Do Menstrual Cups Work Better Than Tampons? 12 Women Who Use Them Weigh In
Since most of us don't learn about alternatives to pads and tampons until years and years after we start our periods, it's no wonder that folks eventually find themselves wondering: do menstrual cups work better than tampons?
For a long time, one of my two sources of feminist guilt was not using eco-friendly menstrual products. (The other is unabashedly loving Aaron Sorkin shows.) Sponges feel like exfoliating my insides; sitting around damply in reusable pads is uncomfortable; and, as a New Yorker, I can't reconcile my reliance upon public restrooms with the rinse-and-reinsert element of menstrual cups. I'm currently on a period regimen comprised of using a few of these nifty menstrual discs from The FLEX Company per month (still disposable, but I use way fewer of them per cycle than I did tampons) in combination with free-bleeding on my lighter days, which has been working for me and makes me feel slightly better about my carbon footprint. But when menstrual cups work for people, they really seem to work.
From their cost-effectiveness to helping people feel more in tune with their bodies, there are tons of benefits to using menstrual cups that you may have never realized. Below are some converts explaining why menstrual cups are so much better than tampons.
1. They're Better For Active Lifestyles
"I used tampons for 20 years, and there were things I didn't love about them (dryness, irritation, pee-soaked string, frequent changing, not always having supplies on me or accessible), but I didn't really know that any other option existed outside of maxi pads, which were very uncomfortable for me and not conducive to my active lifestyle. As I got into my late twenties, I noticed that I would get more crampy when I used tampons. Of course, when I sought help, the answer to everything for most gynecologists is birth control, which is frustrating (not to mention wrong) and ineffective to the source of the problem!
The real kicker for me was when I moved to the Pacific Northwest and became an avid hiker. I had been weight training for years, and I also loved swimming, and that's when I started to really become annoyed with tampons. Sometimes they would expel when I would lift heavy, or leak when I would swim. In 2015, I was climbing Mt. Saint Helens and ran across another hiker's tampon trash on the trail. The concept of a menstrual cup was brilliant — less waste, longer wear (10-12 hours at a time), no yucky string, no more expulsion when lifting, etc. I also noticed my cramps significantly subsided when I started using a menstrual cup because it wasn't drying me out or exposing the most absorbent part of my anatomy to chemicals and toxins that irritated my vaginal canal." —Amanda, 35
2. 'Way Less Dealing With Period Stuff'
"I'm a women's hormone and fertility coach living in Colorado, and I recommend them to all my clients. I've been using one for about 4 years now and I'll never go back to tampons. The cup had a bit of a learning curve (just like tampons did when I was 13!), but if positioned right, my cup never leaks (unlike tampons), and I can leave it in for up to 12 hours, which means way less dealing with period stuff when I'm at work or out and about. It's made my period so much easier, plus I love that I'm not creating waste." —Kate, 32
3. Cups Are Way Better For The Environment
"I used tampons throughout my teens and early 20's. And although I never had any problems with them, I became increasingly disgusted at the amount of waste each month that was going into landfill. So, after a recommendation from a friend, I tried out a menstrual cup. I've never looked back! I've used a cup for almost 10 years and haven't had to buy a single box of tampons in that time. That's 120 boxes of tampons that won't go into landfill, not to mention the financial savings.
I'm a very active person, often spending days at a time camping out in the wild without access to toilets, or indeed running water. When my time of the month coincides with this sort of trip, using a menstrual cup means I have zero concern about how I'll dispose of my sanitary products. In fact, I often end up forgetting I'm on my period altogether. Environmentally, there are no better options than menstrual cups. And in terms of comfort, convenience, cost and effectiveness, in my opinion, they are leagues better than tampons." —Joey, 34
4. No Leakage, No Worries
"I grew up in the era of oversized, thick, uncomfortable pads. I used tampons when I came of age and leakage was always a part of using them. I remember being a young reporter, who was sent to cover high-profile golfers at a golf tournament. I wore white pants. It was a disastrous day. As the years wore on, the tampons became more compact and efficient, but my flow seemed to become heavier when I wore them. I don't know if there were chemicals in the tampons or not, but it seemed something was working against mother nature.
I discovered the French women were wearing cups more than a decade ago and found my first cups on Amazon. This is the greatest creation for women, in my opinion. Amazing! No leakage, lighter flow, effective, and no worries. My life changed overnight. I introduced my nieces to them as well. I wish we would have been using cups all along but I am grateful for whomever created the first menstrual cup." —Pam, 53
5. It's So Much Cheaper
"I was an avid tampon user for the past 15 years, until one year ago when I was prepping to travel for a year. I was researching packing lists and kept seeing a recurring theme among lady travelers: the menstrual cup. So I ordered one from Amazon and after a few initial failed attempts at inserting it correctly, and watching some awkward YouTube videos about how to do so, I was hooked. I’ve been using it religiously each month for the past nine months. Once it’s inserted, I never feel it and it’s perfect for long travel days as it can be 'in use' for up to 10 hours. It has never leaked. No more buying two boxes of tampons each month for $30. Just one $30-ish purchase has served me well for the past 9 months. I will never go back to tampons." —Katie, 30
6. They're Better At Catching Clots
"The reason I've tried these is because I have a very heavy period (400+ mL), with large clots, plus I cramp for upwards of two-three days each cycle. Using tampons does not work for me as clots cannot be absorbed quick enough, and just slide right out! I also think the bleaching on tampons or pads could be contributing to cramping." —Jenny
7. 'Chemicals Have No Place In A Vagina'
"Tampons are just another disposable product that is unnecessary and harmful to the environment. The chemicals in conventional tampons have no place in a vagina. I love the ease of a cup, it needs to be changed way less than tampons — only twice a day. It saves money — buy one and done! And I can also personally attest to a healthier cycle and less cramps when I started using one. I use cloth pads at the end of my cycle to supplement as well." —Kelly, 32
8. You Get To Know Your Body Better
"Once my Diva Cup arrived and my next period came, it literally took me one day to realize that menstrual cups will change the world! Getting to pop in my menstrual cup in the morning and not worry about my period for the rest of the day is absolutely amazing. I've never experienced any leakage or discomfort! Even on the heavy flow days, I never have to empty it out until I get home from my 9+ hour day at work. People will say that there is a learning curve that comes with using this product, but I found it really simple to insert and remove. You get to know yourself and your [body] quite a bit better while using a menstrual cup, which I actually thought was pretty cool." —Erin, 25
9. They Make You Feel More In Touch With Your Cycle
"I switched to the Diva Cup once I started working from home and it's amazing, but not perfect! I feel great that it's environmentally friendly and an added perk of saving a few bucks every month. What I like best though is how hygienic and clean I feel not having a tampon string sticking out. I also feel like I'm much more 'in touch' (literally) with my cycle. It's great being able to leave it in much longer than a tampon too! If I'm traveling or unable to go home to clean it every 12 hours (long day in the office with an event afterwards) then I'll stick with tampons." —April, 28
10. It Helps You See Your Period As Normal
"I know it can be a slightly strange idea to get used to, and to be honest the first few months of using it are a bit of an ordeal as you figure out how to get the thing in and out of you. I remember at the time frantically texting my best friend because I couldn't figure out how to get it in, she reassured me and talked me through it. Since then I've had a good few people send the exact same messages to me, and I realized it's a bit of a cycle: desperately needing reassurance, mastery and then passing on wisdom to the next person.
Also I think it really helps you know and understand your body in a different, really healthy way. When you see it in the cup like that you reach a point when you completely get over being weirded out by period blood and see it for what it really is. Just blood. It's nice to not feel like some unclean woman who should be put in a hut while she menstruates, and to understand that it's a totally normal and natural part of life instead." —Francesca
11. There Are Different Cups For Different Body Shapes
"Many cups are pretty stiff. I use the Lunette, which is narrower, longer and more flexible. I absolutely love it and I especially love that I can keep it in for a full day when my flow is super light without having to worry about TSS. I've even forgotten I had it in for a couple days — needless to say, this likely could've resulted in an ER trip with a tampon. I always hated swimming while wearing a tampon because the water absorption made it impossible to forget you had one in. Not the case with the cup!" —Hillary
12. They Made Traveling So Much Easier
"I was Skyping my best friend for our weekly 'date night' (we lived 2000 miles apart at the time) where we shared things about our week over a bottle of wine, and we got on the topic of menstrual cups. We had both been seeing a lot about them lately and were intrigued. I ended up ordering a Diva Cup that night for both of us so we could go through the new experience together.
"I was nervous about it and wanted to be able to talk to someone who was using it for the first time, too. It took us each a few months to actually use it, but once we did, we both were users for life. It's made so many things infinitely easier — travel being a big one. I no longer have to stuff tampons in my suitcase/purse/pocket and I can go 12 hours without worrying about it. That's a major plus when you're exploring a city and don't have to scope out all the bathrooms in case your tampon springs a leak." —Megan