Being a woman can be inconvenient. More worryingly, at times, it can be downright dangerous. Every month, women all over the world deal with their period, and considering what a universal experience that is, our options are still pretty limited. It's surprising that one of the most versatile and healthy forms of sanitary protection is also one of the least common.
Menstrual cups are a safe, eco-friendly alternative to maxi pads and tampons, but they're still not widely used. According to statistics in a recent Huffington Post article, only 6% of women surveyed (2,134 women aged 18-45 who currently have regular periods) use a menstrual cup. This is surprising because the menstrual cup has several benefits for the majority of women. Here are five of them:
Many women are wary of using tampons, with some justification. According to popular natural health expert, Dr. Mercola most tampons (and pads) contain toxic ingredients, and tampons have long been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but sometimes fatal disease.
A menstrual cup is inserted into the vagina just like a tampon but does not carry the same health risks. Different manufacturers may use slightly different materials, but menstrual cups are typically made of non-toxic, medical-grade silicone, making them a healthier alternative to tampons.
Cups 'catch' your menstrual flow, rather than absorbing it, so they can also help you measure your blood loss (somewhat) accurately. This can be helpful if you're monitoring health conditions like iron deficiency or even menopause.
The menstrual cup is reusable and eco-friendly. You simply empty it, clean it and reinsert it. One cup can last several years, meaning that using one can keep thousands of pads and tampons out of our landfills and oceans (yes, people, if you flush them, that's where many of them end up).
It's been estimated that the average woman who uses tampons will spend around $1,773 on them during her lifetime. That's a big expense.
Most menstrual cups cost around $30, and many brands are made to last around 10 years. Imagine spending just $3 a year on sanitary products. That's less than most of us spend each month. Some brands do suggest you replace your cup more regularly, so be sure to check the manufacturer's guidelines.
Menstrual cups have a comfort level similar to tampons. They're worn inside the vagina and shouldn't be felt at all when positioned correctly (like tampons, you may have to practice a bit until you're able to insert one perfectly every time).
What they don't have is the discomfort many women associate with inserting and removing tampons, particularly early and late in their period when flow is very light. Tampons are designed to absorb, so removing a dry tampon can be uncomfortable. A menstrual cup 'catches' your menstrual flow rather than absorbing it, making it perfect for use on light days.
Most manufacturers estimate their cups hold three to five times more liquid than a tampon. This, combined with the reduced risk of infection, means that most women find they can leave their menstrual cup in place for several hours. Leakage is rare, though possible (it may be due to incorrect positioning), meaning many women find a cup highly reliable as a form of protection.
The fact that cups can be used even on your heaviest days is a big plus for your health too. According to The National Organization for Rare Disorders, Toxic Shock Syndrome is most common in women using high-absorbency tampons.
Switching to a menstrual cup certainly involves a learning curve. It takes a while to get used to a cup, just as it takes a while to get used to tampons, but the benefits are worth the effort. It's never fun dealing with the discomfort and inconvenience of having a period. It's good to know there's a way to do it without endangering our health, polluting the oceans or spending a fortune.