Most menstrual cup brands will list in their benefits that they can be worn for up to 8 or 12 hours. This has caused some confusion amongst customers who think that because one brand states up to 8 hours and another up to 12 hours, that the latter would be a better choice since it can be worn longer. In this post we will explain the difference between these statements, and also how long in reality you can wear a cup.
Why brands have different wearing times
When menstrual cups were first becoming popular, the recommended wearing time of a cup was widely considered (and marketed) to be 12 hours. This was a general safety precaution to encourage women not to use their cup for any continual stretch of more than 12 hours. The timeframe was a guide, and many women have worn their cup for longer. This may be due to forgetting all about it (it does happen!), sleeping more than 12 hours, or just not being able to remove it within this timeframe for various reasons. In 2016, the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) reviewed menstrual cup advertising claims and recommended that the wearing time advertised by companies be changed from ‘up to 12 hrs’ to ‘up to 8 hrs’. In recent years many new companies have entered the period cup market and the regulations surrounding menstrual cups have been significantly relaxed (Although, certain packaging and labelling requirements are still enforced in Australia). Due to this, and the fact that consumers can access cups from International markets (where regulations may differ), it is very common to find different brands stating different maximum wearing times.
Your flow will determine how long you can wear a menstrual cup
When choosing which cup you are going to purchase, do not make your choice based on how long the company says their cup can be worn for. How long you can wear a cup does not usually depend on the brand of cup you buy, but depends more on how heavy your menstrual flow is. With most cups holding a very similar amount of menstrual fluid, it will be your flow which will determine which cup you should buy and how often you will have to empty it.
For women with a light to moderate flow, it is likely that they will be able to wear the cup all day (8 hours) before needing to empty it. Women that have a moderate to heavy flow may need to empty the cup an extra time on the first day or so of their period. For anyone who has a very heavy flow, they will likely need to empty the cup a few times throughout the first day or two of their cycle. Once things settle down, they should be able to wear the cup all day before needing to empty it. Even if you do need to empty your cup a few extra times, this is usually still less than the number of times you may have changed conventional pads and tampons. If you have a very heavy flow, leaking is also generally non-existent, or much less when using a cup.
It is important to understand that the timeframes given by the manufacturers are a guide as to how long a cup can be worn (up to 8 hours), not a definitive timeframe that will apply to all women.
So in summary. Some approximate timeframes that you should be able to use your cup before needing to empty are below. However, remember that this can vary from woman to woman:
- Light to moderate flow: Should get up to 8 hours before needing to empty
- Moderate to heavy flow: May need to empty at around 6-8 hours on the first day or two of cycle
- Heavy to very heavy flow: May need to empty every 3-5 hours on the first day or two of cycle
If you have a very heavy flow, you may like to consider a higher capacity cups such as the Super Jennie, XO Flo, or Merula XL, to help reduce the number of times you need to empty it. This will also help with reducing any leakage while wearing overnight. While learning how to use a cup and monitoring your fluid loss, we always recommend wearing a panty liner in the event that you do experience any leaks. Rather than choosing a cup based on how long the brand says you can wear it for, choose a cup based on it’s capacity and your level of flow. Use our menstrual cup comparison tables to help determine the best size and brand of cup for your individual situation.