Women's Health

Pros and Cons of Using a Menstrual Cup

You’ve probably heard about the newly popular alternative for handling your period through the use of menstrual cups. Many women have switched over to these cups from the standard tampons or pads. However, unless you’ve done some research, you might be curious, but unsure about the cups (i.e., how they work, if they’re a viable and costly option, how safe they are, and if there are any negative side effects to using a menstrual cup).

Every woman has preferences concerning what they use during their menstrual period, and making the best and safest decision for your body is an important one. Thanks to the growing popularity of menstrual cups, we have the answers to all of your questions. Here are the pros and cons concerning menstrual cups to help you make an informed decision…

1. They’re Reusable

One of the many benefits of a reusable menstrual feminine hygiene product is that you don’t have to buy a big monthly supply, saving you a fairly decent amount of money considering the cost of products these days. It’s a good investment that is guaranteed to pay off in the long-run and reduce the cost of menstrual products from your budget. The length of time you can reuse the cup varies depending on the product—some last one menstrual cycle, others last around 1 year, and some even claim to last up to 10 years with proper cleaning and storage.

Once you’ve had your period for a few years, you grow quite comfortable with your own body. You might initially think that reusing something for your period is less than pleasant, but you’d probably be surprised at how comfortable you are with it and your body. Of course, a change like this is an adjustment, but there’s a good chance that after a few tries, you’ll be happy with the switch. If not, you can easily switch back.

2. Prone to Discomfort

A potential downside to a menstrual cup is how your body adjusts to it, both in the short and long-term. It’s fairly rare for anyone who uses menstrual cups not to find it uncomfortable in the beginning. And that makes sense. While your body might be used to the feel of something inside the vagina during that time of the month (i.e., tampons), menstrual cups are bigger and can be somewhat of an adjustment.

However, the benefit of a menstrual cup design is that it isn’t inserted as far into the vagina as tampons are, so you don’t have to worry about inserting the product deeply. Many women get used to the feeling by using it during a full menstrual cycle, but some won’t ever adjust and feel comfortable. So try it out, but if the feeling distracts you or continues to make you feel uncomfortable, a menstrual cup might not be for you.

3. Offers Long-Lasting Protection

Many women have to change their pad or tampon every few hours, especially when their period is at its heaviest. There can be constant worry about leaking, even when you’ve had your period for decades. It’s not uncommon to dread that time of the month and worry about being able to get to the washroom regularly and in time before the protection leaks. Well, menstrual cups can greatly reduce this worry and inconvenience of additional trips to the washroom because they provide long-lasting protection.

Similarly to the size and type of tampon or pad you might currently use, menstrual cups can vary on protection provided, depending on the manufacturer and style. But typically you’ll see that menstrual cups only have to be emptied roughly every 12-hours. Leakage is common and many women have experienced an embarrassing or unpleasant situation over the years. Thanks to menstrual cups, the chance of leakage is greatly reduced, and they also last much longer than a single tampon or pad.

4. Requires Special Cleaning and Storage

Menstrual cups are reusable and that can be both a pro and a con. The pro side was discussed earlier in the article. However, the potential negative aspect that overrides the convenience of reusable menstrual cups is that many women will be uncomfortable with the process of emptying and cleaning a menstrual cup regularly. This type of product is definitely not for the squeamish, and you’ll probably realize fairly early on whether or not it’s something you’ll want to use each month.

Each time you remove the menstrual cup and empty it in the toilet, you have to also clean it with warm water and oil-free soap before inserting. There are a lot of requirements around what you can use to clean it, even the type of water you need to use. It’s extremely important that you wash your hands before inserting the cup to prevent bacteria from causing an infection. Each product has its own care instructions, which typically include boiling the cup in water at the end of your cycle. This thorough care and cleaning is one of the reasons some women decide not to use menstrual cups.

5. Potentially Reduces Cramps

Cramps are an unfortunate evil that accompanies the already inconvenient and costly result of a menstrual cycle for many women. Some women experience cramps so badly that they require medication to reduce the pain and allow them to carry out their daily activities. Cramping can even be so severe that they cause missed work or cancelled plans when they’re at their worst. Aside from the physical pain of cramps, no woman should have to regularly deal with the disturbance to their schedule or loss of sleep. The good news is that menstrual cups have been shown to greatly reduce the severity of cramps.

Many think that cramps are solely the result of the menstrual cycle, but this isn’t true in all cases. Tampons can cause cramps or add to them because they irritate the vaginal wall. Made of soft silicon and not inserted quite as far as a tampon, menstrual cups can reduce and often completely prevent cramps due to using feminine hygiene products. Since cramps are the bane of many a woman’s existence, switching to a menstrual cup could make a huge difference.

6. Menstrual Cups Can Be Messy

Menstrual cups can be easy to use and a lot of women swear by them. However, they aren’t right for everyone for a variety of reasons, one of which is the possible mess factor. Cups that you only need to empty every 12-hours or so hold roughly 1-ounce of blood, which is plenty considering the total average period flow is only between 1- and 2-ounces. Even though these cups can hold a lot, it can be messy to change them out depending on how heavy your period is and whether you do it properly.

It takes awhile to get used to the process of removing, cleaning, and reinserting the cup, so it’s not surprising that it can get messy. If this happens and you’re in a public washroom, it can leave you in an embarrassing situation. The difficulty you may face when trying to avoid a mess—on your hands, clothes, or the toilet—might cause you to decide that the cups aren’t right for you.

7. Prevents Unpleasant Odor

It might not be a topic you want to discuss, even with your doctor, but the use of tampons and pads during your menstrual cycle can cause an unpleasant odor. Some odors are normal because they’re a result of blood being exposed to air while soaking in the material of a tampon or pad. With the flexibility of the silicone cup inserted in the vagina, it will naturally seal and prevent what it collects from being exposed to air. This eliminates odor typically experienced when using other feminine hygiene products.

As long as you properly clean and store your menstrual cup, both during and after cycles, it shouldn’t smell. However, infections can cause tampons and pads to have a very strong, unpleasant odor. Unfortunately, although the fibers on these other types of feminine hygiene products could make the smell from an infection worse, most menstrual cup manufacturers encourage you to discontinue use until the infection is cleared up. Certain odors are not normal and you should talk to your doctor if you experience odors.

8. Inconvenience of Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups could be seen as convenient because they don’t have to be emptied as much as you would have to change a pad or tampon. This long-lasting protection is a definite plus for some, with the cleaning process a small price to pay for fewer bathroom visits. But many women find menstrual cups inconvenient, even though you don’t have to attend to them as frequently as their counterparts. The process of cleaning the cup every time after emptying it can be a deterrent and be inconvenient depending on your lifestyle and where you are.

Location is one of the main inconveniences when you’re out in public and need to empty the cup. You have to clean it with toilet paper in the stall (after first washing your hands before going into the stall). Obviously you can’t clean it very well this way, but you have to wait until you get somewhere more private to give it the cleaning it needs. It’s also inconvenient when you’re first trying it out and aren’t practiced in the process—any mess as a result when you’re working or out running errands is a definite drawback.