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menstrual cups: the third option

I have been wanting to write this article for some time now. Then, when I noticed the recent lip article ‘healthy bytes: pads vs. tampons’, I felt the time was nigh. In that article, the author notes the importance of learning about the hows, whys and whats of pads and tampons, ‘since we all use them (apart from a few outliers perhaps)’. Well, I hereby present myself as one of those outliers.

Before we go on, yes I am a woman. And yes, there is a third option.

Now I’m going to ask you all to keep an open mind, because what I’m going to describe next may sound a little gross. Heck, if every one of the women I have talked to about this, bar one or maybe two, are any judge, then it’s going to sound completely repulsive. (As an aside, oddly enough I have found less revulsion in the males I have talked to than the females. Odd indeed, yet I have my theories as to why, that I shall briefly go into later.)

They’re called menstrual cups, and I first heard about them when I was on the toilet in one of the bathrooms in my university’s library. There was a sticker advertising the ‘mooncup’, one particular brand of menstrual cup. Along with it could be seen the usual bathroom trash talk: a couple of women commenting on how great the cup is, a few more exclaiming their horror at the very thought. ‘But what is the thought?’, you may well ask. Well, for those of you out there who have not heard of them before (you unfortunate lot, I dare to say), here’s how it works.

Though there are a number of different brands out there, as there are with pads and tampons, the basic idea is the same. Menstrual cups are made from a flexible plastic material and are inserted into the vagina (by hand, in a similar fashion to the way you would a tampon) in order to ‘catch’ your menstrual blood. After a period of time, you remove the cup, empty it out and put it back in, ready to go again.

The reason, it seems, that many people find this process so nauseating (despite the many benefits, that, worry not, I will list below), is that you are forced to come face to face with your own blood – blood from the vagina, no less! – in liquid form. Then, you have to pour it out and see it trickle down the drain. How horrific, indeed.

I’m not going to make this an article about why I think women are taught to feel an irrational disgust for their menstrual blood, so I will keep this short. Men have no such qualms in dealing with their own particular liquid emissions, and while of course it’s not the same thing, I would argue that it’s not really so different (this is perhaps one of the reasons why the men who’ve been made aware of the cup by this writer, have not had a reaction to the same degree that women have. They haven’t had to grow up feeling that the worst thing in the world would be for their semen to be seen by anyone. They haven’t had to buy hygienic products every month that protect them from having to touch their semen, or even see it in its liquid form…).

If you disagree with the preceding paragraph, which I’m sure many will, ignore it at will. As it states, the point of this article is not explore period-hatred, but rather, the wonders of the menstrual cup!

So, without further ado, here are the pros and cons of this most marvelous little device:

PROS

  • Not only are they rather inexpensive, but one menstrual cup will last you for a few years. That’s serious money saving, right there. You can’t argue with that.
  • Because they are reusable, by using them rather than pads or tampons, you are reducing waste. Cups are environmentally friendly!
  • They can be worn for longer periods of time than tampons. So, you are able to wear the cup to bed without spillage and at a lesser risk to your health and hygiene.
  • They are completely invisible from the outside. That’s right – none of those worries about anyone catching a glimpse of wings on your underpants, or a stray string. You can wear these suckers without a stitch of clothing on, and no one will know any differently!
  •  No chance of your dog or cat going for a rummage in your bin and spilling old tampons and pads around the place. Come on, now that is just a little gross.

CONS

  • The aforementioned thing about having to see the blood of your womb.

OTHER GOOD THINGS (that’s right, there’s more!)

  • Like tampons, they can’t be felt when inserted properly
  • You only need to give them a proper clean once a month, after your period is over. While your period is going, you only have to rinse the cup out with water after emptying it out and before putting it back in.

If this hasn’t convinced you, I’d like to ask one thing. What is your final point of contention? And no, don’t just say, ‘But it’s so gross…’ Pads are gross. Tampons are gross. The only difference is that you have become used to them because they are the mainstream choice endorsed by society.

I have honestly come to feel that the menstrual cup is the least gross option, quite apart from the fact that it is cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and so on. Not only this, but I will happily admit to having found a real feeling of affection for my menstrual cup.

Last week I returned to that same bathroom where the ad for the mooncup was still stuck firmly to the back of the toilet door. I added my own words to a spare bit of white space down the bottom: ‘I have a fleurcup – it’s GREAT!’

(Image credit: 1)
 
So, ladies, what do you think? Will you give the menstrual cup a go? Tell us your thoughts below!

14 thoughts on “menstrual cups: the third option

  1. Thanks Serrin.

    I honestly had no idea there was a third option. I certainly agree that the level of disgust with our own bodily fluids is beyond a joke. Perhaps this stems from the good old days of the book of Leviticus, “Her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.”

    Regarding the cups, I wonder about public bathrooms. In my imagination you would have to remove the cup, leave the cubicle to rinse it in the communal sink (eeeek!) and return to the cubicle to reinsert. Touching any number of surfaces on the way. How do you manage these situations?

    I’m really intrigued by this new option. Thanks again.

  2. Good question Sara! The makers of the cups say that in the situation where you are in a public bathroom, it’s fine to just empty the cup, wipe out the inside (as this is the only bit that’s supposed to get bloody) with some toilet paper and then put it back in. But actually, so far I haven’t come across this problem. Because you can wear them for longer than pads or tampons (up to 12 hours!), I can usually plan in advance so as to avoid having to change it in a public toilet.

  3. I have to say when first viewed the ad at the top I thought this was going to be a parody article about some fad product from the 50s! I had no idea these cups existed. Thankyou for the fascinating & forthright discussion. So, where can I purchase them?

    BTW I loathe pads with tampons coming in a close second. The absurd cost of both items that are essentials for women drives me nuts & I often wonder about the environmental impact.

  4. There are lots of different brands available, but I did my research beforehand and chose the fleurcup, which is made by a French company. As far as I’m aware, the easiest way to get one would be to buy it online (I’ve never seen them in the shops anyway). Even with the extra cost of shipping, I still found it to be pretty cheap (and extremely cheap when in comparison with other, un-reusable hygiene products!).

  5. More women should know about cups! I like Instead Softcups, because they’re cheaper (and you can enjoy mess-free sex with them… yes, for real). They’ve always been disposable but now they have a reusable option too, that’s reusable for a month.

  6. I bought two Fleurcups (small & large) two months ago via their website. It’s amazing. Unfortunately, the small cup is a bit to small to deal with my worst day (I have to empty it a number of times during the day) but I had the same problem with tampon: no brand had a super plus with sufficient absorbing capacity. For the rest of the period: Ideal, only empty/clean the cup twice a day, before leaving for work and after returning. The large cup seems a bit too wide. But maybe I should give it one more try.

  7. Hey Serrin,

    When I was writing the article I also considered including menstrual cups in the mix but I decided against it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they aren’t readily available in shops in Australia and they are also unsuitable for people with silicone/rubber allergies. Menstrual cups also aren’t recommended for women who use IUD or have experienced TSS. Having said that, they are really safe like you said and eco-friendly. Since I was also concentrating on healthy pH levels in the article I couldn’t find any definitive information about how menstrual cups affect pH levels. There have been some concerns raised but nothing concrete. I also felt that this topic really deserved it’s own article. Great job!

  8. Great post!
    Just one important comment to Andrea’s comment:
    Using a menstrual cup with IUD is no problem. Just wait a couple of weeks after the IUD has been inserted to be sure there are no complications.
    I sell menstrual cups in Sweden and have clients who use them both at the same time and I’ve done, too.
    Happy cupping from Sweden! :)

  9. Silicone allergies do exist, but they are exceedingly rare because silicone is very inert in nature. This is not something I’d worry about.
    Latex allergies are more common, but then only one cup out of the twenty or so available brands is made from latex, so… not a big problem either.

    Cups aren’t readily available in brick-and-mortar stores in most countries. Not an Aussie thing, and also, in my view, not a reason not to tell people about them, since they can be bought so easily over the internet.

  10. Pingback: girl versus period | lip magazine

  11. don’t forget that it’s in the best interest of SCA and other hygiene companies to put perpetuate the idea that tampons and pads are ‘less gross’, since a re-usable item like these cups would be significantly less profitable for them to sell.

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