Written by Sarah Prager and medically reviewed by Dr. Gary Levy, Reproductive Endocrinologist specializing in the treatment of fertility and complex reproductive disorders with Fertility Cloud.
If you’re deep into the trying-to-conceive (or TTC) communities online, you may have come across something called “the soft cup method” for trying to increase your chances of getting pregnant. But what is it and—more importantly—does it work?
What is the soft cup method?
The soft cup method is when you use a menstrual cup (one brand name is Softcup) to keep ejaculate in the vaginal canal near the cervix after insemination. The idea behind it is that instead of sperm draining away from the cervix before they can reach it, the cup will keep all of the sperm in place and give them additional opportunity to swim up. It’s basically a tool to assist the concept behind laying on your back afterwards.
You can either insert the sperm into the vagina first with a specially designed insemination syringe kit like Mosie, or through intercourse and then insert the cup after to keep the sperm in place, or you can put the sperm directly into the cup and then insert the cup into the vagina to inseminate.
Does the soft cup method work?
There isn’t any evidence to say it does besides anecdotes. Many couples swear by it even though it has not been extensively studied.
“After struggling with unexplained fertility for 19 months, I tried a menstrual cup to get pregnant and succeeded,” one woman named Smriti shares. She laughed when she first learned of the method on Reddit. “I was a bit grossed out, too, but after I discussed it with my partner, we concluded that there wasn’t any harm in trying.” She used the cup she already had, though she was nervous about exposing herself to an infection by keeping the sperm inside for too long. She got pregnant that same month.
Forums are filled with countless similar stories but board-certified OBGYN Dr. Nicole Williams is skeptical: “There is not a single shred of contemporary evidence that using a menstrual cup helps improve fertility.”
One study published in 1997 did show that use of a cervical cap increased conception rates, but another from 1996 showed the opposite. Dr. Williams believes that the strongest sperm would reach the cervix without this method and giving the weaker sperm a chance to get there, if that’s what would happen, would not help. However, cervical mucus already filters out sperm with poor motility or morphology on its own. The majority of sperm do not need to reach the uterus to achieve conception. In addition, older studies demonstrated that sperm arrives in the tubes within minutes of ejaculation or insemination.
While menstrual cups are not approved by the FDA as an insemination device, the soft cup method has been the one to get many people pregnant that it may be worth further study.
Is the soft cup method safe?
There are not enough studies done on the safety of soft cups for insemination, however, there does not appear to be any evident risk. Don’t leave anything inserted in the vaginal canal for too long. Follow the guidelines of the cup you use, which is usually 12 hours maximum wear.
What’s the verdict?
Although research is limited, many people love this method for a reason. Soft discs are the most popular option for this method because they can get the sperm closest to the cervix, as opposed to menstrual cups with a longer shape that would hold the sperm in a cup further away from the cervix.
For those doing at-home inseminations, getting every last sperm close to the cervix is a high priority. Although you do not need to use a soft cup or anything else with Mosie for it to be effective, you may still be interested in using one! Worth noting, leakage after insemination or intercourse is completely normal and a very common part of the process.
Even if the soft cup method is only anecdotally proven, that can be enough to go forward if it doesn’t add stress to your insemination process. If you’re wondering if the soft cup method is right for you, it’s best to check in with your doctor. If you have questions about using a cup method with your Mosie Kit, please do reach out. We wish you all the best no matter your path, and are always here to help and support. Fingers crossed for you!