How to Use a Menstrual Disc
A menstrual disc is a flexible disc-shaped device worn inside the body to collect menstrual flow. They are similar to a menstrual cup however have a flat-fit design. Discs are usually made of medical grade silicone and are folded and inserted into the vagina and are tucked under the cervix at the back and above the pubic bone at the front.
Once in place, a menstrual disc will collect menstrual flow for up to 8 hours, and should then be removed, cleaned and reinserted.
Menstrual discs are a great alternative to cups if you have tried a menstrual cup and didn't work for you or if you want to enjoy mess-free period sex They often suit people with low cervix or a tilted uterus as they have a flat-fit design.
It can be a little confusing as some manufacturers call their discs cups however we generally refer to cone shaped devices as cups and flatter-fit, bowl-shaped devices as discs.
Before you use a menstrual disc
Your menstrual disc is unlikely to be supplied in a sterile state. Disinfect your menstrual disc by placing it in a pot of boiling water. Follow the manufacturers instructions the length of time to boil your disc for as this varies between brands but is usually between 3-8 minutes.
Allow the water to cool completely before handling your disc with clean hands.
How to insert your menstrual disc
Wash your hands. Your hands should be clean before inserting your menstrual disc. Wash your hands with a mild soap.
- Find a comfortable position. Stand with your legs apart, or with one leg up on the toilet. Most importantly, stay relaxed as this will make insertion easier!
Fold your menstrual disc. Hold the disc with the bowl side of the disc facing down. Use index finger and thumb to squeeze the rim of the menstrual disc together to form a long slender shape. Some discs have different design features, see the section below for tips on how to hold and insert these discs.
Insert your menstrual disc. Use one hand to part the labia and the other hand to insert your folded menstrual disc into your vagina at a 45-degree angle, aiming it towards the tailbone (not straight up). Insert the rim of the disc, past the cervix then gently push the front of the rim up and tuck it above the pubic bone. Tucking the rim of the disc up at the front is important as this is what keeps your menstrual disc in place. if your cervix tilts towards the back, you may need to angle the disc down then upward in a scooping motion to ensure the disc sits under the cervix and not beside it.
- Clean up. Wipe around the labia to remove any residual menstrual blood, and wash your hands thoroughly.
Wear. Your disc can be worn for up to 8 hours.
Folding cups with different design features;
|Towards the spine||Example||Towards the pubic pone||How to hold and insert|
|Back||Front||Wider rim on one side: Squeeze the disc with the widest side of the rim pointing outward. The widest part of the disc will be at the back and sit closest to the tail bone when inserted.|
|Back||Front||Stem: Place the stem (sometimes referred to as a string or tail) in the crease of the hand when folding the disc. The stem will be at the front of the cup and tuck up above the pubic bone when inserted.|
|Back||Front||Finger tab: place the the finger tab (a finger-sized indent or grip under the rim) should be placed in the crease of the hand when folding the disc. The grip tab will be at the front of the cup and tuck up above the pubic bone when inserted.|
|Back||Front||Variable bowl depth: Squeeze the disc with the deeper side of the bowl pointing outward. The deeper part of the disc will be the back and the shallower part will tuck above the pubic bone.|
|Round: Discs which are round with no variable bowl depth or other discerning features such as tails or finger grips can be folded and inserted any way.|
How to remove your menstrual disc
Remove, empty and clean your menstrual disc every 8 hours* or sooner if you have a heavy flow.
If you are new to using a menstrual disc, try removing it in the shower where you will be more relaxed and less likely to be worried about making a mess.
If emptying in a toilet, line the toilet with a little toilet paper first - this helps the blood flush on the first flush.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands with a mild soap.
- Find a comfortable position. Sit on the toilet, squat down, stand upright with your legs apart or stand with your leg up on a toilet or step. Relax your body.
- Hook the rim or pull the stem. Insert your index finger into the vagina, bending it until you are able to hook the front rim of the cup with your finger, then gently move it lower. If your disc has a stem, gently pull the stem to move the disc lower.
- Remove your disc. Once the disc is near the entrance of the vagina, pinch the rim with the index finger and thumb to remove it.
- Empty. Ensuring you have a good grip on your disc (they can be slippery) empty the fluid into the toilet and flush.
- Clean. Wash your disc using clean, drinkable water and a menstrual cup wash or a mild, pH-balanced soap. Rinse thoroughly to remove any soap residue.
- Reinsert your cup and wash your hands.
Cleaning and storing your menstrual disc
With proper care, a menstrual disc can last many years.
During your cycle, clean your disc each time it is removed and reinserted with clean, drinkable water and a mild, menstrual cup wash or pH-balanced soap.
At the end of your period, place your menstrual disc in boiling water on the stove. Follow the manufactures recommendation for boiling time (usually between 3-8 minutes) to disinfect your disc. Set an alarm to prevent the pot from boiling dry.
In between periods, store your menstrual disc in its breathable fabric pouch. Never store your menstrual disc in an airtight container or plastic bag - they need to "breath" and bacteria or mould may grow without airflow.
When to replace your menstrual disc
Your menstrual disc should be replaced if it has: cracks, holes, tears or other physical damage, developed an odour that can’t be removed with cleaning, or changed colour (other than regular staining) or texture.
Avoid digging fingernails into your disc when removing it as this may cause the silicone to tear.
How to dispose of your menstrual disc
Check with the manufacturer but most cups will need to be disposed of in your household garbage if they are made of silicone as silicone is not recyclable in Australia. You can also check with your local council to see if they have a facility which handles recycling of silicone.
Internal period care products carry some risk. Here's what you need to know about using a menstrual disc safely;
- Seek advice from a medical professional before using a menstrual disc if you have any medical concerns, gynaecological conditions, have an intrauterine device (IUD), have recently given birth, have had surgery in the pelvic area, or if you have ever experienced Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
- Do not wear a menstrual disc for post-partum bleeding.
- Whilst menstrual discs can be worn during sexual intercourse, they will not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy however they can be used during sexual intercourse.
- Practice good hand hygiene when using a menstrual disc and follow the cleaning instructions. Keep fingernails short if possible.
- Only use as directed and do not exceed the 8 hour* maximum wear time.
- Seek medical assistance if you are unable to remove your menstrual disc.
- IMPORTANT: Internal menstrual products have been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death. If you feel unwell with fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, fainting or skin rash, remove your menstrual disc and go to the hospital emergency department immediately.
* Some manufacturers say discs can be worn for 12 hours but we recommend emptying every 8 hours. This is in line with many governing body recommendations for changing internal period products an will reduce the risk of contracting TSS.