Every woman experiences her period differently, but most would agree that it’s at least somewhat of a hassle. Luckily, menstrual cups are here to make life – at least during that time of the month – easier. Menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s, but have long been an unknown and relatively unpopular menstrual product. Now, more and more women are discovering the benefits of menstrual cups – and many of them swear by it and vow to never go back to pads or tampons. I’m one of them.
Why menstrual or moon cups are a life changer for travelers
I bought my first menstrual cup when I was traveling around Southeast Asia, where tampons are notoriously difficult to find. As a result, I was always hauling around a huge supply of tampons in my backpack. After a fellow traveler told me about her menstrual cup (and I watched her survive a weekend of ziplining through the jungle and sleeping in a treehouse with it) I was sold on the idea. When I ran into one at a random Nepali shop at the foot of the Himalayas, I didn’t hesitate for a second to buy it. I soon ditched my complete supply of tampons and from that moment on traveled a whole lot lighter.
After several years of using the menstrual cup, I’m a big fan. It has genuinely changed the way I experience my period. Menstrual cups have so many benefits, there’s no way I’ll ever stop using them. Those women who talk about their menstrual cup as if it were some kind of miracle falling from the sky? They’re actually onto something. For once, the hype is justified.
What’s the fuss about moon cups all about?
A menstrual cup is a small, flexible cup made out of silicone or rubber. It gets inserted into the vagina (which is not as hard as it seems, but more on that later), where it catches period blood instead of absorbing it as a pad or tampon would. Unlike pads or tampons, menstrual cups are reusable. To empty the cup, you just pull it out, empty it in the toilet, rinse it with water, and voilà: it’s ready to be used again. After your period is finished, you boil the cup to sterilize it, and you sterilize it once more when your next period starts.
Menstrual cups (find them on Amazon here) can be used over and over again for years in a row: most cups will last for up to ten years. They’re available in different brands and sizes: many brands sell a small size for women that haven’t given birth and a big size for women with kids. The cups can be worn during any activity: sleeping, swimming, exercising – no restrictions. Some brands even claim their models are suitable for use during sex.
Main reasons to switch to a menstrual cup
Many women choose to ditch pads and tampons because menstrual cups are more eco-friendly. Traditional menstrual products (and their packaging materials) largely end up in landfills – which many consider undesirable in a time when environmental pollution is spiraling out of control. The reusable cup only has to be purchased once every decade and produces no waste other than its original packaging – which is often made out of recyclable materials. It’s by far the most sustainable period solution.
Besides the environment, menstrual cups save money. During a lifetime of periods, women spend thousands of dollars on menstrual products (much more than they reasonably should, as feminine hygiene products are taxed as luxury products instead of basic necessities in many countries). With an average price of around thirty dollars, the menstrual cup is a particularly budget-friendly option and the obvious choice for budget-conscious consumers.
Another major benefit is that menstrual cups are very safe. Tampons don’t just absorb menstrual fluid, but other bodily fluids as well. This interferes with the natural pH balance in the vagina and leaves it susceptible to bacterial infections. It can even cause a rare but potentially lethal infection called Toxic Shock Syndrome. Meanwhile, pads can lead to allergic reactions, chafing, and rashes in undesirable places. Both tampons and pads contain unhealthy chemicals such as bleach and dioxin, which have no business being anywhere near – let alone inside – your body. Menstrual cups, however, are free of latex, plastic, BPA, dioxin, PBE and PBDE, lead, mercury, and cadmium, and one hundred percent safe to use.
Practical advantages of using a menstrual cup
Menstrual cups are also very convenient to use and come with a lot of practical benefits. A big plus is that the cups can catch a lot of blood and stay in place for a long time. They can hold about an ounce of blood, which is twice the amount the most absorbent pads and tampons hold. It’s safe to leave them inside your body for up to twelve hours before emptying and rinsing. Using a menstrual cup is the perfect solution for women with a heavy flow and saves a lot of (midnight) trips to the bathroom.
It also means fewer trips to the pharmacy and less time spent searching for menstrual products – which can be hard to find in some places, as my own story demonstrates. Menstrual cups can be changed anywhere: all you need is some water to rinse (and if there’s no water, you can just wipe it with a tissue). If a toilet doesn’t have a bin, you won’t be stuck with a dirty pad or tampon that you’ll have to carry around until you’ve found a place to dispose of it. It’s the ideal menstrual product for travelers and people on the go.
Another convenient feature for women on the move: when using a menstrual cup, you don’t have to carry pads and tampons around in your bag. In fact, you don’t even have to think of bringing them or worry about forgetting them, because you carry your cup inside your body. Since you can use the same cup during every stage of your menstruation, there’s no need to switch between different sizes of menstrual products for light and heavy days. Even on light days, it’s easy to insert and remove a menstrual cup.
Last but not least, menstrual cups are hygienic and odor-free. Period blood can start to smell when exposed to air, but menstrual cups create an airtight seal, which doesn’t allow for nasty odors to appear or escape. Plus, they don’t have a dirty string which you are forced to touch.
An altogether more natural experience
Many women who made the switch to a menstrual cup testify that it has changed the way they experience their period. In particular, it has made them more familiar with their body and menstrual cycle. When using a menstrual cup, you get a pretty close look at your period. Seeing exactly how much blood you’ve lost each day, actually makes you more comfortable with what’s happening inside your female body. Somehow, catching and releasing menstrual fluid feels more natural then plugging in a tampon and blocking your flow. In a way, it feels like making peace with your body and accepting your cycle as it is.
Some common menstrual cup myths debunked
You might be hesitant to switch to a menstrual cup because of some common fears related to their use. If you’re not sure whether it’s your thing, you could start by trying a disposable menstrual cup. Chances are, you’ll soon realize your fears were ungrounded.
A common worry concerns the insertion of the cup. It may seem like an impossibly complicated task that you could never get done outside of your own bathroom, let alone when you’re in a rush. The truth is, it’s not as hard as it seems: it just takes a little bit of practice. The easiest technique to insert the cup is to fold it double and place it inside your vagina with your fingers. When you let go, it automatically unfolds and creates an airtight seal. If inserted correctly, you won’t feel it’s there. After a few practice rounds, you’ll be able to insert the cup as quickly as a tampon.
Because of the airtight seal, menstrual cups are generally leak-free. When the cup isn’t placed correctly and the seal breaks, you could theoretically still experience leaks. In reality, this rarely happens. When it comes to leaks, the menstrual cup has a better track record than any other menstrual product.
Another common concern is related to the removal of the cup. When I started to use it, I was terrified I would make a huge mess of the bathroom and spill blood everywhere when pulling it out. Luckily, this never happened. Like inserting, pulling out the cup takes a bit of practice, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. The key is to break the airtight seal before pulling it down, by squeezing the cup slightly. When the seal is broken, you can pull it out slowly and with control. After that, all you have to do is turn it around to empty it.
What’s not to like about menstrual cups?
The verdict: there are no real downsides to using a menstrual cup, and the advantages are overwhelming. Whether you’re an eco-warrior, a health-freak, a budget-conscious consumer, a traveler, a heavy bleeder, or simply a woman who likes convenience, the menstrual cup could be the solution to some of the headaches you experience each month. I can’t promise it will completely take away the hassle, but I dare say it will be a huge relief – maybe even a revelation.