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First and foremost, have you even heard of a menstrual cup? It’s extremely surprising (and suspicious) how many people don’t even seem to know they exist. Hmmm… Are the giants like Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson with their disposable products winning the advertising war? Maybe. We also have to admit to the possibility that some women actually do know about them but find the prospect of using them gross. Whatever the case, we’re here to talk quite bluntly about menstruating, blood, vaginas, and the cups that can be used in place of tampons and pads during that time of the month – what they are, what they replace, how they work, why you might want to consider switching to using them, and who makes them. Now why is PortAbout interested in menstrual cups, for Pete’s sake? Because they’re ultra-portable and reusable, and that’s what we do here. If you don’t like it, time to get the hell out…now.

Menstrualcup.co does a great job of explaining a menstrual cup. It’s a…

…clean, safe and hygienic (but reusable) alternative to disposable tampons and pads…a soft and flexible cup made out of medical grade silicone, which is folded into a smaller shape, then inserted into the vagina like a non-applicator tampon. There, it expands open naturally, forming a light seal with the vaginal walls. But instead of absorbing menstrual fluid, the menstrual cup collects it. Then it is removed, emptied, cleaned and re-used.

Basically, a menstrual cup is a reusable collection device for menstrual blood. When it fills up, you remove it while on the toilet, say, dump the blood that’s in there, rinse it off, and reinsert. There are several brands and they come in different colors and sizes, but generally speaking the shape (like the top of a wine glass top/cup portion of a chalice) is the same across brands and there is typically a small stem or grab piece at the bottom of the cup to enable easier insertion and extraction. They replace generic disposable tampons and pads and are an alternative to reusable pads and tampons such as GladRags, Lunapads, the home-made kind, and sea sponge tampons.

Vendor product photo.

Vendor product photo.

For those of you who have actually heard of a menstrual cup and were familiar with above information already, maybe you just can’t get past gross factor, i.e. handling a cup of your own blood, dumping it out, rinsing this cup, and stickin’ it back in. Let’s face it, with a disposable tampon, the blood gets soaked up and the used tampon thrown in the trash, and you get to put in a fresh, brand-spanking new tampon in, no blood handling required. Yet whether you are just learning about menstrual cups for the first time or you still aren’t convinced that you’d actually use one, you should really consider switching for the following reasons.

  1. Health & Safety
    • There have been no links to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) while wearing a menstrual cup.
    • Menstrual cups will not cause vaginal dryness leaving you susceptible to disrupted ph levels, lesions, or ulcerations. This can happen with disposable tampons as they absorb your menstrual blood instead of collecting it.
    • Menstrual cups are made with medical grade silicone and thus they can be re-used time after time. This also means that the you are safe from any of the chemicals that can potentially be absorbed into your body through tampons and/or menstrual pads. By the way, companies are not required to list all ingredients in the pads and/or tampons that they produce.
  2. Comfort
    • Invisible when inserted. You won’t have to be worried about going swimming or wearing specific clothes that may reveal a tampon or pad while in use.
    • It is hands down more comfortable. There is nothing bulky that you have to wear such as in the case of a pad. Also, it won’t become more uncomfortable as it reaches its absorption limit and needs to be changed. At first it may seem strange, but once you get used to it, you will never even know it is there.
    • It won’t leak if inserted correctly and you change it at least every 12 hours with regular menstruation, or more frequently with a heavier flow.
  3. Environmental Considerations
    • Millions of tampons are thrown away each year. According to National Center for Health Research, a woman may use up to 16,800 tampons during her lifetime. Holy damn. And that doesn’t even take in consideration all the applicators, wrappers and boxes used in packaging them.
    • According to most menstrual cup manufacturers, their products can last up to 10 years. Must we say more?
  4. Cost
    • The basic tampon (regular absorbency with a cardboard applicator) costs $0.17 on Amazon.com as of the publication of this article. Assuming the 16,800 tampons used in a woman’s lifetime mentioned above, that would give us a total of $2,856 spent on tampons in today’s dollars. Now let’s consider how much would be spent over a lifetime on menstrual cups. Let’s say a woman buys 5 menstrual cups and that each lasts less than the full expected lifetime stated by the manufacturers, say 8 years instead of 10. We will assume she buys a Diva Cup which costs about $27 on Amazon.com. This would be a lifetime total of approximately $135 only. For the $2,856 spent on a lifetime supply of tampons in today’s dollars, you could buy around 105 Diva Cups that could last you up to 1,050 years! WTF.
  5. Convenience
    • With up to 12 hours of leak free protection, you can change your menstrual cup less often. You don’t have to run to the bathroom every few hours. Also, you will never be looking through your bag hoping you have another tampon or menstrual pad, or purchasing one out of one of those damn vending machines if you don’t.
    • It can be used at any stage of menstruation. You no longer need to buy different tampons or menstrual pads with different absorption levels, nor will you have to guess what your flow will be like on a any given day.
    • You only need one, you don’t have to carry others in your bag.
    • If you go on a trip, you don’t have to pack boxes of tampons or pads. You just need one menstrual cup, which you can easily carry in a small bag (and many of the cups come with their very own personal transport bag).
    • You can insert the cup ahead of time, so that you won’t be caught off guard.

Final considerations

There are many things to take into consideration when buying a menstrual cup, including its length, capacity, price, regional availability, and whether you are pre- or post-childbirth. Again we turn to Menstrualcup.co, which has a wonderful menstrual cup comparison table. You’ll want to be sure you size yourself out to ensure you choose the right cup. Get a sense of what brands are available and compare menstrual cups here or here.

Now, how about that tampon shortage in Argentina?

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