“Make the switch!” Many people in recent years have heard this type of peer pressure to make the change from pads and tampons to a menstrual cup. And this peer pressure? Completely valid.
While there is nothing wrong with sticking to traditional menstrual products, these little, reusable, silicone cups change lives. As someone with menstrual health issues, the cup has taken away any thought or energy I used to put towards taking care of my menstrual flow when I need to put all my energy into managing my other symptoms. I know it can be scary to try something new, especially when it comes to taking care of your body. You may have a lot of hesitations, but this leap of faith is 100% worth it. The first cycle or two with a cup is all about trial and error, but once you figure it out, you’re set for life (or, at least until your late 40’s).
Like tampons, menstrual cups are designed to be inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. However, they can be left in for up to 12 hours, rather than just eight. A menstrual cup ensures a good night’s rest and sometimes relieves cramps. Additionally, menstrual cups offer a feeling of cleanliness throughout a day of use. After using a cup for a year and a half, Allison Sjaarda says, “I get the ick from using tampons now,” let alone pads. Many cup users find it so comfortable, dry and clean that they forget they have one in.
After 8-12 hours, the cup can be emptied into a toilet or shower, rinsed in a sink, and reinserted. This makes a menstrual cup the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective menstrual product. It prevents the average 5,000-15,000 tampons and pads that one person uses in a lifetime from becoming plastic waste in landfills. Two years ago, I bought a set of two menstrual cups for $12, and I won’t have to buy a menstrual product for another six to eight years.
Another great benefit of a cup is the variety of choices available. All these options may be overwhelming, but there are questionnaires online to help you find the perfect cup for you. No matter what, don’t spend more than $15 by going for a main brand.
Another common concern is emptying a cup in public or in communal living spaces. The first time emptying a cup might make you feel like you’re in a crime scene, but that feeling won’t last long. If needed, menstrual wipes can be used to clean a cup without leaving a stall, but I believe that reduces several benefits of the cup. Most importantly, freely rinsing a cup at a sink in public helps break period stigma. In addition, menstrual fluid is not a biohazard to be worried about.
My top tip for first time users is to just hop in the shower the first few times you try to insert and empty your cup. This allows you to get in whatever position you need to make the cup comfortable and not worry about any mess. Beforehand, remember to read the instructions, boil or steam the cup, wash your hands and look up different ways to fold the cup. Being relaxed is key, so if you get stressed, take a break and try again later. It takes patience and just a bit of technique.
Not every vagina is fit for a menstrual cup, so the switch may not be for you. However, don’t let fear stop you from trying. It might be one of the best decisions you could make for yourself.