Menstrual Disc 101: How to Use One and Who They’re For
Alternative period products have taken the internet by storm in recent years, and one of the latest innovations to enter the conversation is the menstrual disc.
If you have no idea what a menstrual disc is, or you simply want to learn more, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about menstrual discs including how they work, when to use one, and how they compare to the infamous menstrual cups.
What is a menstrual disc?
A menstrual disc is a type of period product similar to a menstrual cup. However, instead of the traditional “cup” shape, it has a more shallow design like a disc. To collect menstrual blood, it sits high up in the vaginal canal just below the cervix in the area of the vagina known as the “vaginal fornix”.
Menstrual discs come in both reusable and disposable forms, and they can typically be worn safely for up to 8-12 hours. One of the primary benefits of menstrual discs is that, unlike menstrual cups, they do not create “suction” in the vagina. This is a key advantage for individuals with intrauterine devices (IUDs) who are anxious about their menstrual cup dislodging or pulling out their IUD.
When to use a menstrual disc
Who are they for?
Menstrual discs are designed for menstruating individuals looking for an alternative to pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. Because they can typically be worn safely for up to 12 hours, they are particularly attractive to individuals who do not like having to change out their period product multiple times throughout the day.
Another perk is that menstrual discs do not form a suction in the vaginal canal like menstrual cups do, so they are popular with those who use an IUD for birth control. Even though the likelihood of a menstrual cup pulling out an IUD is rare, many people still enjoy the peace of mind that comes with using a menstrual disc instead of a cup.
When should you use one?
Just like a pad or tampon, menstrual discs should only be used during the time of menstruation in order to collect period blood. They should never be used outside of menstruation.
Can you wear one during your entire period?
Most likely, no. It is safe to use menstrual discs for approximately 8-12 hours at a time. Therefore, if your period lasts longer than 8-12 hours, you will need to change your menstrual disc regularly.
Even though a menstrual disc must be changed during your period, they are still safe to use for a longer period of time when compared to a tampon – which must be changed at least every 4-8 hours.
How to use a menstrual disc
Inserting a menstrual disc
Each brand of menstrual disc will come with its own insertion instructions. However, in general, the process of inserting a menstrual disc is as follows:
- Fold the disc in half longways.
- Position the disc so that it is facing forwards towards your face.
- Using one or both hands, insert the disc into your vagina, making sure that it is still folded in half while making its way up.
- Once the back of the disc is positioned below the cervix, push the front side of the disc upwards so that it is resting at the base of the cervix.
Once inserted, the menstrual disc should not cause any pain. You may feel some slight pressure, however, it will not be noticeable as you go about your day.
Wearing a menstrual disc
A menstrual disc can typically be worn for up to 12 hours. During this time, you are free to carry on with your day as usual. This means you’re good to exercise, play sports, and even have sex without the fear of leakage.
It’s important to note here that when you go to the bathroom, you may notice that your menstrual disc “leaks” blood while urinating. This is perfectly normal and is often referred to as the “auto dump” or “self-emptying” feature. Many individuals like this aspect of a menstrual disc, as it allows for the disc to empty itself regularly throughout the day.
Removing a menstrual disc
There are a few different ways to remove a menstrual disc, and it may take some experimenting to figure out the way that is the most comfortable (and least messy!) for you.
One possibility is to insert one finger, locate the rim of the disc, hook your finger around it, and gently remove the disc through your vagina. Another method is to use your finger and thumb to pinch the disc before pulling it down.
Some menstrual discs come with a stem that you can pull, which makes removal relatively straightforward. Remember – a menstrual disc does not form a suction in your vagina, so it is perfectly safe to pull the device from the stem.
It is normal for some spillage to occur while removing your menstrual disc, which can get quite messy. Before removing in a public bathroom, it’s a good idea to practice at home a few times so that you can get the hang of it.
Cleaning a menstrual disc
If your menstrual disc is reusable, it will need to be thoroughly cleaned between each use. While each brand will have its own instructions for how to clean, generally speaking, you will likely need to:
- Rinse the disc in cold water (this helps to prevent staining).
- Wash thoroughly with warm water and some type of mild cleanser.
- Use a cloth to wipe off any residue.
- To sanitize between cycles, you can boil the disc in water for no more than 5 minutes, wipe it off with rubbing alcohol, and then set aside to air dry.
Please note that this set of cleaning instructions is based on the cleaning instructions for Saalt. Instructions for other menstrual disc brands may vary. Always follow the instructions of the product that you are using.
Storing a menstrual disc
A reusable menstrual disc will likely be made of silicone, which will require some type of “breathable” storage to keep it dry. Most of the time, a new menstrual disc will already come with a bag to store it in – so be mindful of this when throwing away the packaging.
Menstrual disc terminology
A “menstrual cup” is a type of period product that resembles a funnel-shaped cup. It is typically made of a flexible material like silicone or rubber, and it is designed to rest inside the vaginal canal and collect period blood. Once emptied, the menstrual cup can be cleaned, sanitized, and reused again.
One of the primary benefits of menstrual cups is that they are eco-friendly, especially when compared to disposable alternatives like pads and tampons. Another benefit is that they are safe to wear for up to 12 hours, which is longer than the recommended 4-8 hours for tampons. Menstrual cups come in different sizes, so it’s worth doing some research and shopping around in order to find the perfect menstrual cup that suits your body.
Mira actually has a menstrual cup available in the shop. Take a look here: Mira Menstrual Cup.
A “period cup” is simply another name for a menstrual cup. Again, a “menstrual” or “period cup” is a reusable, funnel-shaped cup that is inserted into the vagina in order to collect period fluid during menstruation.
A “period disc” is another name for a “menstrual disc”, which is a shallow, circular-shaped disc that sits just below the cervix. Its purpose is to collect period fluid during menstruation.
Unlike menstrual cups which are always reusable, period discs can be either disposable or reusable. Another perk is that period discs can be safely worn during intercourse, making them an attractive alternative to menstrual cups, pads, and tampons.
A “menstrual ring” is yet another way to say “menstrual disc”. Again, a menstrual ring is a circular-shaped disc that sits below the cervix and collects period fluid during menstruation.
A “flex disc” is a specific type of menstrual disc manufactured by the period product brand, Flex. The term can be used to describe the brand’s reusable menstrual discs or their disposable menstrual discs.
Recommended menstrual discs
One of the most popular menstrual disc brands is Flex. They create three different types of menstrual discs including the disposable Flex Disc, the Flex Reusable Disc, and the more eco-friendly disposable option Flex Plant+ Disc. All discs offer 12 hours of protection. If you prefer the disposable options, it’s also possible to sign up for a regular prescription so that you always have access to a flex disc when you need it!
Saalt is another alternative period product brand primarily known for its reusable menstrual cups. However, one of their newest products is a reusable menstrual disc called the Saalt Disc. Similar to Flex, Saalt Discs also boast up to 12 hours of protection, and according to the website, can be reused for up to 10 years.
Another popular brand for alternative period products is Hello. They offer a range of reusable menstrual cups and reusable liners. Although it’s not available to purchase just yet, US customers can now pre-order their brand new reusable menstrual disc on the website.
Menstrual disc FAQs
Are menstrual discs safe?
Yes. When used correctly, menstrual discs are safe to use.
However, because menstrual discs are inserted inside of the body like a tampon or menstrual cup, there is a slight risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is caused by a bacterial infection and can become life-threatening. To prevent TSS, it’s important to always wash your hands before inserting or removing your menstrual disc. If your disc is reusable, make sure that it is washed and sterilized as instructed by the manufacturer.
Can a menstrual disc get stuck?
No. Menstrual discs cannot get stuck inside your body. It may take some time to get used to the removal process, however, with a little practice and patience you should be able to get the hang of it. Compared to menstrual cups, menstrual discs are relatively easier to remove as they do not cause “suction” in the vagina.
Can a menstrual disc go bad?
Even though reusable menstrual discs are much more eco-friendly than non-reusable period products, they do not last forever. Even with proper care, a menstrual disc will only last around 5-10 years, depending on the quality of the materials, how well it has been cared for, and how it has been stored.
If your menstrual disc is sticky, flaky, or chalky, it may be time for a replacement. It’s also time for a replacement if your menstrual disc has any abrasions or tears.
In general, your menstrual cup will naturally thin over time due to regular boiling during the sanitization process. If you find that it has thinned too much and that it no longer fits or holds like it used to, this is another sign that you should get a new menstrual disc.
Can you have sex with a menstrual disc?
Yes. It is perfectly safe to have sex with a menstrual disc. This is a major perk of using a menstrual disc compared to a menstrual cup. However, bear in mind that it could become dislodged during certain positions. The best approach is to open up to your partner about it, put a towel down just in case, and take some time to experiment with different positions to figure out what works best.