Menstrual Cups: The What & Why
The idea of creating a device that’s inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid is one that has intrigued women from ancient times through the beginning of the last century. It wasn’t until 1937, however, that the menstrual cup was patented by an American actress, author and inventor, Leona Chalmers.
After long years of trying unsuccessfully to bring her product to market, she sold the rights to Robert P. Oreck, who launched the Tassaway line of menstrual cups in the 1960s. However, the product was made of rubber—not the most comfortable or hygienic material—and Oreck was unable to promote the products commercially by using words like "period" or "vagina," so his efforts led to failure.
The Mooncup changed everything in 2001. It was made from medical-grade silicone that was both durable and hypoallergenic. Manufactured in the United Kingdom, this menstrual cup provided a direction for other companies to follow, and now there are many different devices available.
Health concerns over period products
It may sound too good to be true, but many women swear by the comfort and convenience of menstrual cups. Choosing a reusable product solves a host of concerns. Menstrual cups alleviate worries over chemicals and health issues associated with disposable pads and tampons. Women who use menstrual cups can bypass the financial and ecological toll of buying short-lived period solutions that quickly end up in the landfill.
Pads and tampons contain chemicals that can cause an allergic reaction for some people. In the past, tampons also contained a chemical called dioxin, which is a known carcinogen. Today, the Food and Drug Administration asks tampon manufacturers to test for dioxin, and modern products are unlikely to have detectable levels. Speculation about a supposed cancer link to pads and tampons currently lacks scientific backing.
The main risk of using tampons is toxic shock syndrome, a dangerous reaction that may occur if high-absorbency tampons are left in for too long. Fortunately, tampon design updates and increased public awareness of toxic shock syndrome have significantly reduced this issue.
If the odor of pads and tampons is a concern, menstrual cups can be a better alternative. Fans of menstrual cups claim that the suction created during insertion blocks period blood from air exposure, keeping odors at bay.
Menstrual cup costs & sustainability
Growing concerns about the environment have boosted the interest in reusable period products such as menstrual cups. Between tampon applicators and individual pads wrapped in plastic, it should come as no surprise that period-related products substantially contribute to pollution.
Consider that a reusable menstrual cup can last up to 10 years and its average price is between $30 and $40. Compare that with the $50 to $150 average annual cost for packages of disposable pads and tampons. It’s clear that menstrual cups help keep money in your wallet and trash out of landfills.
Should I try a menstrual cup?
Exploring your period product options enables you to find the best products for you. Menstrual cups can be a practical and cost-effective choice, but they’re not for everyone. The hassle of sterilizing your menstrual cup between periods and the mess of emptying it, especially in a public restroom, can be a turnoff. Beyond menstrual cups, other sustainable possibilities include reusable pads and underwear designed to absorb period blood.
Take into account the cost, comfort and confidence that the different forms of menstrual protection provide when deciding on your preferred product. Many women use multiple forms of period protection at various times in their cycle. Some options work better for certain occasions than others.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing to use disposable products if that’s what works best for you. However, understanding your range of available options will keep your "monthly visitor" from becoming too much of a burden.