With more and more people turning to menstrual cups to manage their periods, it’s important to know whether or not they’re ACTUALLY safe! After all, tampons are an amazing invention, but they can be expensive and, when not used properly, can cause toxic shock syndrome, which can be fatal or cause permanent bodily harm. (Plus, tampons are just generally annoying, right?) But fear not, the menstrual cup, despite being around for literal decades, is finally making a resurgence, and it might just be the solution you’ve been looking for to cure your period-woes (well, some of them at least).
Enter the menstrual cup.
These handy devices have actually been around since the 1930s — except that the first versions of the cups were more like canteens and let the blood drip into a sort of bag between your legs.
No, thank you.
Today, they’re designed to be SUPER easy.
Or at least easier to deal with than a tampon or a blood reservoir, as it were. Plus, cups are cost-effective! These days were also using them because they’re more environmentally friendly.
The way you use a menstrual cup today is similar to the way you use a tampon. You sort of pinch the cup, insert it, and go about your day. It collects the blood (within your body) and can be worn up to 12 hours (unlike a tampon, which needs to be changed more often, and are–of course–not reusable).
So, the questions remain:
Are they better than tampons? Are they actually environmentally-friendly? And can they actually be used for 10 years?
We’ll get to all of that below.
With the same kind of protection from leakage that a tampon offers (and maybe even better, honestly), is there a risk of toxic shock syndrome, infection, or rash? Let’s see…
According to a July 16, 2019 article in The Lancet, 43 different studies were reviewed, including information provided by 3,300 women living across the globe in both developed and developing countries.
The study also looked at what women thought about the menstrual cups over a period of years, dating back to the ’60s.
The findings were generally positive:
They showed that the menstrual cup didn’t actually create any additional health risks beyond those posed by tampons or pads (like infections).
More good news?
Menstrual cups resulted in less blood leakage, according to the same group of studies. Yay!
In fact, 70 percent of the women surveyed said that they would continue using the cups. However, the findings showed that there is a bit of a learning curve, to ‘get used to’ using menstrual cups. But, hey, that sounds fair and reasonable!
There were also some not-so-great findings.
But they were no different than the warnings applied to tampons, and they’re not commonly encountered, either.
Out of the many women who were surveyed, only five reported pain and vaginal wounds, six reported allergies and rashes, nine reported urinary tract issues, and five reported toxic shock syndrome. And for thirteen of the women the cup reportedly dislodged an intrauterine device.
Taking these risks into account, which exist but aren’t super common, the cups do provide an economic benefit as well. Because they’re made of medical-grade silicone, rubber, or latex, they can last up to an entire decade with regular use!
For individuals in developing counties, or who don’t have easy access to menstrual products, this is exceptionally appealing.
Tampons and pads cost a lot of money month over month.
This is especially true for people who have no access to any menstrual product.
The biggest problem here is that many people don’t know menstrual cups exist.
Also, individuals who are homeless, marginalized, or otherwise lack access to products could benefit from a cup. And we can make this happen by speaking up, talking to local legislators, and even donating cups to homeless shelters.
Cups sadly also don’t have the same popularity as tampons and pads do, but that’s changing.
It’s time to get the information out there!
The study review explains, “Information on menstrual cups should be provided in puberty education materials… Policymakers and programs can consider this product as an option in menstrual health programs.”