As you shop for period products, tucked away on one of the shelves, you might see a lesser-known option for pads and tampons: the reusable menstrual cup.
A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped container, made of silicone, latex, or rubber. Like a tampon, it’s inserted into the vagina when people have their period. But instead of absorbing menstrual flow with cotton, the cup collects the flow in its receptacle, which stays in place around the cervix through the power of suction. And it can be used for up to 12 hours before being emptied. Since they have a lifespan of about 10 years, menstrual cups are considered an eco-friendly alternative to sanitary pads and tampons.
Although the menstrual cup has been around for decades, it’s not as popular as pads and tampons. The device has had a reputation for causing possible health problems and being uncomfortable, although with little evidence. Here is an analysis of the pros and cons of menstrual cups so you decide what is best for you:
A menstrual cup is often cheaper than using tampons and pads long-term because it is reusable for up to 10 years. Although the initial cost of buying the cup can be an offset for some, just think how much you would save on your monthly supplies! “It pays for itself quickly.”
- Reduced irritation and vaginal dryness.
Some women experience irritation when using pads or vaginal dryness when using tampons. You don’t have to deal with that when using the menstrual cup, as it reduces skin contact to a minimum.
- Less mess and odor
Most women find the menstrual cup very clean to use once they are familiar with the removal process. And because the blood isn’t exposed to the air like it is in a pad, most women find there is less odor associated with their period. Additionally, when inserted correctly, the menstrual cup forms a seal, significantly reducing your chances of a leak.
- Longer wear time.
Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours, while tampons can be worn for a maximum of eight hours. That said, it is advised that women empty the cup every eight hours and change their pads or tampon every four hours to reduce the risks of infection.
A large part of the plastic waste is in part constituted due to the plastic pads and tampons that are used and discarded monthly. Menstrual cups have a lifespan of 10 years, reducing this plastic waste from ending in landfills.
There are some downsides to using a menstrual cup as well, however, they are considerably lower than its pros:
- Discomfort when inserted improperly.
It takes some time to adjust to using a menstrual cup and when it is inserted incorrectly, it can feel uncomfortable. If insertion becomes painful and it never was before, or if you are not able to insert the menstrual cup, see your OB/GYN for an exam, it is advised.
- Cleaning it in public.
Because the menstrual cup must be emptied and washed with soap and water before being reinserted, some women find it less convenient to use it at work or whenever they are not at home. This can be remedied by keeping a backup menstrual cup on hand if you know you will need to change it throughout the day.
- Be messy sometimes
Removal of the menstrual cup and emptying it can be messy sometimes. As it is tricky and requires practice to remove the cup, one may spill the collected fluid, creating a mess. However, this can be remedied by keeping sanitary products along with the cup and using wipes.
When you use a menstrual cup for the first time, it may feel uncomfortable. To reduce this, before you put in your cup, lubricate the rim with water or a water-based lubricant. A wet menstrual cup is much easier to insert. If you can put in a tampon, you should find it relatively easy to insert a menstrual cup. Just follow these steps to use a cup:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Apply water or water-based lube to the rim of the cup.
- Tightly fold the menstrual cup in half, holding it in one hand with the rim facing up.
- Insert the cup, rim up, into your vagina like you would a tampon without an applicator. It should sit a few inches below your cervix.
- Once the cup is in your vagina, rotate it. It will spring open to create an airtight seal that stops leaks.
- You shouldn’t feel your menstrual cup if you’ve inserted the cup correctly. You should also be able to move, jump, sit, stand, and do other everyday activities without your cup falling out.
You can wear a menstrual cup for 6 to 12 hours, depending on whether or not you have a heavy flow. You should always remove your menstrual cup by the 12-hour mark. If it becomes full before then, you’ll have to empty it ahead of schedule to avoid leaks. To take out a menstrual cup, just follow these steps:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Place your index finger and thumb into your vagina. Pull the stem of the cup gently until you can reach the base.
- Pinch the base to release the seal and pull down to remove the cup.
- Once it’s out, empties the cup into the sink or toilet.
The myth about virginity.
In Nepal, questions about virginity arise when menstrual cups are discussed.
The hymen has been used in many cultures, including Nepal’s, as the “proof” of women’s virginity, but this is an incredibly flawed understanding of the hymen. The hymen is a thin tissue that covers the vagina. The hymen may cover the entire vagina or part of the vagina. The hymen can be worn down over months or years due to bike riding, sports, doctor examinations, tampons, and other activities.
A person may be a virgin but not have an intact hymen. Virginity is not a tangible physical barrier that is ‘broken’ upon penetration, such as the insertion of a menstrual cup or even a tampon. Inserting a menstrual cup is not sexual intercourse, so even if you stretch or tear the hymen, (if it has not already been worn down), this does not mean you are no longer a virgin. Menstrual cups are not known to rupture your hymen, either.
As we consider the pros, cons, and methodologies for the usage of menstrual cups, make your choice about trying out these new, eco-friendly and low-cost alternatives. Remember: Not all bodies are the same, so if you’re still unsure, talk with your gynecologist about your options and what menstrual product may work best for you.