Do Your Vagina a Favor: Buy a Menstrual Cup
Remember when you were little and you loved your cat/dog/ferret so much that your parents had to stop you from hugging it too hard? And then later you found magical camel-toe-free leggings or a zit cream that actually works? And if anyone ever tried to take these perfect things away from you, you might...uh....stab them in the face? Well, that’s how I feel about my DivaCup.
The women I know run the gamut in terms of knowledge about menstrual cups (ranging from “duh I’ve used one forever” to “WHAT IS THAT AHH PLEASE STOP TALKING”). In case you’re a total beginner, menstrual cups are small devices (usually made of medical grade silicone) that you insert like a tampon. It collects your blood, you wash it out in the sink or shower, and then you use it over and over again for up to 10 years.
Since I switched I’ve been blabbing to any ear holes that will listen about how it has really (really!) improved my life, so I figured it was time to compile the ultimate list of why you should dive into the world of reusable crotch products. And don't worry, I'm not recommending crocheted tampons.
1. CUPS JUST WORK BETTER
If you’re like me, tampons can’t really take care of business on their own, and I always need an uncomfortable back-up layer (usually a pantyliner or diaper-pad) to make 100 percent sure I don’t leave a red stain on a subway seat, couch at work, dude’s lap, etc. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, use suction to form a gentle, leak-proof seal and can be worn for up to 12 hours. If you have a particularly heavy flow you’ll need to empty your cup more often to avoid accidents, but I personally trust my cup not to fail me as much as I trust my best friend to bring me a pair of sweatpants if it ever did. You know how Tampax ads always show some peppy girl doing insane yoga positions and smiling serenely? I actually feel that confident when I’m wearing my cup. I’ve worn short white t-shirt dresses, gone to a nude Korean spa (NO STRING Y’ALL), and attended a gymnastics class taught by Ryan Gosling with no problems at all (OK, I didn’t do that last one, but I totally would!). FREEDOM!
2. YOU BUY LESS AND THROW LESS AWAY
I haven’t purchased a box of tampons in over two years and whenever I see a gal with some in the checkout line I want to slip her a note that reads: GIRL, YOU COULD BE SPENDING THAT MONEY ON PHISH FOOD. The average pad and tampon user spends at least $5 a month on supplies, which comes to $60 a year. If you use cotton products throughout your whole life, it adds up to around $2,400. Switching to cups has a semi-high start-up cost (currently $27-29 on Amazon for a DivaCup), but even if you buy a new cup every three years you'll still spend less than $400 between now and menopause. And by that time you’ll have $2,000 leftover to take all of your sassy, 50-something gal pals on a spa trip to Arizona (or at least, that’s what I’m planning to do in approximately 2039).
Also, mother earth, yada yada yada, living green, etc. Just kidding; the environmental impact alone gives you enough reason to switch! In a lifetime each menstruating woman will contribute about 275-330 lbs. of pads or tampons to landfills. Then when you consider how much water and raw resources are needed to make each disposable product, there’s no question that cups are the way to go (bonus: less trash for you to take out and less chance that your cat will drag a bloody tampon into your living room during a dinner party). Just sayin!
3. YOU GET TO KNOW YOUR BOD
LABIA CLITORIS OVARIES CERVIX. Did reading that make you uncomfortable? To be honest, those words still make me a little squirmy and it probably has to do with all the messages women receive about our parts being dirty or shameful, especially during "red tent" time. Every menstrual product commercial I've ever seen basically says the same thing: “Shhhh buy our tampon that is super compact and tiny with non-crinkly paper so no one will ever know you have your disgusting period!” It makes sense that so many women choose products that allow them to have as little contact with their bodies as possible. With cups, you do have to get a little more intimate with yourself during insertion and removal, but I think my vagina and I have a healthier relationship because of it.
During sex-ed, my gym teacher gave each female student about 100 years worth of anxiety while describing toxic shock syndrome (or T.S.S.). Basically, a tampon left inside for too long can create an environment bacteria love, and in rare cases that bacteria can lead to a fatal infection. Cups, on the other hand, hold blood rather than absorbing it, creating a barrier between your body and your flow. There haven't been any reported cases of T.S.S. in menstrual cup users. Also, since cups don't absorb the natural moisture of your vaginal walls like tampons do, they don't cause dryness and you can insert them even before your period starts.
Still feeling hesitant? Most of us start managing our periods as oblivious, awkward pre-teens and it can be really hard to imagine starting over and learning a new way to deal with Flo, our bitchiest aunt. Luckily, communities exist — like the informative ladies of Menstrual Cups Live Journal — to answer any questions you might have about insertion, cleaning (which usually involves boiling), trimming the stem (a.k.a. "applicator" part of your cup), etc. So give it a try! Order one here, here, or, here! I swear I'm not being paid to say this!
And if you have any more doubts, just watch this rap battle from the British brand MoonCup:
Image: David Pereiras/Fotolia