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Menstruation Alternatives: Menstrual Cups

You may have heard about the menstruation alternative known as the menstrual cup. As a faithful user for the past 5 years who has turned about 5 other people on to using menstrual cups, I’m a little in love with them. After flipping through some awesome zines on menstrual health in college, and having my eyes opened to the fact that tampons and pads aren’t always made with women’s health in mind, I knew there had to be another option.

And there has been, since around the 1930s. They fell out of favor pretty soon after they were created for disposable forms of menstruation products, but have a large underground following.

Benefits of using a Menstrual Cup

They’re better for you. Allegedly. Through anecdotal evidence, there are definitely people who talk about having problems with bleached tampons and pads: skin irritation, TSS (from tampons that are in for too long), and bacterial infections. However, not a lot of research goes on to test the safety of bleached vs. unbleached products. And while menstrual cups are not currently FDA approved, the FDA isn’t pulling them from shelves either. As we’ve seen in lots of queer and women’s issues, the research isn’t being done to measure how safe pads, tampons, or menstrual cups are for us. However, there have been no reported cases of TSS from menstrual cup use.

One thing that’s for sure, though, is that using a menstrual cup can help you understand your menstrual flow better. By not being able to just ignore your vagina with an applicator or pad, you do have to learn the best way for you to put it in and take it out. Also, some cups, like the DivaCup, come with measurement lines so you can see how much menstrual blood there is at a certain time. I’ve found that I’ve been able to pay more attention to the weird things my cycle does (like stop almost completely on the third day? Weird.) and I feel more in touch with what’s going on down there.

They’re better for the environment because they create much less waste. It’s a little unclear as to how long a menstrual cup should be used for. What I heard originally was 10 years, and I have met people who have had theirs that long. I’m on year 5 and going strong. However, DivaCup has changed their website within the past few years to say that they recommend buying a new cup every year. That’s up to you. Buying one cup per year will still save you money in the long run, though.

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