I've always had a heavy flow — and by "heavy," I mean overnight pads during the day and changing them every two hours when I'm out and about. It's been this way since I got my period and the accompanying back-breaking cramps in the bathroom of my judo gym the summer before seventh grade. Out of necessity, I quickly got my period routine down to a science and found comfort in diaper-thick pads that would last me three hours, maybe four. Tampons were elusive — they never seemed as effective as they claimed — and even if I used one designed for heavy flows, I still had to wear a pad to make sure I didn't bleed through.
Fast-forward a decade, and menstrual cups became a buzzy option that promised all-day wear; though I quickly dismissed them as another way for people without life-disrupting cycles to continue going about their day. I just knew I was producing so much blood that no cup, no matter how big, would do anything but complicate my already-stressful period. But then I tried one. And it worked.
The basics of a menstrual cup is that it’s a reusable, internal period product that sits inside the vagina and collects menstrual fluid — quite literally a little cup for your period. Menstrual cups have grown in popularity because they are not just beneficial for the environment, your wallet, and your body’s comfort, but also because they just do their job well, as Kim Rosas, period educator and founder of Period Nirvana, puts it. “They really work at collecting period blood instead of absorbing it,” Rosas says.
Whereas a regular tampon can hold about 5 to 8 milliliters of fluid, cups can hold anywhere from 20 to 50 milliliters depending on the brand. Not to mention, they’re made of medical-grade silicon, making them safe to wear for up to 12 hours at a time. “Menstrual cups are the most efficient period product on the market when it comes to capacity of holding large amounts of menstrual fluid,” says Victoria Alexander, period coach and reproductive health educator. And if you properly clean and take care of a menstrual cup, it can last you up to 10 years.
Most menstrual cups aren’t necessarily designed with heavy periods in mind, and yet they still work better for those with mega-flows than most other period products. “Between the longer wear time and the higher capacity, someone with a heavy period is already benefiting from using a menstrual cup,” Rosas says. “That's not even taking into account that there are special cups that hold more that are designed for someone with heavy periods.”
What Constitutes A Heavy Menstrual Flow?
As an FYI, there is a difference between just a heavy flow and something you should see a doctor for. According to the CDC, if you’re bleeding for more than seven days, need to change your tampon or pad after less than two hours, or pass clots the size of a quarter or bigger, you should visit a doctor.
It should also be noted that menstrual cups definitely aren’t one size fits all, and finding one for you if you have a heavy flow won’t just consist of finding a “large” menstrual cup. “Everyone has a different ‘height’ of cervix,” Alexander says. Some people might benefit from a longer cup, whereas others with a shorter cervical height will need a shorter one. It’s also important to consider pelvic floor strength, as some cups are firmer and best suited for people who have given birth, while others are softer and more malleable.
Many people with periods are hesitant to convert to menstrual cups, because to be honest, it can seem daunting and scary. This, says Rosas, is a common feeling among people making the switch. “Every single person who's ever decided to use a menstrual cup or disc is nervous about it [fitting] them,” she says. “But really you can't feel them. They're completely undetectable in your body. They move with you; they're not dry; they're not rigid.”
Ahead, you’ll find the best menstrual cups rounded up by NYLON — all of which keep heavy, clotty flows in mind.
We only include products that have been independently selected by NYLON's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
1. My Holy Grail Cup
With a three- to four-tampon capacity (I like to think of this as the number of hours I have before I need to change it), Saalt is my "Goldilocks" cup. The stiff yet flexible silicone makes it easy for me to insert, and it easily pops into place. I've never had any issues with it slipping, or worse, getting stuck, and I forget I'm even wearing it most of the time. It also comes in a softer version.
2. The Gold Standard
“Merula XL is sort of the gold standard for high-capacity menstrual cups,” says Rosas. “It holds 50 milliliters, and it has a bell-shaped bottom, which gives you more capacity.” That means this menstrual cup holds about the same amount as two and a half of the largest commercial tampons.
3. The Comfortable One
Loved by reviewers for its length (this comes in handy if you have a high cervix) and easy insertion, Pixie Cups are some of the most affordable on the market and are available in large and extra-large, making them perfect menstrual cups for heavy periods. The larger cups have a six- and seven-tampon capacity respectively, reducing the likelihood of leaks and overflow.
4. The One For First-Timers
A good option for beginners, the Lena (like Saalt) is available in two firmness options — regular and sensitive. This is ideal for anyone who finds firm cups painful and wants something a little softer. If it's your first time inserting a cup, stick with the firmer option (they tend to be easier to insert) and swap for a softer material if it feels unusually uncomfortable or you experience additional cramping.
5. The Cheap Yet Effective Option
Ideal for anyone who wants a cup that falls somewhere between soft and firm, the Blossom Cup is affordable and comes in a range of fun, bright hues. The best part? It’s less than $15, so you’ll get a reusable period product for the price of just one or two boxes of tampons.
6. The Allergy-Free Pick
The OrganiCup is made from medical-grade silicone derived from quartz and has no artificial coloring — so if you're concerned about that, this is a good option. The brand also partners with NGOs such as Womena and Freedom4Girls to help destigmatize menstruation around the world.
7. The One With The Best Color Selection
If color selection is your priority, then Lunette is a must for your period needs. The brand offers lots of fun hues — there's even a violet one that feels particularly cheery and bright — and a slightly firm silicone for easy use.
8. The High Capacity One
Due to its bell-shaped bottom, Tieutcup’s cup works well for those who have a very heavy flow and need a higher capacity, according to Rosas. It comes in a size small and large.
Additional reporting by Claire Fox.
Kim Rosas, period educator and founder of Period Nirvana
Victoria Alexander, period coach and reproductive health educator
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