Mooncup, Diva Cup, Ruby Cup, Lunette Cup, there are lots of brands out there, but they all do the same thing, and are quickly becoming a favourite eco alternative to tampons and pads for women and girls of all ages. Essentially, they collect menstrual fluid in a silicon or rubber cup, rather than absorbing it into a pad or tampon.
I first heard about menstrual cups on my quest to get pregnant. A lot of women on US forums were claiming cups had helped them conceive by inserting them after sex and trapping sperm. Whether these claims are true or not, I have no idea, and I had no desire to test the theory. What got me really interested in trying a menstrual cup was when an old school friend of mine set up a charity, The Cup Effect, with the aim of making cups more widely available in poorer countries, raising awareness of period poverty, and providing education to help topple the ‘Menstruation taboo’ that many women face every month when they get their periods. In the UK, we take it for granted that we can carry on going to work, sleeping with our partners and socialising during our bleeds. This is not the case for millions of women across the world.
The Cup Effect
After discovering the benefits of using a cup herself, Mandu Reid, founder of The Cup Effect, decided that if this little silicon cup could make such a big difference to a privileged westerner like herself, imagine what it could do for girls and women who can’t afford sanitary products, forced to use improvised materials such as rags, or are thought of as unclean by their religion. And if you think this is just a ‘third world problem’, you’d be wrong, this is happening in Britain right now too.
The Cup Effect has partnered with Rubycup to offer cups on a not-for-profit basis – for every cup they sell, one is automatically donated to a schoolgirl in East Africa. This was the clincher for me – help the environment, while helping other women and girls lead normal lives during their periods, the way we all should be able to.
Trying out a cup for the first time
After years of using tampons and pads, there’s undoubtedly an adjustment period with the cup. Having had a baby and enough pelvic exams for a lifetime, I was pretty comfortable inserting my cup for the first time. I can imagine this might be more daunting for girls, or women less familiar with their anatomy. Even still, I spent the first couple of days with it in worrying it was going to fall out, or that I was leaking, or that it might overflow. It didn’t do any of the above. But I did play around with the placement and soon found a position where I could pop it in and forget it was there – if it’s placed right, you won’t feel it. Rubycup and Mooncup provide some great tips for first time use. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a period or two to get to grips with it.
The other adjustment you may find yourself battling with is the ‘ick factor’. Menstruating women bleed every month, fact. But this may be the first time you’ve actually seen how much endometrial lining you shed every month since it’s collected in the cup and not absorbed like when using conventional sanitary products. To me this was empowering; I was never able to answer the question of how heavy my flow was until now (Compared to who? How would I know if it’s heavy or not?). Using a cup has made me so much more aware of my flow volume, consistency, colour changes – all great insights into my current hormonal balance. The last point I would make about changing to a cup, and this could be to do with a lot of other factors such as performing regular self-abdominal massage, but I don’t get cramps anymore. Amazing. So, here’s a run down of pros and cons:
- Lasts for up to 10 years! Save £££ (we spend about £2500 in a lifetime on sanitary products)
- Helps the environment by reducing landfill waste (we throw away 100 - 140kg worth of pads and tampons in a lifetime)
- Doesn't effect your vaginas delicate pH balance, and dry you up or create micro-tears like tampons and pads do
- Doesn't contain bleach like tampons & pads so can reduce cramps and clotting
- Less embarrassing odour, since menstrual fluid isn’t exposed to air which causes that smell
- Measure your menstrual fluid (so you can finally tell your Gynae how heavy your flow is!)
- Easy to insert once you get the hang of it
- Up to 10 hrs without thinking about emptying your cup
- Increases awareness of what your body is doing
- You can still exercise, swim, be active with a cup in
- Easy to clean (warm water and a non-perfumed soap)
- Invented by women, for women!
- Comes in lots of cute colours
- Getting used to placing your cup - there's a knack (see http://rubycup.com/how-to-use-a-menstrual-cup/ for tips)
- You need to clean it each time you remove it which can be awkward if you're out and about using public toilets
- You may need a pantyliner or Thinx pants on very heavy bleed days, depending on the position of your cervix
- Watching your husband's face drop when he comes across your cup and asks "what is this?"...
So, will I genuinely stick a cup? Yes. I decided to go back to pads and tampons for a month just to see, and can honestly say, what a pain in the arse! I wish I had found the cup earlier and saved myself years of bother and expense using disposable sanitary products.
Just some of the great charities raising awareness of menstrual products and their impact on society:
http://www.thecupeffect.org/ - Providing menstral education and promoting menstrual cups in Africa
https://www.bloodygoodperiod.com/ - Providing sanitary protection for Asylum seekers in the UK
http://thehomelessperiod.com/ - Tackling Period Poverty in the Britain’s homeless community
http://binti.co.uk/ - Providing education and sanitary protection within India and Nairobi
https://www.thinx.org/ - Providing girls worldwide with safe spaces to learn about their bodies, and change the global narrative around menstruation
Join Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Well Woman.