Reusable menstrual cups and discs are great eco-friendly alternatives to tampons and pads. But what’s the difference between a menstrual cup and disc? While they serve the same purpose — to collect menstrual flow — they differ in shape, fit, and how they create a seal.

Below we’ll illustrate a menstrual cup versus menstrual disc comparison, to clear up any confusion.

Cup vs. Disc Shape

Both reusable cups and discs are typically made of 100% medical grade silicone, which is flexible to fold for insertion. The reusable menstrual cup is a longer and narrower basin, while reusable discs are shallower and wider. Both have a soft and flexible rim that sits firmly in place once it unfolds inside the vaginal canal.

The average cup collects 15ml to 30ml of menstrual fluid, or 3 to 6 tampons worth. The average menstrual disc holds between 3 and 7 tampons worth of flow at a time. Both can be worn safely for up to 12 hours of period protection, emptying sooner, depending on heaviness of flow. 

Disc vs. Cup Fit

Insertion and removal of both cup and disc is basically the same, but the positioning once inserted is their main difference. When inserting either, fold the rim in on itself and down to tampon-size. The menstrual cup folds a second time, creating a u-fold or push-down fold. The disc folds once and inserts in one long narrow shape.

DivaCup U-Folded.
Menstrual disc folded.

Once folded, the menstrual cup, inserts into the vaginal canal with the open end of the catch basin directed towards your tailbone and the stem towards your palm. Once inside, while gripping the base (not the stem), rotate one complete rotation to unfold the cup and create a suction seal with the vaginal walls. The cup rests at the base of the vaginal canal and collects menstrual flow as it is releases through the cervix.

Illustrated DivaCup rotating to form seal
Inserting your folded DivaCup.
Illustrated DivaCup inserted
DivaCup once inserted.

The menstrual disc placement is slightly higher. Because it is a shallower dish, it is a more comfortable solution for people with lower cervix heights. It is inserted lengthwise, pushed back towards the tailbone, and unfolds once tucked behind the cervix. At the front, it is propped up by the pubic bone. The menstrual disc sits higher in the vaginal canal around the cervix to collect menstrual flow before it passes down the vaginal canal. This allows the option of mess-free period sex.

Illustration of inserting a menstrual disc
Inserting a folded menstrual disc.
Illustration of inserted menstrual disc
A menstrual disc inserted to collect flow.

Menstrual Cup vs. Disc Seal

The seal created with the period disc vs. cup also differs. The disc inserts higher, fitting firmly in place around the cervix and does not require suction. The cup stays lower and requires suction to seal and prevent leaks.

As a result, you can hook one finger onto the disc and pull it gently out without first breaking a seal.

Illustration of removing a menstrual disc
Removing a menstrual disc.

When removing the menstrual cup, however, remember to pinch the base of the cup to release the suction first. This encourages a smoother removal process.

Illustration of gripping DivaCup for removal
Pinching the base of the DivaCup for removal.
Illustration of full DivaCup
Keep the full DivaCup upright once removed.
Illustration of emptying a DivaCup
Emptying a DivaCup.

A Matter of Preference

Both menstrual cups and discs provide all-day reusable period protection. It’s merely a matter of personal preference on which shape, fit, and seal you prefer. When selecting reusable period products always consider which design you might be more comfortable with. It may take some trial and error to determine which works best for you, but both are great options as a long-lasting and cost effective alternative to pads and tampons.