… and have a better period experience
Lunette, DivaCup, Moon Cup, Ruby Cup, Yuuki, EvaCup, Fleurcup, Super Jennie, MeLuna. Whatever the brand, menstrual cups have been rising in popularity as women’s personal hygiene product of choice.
Environmentally-friendly, comfortable, convenient, and cost-effective, they are fast becoming the most preferred choice by women worldwide.
What. Is. That?
A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product usually made from medical-grade silicone, is shaped like a bell, and is flexible to varying degrees. Like a tampon, it’s worn inside the body during your period to catch menstrual fluid. About every 4-12 hours (depending on flow), it is removed, emptied, washed, and reinserted.
How is this different?
Unlike pads and tampons, the blood is simply collected, not absorbed. Also, pads and tampons are single use. You use them, they do their job for a few hours, and then you throw them out. Menstrual cups can be reused for 5-10 years with proper care. You don’t have to buy a new one every month or even every year. Also, with products like pads or even period panties (like THINX), odor may be a worry. Not so with menstrual cups.
Also, while tampons may make you feel more confident in the summer wearing your bikini – I’m sure we’ve all had that awkward moment of the string dangling out. Menstrual cups = no string = no dangle = bring on the fun in the sun!
Since menstrual cups are reusable, this helps cut down on waste. Every year, an estimated 20 billion tampons and pads are thrown away in North America alone. They are typically incinerated or put in landfills or even put in the ocean as marine trash. Most pads and tampons are made of cotton and plastic – plastic takes 50+ years to start degrading and cotton starts breaking down after 90 days if it is composted.
There are some organic, biodegradable tampon options out there at a higher price point. Organic tampon producers say that regular tampons use conventional cotton grown with pesticides and synthetic fibers that are bleached and whitened with chlorine and may contain other chemicals, such as fragrances or dyes. Buying organic will at least reduce your carbon footprint compared to conventional.
Organic tampons? Who has oversight over that? The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates tampons as a “medical device”. That means that manufacturers are not required to share specifics of their ingredients or to provide studies to anyone other than the FDA proving safety. They’re actually in the same category as condoms and wheelchairs. Also, organic or not, your risk for toxic shock syndrome is the same and there is no data to say that organic tampons are better for your health.
I would like to note that menstrual cups do not contain chemicals and common side effects of tampon use, like dryness, are not reported with menstrual cups.
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a potentially fatal bacterial illness. The association between TSS and tampon use has been recognized and TSS caused by menstrual cup use appears to be very low – only one reported case of which I am aware at the time of this writing. Believe it or not, the vagina has its own flora, just like you know there is flora in your gut (probiotics, anyone?). Tampons can change this vaginal flora, but menstrual cups has shown not to have an impact. It is the presence of S. aureus or S. pyogenes which cause TSS and are normally present in the vagina.
You are entirely able to continue your active lifestyle and fitness routine while wearing a cup. Check out this YouTube video by MegSquats (female powerlifter) that ultimately sealed the deal for me when it came time to decide whether or not to purchase. I was worried about how it would hold up to someone who perhaps led a more active lifestyle, especially one that involved lifting weights.
For many, they have even reported less pain and cramping.
You also become more aware of your body. With tampons and pads, you don’t really know how heavy of a flow you are having. Since the cups collect rather than absorb, you can actually see how your flow changes throughout your cycle. More information = more power.
More power = more self-confident and less self-conscious. Apparently, it’s entirely possible to have sex while wearing a cup (or at least certain brands), if that’s your thing. Note: a menstrual cup will not protect against pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections.
According to a HuffPost article, on average, a woman has her period from 3-7 days and menstruates from age 13 until age 51 – this equates to roughly 456 periods over 38 years. We are going to assume that you are the average woman and you have a perfectly regular period without skipping a month or being on birth control that manipulates your period or got pregnant or any other factor that may influence how many periods you end up having in a lifetime. This is simply for comparison purposes.
70% of women use tampons. If you follow instructions, you should be changing your tampon every 4-8 hours and a box containing 36 tampons costs around $7 at the drugstore. This ends up costing $1,773.33 in a lifetime.
Some women, especially younger girls, prefer pads and many use panty liners as back-up protection from leakage. Assuming the liners are more for back-up purposes (remember, we assumed you were the average woman and that woman uses tampons), you may use 5 per period. Again, a box of 36 costs around $7 at the drugstore. That costs $443.33 in a lifetime – and we COMBINE this with the cost of tampons = $2,216.66 total cost.
I paid $29.95 for my menstrual cup. Assuming I take good care of it and replace it every 5 years, and assuming I have periods for the average 38 years, this would cost only $239.60. Even if I do choose to use liners for back-up protection, we’re looking at $682.93 and a total cost savings of $1,533.73. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a big enough savings for me to want to make the switch right there.
Plus, you’re never at risk of running out when you’re out and about! No having to ask your coworkers or a girlfriend for a spare tampon. Most cups come with a cute carrying case and you can simply keep it at home or in your purse when not in use.
Most brands have a larger and a smaller size. The smaller size is typically meant for women under the age of 30 who have not given birth vaginally, whereas the larger size is typically meant for women over the age of 30 and/or who have given birth. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. You may find that the larger size works better because you have a heavy flow or the smaller works better if you are physically fit and have strong pelvic floor muscles.
They even come in different colors, if that matters to you at all.
As far as brands go, I myself own the DivaCup (Model 1) and love it (purchased through Thrive Market but also available on Amazon and in some drugstores). It fits well, I cannot feel it while in use, and I can go about my day without worrying about leaks.
As with anything new, there is a learning curve. I researched for a couple of months before switching over to the cup, but I was well aware of the possible pitfalls going in to the process.
- Insertion – there are a few different techniques, most commonly folding the cup into a “U” shape. Personally, I like the triangle method. Also, aim for your tailbone, not your bellybutton. Once inserted, you can feel the cup “pop” open and create a seal. Rotating the cup after inserting can help ensure the seal is good enough to prevent leakage.
- Removal – this is probably where the most people FREAK. THE. EFF. OUT. No, it will not get “stuck” inside of you. You will not need to go to the Emergency Room to get it removed. You’re fine. Breathe. Remember that learning curve? Pinch the base and pull. It will take a good amount of effort due to the seal. Also, it is more difficult first thing in the morning because the cup tends to migrate up a little while sleeping. It’s OKAY. Make a cup of coffee. Take a shower. Then try again. Actually, the weight of additional menstrual flow will also help lower the cup. Bearing down also helps. A LOT. What do I mean by that? You know that feeling when you’re constipated and trying to push a stubborn stool out? That’s what I’m referring to. That will help. And, no, the cup will not fall out when you go to the bathroom.
- Intimacy – some women are just plain uncomfortable touching themselves, let alone having to stick their fingers inside their bodies to pull out a cup filled with their own blood (how badass does that sound!?). Try not to get too caught up in all of it. It’s YOUR body, after all. You should be comfortable in and with your own body, and this can be a good step if you are currently struggling in that area.
That’s up to you!
I will leave it at this though, in one study, over 90% of women who were told to use a menstrual cup vs. a tampon said that they would continue to choose the menstrual cup as their main form of feminine hygiene product.