Ok guys, this one’s for the ladies. You’re welcome to read on, but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
Firstly, I’d like to blame the paleo diet for making this post necessary. Before paleo, I barely ever had a period (which I wrote about here). In case my sarcasm isn’t coming across clearly, not menstruating regularly is NOT normal and I’m very grateful my body is in the process of healing itself.
Why I Decided to Subject you to the Menstrual Cup Discussion
As with any topic, I realized, based on my own experience as well as chats with my friends that there are many misconceptions so I figured my experience would help you.
How on Earth Did I Ever Even Think About Trying Menstrual Cups
I guess I can blame cloth diapers (which I wrote about here) for getting me started down this hippie path. The thing is, the more I learned about the chemicals in disposable diapers (which I was reminded of any time we’d travel and purchase a few), the more I became a chemical detective. Translating this into tampons, the thought of inserting something up there that magically expands to 2 or 3 times its size and has super absorbent properties seemed just a tiny bit unnatural. Of course, pads are only better in that they’re not shoved up there but, gross! So, naturally, I continued to stuff-pesticide ridden cotton up there for months while I researched alternatives and stumbled across the menstrual cup.
What I really love about cups is that after you spend the initial $30 or so dollars for a menstrual cup, you’re done. As in, you can cross period purchases off from your budget entirely. For me, that means a savings of $120 per year. Every year. I can come up with plenty of things I’d rather spend that money on. 🙂
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a small cup, usually made out of medical-grade silicone, which is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid which is emptied into the toilet twice a day, washed out and re-inserted. Menstrual cups can be reused over and over again and are said to last several years (even if the manufacturer says to replace yearly).
Pros of Using a Menstrual Cup
1. Menstrual cups are a LOT more convenient
Menstrual cups are reusable. This means you only need the one product for your entire period. In other words, no more midnight runs to the store for tampons. No more remembering to bring a purse full of tampons to work. No more packing a box of tampons for your trip or buying a box when you arrive at your destination.
The convenience doesn’t stop there. Menstrual cups can hold several ounces. So, they only need to be emptied about twice per day for most women. (I find that the first day of my cycle, I need to empty it once in the middle of the day as well). For me most part, you can put it in and forget that you are on your period! You don’t even have to think about the cup while you are using the bathroom throughout the day or in the middle of the night. Just ignore it and go about your business.
You don’t have to worry about getting a zillion different types or sizes of tampons so you have some for your light days and some monster tampons for your heavy days. If your period is very regular, then you can even insert the menstrual cup in before your period starts. It doesn’t get any more convenient than that!
2. Menstrual cups save you money
Spending $30 on a menstrual cup might seem like a lot, until you calculate how much you spend on tampons every year. Of course, this is going to vary depending on what brand you buy and how many tampons you go through during a cycle. Studies1,2,3 have found that women spend anywhere from $37 to $61 per year on tampons. If you are using pads along with your tampons to catch any leaks, then add this to the cost.
I must have been changing my tampons a lot more frequently than the average woman and using the fancy ones because I estimated my savings from the menstrual cup to be $120 per year (a $10 box each month) Keep in mind that you can use the same menstrual cup for years so the initial investment quickly pays off and the savings start adding up!
3. Menstrual cups are healthier
Have you ever read the warning on boxes of tampons about TSS – Toxic Shock Syndrome? It is a serious illness, which is caused by a bacterial infection. The reason that tampons are associated with TSS (especially the super-absorbent kinds) is because they leave behind little fibers in the vagina, which can collect bacteria. There have been absolutely NO cases of TSS associated with menstrual cups!2
Menstrual cups are also healthier because they just collect blood instead of absorb it. Tampons will absorb all of the blood and moisture in the vagina, which can screw up the pH level of the vagina and cause all sorts of problems like bacterial and yeast infections.4,5 At the risk on TMI, I can tell you I have first hand experience with this- ZERO yeast infections since switching to a cup over a year ago!
4. Menstrual cups are better for the environment
Obviously! The photo in this posts shows 220 tampons, which is about what I used in a year compared to a menstrual cup, which gets reused year after year. Imagine how much larger the pile would be if there were applicators and boxes involved…
On average, a woman will use 16,800 tampons in her lifetime! Holy tampons, batman! When you add up all of a woman’s cycle related waste (pads, tampons, wrappers, applicators…), it comes to 250 to 300 pounds of trash that ends up in landfills. Or, it ends up on our beaches like the 170,000 tampon applicators which were collected on the US coast from 1998 to 1999!6
It isn’t just the trash that has a terrible environmental impact. Tampons are usually made from cotton and wood pulp. Mass amounts of pesticides are used on conventional cotton, which then end up in places like our drinking water reservoirs. Gross!
Cons of Using a Menstrual Cup
Ok, so I’m a bit sunshine and rainbows when it comes to these cups but I’ll admit there can definitely be a bit of a learning curve at first. You’ve got to figure out how to get that thing in correctly, although, I guess you had to do that the first time you used a tampon too, and yes, it can feel a bit awkward the first few times, just like tampons probably did when you first started using them.
It’ll also take a bit of practice to remove it without any mishaps and be brave enough to use it on the go. You may become slightly paranoid at first, (ahem) constantly checking it wondering if it’s full for the first few times until you’re able to truly gauge your body’s needs. The paranoia should subside once you realize it will be just fine if you just.leave.it.alone! 🙂
Using a menstrual cup does not have to be messy. The blood only collects inside the cup and once you get the hang of it you’ll figure out how to do it while cartwheeling (ok, maybe not while cartwheeling, but you’ll definitely get the hang of it). Besides, it is your own body! Just get it up in there, it will be fine, I promise.
Ready to Try it?
I know the idea of using a menstrual cup may seem weird or gross. But imagine how women must have felt when commercial tampons were first introduced in the 1940s! May I suggest you temporarily ignore your fear of menstrual cups and give it a try. If you don’t like them, you can always go back to using tampons or try out another healthier product.
If you just can’t fathom going there, what is your next best alternative?
- Organic unbleached tampons: They are definitely more expensive than the regular kind, but it is worth the extra cost to avoid getting chemicals like dioxin in your body! This is a brand I feel comfortable buying for my daughter, who is still not ready to join me in hippie-ville.
- Sea sponge tampons: It works just like a tampon but is made from a natural product and can be reused. I haven’t tried them personally.
- Reusable cloth pads: I’m personally not a “pad” gal but these are a much better alternative to the chemical ridden disposable pads. These are better for the environment and don’t have all of the plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS which are found in regular pads.7 They’re often called “mama cloth” and there are many brands available. I haven’t tried them but they have great reviews.
Now, if you think I’ve lost my marbles, that is totally understandable and you certainly won’t be the first person I’ve heard that from. But, if you’re up for the challenge, want to save a little cash, and help the environment while you’re at it, give the menstrual cups a shot!
In case you’re wondering, this is the brand of cup I currently use.
Do you use a cup? Why or why not? Share your experiences or ask your questions in the comments below!