experiencing leaks.
Can I go to the bathroom with the LENA cup in place?
Yes you can! It is absolutely possible to pee or have a bowel movement without removing your LENA cup. First, lets talk about pee. It is absolutely not a problem to pee with the LENA cup in. It does not interfere with your urethra at all. Some women may find that it takes a few extra seconds for their stream of pee to start when they have a cup inserted, but with a little patience it will flow! As for bowel movements, you can do that too, BUT you’ll want to double check the position and seal of your cup when you’re done. This is because you use the same muscles for a bowel movement as you would to bear down and move your cup lower so you can reach it to remove it. If you find your cup shifts out of position (and doesn’t feel like it’s back in its place), simply remove it, empty it, and put it back in position.
How did the LENA cup work for me?
With any menstrual cup, there’s going to be a learning curve. It had been a few years since I’d used a cup, so the LENA cup was going to take a little bit of getting used to. I expected it to take 2-3 periods before I was 100% comfortable with my LENA cup and experiencing no leaks at all. During my first period with the LENA cup I made a few common mistakes. At first I wasn’t inserting the cup high enough. Then I managed to insert it high enough, but it was sitting next to (rather than around) my cervix. Then I had it in the right spot, but it was staying flat on one side. I fully expected to have these little challenges along the way, but knowing the joy that a menstrual cup is once you get it right, I persevered! By the end of my second period I was pretty sure I had it down perfectly, but wanted to get a third period in before making my final judgements on the LENA cup. My third period was wonderfully leak free! I was getting the cup inserted correctly with a great seal on the first try every time, and it was a beautiful thing. I even spent my heaviest flow day out at a festival all day long without so much as a tiny leak! It was amazing!
Let me talk about the capacity of the LENA cup. I absolutely need to be using the large size LENA cup. For reference, there are five different levels of absorption available in tampons (all brands use the same terminology for these levels of absorption). They are light, regular, super, super plus, and ultra. Most women will never need to use ultra absorbency tampons. I am not most women. Though hard to actually find, since getting my period back after Petit Prince was born, I’ve needed to use ultra absorbency tampons for the first two days of my period. I was leaking through an ultra absorbency tampon in about two to three hours, sometimes less. This is the main reason I wanted to get back to a menstrual cup. Given my ultra heavy flow, I was checking my LENA cup quite frequently during that first period of LENA cup use. To my surprise, I can actually go 8 to 10 hours without emptying my LENA cup, even on my heaviest days. Now I guess there’s a possibility that my period miraculously decided not to be heavy any more at the same time I decided to try the LENA cup, but I imagine that’s highly unlikely. Because the LENA cup collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it, if it’s in correctly, it’s not leaking unless it’s at its capacity (which is 30ml or two tablespoons with the large cup).
The LENA cup has some really great features, simple things really, that make it an excellent menstrual cup. First, the texture. The LENA cup is a very smooth cup. Some cups are more shiny and slightly sticky feeling, but the LENA cup has a nice matte/satin finish that makes it really smooth to the touch. It doesn’t feel sticky to the touch at all. The medical grade silicone isn’t so firm that it puts a lot of pressure on me when it’s in place, but it’s not so soft that it doesn’t pop open easily. In other words, it’s the Goldilocks of cup firmness for me. The air holes near the rim of the cup are perfectly smooth and completely flush with the cup. When you run your finger along the edge of the cup over the holes, there’s no seam of silicone sticking up. What that means is that it’s really easy to clean with no roughness there for menstrual blood to stick to, and there’s no risk of chafing from an unwanted seam at that position on the cup. These air holes or vents need to be clear/empty when you insert your cup in order to effectively create a vacuum seal to prevent leaks. When you empty the cup, you want to rinse out those holes really well so there’s no menstrual fluid trapped in them. With other cups I’ve used in the past, this has been a challenge. I often needed to use a safety pin to scrape those air holes/vents clean. This is absolutely NOT the case with the LENA cup. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but I’ve never needed to take anything to these holes to clean them out. They just rinse clean every single time with no extra effort on my part. I LOVE that!
The LENA cup has three ridges on the base of the cup, and four ridges on the stem of the cup. You may not have ever considered this, but when you use a tampon to absorb menstrual fluid, it also absorbs all the natural lubricant out of your vagina at the same time. It doesn’t discern between the different types of naturally occurring fluids in your body, it just absorbs EVERYTHING. With a menstrual cup, it collect only the menstrual fluid and the naturally occurring lubricating fluids that your body produces remain there. This is a great thing. For starters, it means inserting and removing a menstrual cup is much easier with no dry tampon scraping feeling (if you’ve ever removed a tampon on a very light day of your period, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about here). What it also means is that things around the base of the cup might be a little slippery when you go to empty your cup. The ridges on the base and stem of the LENA cup ensure that you can get a good grip for removing your cup easily without your fingers just slipping off of it.
As for the stem of the LENA cup, it is a pretty long stem on the small cup and a shorter stem on the large cup. Both cups are the same length from rim to stem end, but the small cup in narrower and shorter with a longer stem, while the large cup is wider and deeper with a shorter stem. With the large LENA cup, I find the stem sits far enough inside that it doesn’t poke out or poke me in a weird spot on the inside. I have not needed to trim the stem at all. It’s also a very flexible stem, so it doesn’t dig into me even though it does kind of sit at an angle inside (for me anyway). The stem is also flat and not hollow, so it is also really easy to clean with nowhere for menstrual fluid to get trapped.
The rim of the LENA cup does flare out (like a bell), but it’s completely smooth with no seams or ridges to cause any irritation. I find the flared out rim helps to achieve a great seal once the cup is popped open.
- Eliminates the need to purchase disposable products
- One cup can last for YEARS if it is well taken care of
- Collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it
- Can be worn for up to twelve hours without emptying
- Very smooth cup with no unwanted seams around the air vents
- Flat, flexible stem doesn’t dig into you
- Available in two capacities depending on your flow
- Can be used by women with light/normal periods and women with heavy/very heavy periods
- Large LENA cup has a very large capacity (30ml)
- Cannot feel it once it has been positioned correctly
- Menstrual cups are not directly associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
- Menstrual cups can have a steep learning curve and it takes practice to get it positioned correctly
- Up front cost is more expensive than disposable pads/tampons
I am 100% back on the menstrual cup bandwagon and I’m so glad it’s the LENA cup that’s put me there. There are so many great things about using a menstrual cup! For starters, I can go way longer without fussing with my menstrual cup than I could with pads or tampons. After getting over the learning curve, I experienced no leaks and don’t need to dash off to the bathroom every few hours to switch anything out when I’m on my period. Forget to pack an extra tampon in the diaper bag? No problem! I don’t need to remember to bring anything with me when I go out, and honestly, that’s a great thing when I’m already packing stuff for Petit Prince and The Heir. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled out of my driveway only to have to stop the car and run into the house to grab a few tampons. Never again!
You might be thinking that a menstrual cup sounds like a super messy way to deal with a period, but it’s really not. Once you’ve got it figured out and aren’t experiencing any leaking, removal is actually really clean. I don’t end up with bloody fingers/hands, and I’m not spilling menstrual fluid all over the place. I find it as clean, if not more clean than using tampons without an applicator. The best part is that I never have to remove a partially dry tampon. Shudder.
The LENA cup is for all women, and not just those of us that have had children! The small LENA cup is an excellent starter cup for teens! Why not consider introducing your daughter to RUMPs when the time comes? If you have a light flow, a regular flow, or even a super heavy flow, the LENA cup can work for you!
I’ve completely converted to using RUMPs for my period, and I think it’s something every menstruator should at least try for a few cycles! You might be surprised at how easy and convenient it can be to use a menstrual cup!
The LENA cup retails for $39.95, but is on sale for $24.97! It is available to purchase from Amazon.com or directly from LENA cup. For a limited time, you can get an EXTRA 15% off the purchase of a LENA cup when you order it on Amazon or from LENA cup directly. Simply use the code “LENAMOON” for an additional 15% off the $24.97 price! If you’re located outside the USA, LENA cup does ship internationally!
How would you like the chance to WIN a LENA cup? One lucky reader will win one LENA cup in their choice of size! Just scroll down to the giveaway and get your entries in for a chance to win. This giveaway is open world wide, 18+, and closes on August 22nd, 2016. Sponsor is responsible for prize fulfillment. Don’t forget to follow the Back to School giveaway “hop” and enter the other awesome giveaways linked up below!
Disclosure: The Anti-June Cleaver, Our Piece of Earth, and the rest of the bloggers participating in the Back to School giveaway hop are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations