By Victoria Suslovitch
Research and Markets recently reported that global menstrual cup sales will raise an estimated 4.02 percent between now and the year 2020. Although sales are climbing, these products still haven’t quite hit the mainstream menstrual cycle. This is unfortunate, considering the benefits many women experience once they make the switch.
For years, I actively avoided accidentally-stained undies from gross tampon string drip. I changed tampons at equally disgusting public restrooms. I produced heaps of non-biodegradable waste from plastic applicators.
The Diva Cup, just one of many brands of reusable menstrual cups, removed these problems from my life. Menstrual cups are environmentally-friendly, reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome, and are convenient and clean. Society shouldn’t stick with old, practically outdated methods like pads and tampons, just because talking about periods is taboo.
Tree-huggers like me can find comfort in the fact that menstrual cups reduce or remove the need for unsustainable, wasteful tampons and pads that are wrapped in non-biodegradable plastics. Plastics are a problem because they contribute to permanent landfill waste, pollute both terrestrial and aquatic environments, and require large amounts of water and petroleum in their production. With a menstrual cup, a woman can take away over eight pounds of plastic waste each year from her environmental footprint, according to a materials management report by the Environmental Protection Agency. In a lifetime of periods, this can equal over 300 pounds of plastic waste: that’s a panda-bear-sized pile of garbage.
In addition to better environmental health, menstrual cups also promote feminine health. They help maintain one’s healthy vaginal bacteria and reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome in comparison to tampons. This is especially important for women on birth control, who are at a greater risk for toxic shock syndrome, according to the Center for Disease Control. A menstrual cup can be safely worn for 10 to 12 hours, eliminating the need for overnight pads. Tampons, however, can only be safely worn for between four to eight hours, according to Tampax. Furthermore, menstrual cups prevent odor, because the blood does not come in contact with air.
If nothing else, I’ve found The Diva Cup to be remarkably clean and comfortable. I can spend a whole day going to class, working, exercising, and socializing without having to give my period thought. As an added bonus, if they are inserted properly, menstrual cups don’t leak like tampons sometimes do, so I feel confident wearing my best Victoria’s Secrets and white jeans.
Despite the advantages and conveniences, menstrual cups can take some getting used to. Small variations in vaginal shape and sensitivity to substances like silicone can bring about issues of comfort and efficacy. Fortunately, different shapes, sizes and styles are available for women of different anatomical shapes or in different stages of their lives (e.g. women who have given birth). Moreover, some menstrual cups are made of compounds other than silicone to cater to those with allergies or sensitivities. Many may also be concerned with the price, as menstrual cups can cost between $8 and $40 depending on the brand, but have an average lifespan of up to ten years. National Women’s Law Center estimated that women use approximately 240 tampons a year, totaling about $47 spent by each woman annually. Menstrual cups also help women avoid the “pink tax” placed on tampons and pads in the United States and United Kingdom.
The Diva Cup and its competitors are great examples of how simple technology can make a positive impact in so many areas. Women have to adjust to using pads and tampons when they first start menstruation. A menstrual cup requires a similar amount of adjustment, but with many more benefits.