What are the advantages of using a menstrual cup?
What are the benefits of switching to a menstrual cup? I’m a New Zealand based naturopath and a long-term user (13 years) of a period cup, so I’ve had considerable time to figure this out. So my top five reasons to use a menstrual cup are as follows:
Why switch to a menstrual cup?
This was an easy choice for me 13 years ago when I bought my first (and so-far only) menstrual cup.
When I first started menstruating I simply used the conventional pads in the bathroom cupboard my mum and sister used. In my late teens I plucked up the courage to try applicator tampons. I gave no thought to how these products may effect my health, let alone the health of the environment’s. Jump forward a few years to my early 20s (I’m 41 now) and I’d tried both organic tampons and re-usable cloth pads in my quest for a more environmentally conscious menstrual product.
Why I choose to use to a menstrual cup (aka period cup)?
There’s a certain sinking, pit in your stomach feeling when changing your organic tampon and you’re left holding only the string! I vowed to never again experience that stress.
My re-usable cloth story isn’t much better. Flying into Sydney airport from New Zealand for the first time I was a very green (in the naive sense) traveller (it was pre 9/11). Whilst I loved my re-usable cloth pads I hadn’t thought through what would happen if I had to change them mid-flight. My hasty attempt at rinsing them didn’t fool the sniffer dogs. Unfortunately I was pulled over by a well trained customs dog and had to show the customs officer the “blood product” I was bringing into the country. Never again.
These two stories aren’t benefits of menstrual cups as such but these experiences definitely prompted me to keep searching for a sustainable, health conscious menstrual product.
I’m not here to tell you to use a menstrual cup but I am here to explain their advantages. As a naturopath my role is to encourage you to question what you use on and in your body.
Your vaginal pH plays a very important role in keeping your body healthy and balanced. A healthy vaginal pH allows beneficial bacteria to thrive and creates a hostile environment for pathogenic bacteria, or over-growths such as thrush. Because menstrual cups collect, rather than absorb your menstrual fluid, your vaginal pH and bacterial balance remains in place. By contrast tampons absorb your vaginal mucous, which can cause irritation and a dry, uncomfortable environment.
Did you know single use sanitary item manufacturers are not required to disclose or list their ingredients on their package? Studies have shown that common ingredients found in pads or tampons include: chlorine bleached rayon, dioxins, pesticides, GMO cotton, and fragrances. The impact of these chemicals include concerns about hormone disruption, allergic rashes and reproductive harm.
Because your vulva and vaginal tissue are more hydrated and permeable than other skin, this area of your body is potentially more vulnerable to exposure to toxic chemicals and irritants. This combination can also easily upset the delicate pH of your vagina. Please be kind to your vagina and consider what products you use there.
My period cup made travel through India a breeze (even on the over-night trains with the squat toilets) and it’s always packed when I head into the hills for a few days “tramping” (that’s hiking to non-kiwis). Once your menstrual cup is inserted correctly you won’t even notice it is there.
When first getting to know how to use your menstrual cup, patience, persistence and practice pay off. First, find the folding style that suits your body. I recommend practicing in the shower before you get your period (warm water helps).When it’s time for removal of your menstrual cup it’s all about the squeeze, which will release the seal. My first attempt at removing my cup was stressful. I honestly thought my ovaries were being sucked out and nearly gave up.
After much practice, my technique is now smooth and pain free with a very specific squat, grab and squeeze motion. Good things take time and this definitely applies when getting used to your menstrual cup. Allow a minimum of three cycles to get used to your menstrual cup and how it best fits your body.
Unfortunately period poverty is a very real situation for many females. This is because single-use sanitary items require a monthly cash outlay. Girls in New Zealand have skipped school, resorted to using socks in their undies and shop-lifted for tampons to avoid the expense. A menstrual cup provides a real economic benefit compared to the monthly outlay that comes with the use of single-use sanitary items. A menstrual cup can seem expensive with an initial outlay of between $40 and $80. However, I’ve easily saved an impressive $1400 over the past 13 years by eliminating spending $10 per month on tampons.
Because the initial outlay for a menstrual cup for many families can be prohibitive I support the work and ethos of the WA Collective, who subsidise menstrual cups for New Zealand students.
PLEASE NOTE I have no affiliation with WA Collective, I simply like their work.
On an individual level, it is estimated the average women uses over 11,000 disposable tampons or pads in her lifetime. Since using a menstrual cup I’ve estimated I’ve diverted approximately 2,800 sanitary products from landfill which would have required hundreds of years to biodegrade.
A massive waste burden isn’t the only ecological impact of disposable feminine hygiene products. Did you know tampon applicators and the plastic back-strip of a sanitary napkin use low-density polyethylene (LDPE)?, LDPE is a thermoplastic made from the monomer ethylene. The processing of LDPE requires high amounts of fossil fuel generated energy. A Life Cycle Assessment of tampons conducted by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, found a year’s worth of a typical feminine hygiene product leaves a carbon footprint equivlent to 5.3 kg of carbon dioxide.
Do you use a menstrual cup?
What advantages of using a period cup have you experienced?
I’d love to know. Leave a comment below.
Do you have any questions you’d like answered before trying a menstrual cup?
Feel free to reach out.