Why are more and more women choosing menstrual cups?

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Photo credit: Tantric Alchemy

5 September 2017

This is my year of minimalism. I’ve been using a recyclable coffee cup, de-cluttered, consumed less and higher quality goods (most of the time), and focused on experiences rather than things. So the ‘next thing’ was menstrual cups.

If 50 per cent of Earth’s population are women and 3.25 billion women have a period every month for more than three decades, using around five pads or tampons every day of their approximately five day cycle, that’s a lot of waste. Some decomposable, some not.

Menstrual cups emerged as a wacky idea in the 1930s but it’s not until recent years that they’ve become mainstream. However, some 98 percent of American women still manage their periods with a combination of disposable tampons and pads, while a combined two to three per cent opt for reusable products  such as menstrual cups.

Here’s what I’ve discovered using menstrual cups throughout my past two moon cycles and some answers to those questions you’re curious to ask.

  1. What do you do when you need to empty it in a bathroom with a shared sink? When at work with a shared sink, I simply emptied the contents in to the toilet, wiped the cup clean with toilet paper and reinserted it. Although, you don’t need to change it that regularly. Most manufacturers recommend emptying it only every 12 hours so this issue is easily avoidable.
  2. Is it gross having to deal with all that blood? I was surprised at how little I bled. Part of the reason I started using menstrual cups was to monitor my periods more closely as I sought to reverse me polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But that’s for another blog. One of the great things is the ability to monitor the texture, colour and heaviness of your periods which can provide early indications of health issues.
  3. Can you feel it? Only when I had a full bladder as it sits a lot further down than tampons. The advice is for it to sit as close to the opening of your vagina as is comfortable. Many women, including me, trim the stem of the cup so it doesn’t stick out.
  4. How do you clean it? Simply with water. Manufacturers advise not to use any cleaning products to ensure the silicon lasts as long as possible. I rinsed it with hot water and soaked it in boiling water for a few minutes before first use each cycle.
  5. How do you carry it around for when your period arrives when you’re out and about? It needs to be stored in a breathable fabric bag which isn’t as convenient  as chucking a few tampons in your make-up bag. It’s not something I’d carry around in my handbag as I’m sure my children would pull it out while rifling for mints and that’s not a conversation I need to have with my children in public.
  6. Does that mean you’ll never use pads or tampons again? I did yoga, ran and slept using a menstrual cup with no problems. However there was one time I just couldn’t bare using it – an international flight from Australia to Europe. No deal.
  7. How many do I need? Start with one. That could be all you need. I always washed mine immediately and was never going to keep something slightly bloody in my handbag. So one is all you really need. That’s a small investment of $AUD35 for up to 15 years.
  8. Are there any other benefits? I’ve never had a great relationships with my periods. We fell out long ago when I was diagnosed with endometriosis at 20 and later with PCOS. They were painful, irregular and a huge inconvenience. But now these health issues are subsiding and menstrual cups are helping create a more positive relationship with my periods. I’m more in tune with what’s happening to my body and I’m developing a greater appreciation for it.

Menstrual cups are a bit messy, but they’re worth it. The benefits to the environment and better knowledge of your periods that come with using menstrual cups outweigh the slight inconvenience compared to tampons or pads. So for me I’m converted and I encourage you to give it a go too.

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