Still Not Switched To a Menstrual cup? Here’s Why You Need To!

By Shruti Menon

People have been trying to be sustainable in various realms of their life with the realisation of the impending consequences of climate change. Concomitantly, people have been trying to be sustainable in their menstrual practices as well. 

When I became aware of the sheer amount of waste that I would create every time I would menstruate, it didn’t sit well with my conscience; therefore, I decided to switch to menstrual cups! Towards the end of this article, I hope you’re convinced to do the same!

What is sustainable menstruation

Sustainable menstruation includes menstrual practices that are healthy for the environment and cause minimal harm to it. A menstruator bleeds for approximately 40 years, which means that one uses nearly 15,000 pads during their lifetime and spends Rs. 1,50,000 ($2000) on it!

The sustainable options are not only eco-friendly, but they are also pocket-friendly. One such menstrual product that has become popular in recent times is the menstrual cup.

Origin of the Menstrual Cup.

Menstrual cups were invented in 1937 by Leona Chambers in the USA. It was unfortunately not received very warmly by menstruators because they were reluctant to clean and reuse the cup. This hesitancy also came from the thought of inserting a product into their vagina – an idea that was considered to be quite scandalous at that time.

However, they came back into the market in 2002 when Sue Hardy launched the moon cup. Even though they have been well-received in the western markets, India is still warming up to the idea of shifting from pads to menstrual cups.  It is only in the past few years that we have started to openly converse about menstruation – varying across the socio-economic rungs of our society. The stigma around menstruation makes it hard to materialize the idea of menstruators inserting the cup into their vagina. The picture continues to be distressing in rural areas where accessibility and affordability of sanitary products in itself is a luxury. 

My own transition to menstrual cups was not easy because my mother was apprehensive about it. It took weeks of educating her about the advantages before I could finally try it out. During this process, I realized that the hesitancy to use a cup also roots in the myths and misconceptions surrounding menstrual cups. Let’s smash them one at a time!

So, what exactly is a menstrual cup?

It is a cup made of silicone or rubber which is placed inside the vagina to collect menstrual blood. It has become widely popular among people who menstruate because of the myriad of benefits it has over other menstrual products.

  • Save your money! – We all know how expensive sanitary pads can be. However, menstrual cups are designed for a long-term use. They can last for up to 5-10 years making them very economical (Good quality menstrual cups are available in the range of 300-800 rupees). 
  • Save the environment! – The sustainability aspect is another important reason why menstruators are turning to menstrual cups. The plastic present in a single pad can take 500-800 years to decompose. In contrast, menstrual cups can be used for a long period of time; and we will be cutting down on the huge amount of plastic that would otherwise damage our environment. 
  • To your convenience! – While one has to change their pads every 4-6 hours, a menstrual cup has to be changed less frequently and can be used for up to 8-12 hours before it has to be rinsed. 

Even though there are several advantages of using a menstrual cup, there are still some misconceptions that might be stopping a menstruator from trying it out.

  • A menstrual cup can get lost inside the vagina.

This isn’t true. The vaginal canal is only 3-4 inches long and at the end we have the cervix. The cervix acts as a barrier and doesn’t allow the cup to go inside the uterus. Hence, the cup cannot get lost. Even if the cup goes farther up it can be removed with the help of the stem of the menstrual cup (Sometimes the anxiety of not being able to remove the cup can tense up the vaginal muscle, so the key is to not panic.)

  • Menstrual cups will make you lose your virginity.

This is one of the most common myths associated with menstrual cups. Virginity is just a social construct that is associated with the hymen. Whether the hymen is intact or not is not always a result of sexual activity; because while sexual intercourse is the most common way a person may lose their virginity, activities such as biking and gymnastics can also tear the hymen; and some people are even born without a hymen!

  • One can’t swim or exercise while wearing a menstrual cup.

This is not true provided that the person has inserted the cup properly. One of the biggest advantages that a menstrual cup has is the flexibility and comfort it provides when compared to pads. One can comfortably exercise or swim while wearing a menstrual cup without worrying about a leak.

However, using a menstrual cup also comes with some of its challenges:

Inserting the cup – People often find it difficult to insert the cup. However, there are certain types of folds that make the process easier such as the C fold, the punch down fold, and the 7 fold. It might take some time before one gets the hang of it. But there are a volley of videos on the internet to guide you through the process!

Issues in finding the right size –  Many brands have multiple sizes which are based on various factors – one size doesn’t fit all. Factors such as age, sexual activity, and pregnancy determine the size that will be suitable for a person. Remember to always check the brand’s size chart before you buy one!

Toxic Shock Syndrome – A serious but rare bacterial infection which has mainly been linked to superabsorbent tampons. This is the nightmare of every menstruator, however, the risk with menstrual cups is significantly less. Since its creation in the 1930s, only two cases of TSS with relation to menstrual cups have been reported. As long as you clean the cup with soap and water properly every 8-12 hours and sterilize it in between your menstrual cycles, you’ve got nothing to worry about!

The shift from pads to menstrual cups has been a life-changing experience for me. Although the cramps make me aware that I’m on my period, I don’t have to go through the constant discomfort that I felt while wearing a pad! As a beginner, I would advise you to choose your cup carefully because of the large variety that is available now. Make sure that you read the reviews regarding the quality and sustainability of the cups as well as the duration for which they can be used. The sizes may also vary depending on your age. Choosing a cup is not only a step towards a more eco-friendly period, but it is also a step towards a more comfortable menstruation. 

CITATIONS:

https://www.lunette.com/blogs/news/menstrual-cups-and-toxic-shock-syndrome

https://divacup.com/10-menstrual-cup-myths-busted/

https://onlinenursing.duq.edu/master-science-nursing/the-ultimate-guide-to-feminine-hygiene/

An Urgent Challenge: Why India Needs To Tackle Its Menstrual Waste

Featured Image Source: Medical News Today.

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