Ruby Cups Are Changing The Way We Handle Periods

When it comes to managing our periods, many people who menstruate have more options than ever before — but access to these options isn't easy to come by in many areas of the world, often due to period stigma. That's where the Ruby Cup menstrual cup comes in. As Julie Weigaard Kjaer, the CEO and founder of Ruby Cup explains to Bustle, there is nothing gross, dirty, or wrong about menstruation. "Periods are normal, very necessary and very natural," Kjaer says. "They’ve been tucked away as taboo, stigma, shameful, dirty, a source of so many harmful myths and beliefs." But Ruby Cup hopes to change that using a one-for-one model to distribute menstrual cups to people in need.

Although menstrual cups have been growing in visibility, those who aren't familiar with them might have a lot of questions. How do I use one? Are they reusable? Sustainable? What's the true appeal of a menstrual cup versus the tampons and sanitary pads many of us grew up using? And the question that everyone wants to know: Are they dirty, messy, or just, well, gross?

As it turns out, menstrual cups are great in general because they have a higher capacity than tampons or pads, don't add to our global issue of environmental waste, and can be reused each time you menstruate. While there is, of course, the initial cost of the purchase, menstrual cups also typically pay for themselves within just a cycle or two of your period. And as Kjaer points out, they can also feel a heck of a lot more comfortable than other options. She explains, "The fact that I don’t feel [the Ruby Cup], it doesn’t dry me out and there’s not even a string popping out makes all the difference for me."

Given that menstrual cups sit inside of your vagina to gather your menstrual blood, this means people who use them have to be comfortable actually, you know, touching their vaginas to insert the cup. But as Kjaer notes, there is nothing taboo or gross about menstruation or a person's body. "A common misconception or first reaction to the Ruby Cup is that it’s gross because you have to empty and wash it," she explains. "But that disappears once you get the hang of it."

Whenever you insert something into your body, it is important to make sure it's clean, which the Ruby Cup makes super, super easy. While you should clean them each time you insert them, you they also need to be sterilized between cycles just to make sure you're free of any bacteria, dirt, or germs that might linger. While people often boil their menstrual cups in hot water (that's right — you simply need a pot and a functioning stove to clean them), Ruby Cup actually makes nifty little sterilizers, as seen in the image below, that you can pop right into a microwave or oven. Just wait a few minutes, and boom! Your cup is sterilized.

But the general benefits of menstrual cups are only the beginning for Ruby Cup. Historically, she tells Bustle, "We’ve been so afraid of [periods] that we can only talk about them in code language: Happy days, the most shiny, bleached, white color linen you can find and blue liquid. This is ridiculous and it does nothing but reinforce the fact that so many girls and women out there suffer in silence every month." Indeed, when Kjaer first learned about menstrual cups from a friend, she found the experience entirely eye-opening, and knew it was the perfect approach to her mission of social change and aiding in health issues around the globe.

In 2013, Ruby Cup began giving one menstrual cup to a menstruating person in need for each one that was purchased. As Kjaer explains to Bustle, "Ruby Cup is built on the foundation that sustainable business should be the driver of social change. That is why we adopted the Buy One Give One model, which entails that for every Ruby Cup you buy from us, another one is donated to a girl in need." Millions of menstruating people around the globe do not have access to menstrual products or simply can’t afford to buy pads or tampons every month. That's where Ruby Cup steps in to provide a sustainable, healthy option. Ruby Cup also carefully assesses locations where the menstrual cups will be distributed; since having water is necessary for cleaning them, they aren't distributed in areas without it.

Ruby Cup provides education along with their cups, as well. "We also found that menstruation is subject to taboo in these communities and a girl often finds herself in the situation of starting her period having no idea what’s happening to her," Kjaer explains. "Many girls try to hide it as best they can and end up staying home from school. In many cases this leads to dropping out of school entirely." Indeed, according to the organization GirlEffect, more than a fifth of girls in Sierra Leone miss school because of their periods; the same is true for three out of 10 girls in Afghanistan and Nepal; and girls in Kenya often miss school because of their periods as well. What's more, these are just a few places in which this practice is common, making it a huge obstacle for gender equality globally. Says Kjaer, "Creating Ruby Cup was a no-brainer for us! It’s healthy, reusable and coupled with the right education, it can give a girl a dignified and sustainable way to handle her period."

While you should always do what feels most right and comfortable for your body, it's great to consider giving menstrual cups a shot, given that they're great for the environment and affordable — and knowing that your purchase will even help a menstruating person in need feel happier, healthier, and safer? Well, what's better than that?

Images: Courtesy of Ruby Cup