By Claire Nuñez
You want me to leave what in my body for 12+ hours? The menstrual cup is a soft, silicone cup intended to be inserted into the body to catch the uterine lining your body is disposing of. As a menstruating human who has been using this product for about two years now, I can tell you it is life changing. But why should you care and why would you potentially want to use it?
For those of you that do not know the menstrual cup, it is a small one-ounce cup typically made of silicone. It looks a little bit like a slightly wider champagne glass with a stem that is only about a half inch or so long. Because it is made of silicone, it is malleable. The individual must fold the cup into a U-shape so that it is small enough to fit in the body. After insertion, the cup opens or as some say, blooms. That is kind of a gross image, but some users say that to describe the feeling. Then, the cup can stay in your body for around 12 hours without leaking.
So what is the big deal?
Well, for those of us who menstruate, not having to run to a restroom every few hours to change a tampon or pad is incredibly awesome. Menstrual cups also have an incredibly low rate of Toxic Shock Syndrome. One company, Lunette, says that only 2 cases of TSS have ever been reported, and one case was only because the user left the cup in for 7 days.
This is awesome for us menstruators because we have a bit more, well, freedom. We don’t have to carry tampons or pads around. As a menstrual cup user myself, it almost feels as if I don’t have a period at all. I also love that it does not have harsh chemicals in it. Tampons and pads are often made of cotton, which is one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed plants, according to the Sierra Club. Cotton is also bleached and the chemicals can sometimes contain dioxin, a carcinogen. These pesticides and chemicals won’t kill you and often will not even cause a huge problem, but they can irritate some people’s reproductive tracts, which can lead to discomfort.
Another incredible advantage to the cup is that it is far more environmentally sound. In addition to not requiring a ton of harsh chemicals and pesticides for production, menstrual cups save an incredible amount of space in landfills. The average menstruator throws out 250 to 300 pounds of pads, tampons, and applicators a year. This waste typically ends up in landfills and sewers and takes an immense amount of time to break down.
Of course, there are obvious downsides to a menstrual cup, such as messiness. Some users will struggle to remove the cup and end up spilling its contents everywhere. While a Carrie moment is possible, it is rather infrequent.
One anonymous user told me that she has only had one extreme mishap while removing the cup in her three years of using a menstrual cup. As long as you are careful and relaxed, you will minimize the risk of dropping a full cup on the floor.
One former menstrual cup user, Julia, told me that she had to stop using the product because it made her cramps far worse than they were when she used tampons. Julia tried the cup for a few cycles; however, the cramps were constantly horrible.
Though there are several factors that can cause the pain such as cup positioning and the branding, trying different cup shapes and sizes is often cost prohibitive. The average cup costs $20 to $30. The use of tampons and pads is often more expensive in the long run, but it is not really financially effective to purchase several different brands and sizes if you will not be using them all.
Another problem I have faced personally is the stigma. I am sure that while reading this article, you may have thought that the concept of a menstrual cup is disgusting. Surely, it cannot be healthy to keep all of that goo up there. Well, there really is no problem with keeping that goo in there, reader. It is the equivalent of using a tampon; the cup just is not soaking up the uterine lining.
When purchasing a menstrual cup, I made a well-thought-out decision for myself and the environment. I chose to use the cup when I studied abroad because I knew it would make menstruating easier for me while travelling. I just never stopped using it! I have had exes and friends tell me they think the concept is gross, but I always gently remind them of the facts. If you are interested in using a menstrual cup, be sure to read up on them and make a decision that works best for you and your body.