May 18th 2011
By Betty Yan
The menstrual cup is the underdog of the feminine hygiene market, and it is wonderful to see it gaining force. This smart cup provides a safe, economical, efficient, and environmentally friendly alternative to disposable pads and tampons. It is truly an all-around winner.
Women will no longer have to worry about Toxic Shock Syndrome, or uncomfortable chaffing. Gone are the days of using toilet paper as an emergency pad, or avoiding certain clothing due of fear of leaks. No more planning events around periods or sneaking off to the bathroom to change. With the menstrual cup, women will forget they are on their periods at all.
There are two types of menstrual cups in the market, a reusable type that can last up to 10 years, and a disposable type that can be worn during sex. This article will focus on the reusable cup.
A menstrual cup is a small bell shaped cup that collects menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it. It works by creating a suction seal with the vaginal canal. The cup is worn internally for up to 12 hours, then removed, washed, and reinserted. After each cycle, the cup is sterilized in boiling water and stored for next use.
Menstrual cups exceed disposable tampons and pads in four important ways:
§ Environmental impact
These benefits far outweigh any ick-factor associated with handling menstrual fluid or the extra effort it takes to learn to use the cup.
Firstly, menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone or latex rubber that is safe for the body. Silicone is durable, flexible, and hygienic, as its nonporous surface will not take up bacteria. Menstrual cups are a safer product to use than tampons because they do not absorb natural vaginal secretions and are thus not associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare bacterial infection that is linked to high-absorbency tampons, and is fatal if untreated.
Secondly, menstrual cups simply work better than its competitors. It can be worn longer; an average cup holds three times as much fluid as a high-absorbency tampon. It will not leak, and is much more discrete and comfortable. Women can wear it when active, whether that means swimming, running, dancing, or even extreme sports.
Thirdly, each woman that switches to a reusable cup helps to reduce the huge amount of tampons and pads in landfills, and the pollution resulting from their production. Let’s do the math. On average, a woman will have 40 menstruating years in her lifetime, which totals to about 500 periods. If tampons or pads are changed 3 times a day (a modest estimation), this means a lifetime usage of over 7000 tampons or pads per woman. Compare this amount of waste produced to only 4-8 menstrual cups per woman.
Finally, women can spend $30 on a menstrual cup that lasts up to a decade as opposed to spending $100-$150 a year on disposable products. The numbers show that it makes good sense to shift purchasing power to the reusable menstrual cups. Not only would women save money and resources, but also reduce unnecessary waste.
The following comparison chart compares sixteen brands of cups available across the world, and makes it easy to find one that suits each woman’s needs. I urge female readers to learn more about the menstrual cup and give it a fair chance before your next purchase of tampons or pads.
For all the benefits of the menstrual cup, it is surprising that we have heard so little about it since its patent in the 1930s. This is due to the many obstacles that prevented menstrual cups from gaining commercial success. Most of these are now being overcome.
Menstrual cups were shut out of the feminine hygiene market because they brought in less profit for manufactures, not because they were an inferior product. As more women learn about this clever alternative and decide to trade disposable for reusable, companies will find it more profitable to invest in menstrual cups.
Menstruation was traditionally seen as unclean and taboo and women distanced themselves from their periods. As socio-cultural norms change and women have more control over their health and sexuality, they will be more open to being hands-on with their periods.
In the past there were strict censors for advertising female hygiene products, and menstrual cup companies could not spend as much money on marketing as their competitors. Today, word of mouth is still the major promotional tool for menstrual cups.
Finally, the construction of the menstrual cup has improved over time and today’s designs are much safer than before. There are numerous brands offering reusable cups of varying designs. They all come with a storage case and most can be purchased online. Brands also offer two sizes: a smaller size designed for younger women or those who have not given birth, and a larger size for older women or those who have given birth.
The menstrual cup is a device that has been through decades of scrutiny. The result? A fine tuned product that caters to women’s sensitive hygiene needs, while being environmentally responsible and affordable.