We all know what tampons and pads are (at least, I hope), but what are these menstrual cups you keep hearing about? Are they safe? What are they made of, and how are they used? Well, you came to the right place. Let’s dive into it.
First off, let’s clarify what menstrual cups are. Menstrual cups are small, flexible bell-shaped cups that are inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual blood. They're made of silicone, rubber, or latex. And guess what- that makes them reusable.
Now, where did these peculiar products come from? The first menstrual cup prototypes popped up in the 1860s and the 1870s, though they looked different from the ones we know today. However, few of these prototypes attempted to sell commercially to the population, and the ones that did had little success. People weren’t comfortable talking about or acknowledging menstruation. In 1937, Leona Chalmers, an actress, patented a menstrual cup design similar to the ones we now see on shelves. Unfortunately, the cultural taboos around menstruation once again prevented success. It was only in the 2000s that menstrual cups began to pick up traction.
Countless menstruators love their menstrual cups, and for good reasons. Menstrual cups are a more cost-effective product- each costs $20-40, but one year's supply of tampons or pads costs $60-120. Take into account that menstrual cups last for several years, and the winner is clear. Plus, their reusable nature makes them more environmentally friendly and saves you trips to the store for when you’ve run out of sanitary supplies. Like tampons, you can wear menstrual cups as you go about nearly every activity- from swimming to cheer. When inserted correctly, they are just as comfortable. And, there is a variety of shapes and sizes available, so all can find a menstrual cup that suits their body. Furthermore, you can wear them for longer periods of time than the average menstrual product- some up to 12 hours, which makes them perfect for nighttime protection. There’s no need to worry about leaks, as menstrual cups are just as effective as pads and tampons in that regard.
But, as with all things, there are also disadvantages. They can be messy and more complicated to change in public bathrooms. As menstrual cups are a higher upfront expense than pads and tampons, many lower-income individuals are unable to purchase them. Furthermore, some families and cultures are unaccepting of menstrual cups, finding them inappropriate in a similar way some believe your virginity is lost if you use a tampon (which is false, by the way). And, sadly, many don’t have access to facilities that would allow them safe, private places to empty, clean, and change their menstrual cups.
Chances are there’s still one question on your mind. Don’t menstrual cups cause TSS? TSS stands for Toxic Shock Syndrome, the result of an overabundance of a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus in the vagina, which then spreads to the bloodstream. It can lead to death in rare cases. However, researchers have found no correlation between TSS and specifically using menstrual cups over other products. Some researchers argue that menstrual cups are safer than tampons since they won’t leave particles behind- particles provide an environment where Staphylococcus aureus thrives. If you wear the menstrual cup safely and correctly, then there is no added risk of TSS. (For further information on TSS and its causes, please review this article: https://www.pixiecup.com/blog/can-menstrual-cups-cause-tss/.)
So, are you convinced yet? Menstrual cups are pretty spectacular, aren’t they? While they can be intimidating at first, we encourage you to give them a shot. In addition to being gentler on the environment, menstrual cups will save you time and money in the long term. They’ll take an adjustment period, but there are plenty of resources you can find online and countless product variations to fit your specific needs. Here are a few articles to get you started:
The 8 Best Menstrual Cups of 2021: https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-menstrual-cups-4685063
Everything You Need to Know About Using Menstrual Cups:
We wish you well.
About the author:
Hi! My name is Eowyn Ream, and I am a sophomore at Liberty High School. After understanding the severity of period poverty around the world and the lack of conversation surrounding menstruation itself, I decided to change the narrative alongside the SAPP community- one sentence at a time.