A few years ago I was living with a roommate who swore by a menstrual cup. She encouraged me to ditch tampons and embrace the cup – but despite her list of arguments I’d usually just cringe and walk away. I associated menstrual cups with the word ‘nasty.’ I know I’m not the only one. Finally, after years of rejecting the idea, I caved and gave it a try. At the time, I was planning a thirty-day camping trip and the idea of ‘packing out’ a baggie of used tampons was nastier than the idea of the cup itself. Two years later I can’t imagine ever using another tampon.
The most common reason menstruating humans argue against the menstrual cup is because they lack an understanding of how it’s used. Meanwhile, plenty of people getting their periods for the first time will gravitate towards pads since tampons can appear daunting. When it comes to the cup, how exactly does one go about handling such a contraption? Will it hurt? Will it get stuck? When learning to use tampons, people sometimes insert the tampon at an awkward angle, making the tampon’s presence noticeably uncomfortable. This goes to show that every new device comes with a learning curve.
Although most menstruating humans I know have admitted to fumbling with a tampon at some point in time, many continue to argue that they don’t know how to use a menstrual cup. Once upon a time many of us were forced to learn about tampons because we wanted to go swimming or play sports – so why shouldn’t we take a moment to learn about menstrual cups? Inserting one is as easy as inserting a tampon and in addition to equivalent ease, the cup presents a myriad of undeniable benefits – such as the reduced risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and reduced costs and lessening one’s environmental footprint. But there are other less commonly discussed benefits too.
First off, stigmas continue to exist around menstrual flow. If someone cuts their knee a few people might cringe, but if a person bleeds through their pants, the embarrassment will run high. Perhaps the first step to fighting this stigma is by encouraging people to learn about their bodies. Few people who get their periods actually know how much they bleed (the average menstruating person bleeds one to two ounces per cycle), and the disposability of tampons perpetuates this lack of awareness. In this sense, menstrual cups empower menstruating humans by connecting them to their bodies. Meanwhile, by learning about one’s cycle, a person can take note of changes in consistency so as to take better care of their health.
Secondly, menstrual cups are a saviour while on the road. As I mentioned, I personally started using the cup in order to avoid ‘packing out’ a baggie of tampons. Cups offer travellers and outdoor enthusiasts a more manageable option. Instead of carrying around a large box of tampons on multi-day hikes or climbing trips, people who get their periods can empty their menstrual cup, clean it with a bit of boiled water each night and continue on worry free. Also, depending on where a person is travelling, finding pads or tampons isn’t always easy – so carrying a cup keeps you covered at all times.
Finally, menstrual cups will keep you feeling sexy! Wearing a tampon or pad can feel uncomfortable when getting intimate with a partner, but with cups you don’t have to worry about a string, chaffing, smell or any other nuisances that might kill the mood. Note that menstrual cups shouldn’t be worn during penetration, but due to their discreet nature, menstruating people can otherwise fly under the radar.
Published in the Fall 2017 issue. Read the rest of the issue and buy a print copy here.