Saturday, 15 November 2014

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Menstrual Cup

Please refer to my earlier blog posts for information on what menstrual cups are, how they work, and how to decide which size would fit you.

Advantages of using a Menstrual Cup

For those looking for a cooler display of this list, check the Buzzfeed list here.

Menstrual Cups are long-lasting and cheaper. An average menstrual cup can last anywhere between 5-15 years based on your usage. The price of a cup available in India, is between Rs. 700 to Rs. 2500 (depends on the brand you choose). Because of their durability, they help you save some money. The count of an average of 600 pads for five years means you spend around Rs. 1800 (around Rs. 30 for 10 pads) for the most basic type of sanitary pad. Imagine if you can make your cup last longer, say 10 years, then you are spending only Rs. 700-Rs. 1500 instead of Rs. 3600 or more. For tampons in India, you’ll spend around Rs. 6600 for five years at the rate of around Rs. 110 for a basic pack of 10. 

Menstrual Cups are safer and more hygienic. The cups are made of medical grade silicone that does not harm your body in any way. They do not soak up the blood or retain it artificially, so they do not cause Toxic Shock Syndrome that often happens while using tampons or pads because of bacteria growth in the blood-soaked cotton/rayon/hemp. The cups are soft and smooth and extremely flexible, so they do not cause ANY rashes around the groin (my perpetual problem with pads) or inside the vaginal canal (like tampons do). They do not contain any chemical that can be dangerous to your sexual organs. They can be taken in and out without any damage to your hymen, cervix or vagina unless you are completely careless with them and do not pull them out without releasing the seal. 

Menstrual Cups do not soak up your natural vaginal fluids. The cups do not leave your vagina dry and rough like tampons do. You can even masturbate with them on, and have orgasms with adequate release of fluids. 

Menstrual Cups have the least chance of leaking. Since the cups fit into your vaginal canal under the cervix, forming a vacuum seal with it (think of a balloon under a tap), there is very little chance of any leakage of blood. Because of this, you can use Menstrual Cups while swimming or while playing active sports. Leakage or spotting while using menstrual cups occur only if the user has not inserted it properly (far away from the cervix), if the seal is not properly formed (the cup is loose, not fitting properly or is too small for your vagina), or if you have not cleaned out your cup before it’s full. Remember that if you have heavy flow, you must clean it in 4-6 hours. 

Menstrual Cups are comfortable. The cups do not obstruct you in any form of physical movement or activity – they fit snugly into your vaginal canal and do not need external support. In this aspect the cups are quite like tampons. They also do not leak or pain while sleeping, and you do not have to get up in the middle of the night to change your pad or tampon. 

Menstrual Cups can be left in longer. Depending on your flow, you can leave in the cups for anywhere between 4 to 10 hours. A medium-sized cup can hold 15-20ml of blood, which is what you will bleed in around 5 hours if you have heavy flow (this is not a proven figure: I am doing a mental ballpark based on my own light flow). And if you have light flow like me, the cup might get “full” only after 10 hours. 
Menstrual Cups are eco-friendly. You can help reduce your contribution to land pollution drastically – instead of throwing away an average of 10 blood-soaked pads every month for five years – that is 600 pads for five years for women with light to moderate flow – you will only be throwing one small silicone cup every 5-15 years. A single pad or tampon apparently takes around 25 years to degenerate in soil, unless they are burnt, which will then add to air pollution. 

Menstrual Cups help you know your body better. Speaking from personal experience, the cup helps you learn a lot of things about yourself and your body that no other product can guarantee. You will know the positions of your cervix, the exact amount you bleed, your vaginal canal/wall and pelvic muscles, your comfort level with your body, your tolerance level of your menstrual blood, and so many tiny things that you never even thought existed within you. 

Menstrual Cups are not socially embarrassing. This is for women who do not like shopping for personal care products, or are embarrassed to discuss or take out/buy menstrual products. Since the cups look nothing like anything that is socially understood as a menstrual product, its presence in your bag, or in your hand when you meet a friend while heading to the toilet, is not embarrassing. You don’t have to worry about disposing your napkins/tampons at your house, in front of guests, in the house of friends or relatives, etc., because there is nothing to throw away! You don’t have to face the prospect of a pet dog dragging out one of your napkins or tampons from the dustbin. You don’t have to wait for them to dry out like cloth pads. And the cups come in pretty colours too! 

(Pic courtesy: MesntrualCup.co)


Disadvantages of using a menstrual cup

Menstrual Cups can get gross. The cups need involvement and interaction with your periods. They are not for people who are grossed out by menstrual blood and private parts. You need to touch your private parts very often, you need to empty the cup and see all the blood you have shed, you need to clean up in case you accidentally drop the cup while emptying. 

Menstrual Cups need a lot of practice and patience. Your vaginal walls can contract and tighten up when you are tense or agitated, so inserting and removing the cup can be troublesome if you cannot control your pelvic muscles and relax. Each insertion/removal can be different from the previous one, so you cannot take it for granted. It’s a new learning every day of the periods. 

Menstrual Cups can be scary. Inserting anything inside your vagina can be scary. Who are we kidding – we Indian women are even scared of having sex for the first time because we imagine we cannot handle the size of a penis inside us. So inserting and removing things from your vagina three to four times a day may not appeal to you. But remember, you give birth to a child via your cervix and vagina. Nothing can get bigger or worse or scarier than a full-grown infant sliding down that versatile hole of yours! 

Menstrual Cups can get tedious. For people who are used to slapping sanitary pads to their panties, the cups will seem like too much effort. But for starters, you can mix and match the usage of different menstrual products – for example, you can use the cup on your first day, tampons on your second, and pads for the next two days, to manage the flow better. 

Menstrual Cups may not be available over the counter in India yet. I ordered mine online, and even online, I haven’t seen as many brand options as available in the US. ALX Care, Diva Cups, Mooncups, Shecups, can be bought online. Please note that Softcups are slightly different than regular reusable menstrual cups so read up before buying that. But for those residing in the Americas or Europe or Australia, various options are available (For example, look at the options on the main Amazon website. Other links below. 

For those looking for an option less invasive than menstrual cups but also litter-free unlike sanitary pads and tampons, I recommend cloth pads. Of course, they have to be washed and dried out, and you’ll just have to deal with that – you can’t get everything in a product, you know! While you can make cloth pads at home quite easily, and they are reusable until the cloth tears, very pretty cloth pads are also available online on Shycart and Craftsvilla, a tad expensive though. 

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