Sometimes, being a female is hard work, and there is really no better example of this than that time of the month. You know, when women are faced with the aches, pains, and general grossness of menstruation. Women do everything in their power to make that particular week of the month just a bit easier, with things like Midol, heating pads, or large glasses of wine, but the truth is that these just barely take the edge off of that awful week, and so women are left to ultimately grit their teeth and bear it like the martyrs we are. Of course, we never complain about it either. Ahem.
Most women rely on pads during the first few months, or years, that they menstruate, but eventually graduate to the more comfortable tampons. However, just when it seemed that these were the only two options available, the menstrual cup was unveiled. Menstrual cups are made of silicone or rubber and are folded and inserted into the vagina, where the cup pops open and forms a seal against the inner walls, trapping menstrual fluid until it is removed for emptying.
The introduction of the menstrual cup has sparked debate over whether it truly is a better alternative to the traditional pads and tampons. Women tend to establish a preference fairly quickly and stay loyal to their choice as if it's a spouse to whom they've pledged their love. But before you decide how you want to live the rest of your menstrual life, read on to learn some of the pros and cons of the menstrual cup and whether you ought to make the switch.
15 Pro - Reduce, Reuse, Maybe Don't Recycle Your Cup
Earth has been pretty good to us so far, so it's only fair that we return the favor. According to a 2010 article in Slate, a woman averaging 20 tampons or pads each menstrual cycle burn through roughly 250 pounds of products and wrappers in a lifetime. Those figures do not factor in the impact of production, shipping, and packaging either. Menstrual cups are reusable up to 10 years, which means that switching to the cups would have a tremendously positive environmental impact.
Additionally, this means fewer visits to the store for feminine products. Husbands and boyfriends are likely to cheer when they hear that they will not be asked to make embarrassing trips to the local pharmacy anytime soon to buy their lady those products from the aisle that they would otherwise avoid like the plague.
Menstrual cups are designed to last at least five years, but with proper care can last as long as 10.
14 Con - Practice Makes Perfect
First-time menstrual cup users tend to report some difficulty, simply because it is a far different experience than any other feminine product. It requires a better understanding of a woman's body than tampons and pads because even a poorly inserted tampon will work, albeit with some discomfort. Not so with the menstrual cup. Since the product is meant to catch menstrual fluid rather than absorb it, it's vital that it is inserted properly. A quick perusal of women's blogs detailing the gory experiences of incorrectly using a menstrual cup make this clear.
Insertion is not the only part of using a menstrual cup that causes some anxiety. Removal takes some practice as well, particularly if you are trying to avoid a mess.
Companies that manufacture menstrual cups provide step-by-step instructions to make the process a bit simple, however, and the first step is to relax. Anxiety over learning how to use the menstrual cup can cause the muscles in vaginal walls to tighten, making insertion and removal even more difficult, and messy. Again, look at some of those blogs. Some of them are pretty funny.
13 Pro - Money Saved is Money for Wine!
Being a woman is expensive enough. Makeup, clothes, shoes, gym memberships, hair products....they don't pay for themselves. Women go through crazy hoops to achieve the appearance they want, and it becomes particularly difficult to do so when you are on a budget. That is one of the reasons women swear by menstrual cups. For a measly $30 to $40 investment, women can go up to 10 years without having to buy tampons or pads.
According to Intimina, the cost of using tampons over the course of 10 years is an astonishing $700. Compared to $40 for a cup, the advantage here is quite obvious. Less money spent on feminine products means more money for massages and wine during that dreaded time of the month.
Don't be put off by the initial expense, which is definitely more expensive than a box of tampons and a package of pads, collectively priced at approximately $12. Think long-term instead of short-term gratification and consider the menstrual cup.
12 Con – One Size Does Not Fit All
Have you ever went shopping and found a shirt or a pair of shoes that you absolutely loved and felt like you had to have, only to be utterly disappointed when you tried on the item? No matter how much you want the item to work for you, it just doesn’t because you are somehow in between sizes. One size is too small but the next biggest size is simply too big. Alas, it’s the shoe that got away.
Believe it or not, some menstrual cup users have had this experience as well. Women come in all different shapes and sizes, and so do their lady parts. Menstrual cups typically come in just two sizes -- small and large -- and some women have difficulty finding the right size if they have a dropped uterus or fibroids. Age, virginity, pregnancy, cervical location, athleticism are all factors that can change the size and shape of a female’s nether region too, and depending on these factors, some women may simply be unable to find a menstrual cup that fits comfortably.
11 Pro - Let Them Be Comfortable!
Comfort is subjective so this may not apply to everyone. But according to a 2016 Intimina survey of 1,500 women, switching to the menstrual cup has increased their comfort by 78 percent. This is attributed to a number of reasons, including reduced vaginal dryness, increased confidence resulting from less odor, and fewer, less severe cramps. Likewise, those surveyed reported that the cup enabled them to get more rigorous exercise during their period, which has tremendous advantages during menstruation. Exercise helps relieve anxiety, fatigue, and headaches associated with periods. Because the cup can be worn for longer stretches of time than other feminine products, women also reported better sleep, which also contributes to an overall general feeling of well-being.
When you're spending your period in comfy clothes and are stretched out across your couch with a blanket wondering what else you can do to make yourself just a bit more comfortable, consider the menstrual cup.
10 Con - Requires Cleanup
Some women have opted out of using menstrual cups because of the necessary cleanup involved in using the reusable cups. However, this problem has been addressed with the introduction of disposable menstrual cups. Still, while these disposable menstrual cups offer some of the same benefits as the reusable ones, like comfort and an elimination of TSS risks, it does not offer the added benefit of cost savings.
Having to clean the menstrual cup before reinsertion is not always a viable option, particularly if you are at work and the only bathrooms available are those with multiple stalls. It’s not exactly convenient to have to exit your stall with your dirty menstrual cup in your hand and wash it in the very public sink as strangers come and go.
And even if privacy is not an issue, the added inconvenience of having to clean the cup is simply enough to turn some women off of the menstrual cup.
9 Pro - No More Chemicals Near Your Who-Ha
Have you ever read the ingredients in your feminine products? It is quite likely you'll have a difficult time pronouncing most of them, let alone even knowing what they are. According to Mercola, tampons and pads, particularly those with odor neutralizers, are comprised of adhesives, propylene, polyethylene, etc., chemicals that are linked to hormone issues, birth defects, cancer and infertility. Infertility? Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose of having a menstrual cycle in the first place?
Time Magazine online reported in 2016 that tampons are on the "growing list of potentially hazardous personal care products." Feminine products are particularly troublesome because they do not go through the body's typical process of toxic elimination and metabolic processes that something you ingest would undergo. Therefore, you're body is rendered unable to eliminate the chemicals that are being absorbed into the bloodstream through the vagina.
In contrast, menstrual cups are made of 100 percent medical grade silicone.
8 Con – Too “Hands-On”
Healthy Women magazine notes that some women have reported having difficulty inserting and removing menstrual cups. However, the magazine contends that with a bit of education about a woman's own body and insertion techniques, this downfall can easily be remedied, and given the long list of cons associated with feminine products, it might be worth the effort to learn.
However, the danger of using a menstrual cup is that it is very much hands-on, which means that users must be sure to thoroughly clean their hands before inserting or removing their cup. Hand-washing is something that most people do, but few people do right. According to a 2013 study by Michigan State University, 95 percent of people fail to wash their hands adequately enough to kill infection-causing germs and bacteria. Lady parts are not a good environment in which to introduce such germs. Again, if you’re in a public restroom which just so happens to be out of soap – an all too common nuisance – you may have to forego inserting or removing the cup until you’re able to wash your hands properly.
7 Pro - No More Desert-Like Lady Parts
Hormonal changes during a menstrual cycle can lead to vaginal dryness. This condition becomes exacerbated at the start of the period when a drop in estrogen levels occurs. Dryness may not seem like a terrible problem until you learn that it can cause discomfort during sex and also can make this highly sensitive area prone to bacterial and viral infections that can then be passed on to a sexual partner.
Tampons can worsen vaginal dryness, which you may have already noticed if you ever found yourself struggling to remove a tampon that seemed to be practically Krazy-glued into your lady parts. Dryness tends to occur when women are using tampons than are more absorbent than their flow requires, which is annoying because it means that we somehow have to gauge what our flows will be like before we choose a tampon. Have you ever been good at predicting the heaviness of your flow? Me neither.
If you ever had to place both feet firmly against the walls of a bathroom stall and play tug-of-war with your lady bits to remove a tampon, then you may want to consider the menstrual cup.
6 Con – Virgins Beware
Virgins have delicate lady bits that require some protection because their lady regions have not experienced wear and tear resulting from intercourse and childbirth and thus are more sensitive. Menstrual cup manufacturers recommend that virgins who are concerned about their hymens should consult their physician before deciding on the menstrual cup because there is a possibility that the cups can rupture the hymen. Of course, a broken hymen does not mean that the user is no longer a virgin, but in some cultures, an intact hymen is of utmost importance. Others regard the hymen as an important gatekeeper to keep germs and dirt out of the vagina.
Virgins also have significantly tighter vaginal walls and as such may have some difficulty inserting and removing a menstrual cup. Younger virgins who are not yet comfortable or familiar with how to properly handle their lady regions may also be deterred from using menstrual cups. For the same reasons, many virgins are not comfortable using tampons.
5 Pro - Reduced Risk for TSS
Super absorbent tampons have long been associated with toxic shock syndrome (TSS), which the Mayo Clinic states is a rare but potentially fatal complication resulting from certain types of bacterial infections. Signs and symptoms of TSS include spontaneous high fever, vomiting or diarrhea, confusion, muscle aches, headaches, and seizures. No thanks!
Unfortunately, some women have very heavy bleeding during menstruation forcing them to opt for the super absorbent tampons over the light ones, lest they'd like to visit the restroom to change their tampons every hour on the hour. Can you imagine the rumors that would circulate around your office if your coworkers saw you heading to the bathroom that often? You may want to avoid the embarrassment and make the switch to menstrual cups.
Besides, menstrual cups are capable of holding more liquid than tampons. Buzzfeed notes that a normal tampon can hold between six and nine grams of liquid, but menstrual cups hold approximately 28 grams.
4 Con – Irritation
Some women have reported irritation when using menstrual cups. This can be the result of a number of things, including using a cup that is not the correct size, or failure to properly clean your cup or your hands and thus introducing bacteria that can cause vaginal dryness. As previously stated, it’s quite possible that some women may not find a menstrual cup that fits comfortably and may experience chafing and irritation.
Women have taken to online forums to share their woeful experiences with the menstrual cups resulting from irritation. Some complain of soreness, others of chafing, and some have complained of unbearable itchiness.
In some rare cases, the irritation can be caused by a very rare allergy to silicone. Since menstrual cups are made of 100 percent medical grade silicone, this is something to consider if you are experiencing extreme discomfort when using the menstrual cup.
3 Pro - Odor, Begone!
As if all of the symptoms associated with menstruation were not bad enough, women also have to contend with the odor associated with that dreaded time of the month. This may sound gross to men who do not understand but it's nearly impossible to avoid at least some odor during menstruation because it occurs naturally when menstrual fluid is exposed to air.
Unfortunately, women attempt to combat this odor by opting for deodorizing feminine products chock full of chemicals, which, as previously mentioned, can lead to a slew of health problems. Fragrances in tampons upset the delicate pH balance of a woman's lady parts, resulting in bacterial infections, which only serve to exacerbate the odor problem. Life is so unfair sometimes!
This is yet another reason more and more women are opting for the menstrual cup over the traditional feminine products. And if you're dog's nose has been paying extra attention to your lady bits around that time of the month, you may want to think about making the switch too.
2 Con – IUDs vs. Menstrual Cups: Winner Takes All
According to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post, the intrauterine device, or IUD, is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. It’s 99 percent effective and is popular because it removes the risk of human error associated with birth control. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 95 percent of unplanned pregnancies result from not using or misusing birth control, so any device that takes the user out of the equation is bound to gain traction.
Unfortunately, women who use IUDs may have to opt out of menstrual cups. Some women have reported that their IUDs had become partially or fully expelled from their uteruses as a result of the suction from menstrual cups. Other factors can play a role into whether an IUD can exist simultaneously alongside a menstrual cup, such as cervical location. A low sitting cervix may not leave enough room for a menstrual cup and an IUD, for example.
For some women, an IUD is simply too valuable to forego in order to use a menstrual cup, and understandably so.
1 Pro - Free at Last (at least for 12 hours)
As previously stated, TSS is a very real risk when using tampons, and wearing a tampon longer than eight hours exacerbates that risk. So what are you supposed to do if it's Friday night and you've had a ridiculously long work week and just want to sleep the next 12 hours to catch up on some much-needed rest? You switch to the menstrual cup, that's what you do.
A 2011 randomized controlled trial in Canada found that 91 percent of women who used the menstrual cup said they would continue to use it and recommend it to others. It's not hard to see why when you consider the fact that it significantly reduces the number of trips to the bathroom and provides freedom that women have not previously enjoyed during their monthly visits from the menstrual fairy. The shelf life of a tampon inserted into the body is eight hours, but how often does a tampon make it that long? Even the most super absorbent tampons seem to give out after a few hours during particularly heavy flows. Any product that's good for 12 hours is certainly worth some consideration.
Sources: time.com, healthywomen.org, lunette.com, huffingtonpost.com