The experts have spoken… menstrual cups are the way to go when it comes to containing menstrual flow. The world’s first systematic international review of menstrual cup safety and usage reports that menstrual cups are safe, easy to use, perform on par with tampons and pads in terms of leakage, and are cost-effective. A menstrual cup is a small, flexible, reusable cup made from medical-grade silicone or latex rubber. They are shaped like a bell and are inserted into your vagina so that the bell-shaped edge sits up against the mouth to your uterus, your cervix. Menstrual cups may be purchased in drug stores, grocery stores, and online. Some come in different sizes and others are one-size-fits-all. After reading through this list of the top ten reasons why women switch to menstrual cup, you’ll be ready to give one a try.
- You will save money.
One commercially available menstrual cup costs less than what most of us spend per month on tampons and pads (30 USD) and can last you up to 10 years according to some manufacturers.
- Menstrual cups reduce waste.
49.8 billion tampons and sanitary pads plus their packaging end up in landfills or sewer systems each year in the U.S. But with menstrual cups, there are no plastic applicators, no wrappers, no chemical byproducts from production, and no bio-waste from disposable menstrual products. One cup manufacturer estimates that in 2 years of use, their cup will keep approximately 528 pads or tampons per woman out of landfills or one truckload of waste in 10 years for every single person who switches to a cup.
- They work for all amounts of flow.
Menstrual cups do not leak any more than tampons or pads. With a single product, your period is covered. There is no need to have an entire bathroom cabinet full of different sizes of tampons and pads.
- Menstrual cups are compact, portable, and great for travel.
Every had a vacation unfortunately timed to coincide with your menstrual cycle? Who wants to fill up precious suitcase real estate with a a week’s supply of tampons or pads? Well, with a menstrual cup, packing just got a lot easier. Some menstrual cups even come with their own carrying case. You should store your menstrual cup in a breathable pouch to protect from dirt and germs, but something that still provides some air circulation to let the cup fully dry out in between periods.
- Fewer trips to the bathroom and less leaking.
Most women with regular flow can wear a cup for 12 hours without having to empty it. Recommended wear time is 4-6 hours. Menstrual cups hold up to 5 times more liquid than regular tampons can.
- No increased risk for infections or irritation.
Tampon and pad use can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria, yeast, and vaginal pH levels which discourage the growth of harmful bacteria. Menstrual cups leave your vaginal ecosystem intact and may actually lower your risk for vaginal infections when compared with tampons or scented pad.
Tampons are designed to expand to absorb any moisture, even when menstrual blood is not present. Wearing tampons can dry out the vagina’s natural moisture levels and lubricating fluids. This is why it can be uncomfortable to remove a “dry” tampon and you might even be causing micro-tears in your vagina’s tissues. On low flow days, you can coat your menstrual cup with a water-based lubricant to help it slip more easily into place in your vagina.
The biggest risk of infection from a menstrual cup comes from transporting bacteria from your hands up into your vagina when you insert or remove your menstrual cup. That is why it is important to wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap whenever using your menstrual cup. While some manufacturers say that you can just wash your cup with soap and water after use, other doctors recommend sterilizing your cup in boiling water for 5-10 minutes after each use. Using an unscented, gentle, oil-free soap can reduce the chances of irritating your vagina and increase the lifespan of your cup.
- Menstrual cups release fewer toxic chemicals into your body and Earth.
Pads and tampons contain plastic, dioxins, antimicrobials, rayon particles, and other materials that cause irritation of your vaginal skin and vulva. Medical-grade silicone, the material your menstrual cup is made from, is hypoallergenic and non-toxic. Because, you do not need to use any special cleaning solutions to clean your menstrual cup you also further reduce your exposure to any irritating chemicals or fragrances.
More than 90 percent of all sanitary napkins are plastic. It is estimated that the 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators accumulating in North American landfills every year will take 500 to 800 years to fully biodegrade. The dioxins in tampons and pads belong to a group of environmental pollutants called the “dirty dozen.” Dioxins are dangerous chemicals which take a long time to break down (5-10 years) and can accumulate in human bodies and in nature, damaging nearly every organ system. As tampons and pads break down in landfills, they release chemicals such as dioxins, further polluting the planet and endangering our health.
- Menstrual cups can multitask.
A study in rural Western Kenya found that menstrual cups can also be used to deliver contraception, vaginal medication, and, when a microbicide is added, protection against STIs and HIV. Talk with your doctor before trying to use menstrual cup for anything other than flow control, but it still is good to know your menstrual cup can be helpful in other ways.
- You can help other girls and women by switching to a menstrual cup.
Several menstrual cup manufacturers offer one-for-one programs (like TOMS shoes’ program). Companies will donate menstrual cups or contribute to charity foundations supporting women’s health and the environment. You can read about the options at Put A Cup On It. People who menstruate worldwide need access to menstrual products and sanitation to live healthy lives full of opportunities. Menstrual equality and period poverty are global public health concerns that you can help address, one cup at a time.
It is time to start talking up menstrual cups to all of the women, girls, and transgender friends in your life. Spread the word about the ten reasons to switch to a menstrual cup. While not for everyone, they are a great addition to our period protection repertoire. Reusable, affordable, safe, portable, and Earth-friendly, menstrual cups deserve a place in your medicine cabinet. Do you use a menstrual cup? Would you encourage your daughter or your friends to switch to a menstrual cup? We want to hear from you!