Menstrual cups vs pads and tampons

How do the cups differ from the traditional period products


The menstrual cup is an alternative option to use during your periods instead of pads or tampons. These devices have numerous benefits, and are becoming increasingly popular among women.


What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a bell-shaped reusable device which sits inside the vagina, just below the cervix and collects the menstrual blood released during your period. They do not absorb the menstrual blood like traditional sanitary products. Since it is made from antibacterial silicone, the menstrual cup can be worn for 8-12 hours and provides a cheaper and more eco-friendly option.

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How do you use a menstrual cup?

When you first start using a menstrual cup, it usually takes a while to get the hang of it. The method of menstrual cup insertion is very different than that of pads, so don't let this put you off if you're off to a tricky start. Most women find that they are completely comfortable and accustomed to using their menstrual cup after two or three cycles. If you find the stem of the cup too long, then you can trim it so that it fits correctly.

Before you start, wash your hands as you would with using a tampon. Fold your cup in half so that the end creates a c-shape. Get yourself into a comfortable position and use your other hand to fold back the labia. Insert the cup into the vagina, making sure it is placed comfortably. This position is generally lower than where a tampon would be. Once it's in place, the cup should unfold itself and thus seals against the vagina wall to stay in place. I would recommend inserting your finger into your vaginal canal to ensure the caup has fully unfolded. If it has not unfolded correctly, there is a risk of leakage. 

Your menstrual cup will have a stem, ball or ring attached to the bottom to help you remove it. Once you're in a comfortable position, relax your muscles. Gently tug the bottom of the stem so that you can find the base of the cup. Once you do, squeeze it carefully to release the seal and slowly slide it out, keeping it upright to keep from spilling the menstrual fluids collected inside of the cup.

Empty the cup into the toilet bowl and rinse it out, or wipe with a clean paper towel, before re-inserting. If you've reached the end of your cycle, then wash the menstrual cup thoroughly and store it in the bag which came with the cup. Boiling the menstrual cup after each cycle is recommended as it properly sterilises the silicone. 


What are the advantages of a menstrual cup?

  • It saves you money. Your menstrual cup will last you for up to three years. It’s a one-off purchase instead of having to regularly buy tampons and pads. It’s estimated that the average woman spends £128 a year on sanitary products.

  • It’s environmentally friendly - pads and tampons create a lot of waste, ending up in landfills.

  • They’re comfortable- Tampons absorb 35% of vaginal moisture but the mooncup leaves your natural PH balance intact and won’t cause dryness.

  • Tampons are made from bleached cotton and contain trace amounts of chemicals. Menstrual cups contain no plastic, bleach, dyes or any additional toxins.

  • There is less chance of odour. When your menstrual fluids are exposed to air this is what causes odour and the menstrual cup prevents this from happening while it’s inserted.

  • It’s more suitable for sports as it can be left in longer than a tampon, and there is less chance of leaking.

  • It’s convenient - You’ll always be ready for your period as it is easy to carry and takes up less space in your bag or luggage than your regular tampons or pads supplies.

  • There are disposable cups that can be kept in during sex. A menstrual cup will not protect against pregnancy or STIs however.


What are the disadvantages of a menstrual cup?

  • It takes practice to get used to using and inserting a menstrual cup, so you might find it frustrating to begin with.

  • It can be messy to remove which may make it uncomfortable to use a public bathroom.

  • If you have an IUD there’s a risk that using a menstrual cup could catch the strings and dislodge it.


Where can you get a menstrual cup?

Menstrual cups can be purchased from most pharmacies and are easily accessible online. They are becoming increasingly widely available as their popularity grows. There are different sizes and types available, so you may need to shop around to find the best one for you.


Should I use a menstrual cup instead of tampons and pads?

While there are many advantages to using a menstrual cup, the decision to use one depends on you are comfort zone. We are all unique, so what might work for one woman might not for another. For younger girls who haven't been sexually active, it might be less comfortable to get used and might take longer to get used to. If you are using an IUD contraception, then it's advisable to check with your nurse or GP if a menstrual cup is suitable for you as it may depend on your anatomy.

There are not only monetary benefits of using a cup but huge environmental benefits too. We live on one earth with diminishing resources. Every little we do to save it goes a long way. Stop the build-up of tampon and pad waste by using the menstrual cups. Alternatively, if the cup does not suit you there are many other sustainable female health products out there, such as reusable tampons and pads. The femhealth industry is rapidly growing and new menstrual options are constantly emerging. Take some time and your research, I'm sure you will find a type that you're most comfortable with. 


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