Today I’m going to be covering a topic that some of you might find a little “icky,” but I’m actually really psyched about it. (For the guys, if you are uncomfortable hearing about female bodily functions, you may just want to close your browser now.)
I recently started using a menstrual cup instead of tampons, and it’s totally awesome. I wish someone had told me about these things years ago. I think it is one of the best things we gals can do for our health and for the planet.
What is a menstrual cup? A menstrual cup is a small silicone cup that is worn internally. It collects fluid rather than absorbing it like a tampon.
I first spotted the DivaCup at Whole Foods several months ago. I was intrigued, but I initially balked at the $35 price tag. That seemed like a lot when I could just buy a box of tampons for $5. But it’s not really a fair comparison. Tampons can only be used once. A menstrual cup, when properly cared for, can last ten years. That averages out to a mere 30 cents per cycle, whereas pads and tampons are going to run you about $5-10 every month.
And if you’ve ever thought that pads and tampons generate a lot of trash, you’re right: about 13.5 billion pads and 7 million tampons end up in U.S. landfills every year. Over the course of 35-40 years of menstruating, a woman will use the equivalent of one dump truck full of feminine hygiene products.
There are also a lot of health risks associated with tampons … conventional tampons containing rayon need to be bleached, which can leave behind traces of carcinogenic dioxins. Apparently, more tests have been conducted on the dangers of bleached coffee filters than bleached tampons! And, even though I’ve been using organic cotton tampons for a while, any tampon can leave behind potentially dangerous fibers and can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome.
So what’s so great about cups? Aside from obviously being the more ecological and economical choice, they hold about 3 times the capacity of a pad or tampon, and can be left in place for 12 hours. That means you remove it only twice a day, empty the contents, wash it, and reinsert. Inserted correctly, cups are leak proof. That means no more running to the restroom several times a day to check for leaks, no more staining the sheets at night … no more worrying about your period, period. And because, unlike tampons, cups are not associated with TSS, they can be inserted before your period even starts, eliminating untimely surprises.
I, for one, am hooked, and so are scores of women singing cups’ praises on the Internet. But cups are still having a hard time finding mainstream acceptance. A lot of people think the concept is just gross. Even environmental advocate Ideal Bite was blasted recently for being dismissive about cups by saying they “aren’t really their thing.”
The cups do take a little getting used to, especially if you aren’t accustomed to sticking your fingers up your hooha on a regular basis (due to practicing Fertility Awareness and using non-applicator tampons for many years, I didn’t have any trouble with that part). Most users advise giving it about 2 or 3 cycles to really get used to inserting and removing them. And is it really any more icky than inserting a wad of fiber that quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, or throwing used pads in the trash? Cups are way more sanitary, and obviously have the potential to make a huge environmental impact.
If you’re at all intrigued, check out the menstrual cup support group for questions, recommendations, and success stories. And even if you think the concept is a little out there, think about it the next time you are dealing with a leaky tampon or a messy pad. The idea just may start to sound appealing. If you have any questions, I’m more than willing to help you out or point you towards some other resources.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”