Menstrual cups are an environmentally-friendly and healthy alternative to tampons and sanitary napkins. They don’t contain toxic ingredients and can help prevent infections.
These days, more and more frequently we hear about the negative health effects of tampon use, due to the toxic components that some brands contain. But for women who are reluctant to give up the convenience of tampons, what other options do they have?
Here we present the menstrual cup, an environmentally-friendly, affordable, comfortable, and above all, healthy alternative to tampons.
Risks associated with tampon use
Tampons are made up of many different substances, some of which are toxic.
One such component is asbestos, an inorganic compound that causes an increase in menstrual bleeding. This not only results in greater tampon usage, but could also be carcinogenic. Although it’s not illegal to market products that contain asbestos, since we insert tampons inside our bodies they’re in direct contact with the lining of the uterus and the body easily absorbs this compound into the blood stream.
Another toxic substance is dioxin, which is used to whiten tampon fibers. It’s potentially carcinogenic and can suppress immune system and reproductive function, in addition to being a contributing factor for endometriosis. Numerous studies and organizations have warned that repeated exposure to dioxin is hazardous to our health.
Finally, tampons are made with rayon to promote absorption, but it can also cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
So why isn’t the use of tampons banned?
Since tampons are not technically ingested, toxicity studies are not performed on them. But there are many women who use them regularly, and all we need to do is calculate how many hours we use tampons throughout our lifetime to determine the level of continuous contact that can keep us safe from the effects of toxic or potentially hazardous compounds.
It’s worth mentioning that sanitary napkins, or pads, also contain dioxin, but at least in this case they’re not in direct contact with the walls of the vagina.
Organic stores sell tampons that are made with 100% natural cotton that is unbleached, but the downside is that these are usually very expensive.
The menstrual cup
Fortunately there’s an alternative to conventional tampons and pads: the menstrual cup. It’s made of silicon and is usually in the shape of a cup, or bell. It’s flexible, making it easy to fold and insert into the vagina. Once in place it collects the blood we shed during our period, without absorbing it. To empty it, simply remove the cup, pour the blood into the toilet, and clean it with soap and water before inserting it again. After the end of the menstrual cycle, the cup can be sterilized either by submerging it in boiling water, or cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or other natural soap. Then it can be stored until the next menstrual cycle.
Among their many advantages, menstrual cups are:
- Environmentally-friendly, because they’re made of durable silicone that can last about 10 years
- Cost-effective, because they’re reusable cycle after cycle
- Healthy, without any substances that are toxic to the body
- Practical, because we can use them like a tampon but without the need to carry around any spare products
- Can help prevent infections like cystitis, unlike pads
- Have a capacity of around an ounce, which is roughly a third of the total volume a woman sheds during her period, so it’s not necessary to empty them as often as we have to change pads and tampons
- Link us more closely to our menstrual cycle, helping us learn more about our natural rhythm and overall health
Types of menstrual cups
There are several different brands of menstrual cups on the market. They can easily be found in health stores or ordered online.
Generally they’re available in two sizes. One size is for younger women or those who haven’t had children. The other size is slightly larger, for older women and those who have had children.
How are they used?
When you purchase a menstrual cup there will be detailed instructions contained in the packaging, but there are also plenty of videos online to help. You simply squeeze the mouth of the cup to insert it into the vagina, and then release it to open. To remove it, gently tug on the base of the cup.
Perhaps it’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but with practice their use can be swift and easy.