According to Lunapads.com, “approximately 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators are sent to North American landfills annually.” That’s a lot of unnecessary menstrual trash. I say unnecessary because, unknown or simply avoided by many, are the options of reusable menstrual products. While I cannot tell you about the reusable pads to be found endlessly online due to lack of experience, I can personally recommend the reusable menstrual cup.
The menstrual cup is known to have been first introduced as early as the 1930s, according to Mooncup.co.uk. A bell-shaped cup made of medical-grade silicone, rather than absorb blood like a tampon (if we are speaking only of inserted objects), the cup collects the blood. This does require the user to remove it and empty it every once in awhile throughout the day. However, unlike a tampon which is recommended to be removed after only a few hours, the cup can be used for up to 12 hours at a time. Similarly, the cup itself lasts for two years at a time, sometimes more.
Another benefit to using the menstrual cup is the fact that it costs considerably less than continually buying new boxes of tampons. Currently on Amazon.com, a Diva Cup Model 1 (Pre-Childbirth) is available for only $18.99 before shipping. This means an average per year cost of about $13 after shipping, as estimated by my own which cost a total of about $25 from Amazon.com.
Compared to the continual purchase of tampons, this is a significant decrease in cost. We’re going to get a little more mathematical here for a second to get a general cost of tampons over those same two years a cup could be used. At Walmart.com, a box of Tampax Pearl Regular, 54 count, currently costs $9.27. If a person uses one every four hours, an average of 20 tampons would be used over a five-day period. That equals out to about two and a half months from one box. Assuming the user has twelve periods a year, that makes about four and a half boxes to be bought each year, equalling about $84 over a two-year period.
Cups are nearly one-quarter the price for the same time span, and that’s not including purchasing additional pads to be worn overnight if chosen.
Additionally, I’ve personally found cups to be much less noticeable while being worn. While tampons can be dry and uncomfortable, after the initial pop of the cup opening, it is nearly impossible to notice in my day-to-day activities. Despite all of the tampon commercials touting how their products are great for sports, I have never personally found one as comfortable as the cup.
Along with the cost and comfort benefits come the safety. While Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare occurrence not strictly linked to tampons, with only 135 cases reported in 2000 according to the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, it is still a possibility. However, there has never been a reported case of TSS in regard to cup usage. Add that to the already-mentioned benefits, and I’m pleased to have my little cup of mine.
There are, however, some possible concerns to address. First is the basic fact that cups require more comfort with oneself than tampons. Without the convenient applicators provided with tampons, it gets a bit more necessary for users to get all up in their own business to insert and remove the cup. Also, the questions of leakage and public bathrooms come up. Someone with a heavier flow would need to change their cup more frequently than the recommended maximum 12-hour intervals, which might lead to needing to do so in a public bathroom. While the usual process recommends rinsing your cup after each use, it is just as feasible to simply wipe it down, reinsert, and go wash your hands, rinsing later on in the privacy of your own home if you choose.
On the topic of public restrooms, another benefit? No crinkly wrappers if you want to be discrete.
While there are definitely some cringe-worthy concerns for people a little more self-conscious than I am, I certainly believe that the benefits outweigh the worries.
Sonya Cheney can be contacted at