This post has been a long time coming, and I have finally made time to make it happen. I myself switched to menstrual cups about 2 years ago, way too late in life in my opinion. And today, I am hoping to convince you to make the switch, the earlier the better.
Not only are menstrual cups good for the environment, but they are good for you! I want this to be the most comprehensive blog you’ll read on this topic, a resource that fills you in on everything you ever wanted to know about the menstrual cup.
We shall address all the common questions and then some, such as why you must switch to menstrual cups? how are menstrual cups better than pads and tampons? how to use menstrual cups? who can use menstrual cups? what if I am scared to use menstrual cups? and many more such questions.
Menstrual Cups & The Environment
Unless you are using reusable homemade cotton pads (which are a hygiene issue to be discussed later), all sanitary products whether they are pads, liners or tampons, are environmentally unsustainable. They all end up in landfills, wash up on our shores and take, hold your heart, 500 to 800 years to decompose (Menstrual Health Alliance India).
By approximation, a single woman goes through about 11,000 (almost 150kgs) disposable menstrual pads or tampons in her lifetime. Get that right, that’s a single woman! And all of these 11,000 end up in a landfill! Assuming that half the world’s population is female, which has been using, will be using or is using sanitary products, the numbers are mind-boggling.
And this is just about the actual product, where we are not even considering the plastic packaging, which of course, also ends up in the local landfill near you.
You can read more about the environmental impact of using disposable female sanitary products on the Organicup website. This is a great resource to know about the carbon footprint of your choices, and its impact on the overall environment, including groundwater contamination and oceanic pollution.
There are other environmentally-friendly alternatives to the menstrual cup, of course, namely reusable tampon applicators, reusable pads and even period underwear.
Menstrual cups are cheaper since they last for years, they are made of biodegradable silica and they help displace a truckload of waste. Menstrual cups are the most life-altering, freeing of solutions for you. Take my word for it, or talk to just about anyone who has successfully made the switch. They just won’t stop singing praises and here’s why.
Menstrual Cups & You – Advantages
There are several personal advantages to the use of menstrual cups and I will list 8 of them out based on my 2-year experience with my beloved RusticArt cup (and no, I am not a paid promoter nor an affiliate, just a genuine blogger who wants more people to be aware of their choices).
Menstrual cups are not uncomfortable like pads are and sometimes tampons too. Once you insert a cup correctly, you feel nothing and you won’t even know it is there. Except for the first few days when heavy flow and menstrual discomfort keeps you on top of your toes, you even forget you have them on thereafter. So much so, that there have been times where I have only remembered my cup after 12 hours!! Imagine that! Impossible with pad and tampon.
I sleep comfortably. Period nights are dread and this is probably the understatement of the century.
Since I have always been fit and have (luckily) never suffered from anything other than an occasional period cramp and back pain, I used to be quite an outdoor busybody even with my tennis even during my periods. Yes, despite the wetness discomfort, daytime used to be just fine.
Nights, however, were an altogether different story. Maintaining comfortable sleep positions, trying to get some sleep despite the fear of leaks and trying to avoid waking the whole household up through the multiple washroom runs used to be such a nightmare. With my menstrual cup inserted and checked just before I hit the bed, rarely do I wake up in the middle of the night unless there are accidents (oh yeah, they do happen).
3. Odour Control
No matter which products you use, you know that periods are eeky, yucky and smelly. As if you didn’t have enough things to drag down your period days, this was one more parameter to contend with especially when out in the public! There was really no alternative to this with disposable pads, tampons or reusable pads.
I presume this is so because the period discharge is contained within the cup and is immediately disposed of when the cup is removed, but there is really no lasting odour with the use of menstrual cups. So much so that I found them easy to use even in public toilets when I was travelling, which I frequently do.
Menstrual cups give the ultimate and unrestricted freedom of movement, and I am genuinely not exaggerating this. I have finished crazy treks in Bhutan while on the cup! Hiking, jumping, skipping, HIIT workouts, you name it, you can do it with menstrual cups.
If inserted correctly, you will soon forget the leak horrors of your past and feel safe in the inner confidence that you will never face such embarrassing situations again. In fact, according to my personal experience, even when the cup is not inserted correctly, you will ‘feel’ the leak long before it causes you any problems or embarrassments; giving you enough time to find a washroom and fix the issue.
5. Ease of Use
Okay, I admit it. Learning to insert and remove a menstrual cup correctly is equal parts tricky and equal parts scary. No, that’s not exactly correct; make that 20:80!
When you first use a menstrual cup, it is the scariest thing ever! The fear of having to rush to the emergency room because you have something stuck down there is the worst kind of fear ever felt by anyone alive!
But once you get the hang of it, which is usually after at least two full periods, it is as easy as breathing. You will not even think before you do it, it will be like a trick you’ve learnt and perfected for years. Yes, it is that easy!
6. Inexpensive Alternative
Sanitary pads are expensive, so are tampons. And you need a lot of them, for months on end, almost throughout your life. That’s a lot of money on an essential good that you cannot do without.
Wrong! You can do without. You can choose menstrual cups which range anywhere between Rs 300 and Rs 1000 and ditch the disposable period products. If you thought this was expensive, think again. Menstrual cups don’t have a shelf life, nor do they have expiry dates. You can use them for years on end. You may have to retire your cup after a few years simply because you’d like a change, rather than any product related necessity. Imagine your menstrual cup cost of Rs 1000 amortised over 5 years x 12 months, that’s under Rs 20 per period!
Unlike other bulky sanitary products, which take up a lot of space in your bags if you are travelling, or make you leave your home with carrying just two individual pads in your tiny purse, menstrual cups are compact and easy to carry.
The Rustic Art cups that I use, come in a handy cotton pouch. So no more hiding a pad in your palm or pocket as you rush to the washroom either.
Most menstrual cups come in three different sizes, small, medium, and large. Each size comes with different holding capacity. I for one consulted my gynaecologist before I decided to switch so I certainly got my fit right. You can do the same, even though most menstrual cup manufacturers give size estimates according to whether women are sexually active, have delivered vaginally or not, have light or heavy flows, etc.
Menstrual cups are made with soft silicone and this not just makes them environmentally friendly but this also makes them fit perfectly well for every kind and size of the wearer.
I did mention ease of movement before but what I wish to mention separately is this – you can swim. Yes, you can even swim with your menstrual cups! Since there is no leakage, even water activities are not a problem at all, even during your meanest periods!
10. Leak-Proof Vacuum
Menstrual cups work on the mechanism of vacuum. Once a menstrual cup is inserted properly, it sits perfectly still and in place by generating a suction vacuum against the passage walls. The suction is so good that it often created to panic when you cannot remove the cup as easily as you thought you would be able to.
While the panic is natural (and temporary), it is this very mechanism that makes the cups completely leak-proof… something all of us would kill for!
Menstrual Cups & You – Disadvantages
As with most products, there are also some cons or disadvantages of menstrual cups. In my personal opinion though, these are really nothing when compared with all the good things a menstrual cup brings into your lives.
Menstrual cups are messy. They are obviously not as simple as simply removing a pad and replacing it with another fresh one. Removing a menstrual cup gets messy and bloody, but this is not something women are generally not used to or are squeamish about.
Once you get the hang of removing and cleaning the cups properly, things are much less messy. And what could have looked like a murder scene in your bathroom on the first day, is once again just a regular period later on. I did mention that it gets easy and I also mentioned that you can even do this in public toilets… so rest assured, it just requires a little getting used to.
This according to me is the single biggest hurdle when you decide to make the switch – fear. I have been there. That fear when you’re doing your very first insertion… and that horror when no matter what you do, it just refuses to come out! Or worse, when it gets lodged deep within.
But one thing is for absolutely certain. This is just a fear, just a scare. The menstrual cup cannot get trapped inside your vaginal cavity and once you learn the knack of pinching it to release the vacuum, it always comes out without any struggle at all. It does take a lot of getting used to, but once you get it, you really do… kind of like learning to ride a bike, it is just not something you’re likely to forget!
Whether it is the first time you’re using a menstrual cup or whether you are using it again after giving it a break between periods, you need to keep your cups clean and sterile. Boiling them for a bit in water after watching them with light, fragrance-free soaps do the trick.
Unlike most use-and-throw disposable products, re-usable products require this added bit of work. But it is neither too tough nor something worth complaining about when you are doing such a big service to the planet by curbing the use of such disposables. Also, sterilizing is only required at first use before each period. During each period, you can just clean the cup with running water and it is ready to be inserted again.
How To Use a Menstrual Cup?
How to use a menstrual cup is a question best answer with a clear video. Yes, I could indeed list out the steps such as get in a comfortable position, fold the cup in a c-pattern or a pinched pattern, insert it gently and release to ensure that all sides have expanded to give a good suction, but for first-timers, such instructions are at best of no use and at worse, immensely intimidating.
Don’t be intimidated. Watch this video and learn. There are several more videos on Youtube that explain the insertion process properly. You can also head over to OrganiCup website for their own video on the same. The video shared below is the least intimidating one so please have a look. Learning how to insert and remove a cup properly is probably the one thing you will thank your lucky stars for, for the rest of your lives, so be brave, keep the fear away and give it a non-nervous try.
Answering Skepticism & Ambivalence
Yes! Unless you are truly worried about your hymen, which can even break even when you cycle, do gymnastics, work out regularly or love horse riding or even simple walking! As you age, your hymen tissues get weaker and wear away naturally even without the interference of sexual activity or the use of menstrual cups. Consult your gynaecologist if you don’t believe me.
So, you can use your menstrual cup right from your first period to your last, with only size upgrades required as you grow. Yes, a menstrual cup may damage or break your hymen but this is a natural process anyway (though many misunderstand it even today in the 21st century).
Menstrual cups are a safe, stress-free and comfortable way to handle your periods. So you won’t regret starting early. All a menstrual cup requires from you when you first start using it is that you are comfortable with your bodies and your periods. For virgins and first-timers, the trick is to not force the insertion if it is painful and to give it another try on another day.
For Women with IUDs?
Yes! Menstrual cups are safe for women who have opted for IUDs. Here is some more information on using menstrual cups while having IUDs.
Yes! Menstrual cups come in varying sizes, so as long as you get the size right (you can consult your gynaecologist regarding this), menstrual cups offer teens the prospect of freedom during periods, something we never really had.
Yes! I know this is a tough concept to wrap our heads around, especially if our knowledge of the female anatomy is not as strong as we thought it was. You can pee quite comfortably while you have your menstrual cup on. Since the cup is lodged much higher, it does not collect urine either. So relax!
Pooping, on the other hand, is a different issue. Of course, the menstrual cup, being in a different place altogether does not interfere with the process at all, but what hinders it is once again, fear!.
Many like me prefer to do the pooping without the cup. Simple because as we contract our muscles to poop, we are gripped with a fear that we will dislodge the cup and then we are positively done for! One thing is for sure, if the cup moves, you can feel it. So the fear is probably not rational, but as fears go, this is one that needs to be handled by the person feeling it, really.
Maybe. First-time insertions can be painful irrespective of your sexual or childbirth history. This is usually so because you are tight in fear. If you relax and go slow, this process soon becomes as pain-free as changing a pad!
TSS is a serious infection but it is extremely rare if you are maintaining good hygiene and sterilizing your cup properly. Several studies have been conducted on this subject matter and no correlative conclusions have come forth. In fact, out of the thousands of cases of TSS reported worldwide, only 2 have been in menstrual cup users.
Still, talk to your gynaecologist to understand and minimize the risks. Though tampons carry the bad rap for TSS infections, menstrual cups, if poorly sterilized and used no longer than their recommended maximum durations do not join in as culprits.
So there are simply too many reasons for your to switch to a menstrual cup and today. If you won’t do it for the planet, you can certainly be convinced to do it for YOU!