In preparation for this blog, I did some reading on the history of the tampon. I fascinatedly poured over this article all about when and how tampons came to be, risks associated with their use, their ties to sexism and patriarchy, and what’s next for them in the future. But one of the main things that astounded me is that the tampon as we know it has basically been around since the 1930s. Yes, there’s been some innovation (and not all of it good) but we’ve essentially been using the same period solution for almost a hundred years.
Enter the menstrual cup.
Ok, technically the cup entered the scene in the 1970s, but I know that I was at least into my mid-twenties before I heard of its existence. Here I am at 34 and I finally got up the nerve to try one after several postpartum periods that felt more akin to hemorrhagic events than menstrual cycles. My cramps were out of control, vaginal dryness was causing me serious discomfort and I was so tired of having to strip my bed immediately after waking up because I’d leaked blood all over the sheets again in the night. (Sorry if any of that is TMI, but if you’re here to talk about periods, we can’t be squeamish, can we?)
And holy crap, why did I wait so long?
I only struggled to get the cup inserted the very first time and it’s just gotten easier from there. Yes, emptying it is a bit of a horror show but it quickly becomes routine and really isn’t any grosser than a bloodied tampon dangling from a string. I must confess I asked my fellow bloggers if there had ever been a piece done on menstrual cups, and if some of them would share their experiences, THE DAY after I started wearing one because it was already clear to me it was going to be game changing. So I am by no means an expert (several of our contributors have been wearing them for a couple of years — hey guys, why are you sitting on this jewel of a secret??), but I wanted you to know about this and to feel confident enough to give it a try. It’s high time there was a better solution for period woes.
Some of the reasons to love menstrual cups include:
- In my own, and many fellow contributors’ experience, they significantly reduce or eliminate cramps.
- They are so much more eco-conscious and budget friendly! There are obviously some upfront costs of purchasing the cups and potentially needing to try out more than one to get a good fit, but it still pales in comparison to how much we spend on tampons and/or pads. *The article linked above from The Atlantic estimates that an average woman will use over 16,000 tampons in her lifetime. I did some quick math based on tampon prices being around 19 cents a piece and that comes out to $11,400! I won’t even go into the issue of “the tampon tax.”
- They don’t absorb all excess moisture from your vagina and leave you itchy like tampons.
- Cups don’t have to be changed as frequently as there has been no established risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. You can even sleep in them!
- A cup can hold as much as three super tampons without leaking, making them a much better choice for long days away from home, super heavy flow days and even strenuous physical activity.
To be honest, I decided to pull the trigger on trying a cup because of an ad I saw on Facebook which caught me in just the right mood and the fact that this particular brand (Flex) was available for my immediate purchase at the Target down the road. But another contributor mentioned to be sure to include a link to putacupinit.com, an awesome website which has a quiz you can take to find out which cup might work best for your needs. Did y’all know there are over 130 brands of them on the market? Why aren’t people talking more about these? There is also a chart which visually details differences between brands as well as tons of other helpful resources like insertion demonstrations, cleaning guides, etc.
I should also mention that cups are not the only alternative to the tampons and pads of our mothers (and grandmothers). We are finally getting some innovation in the world of period management and I encourage you to explore other options even if a cup doesn’t seem like something you’d be comfortable with. There are also menstrual discs (reportedly good for enabling mess-free sex while on your period), absorbent cloth “period panties,” and even reusable cloth liner pads which are another eco and budget friendly option.